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September 18 2008

Let’s talk about Funnel Visualization

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Funnel VisualizationThere is a great report in the “Goals” section of Google Analytics that is surprisingly seldom used by many people (seems like I’ve been saying that a lot recently!). It’s called the “Funnel Visualization” report. For each Goal in Google Analytics, you are allowed to create a custom path that you want the visitors to your website to take before they reach your Goal. This path can be anywhere from 1 page up to 10 different pages.

Funnels are used most commonly in Ecommerce type situations, where there is a shopping cart and a checkout process involved. Marketers and analysts usually set up a Goal Funnel that starts at a landing page of a pay-per-click or email marketing campaign, and that ends at the Goal, which is usually the “Thank You” page or “Receipt” page that a user sees after they complete a purchase. After some data has been collected, marketers and analysts will take a look at each page, or “step” in the Funnel, and see where users are abandoning the shopping process, or if they are experiencing difficulties in ultimately handing over their hard-earned money to the merchant.

However, you should also take advantage of setting up a Goal Funnel and using the Funnel Visualization reports in non-Ecommerce situations. If you have any lead generation or quote forms on your site, you can also use the Funnel Visualization report to get a good idea of how people are interacting with those particular pages, and if there are any bumps in the road that are causing detours from your main objective.

Let’s take a look at an example. The screen-shot below is showing the first three steps in an Ecommerce Goal Funnel, starting from the Shopping Cart page, and going through a “Sign-In” page, followed by a “Billing Information” page:

Funnel Visualization Report

Before continuing, let me explain what we are looking at. First, look at the very top and middle of the image where it says “Shopping Cart – 10,214”. That is the first step in our funnel, which in this case is the Shopping Cart page, and 10,214 are the number of visitors that the Shopping Cart page had (within the period of time that I had selected – in this case it’s the last 30 days). That entire column from top to bottom represents each one of the steps in the Funnel. The figure below “Shopping Cart” – where it says 5,749 (82%) – are the number of people who went on to the next step of the funnel. You can then continue all the way down the page, until the very end of the funnel.

To the left of each step in the middle column are the top 5 entry points to each one of the step pages of your funnel. So, for our “Shopping Cart” page, 10,214 total visitors entered the shopping cart, 743 of those visitors came from a page called “Categories.bok”. Then, to the right of each step in the middle column are the top exit points from each one of the step pages of your funnel, including the total number of exits from the funnel above the top 5 exit points. For our “Shopping Cart” page, 1,244 visitors exited the funnel at this first step, with 679 of those visitors exiting the website, as represented by (exit). 33 Visitors went to a page called “Lost.bok”, 26 Visitors went to a page called “StoreFront.bok”, and so on.

So how is this information useful for me? Should I do anything to my website’s pages if a significant number of people are leaving my website from one of these shopping cart pages?

This is where you are going to have to understand what is actually on your website, and fill in the gaps of information between your knowledge of your website and the data that Google Analytics is displaying. I showed this particular funnel on purpose for exactly this reason. Here’s what I’m talking about: On the very first step of the example, the “Shopping Cart” page, 82% of people continued on to the next step. This means that 18% of people, or, 1,244 visitors, went somewhere else. We know that 679 visitors exited the website entirely, which means that this website’s marketing or IT team should probably take a look at their shopping cart page and see what technical issues or hang-ups are present in the system. But, what about the other 565 Visitors? We can only speculate, but if users can go back and continue shopping, or do other things on their shopping cart page, they may do just that, and possibly, re-enter their shopping cart at some point later.

Now, take a look at the second step – the “Sign-In Page”. This time, only 67% of visitors continued on to step 3, with 1,317 of those visitors exiting the site entirely! That is a lot of lost people! Why did they leave? Well as it turned out, this particular page had a very frustrating and annoying “Create an Account” feature that did not provide customers with an option to shop anonymously, or as a guest, without having to create a username and password for the website. You simply couldn’t get around this issue, which was very frustrating to many customers, so, a lot of them went on to other pages or left the site altoghether, which is not good news.

Since then, they have repaired this issue – and guess what started happening? Their conversion rate and Ecommerce revenue started climbing, just by making one change to their shopping cart pages!

This is a perfect example of how the Funnel Visualization report can serve as an alert system to the health and prosperity of a particular path of pages on your website that leads to a Goal – in this case, a website’s shopping cart. How else would this website’s marketing and IT department have known about the frustrations of their customers?

