Article Archive by Author

July 17 2008

This types of stuff happens eh-veh-ree-DAY!

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In my latest, most desperate of attempts at trying to make our loyal blog readers think I’m hip by using titles that come straight out of popular phrases in rap songs (which is in conjunction with my last attempt with a blog post entitled “Tryin’ to make a dollar outta fifteen cent!“), I’d like to give you an idea of what the typical day-to-day life is like here for me at MoreVisibility. Every time I describe what I do to friends, colleagues, co-workers and even some clients, I talk about how being in Web Analytics is like being a private investigator or a federal agent of the internet. You gather data, compile statistics, find clues, compile some more data, interview a couple of people, and solve the mystery! Then you typically have to present your findings to your boss(es) and your clients, and then talk about where to go from there.

Here’s an outline of a typical day for me (which is sort-of a false statement, because no two days are the same, so there really is no such thing as a “typical” day…but you get the idea).

Date: Wednesday, July 9, 2008, Boca Raton, FL, USA (Temp: 91Β°)

7:04 AM – I have just woken up, and I’m already thinking about what I’m going to be doing for that day. Do I have an Analytics presentation to give? Do I need to check the coding on a site before it launches? What accounts will I be doing some investigating on? Do I have enough laundry to last until the weekend?

7:57 AM – I arrive at my office, turn on my computer, and see a yellow sticky note on my monitor that reads “Joe – Please see me about [Client]’s Top Landing Pages.”

8:01 AM – While my computer is loading and my email is downloading, I catch my co-worker who explains that our client is concerned that the exits from their homepage is too high. I suggest evaluating the page’s Bounce Rate and maybe a quick Navigation Summary to get a better idea of what is really going on with their homepage. I also mention something about A/B testing with Google Website Optimizer.

8:02 AM – I log-in to my Google Reader account and catch-up with the 60+ Web Analytics and Search Marketing blogs that I subscribe to, while simultaneously responding to emails with questions and discussions from co-workers.

8:41 AM – I am finalizing my speech for an in-person Analytics Presentation to one of our clients, when Amber (Client Strategist) buzzes me and tells me her client added an email address to their Google Analytics account, but they cannot log-in. She tells me she knows what the reason is: “The Email address is not a Google Account yet! It needs to be a Google Account in order to log-in with that Email address into their GA Account.” I start smiling, because that’s exactly right.

9:15 AM – I meet with Shawn, our newest co-worker, and begin to review all of the great things that is Web Analytics. Of course, I have to throw in my private investigator / federal agent simile. I also explain that Javascript-based programs like Google Analytics are only able to collect data from users who have both Javascript and Cookies enabled on their browser of choice. If they don’t, Google Analytics simply cannot track those individuals.

10:30 AM – I am out of water, and I’m starting to get hungry. I think about all of the different possible ordering options, and think how cool it would be if some of our favorite local take-outs would have an online ordering option, and imagine what I would give for a large turkey & swiss right now.

10:35 AM – I start to open up a brand new Google Analytics account for a new client. I provide our client with the necessary tracking code to be placed on every single page of the website. I also explain the many different options available, such as SiteSearch, Ecommerce, Benchmarking, and Filters that can be utilized.

10:59 AM – I receive a phone call from another client who asks me to explain the difference between A/B Testing and MVT (Multivariate Testing). We throw around some ideas of what to test and experiment back and forth, and we agree to launch an experiment using Google Website Optimizer for their AdWords Campaign’s landing page.

11:33 AM – Okay I am REALLY hungry right now and I can’t imagine being able to last another 27 minutes without eating something!

11:34 AM – Marni (another Client Strategist) sends me an IM that reads “It’s working!!!” She is referring to the neat advanced filter that we wrote which added the name of the source and the visitor type in front of the transaction ID in this particular client’s Ecommerce Report section. This is great news, as I’m sure the client will be very happy to hear about this.

12:00 PM – I’m about to grab my sunglasses and walk across the street when I see an Email come in that reads “GA Tracking Issue – Please Help!”, flagged as High Importance. Guess lunch is going to have to wait a while…

12:19 PM – Problem solved! Turns out there were two sets of Google Analytics tracking code on the same page, one urchin.js version and one ga.js version, which is bad news. I then proceed to solve another problem – my hunger.

1:10 PM – I return and find some great discussions starting up on the Yahoo! Web Analytics Forum. It’s really a great forum to check out whenever you can.

1:15 PM – My in person analytics presentation is in 45 minutes. I am very obsessive when it comes to presentations, as I like everything to be perfect, neat, and organized, so I visit our client’s website one more time, and find that they have repaired a bug in their shopping cart that was the focus of one of my main points in the presentation!! I think of a good way to still use this slide in the presentation.

1:38 PM – One of Khrysti’s (Director of Optimized Services) clients is in a bind. They cannot figure out why they are not seeing “yahoo / cpc” or “msn / cpc” in their Google Analytics profile, like they can for “google / cpc”. I reference my latest blog post about Google Analytics URL Coding, and I strut away confidently as I’ve capitalized on another opportunity to tell someone about my Analytics Blog. πŸ™‚

2:00 PM – It’s showtime! Our clients have arrived, and I hand out my business cards and begin with introductions. It’s always great to be able to meet people in person and talk analytics, Site Search, and Shopping Carts to them. This particular client is using both Google Analytics and WebTrends, and they were really concerned about the differences in data between the two, even though they swear that they have everything installed properly. I explained that different analytics packages will always report different values for the same metric, no matter how perfect your installation and coding is.

