Articles written in December, 2010

December 23 2010

Analyzing Landing Page Performance with Google Analytics

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Okay, so we all know that Google Analytics (GA) is, as my colleague Joe Teixeira says, “…the greatest program on the face of the earth.’ That said, how do you use Google Analytics to: make more sales, drive more leads, and make the most of your marketing budget for your company?

The answer is contained in many good books on GA that have been written by authors like Avinash Kaushik, Brian Clifton and our very own, Joe Teixeira. However, you don’t need to read hundreds of pages on GA to begin to make a difference in your organization.

Getting the most from GA is not a hard and fast path that you take every time you log in. Rather, leveraging Google Analytics for optimization is a process. It’s an exercise of asking questions of yourself (and your data) and drilling deeper to find meaningful and actionable information.

Let me illustrate by providing some insights on how to get more from one of our favorite reports: Top Landing Pages. The Top Landing Pages report in GA is truly powerful. With a quick glance you can see which of your pages, well…ahem… stink. How? Well look at that metric right there on the right, “Bounce Rate”

Bounce Rate is a measure of visitors who come to your site and take absolutely no action. Bounce Rate is rare in that it’s a number which has value to every site owner. I can’t think of any organization, company, e-commerce site, marketing manager, etc. who would want a visitor to come to their site and take absolutely no action.

With the Top Landing Pages report, you can see very quickly which of your pages are performing or not performing in terms of their bounce rate. So how do we dig deeper and find a way to take action to improve our site?

  1. Segment your traffic. That’s right, all data in aggregate is practically useless. Segment by something. If you are running paid search, then why not start by using the “Paid Search Traffic” segment that is predefined in GA. Now you can see bounce rates for your paid search traffic.
  2. Change your view. By default, you will be looking at the table view. That’s nice, but how do you know if your bounce rates are out of line? Answer: Compare it! On the “Views” selector, click on “Comparison” then select “Bounce Rate” next to “compared to site average”. Bingo! Now you are looking at your paid search landing pages as compared to the average of all pages on your site. See a nice green line to the right? Good, that page is performing. See one in red and moving to the left? Bad. Time to drill down further!
  3. Select a page. At this point in your analysis, there are many different ways to get to relevant data. For most marketers and small to medium site owners, the best next step is to click on the link of the offending page in the Top Landing Pages report. (If you have enough data here, I also encourage to experiment with the advanced filtering tool to get to your most relevant data sets.)
  4. Content Detail. That’s right, your analysis path has now taken you from a list of landing pages and their relative performance to all the information that you could want on the underperforming landing page. Now click on a relevant drilldown to begin your analysis. I would recommend “Entrance Sources” Why? We’re analyzing your paid search performance and if you’re working many channels, you’ll want to see if all sources are bouncing equally.
  5. Analyze. Okay, if you have multiple sources here (Google, Bing, LinkedIn, etc.) are they all performing poorly? If you have one loser, why? Time to drilldown. Click on the dropdown for your secondary dimension and select something. If you are running search campaigns; I would recommend “Keyword”. Do they all perform poorly? If so, then pause the entire channel and re-evaluate. If it’s a few keywords, then pause those words and move on.

See, that was easy! Now that you’ve saved all of that money from your under-performing campaign or landing page, reallocate it into one that is working and… Boom! You’re on the way to being an analytics superstar! Just remember that this is not a one time exercise. Like they say in shampoo; lather, rinse and repeat. Once you have enough data on your new campaigns, it’s time to start all over again.

December 16 2010

My responses to “My Google Analytics Christmas wishlist”

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One of the best blogs that you can subscribe to (other than our SEM, SEO, Social Media, and this Analytics blog, of course) for all things online marketing is Econsultancy’s “Internet Marketing – News, Blogs, and Press Releases“. They do a really great job with their articles, and I enjoy the readings from their multiple authors.

One post that popped up and caught my eye from a few days ago was “My Google Analytics Christmas wishlist“, by Matthew Curry. What made it an interesting read, other than the title of the blog having the words “Google Analytics” in it, was that Mr. Curry lists ten wishes for the improvement of the product. Clearly, he is an experienced user of the product, and has specific needs to fill.