Is there a certain % of people that should continue to a next-step in a funnel? What’s a good “step-continuation” rate?

Ah, the 64 million dollar question! I’ll say this – you will never have a 100% “Funnel Step Continuation” rate (or, a 0% Funnel Abandonment rate). I would say that any step in the 90% range and higher is doing pretty well. Anything in the 70’s or 80’s should be cause for moderate concern, and you should open up a high priority trouble ticket, because any step that is losing 20% or 30% of it’s customers is a very substantial amount. Anything in the 60%-50% range or below means that you need to stop whatever it is that you are doing, sound the general alarm and wake the neighbors up, because there is a pretty serious issue going on – especially if your Funnel represents the pages of an Ecommerce Shopping Cart.

(Hey, there’s no shame in taking your Goal Funnel seriously. You should take it seriously – your livelihood probably depends on your website’s success, and how your website’s visitors interact with the pages in your funnel will affect the overall number of sales or leads your website generates).

Is there any other advice that you can give us?

I’ll answer your question with a question of my own: What is the shortest distance between two points? It’s a straight line. Keeping that in your mind will help you with your analysis – and help you understand why your website’s visitors may be leaving your site before filling out your Lead Generation form, or before they buy something from your online store.

September 11 2008

Five Google Analytics metrics that you’re probably not using

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When talking about Google Analytics or Web Analytics in general, some metrics and reports get seemingly all the attention (and rightfully so). Metrics like Bounce Rate, while loved by Web Analysts on all corners of the globe, are just too popular. In fact, Bounce Rate is now trendy! Do you think it’s become a buzzword as well?

Anyway, while Bounce Rate, Revenue, Goal Conversions, and Transactions are as popular as your local high-school’s starting quarterback / class president / homecoming king, there are other metrics to look at in Google Analytics, you know! These next five metrics are probably some that you’ve seen before in reports, and probably available in SiteCatalyst, WebTrends, ClickTracks, and other Web Analytics programs, although they could be known by another name in those programs.

1. $Index – This metric basically tells you what the average value of each page is on your website. It takes the amount of either Ecommerce Revenue or Goal Value that each page was responsible for, and divides it by the number of Pageviews for each page to give you a financial value in your currency of choice. You can find it by going to the Top Content report in the Content section, all the way to the far right of the report table. Log-in to GA and bring this report up in your profile, and check out what the $Index is looking like for each page. The values may be as small as a couple of dollars, to as high as a few hundred dollars per page. The Goal here is to find that page or two that has a higher $Index than most of the other pages, that also has a good amount of Pageviews. It could benefit you greatly to further optimize that page, or, to create some special offers or promotions directly on that page.

2. % Search Exits – If you have an internal search function on your website (and if you don’t, why not?), this metric calculates the percentage of people who left your website altogether, immediately after they performed a search. These people did not go any deeper into your website, or did not refine their search at all – they simply left. Think of % Search Exits as the “Bounce Rate” of your search function. Now, there is the possibility that they found exactly what they were looking for and they are going to come back later. However, if a lot of people are doing this, chances are your search function isn’t working properly, or serving up relevant results. Our loyal readers of this very blog know that that is a pet peeve of mine.

3. Per Visit Goal Value – Another interesting economics-oriented metric, found toward the right-hand side of the main report table, underneath the Goal Conversion tab. Use this type of micro-analysis to evaluate how valuable each and every one of your website’s visits are (so basically this is $Index for your Visits, instead of for the pages on your site). And, much like $Index, this number can either be very small or very large, depending on your Goal Values and how valuable each visit is to your website.

4. Revenue Per Click – Are you noticing a trend here? If you’re advertising with Google AdWords and if both your AdWords and your Google Analytics accounts are properly synched up, this very small number can tell you exactly what the name of the metric reads – the revenue that each click on your ads generated for you. This will allow you to say “Hey, Ad “C” or “Keyword X” is delivery $0.87 a click!” This can definitely place your click management strategy under a whole new light

5. Abandonment Rate – This metric is available via the Goal Abandoned Funnels report within the Goals section of your Google Analytics profile. Having the ability to view this metric should not be an issue – because every profile SHOULD have Goals and Goal Funnels. This statistic is telling you the percentage of people that are leaving your Goal Funnel at some step along the way. Chances are that they are leaving your Goal Funnel, and not coming back to complete and match your Goal. If this number is very large, you need to evaluate the way people can get to your Goals (every page along the way). Even if this number isn’t very large, you should stay on top of the path that your visitors take to reach your Goals. It’s actually very surprising to me that this metric, and even this train of thought, is very under-utilized in Web Analytics, so I feel compelled to add it to this list.