So, I thought that it would be a fun exercise for the holidays to summarize Matthew’s ten wishes and provide some comments about each one. Enjoy!

Wish #1: Make metric & dimension combinations easier
When you are building a Custom Report, you will more often than not experience dimensions and metrics that are “greyed-out”, and unavailable to be moved in to your Custom Report. Quite a few dimension and metric combinations simply are not allowed to be dragged over and dropped into the same Custom Report. This happens in the web interface, as well as when you use the Google Analytics API (although in the API you receive warning messages instead of “greyed-out” dimensions and metrics).

This is definitely something that I’d like to see improved upon as well. If it were up to me, all possible combinations of dimensions and metrics would be available for a Custom Report. However, despite this limitation, Custom Reports – in my opinion – are still very good and very useful.

Wish #2: Fewer betas
The words “Beta” and “Google” have gone hand-in-hand for a long time. Any new feature in Google Analytics (AdWords Reports, Intelligence, and In-Page Analytics) will have a red “Beta” tag slapped on, and it will remain there for quite a while. Heck, it was only a year ago that Gmail, the worldly-popular E-mail service, had its beta tag lifted.

This doesn’t bother me, but I understand how it can be a nuisance.

Wish #3: Speed!
Matthew hasn’t been the only one who has brought up the issue of interface / report call-up speed. If you apply a really long date-range with four advanced segments in your “All Traffic” profile (that gets thousands of visits a day), then you’ll probably have to wait 10-15 seconds for your report to be called-up and displayed to you.

Personally, I haven’t found the report loading times to be problematic, and I expect there to be some wait time for longer date-ranges combined with advanced segments. But, who doesn’t like an even faster interface, right? I’m all for more speed!

Wish #4: A robust API
The Google Analytics API is a great tool for developers to download web analytics data, which can then be integrated and “mashed-up” locally into pretty dashboards, reports, and databases.

It’s free, just like regular Google Analytics, but it’s not full of pomp and circumstance. Nick Mihailovski, of Web Analytics TV fame, heads up the GA API initiatives, and does an excellent job. I know that he and his team continues to work hard each and every day to make the API better and better for developers everywhere. I’m quite confident that it won’t be too long before your robust needs are met.

Wish #5: Less sampled data
Google Analytics sometimes shows your data as a sample, depending on your in-table filters and date-range. Sometimes, you tend to see that little yellow warning box that alerts you about the sampling of your data a bit too often.

However, what a lot of folks aren’t realizing is that Google Analytics data is already a sample of your website’s visitors, without applying any filters or segments. So, you’re already analyzing a sample the second you log-in to your Google Analytics account, and, decisions and insights are derived from that sample daily by thousands of marketers and analysts everywhere.

I know this doesn’t directly address this wish, but I truly believe in what Avinash says about Accuracy vs. Precision. Essentially, it’s all about focusing much less on trying to collect and report on every single piece of data, and all about focusing much more on analyzing and taking action from the good, precise data that you already have.

Wish #6: More charting options
I’m not sure about this wish. Google Analytics has five in-table views (including pivoting and comparison to site average views); trending graphs that can be customized to show any metric, any two metrics together, and a comparison to site average; vertical histograms on individual metric reports; an Intelligence report section (in “beta”!) that allows you to pivot by dimension or by metric; and, motion charts, which not many people use to begin with.

The charting options are there. Are they fully customizable and editable? No, but the data can always be downloaded in a spreadsheet, and edited locally.

Wish #7: Manageable advanced segments
To access an Advanced Segment, look at the top-right of almost every report in Google Analytics. From there, you can select a default (pre-created) advanced segment, or, create your own advanced segment. They are accessible via this window, and can be toggled on and off at will.

They can’t be sorted, alphabetized, or grouped at present. This is a feature that I’d love to have as well.

Wish #8: More major contributors in Intelligence
Recently, Google Analytics introduced the concept of major contributors for any custom alert that you create, which appear on the Intelligence report section. They’re essentially the reasons why your Intelligence alert is being reported to you.

Major Contributors including conversion rates and other computed metrics are fine, but I like the fact that GA limits this to the top five.

Wish #9: Calculations in reports
Many metrics in web analytics are calculated from a small formula. Stats like Bounce Rate, Conversion Rate, Average Time on Site and $Index are all calculations deriving from other metrics.