Now log-in to your profiles and check these out for yourself!

August 21 2008

Google Analytics now recognizes 38 websites as organic search engines!

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Because I am a geek, and because I love to know the innermost, obscure, and technical aspects of everything Google Analytics related, I do a few things from time to time that you may find peculiar:

  1. I view the source code of http://www.google.com/analytics because I like to see if Google Analytics engineers make any modifications to the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) on their own website.
  2. I create a “fake” custom advanced filter to see if there are any options from the “Field A” or “Field B” fields that have disappeared or have been added (I am NOT paranoid here – try creating a custom advanced filter and open up the Field A or Field B drop-down menu, and you’ll see that there are some options that are not listed [most notably, Visitor IP Address], but they are there if you use your Up and Down cursor keys to navigate the menu instead of your mouse’s scrolling wheel).
  3. I like to download the ga.js file from http://www.google-analytics.com/ga.js and view the list of organic search engines, to see if they’ve added or removed anything recently.

Did you know, at the time of this post, that Google Analytics automatically recognizes 38 different websites as organic search engines? Did you even know that there were that many out there to begin with? It catches me by surprise almost every time, because there is one search engine that I use 99.9% of the time (bet you can’t guess which one it is), and I forget that there are so many other search engines out there to play with.

So I’ve decided that I’d list and link all of the search engines that Google Analytics automatically recognizes as organic search engines here. Visit some of these if you can – perform a search or two on some of them. Perhaps even see what they are offering as far as advertising solutions are concerned – you’ll be surprised at just how many places you can spend money in online advertising these days 🙂

Here is the full list (Updated: August 21, 2008):

(Note: Finding all of these Search Engines was not as easy as I thought it would be! Thus, there is a chance that a few of these links are incorrect. Please let me know if you find any inaccuracies).

Google – The #1Search Engine in the land.
Yahoo – The Search Engine that put the internet on the map in the early 1990’s.
MSN / Live – Microsoft’s Search Engine (MSN.com and Live.com are the same).
ASK – Formerly ASK Jeeves, headquartered in Oakland, California.
AOL – Formerly America OnLine, currently powered by Google.
Lycos – They have been around for a while. Owned by Daum Communications.
Altavista – Owned by Overture in Sunnyvale, California. Online since 1995.
Netscape – Makers of the popular browser in the 90’s. Now owned by AOL.
CNN – Yes, CNN.com has it’s own search feature! Go check it out.
Looksmart – They have recently changed from Search Engine to Ad Network.
About.com – A great repository of articles and information.
Mamma – The Mother of All Search Engines (Their term, not mine).
All The Web – Powered by Yahoo. Features “Livesearch”, also powered by Yahoo.
Gigablast – Search the Web for pages, images, and videos.
Voila – Popular French Search Engine. Merci bocu!
Virgilio – Popular Italian Search Engine. Powered by Alice. Prego!
Baidu – Popular Chinese Search Engine. (Sorry I can’t do Chinese Characters).
Alice – Roll Your Own Search Engine. Web 2.0 Search.
Yandex – Yandex is a popular Russian Search Engine.
Najdi – Specializs in the Repubic of Macedonia.
Club-Internet – A French Internet Service Provider.
Seznam – Search Engine for the Czech Republic.
Search.com – Owned and Operated by CNET Networks.
WP – Stands for “Wirtualna Polska”, a Polish News / Social Directory.
Onet – Another Polish Internet Portal/ Directory site.
Netsprint – Our Third Polish Search Engine on this list!
Interia – More from Poland, but this one is powered by Google.
Scukacz – Poland is definitely being counted by GA as organic, no doubt about it.
YAM – I am pretty sure this is a Taiwanese Search Engine.
PC Home – A Japanese Web Portal. Owned by CNET.
Kvasir – Search Engine for all of Norway.
Sesam – A Scandinavian Search Engine / Web Portal.
OZU – An Internet Directory from Spain.
Terra – From the USA, but written in all Spanish.
Nostrum – On the list but I cannot find a reliable URL!
Mynet – Mynet is a specialized engine for the Turkish Language.
Ekolay – I believe that Ekolay is also Turkish.
Ilse – Search Engine in the Netherlands.

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