I don’t want to see formulas in my analytics reports – and I’m a math major. I want to have the work done for me already.

Wish #10: No more URL hacks!
Google, as well as prominent bloggers, publish from time to time ways that you can “hack” Google Analytics by editing the URL in the address bar of your browser, whether you want to be able to download more rows of data or remove the “All Visits” segment from your multi-segment comparisons.

I can’t agree more with this wish than I already do. I like the creativity and the coolness of URL hacks, but we shouldn’t have to do them. More precisely, it would be very nice if we didn’t need to do them.

December 10 2010

Receiving access to a Google Analytics account

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You would think that obtaining access to a Google Analytics account would be an easy task for your account’s administrator to perform.

Well, you would be correct. It’s very easy to be granted access to a Google Analytics account! As long as you have a Gmail E-mail address and you know who your account administrator is, you should be able to have access in a matter of minutes.

Receiving access to a Google Analytics account only becomes tricky when the E-mail address is not a Gmail one. Your work E-mail address, your Yahoo account, or any other E-mail address you have will first need to be converted into a Google account before you can obtain access to a Google Analytics account.

However, there’s nothing to worry about. We’ve created the following step-by-step guides for either requesting access to a Google Analytics or assigning access to a Google Analytics account. Choose the guide that best suits your situation.

Requesting Access to a GA Account – Gmail Address

1. Track down your Google Analytics account administrator. This is probably someone in the IT / Web Development department, but it could be your marketing manager. It can also be the company that you hired to build your website or work on your SEO.
2. E-mail that person / department with your E-mail address. Ask to have the person / department notify you when they have added you, as Google will not E-mail you of this.
3. Log-in to Google Analytics at www.google.com/analytics, and enter in your E-mail address and the password that you use to access your Gmail account.
4. Enjoy, and happy analyzing!

Requesting Access to a GA Account – Non-Gmail Address

1. Go to the Google homepage and click on the “Sign in” link on the upper-right of the screen.
2. On the next screen that appears, click on “Create an account now“, which should be at the bottom-right of the screen.
3. Fill out the form that appears on the next page. Enter in your E-mail address, choose a password, and fill in some other information like your birthday and a word verification. When you’re finished, click on “I accept. Create my account” at the very bottom of the page.
4. Next, follow the on-screen instructions to verify your account. You will need to provide either a land line phone number or a mobile phone number – Google will either send you an automated voice call or a text message with an activation code. Choose your activation option and click on “Send verification code...”. Be near your land line or mobile phone for this, because Google calls the second you click on “Send” (Literally, the second you click on it).
5. Jot down the code and enter it in the text field that appears. Click on “Verify” to be taken to the last step in the Google account creation process.
6. Once your code is verified, Google will send you a verification E-mail to your inbox with a link that you need to click on before you can use your log-in. Click on that link right away.
7. Follow the four steps outlined above for requesting access with a Gmail account, and you’re all done!

Assigning Access to a GA Account (You: Account Administrator)

1. You’ll either receive an E-mail, an IM, or a phone call with someone asking you for access to the Google Analytics account. Try to evaluate who this person is: if it is the website owner or someone at the website owner’s company, you don’t hesitate to give that person access (always remember, the data is the website owner’s – NOT yours). However, if it’s someone that you don’t recognize or trust, ask for some credentials first before moving forward (you want to protect your company’s or client’s data from outside purveyors).
2. Log-in to Google Analytics using your log-in and password information. Find the Google Analytics account from the drop-down menu on the upper-right hand side of the interface.
3. Click on “User Manager” – a link on the middle-bottom of the Google Analytics Overview screen (where all of the profiles are listed).
4. Then, select either the option of entering in a new E-mail address or the option of selecting an existing E-mail address (most of the time it will be a new E-mail address).
5. Enter in the E-mail address and select the profile(s) that the person needs access to. If you think the person will need to do some technical work (Creating profiles, goals, filters, etc…), then assign that user “Administrative” access. If not, “View Reports Only” access will be just fine. Click “Save” to complete the task.
6. Be sure to E-mail or call the person back to let them know you’ve given them access – Google Analytics won’t send an E-mail alerting the requester of this new access right that you’ve granted them.

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