3:32 PM – I come back and check my own Google Analytics profile for this blog, and I’m surprised to find so much referring traffic from European blogs! I love that someone in Austria and someone in the Netherlands is reading a blog written by someone half-way around the world. I know this because I frequently check my referring traffic reports, to see who is bringing me additional traffic.

4:00 PM – Another one of Khrysti’s clients cannot for the life of them understand why people type in such simple, generic words such as “shoes”, “belts”, and “hats” into their website’s search feature on their online clothing store. They believe something is wrong, broken, or not working correctly. I am pretty sure that their search function is working properly, but I go to their site and double-check with some test searches anyways. After I verify that it is working properly, I pick up the phone and begin to explain to the client that people have much different behavior (and level of tolerance!) when they perform keyword searches on Google or Yahoo vs. performing keyword searches on someone’s website. Again, I direct their attention to my blog by referencing my post about a website’s internal search function.

4:45 PM – My day is starting to come to a close. I like to take a few minutes each day and “spot check” different analytics accounts, just to ensure that everything is still running smoothly and data is being collected and displayed properly. I’m glad I did this, because an important Goal in one of April’s (Director of Strategic Accounts) clients’ accounts has stopped collecting data. After a test on the client’s website, it turns out that the Goal URL has been changed from “thankyou.html” to “thanks.html”. Websites are updated all the time, which is a good reason to routinely double-check your Goals to make sure they are working properly.

5:03 PM – I’m just about wrapping it up here and saying good night to everyone in the office. Out of nowhere, Danielle (my boss) catches me right before I walk out the door. She explains that a new client needs to speak with someone urgently (first-thing tomorrow morning) about what analytics platform they should choose between Omniture SiteCatalyst Hitbox (HBX) or ClickTracks. They also need help in defining new Key Performance Indicators for their executive team, and possibly setting up some custom reporting. I love to think about things like this, especially on off-hours, so I’m glad I have this opportunity.

7:00 PM – Analytics is going to have to wait a while – an episode of Law and Order is on right now that I’ve never seen before. πŸ™‚

All in a day’s work. πŸ™‚

July 8 2008

Yes, Google Analytics can track that, too!

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Google Analytics can automatically track your Google AdWords cost-per-click activity within its system by simply applying “Cost Data” and enabling “Destination URL Auto-Tagging” within your AdWords account. However, you will need to do a bit of extra work if you want to track your Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft AdCenter, Business.com listings, banner ads, email marketing campaigns, or any other links that you have out there on the internet.

By default, Google Analytics will treat any click to your website from, for example, the Yahoo Search Results page as “yahoo / organic”, regardless if the click actually occurred from a natural listing or a sponsored listing. In some situations, it can show as a referral from yahoo.com, and sometimes, as direct traffic. This, of course, isn’t going to work for just about everyone.

For Google Analytics to track your non-Google AdWords marketing efforts, you must append a query string to the end of each URL in any of your marketing initiatives that you want to track. This string of parameters tells Google Analytics what term or what ad a user clicked on, what campaign served up the ad or keyword, and from what source or medium someone originated from.

Example: In one of my Yahoo Search Marketing Ad Groups, I am using the following destination URL for every ad and / or keyword in the group:

http://www.morevisibility.com/analyticsblog

Google Analytics will treat anyone that clicks my ad with this destination URL as coming from “yahoo / organic”, from a Campaign called “Not Set”.

Now, let’s slap on some Google Analytics URL coding on this URL:

http://www.morevisibility.com/analyticsblog?utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=
cpc&utm=campaign=Yahoo+-+Branding+Campaign&utm_term=analytics+blogs
&utm_content=Second+Ad+Copy

Now, Google Analytics will be able to collect the keyword and the ad that a user searched for and clicked on, the name of my campaign, and most importantly, it will know to not lump clicks (visits) from this URL as “organic”.

Great! But…what does everything in the URL mean?

Let me break down each part of the end of the URL:

? – This starts off the Google Analytics URL Tracking. If a ? symbol already exists in a URL, this can be replaced with a & symbol (Two ? symbols in a URL will, in most cases, break a URL)
utm_source=yahoo – There are five separate dimensions to URL Tracking with Google Analytics. Each dimension in the URL starts off with “utm_”, followed by the name of the dimension. This first one is called Source, and Source is simply where someone originated from. This could say google, yahoo, msn, altavista, client-newsletter, july-email-campaign, and so on.
&utm_medium=cpc – The medium dimension tells you by what means did someone access your website? For our example, someone clicked on a sponsored ad, which Google Analytics classifies as “cpc”. However, this could also be “cpm”, for any site-targeted campaigns that charge per thousand impressions, “banner” to denote a banner advertisement, or “email” if it’s an email blast of some kind.
&utm_campaign=Yahoo+-+Branding+Campaign – The campaign dimension will track the name of the Campaign in your marketing interface, or the name of the Campaign that you are using internally. In this example, this destination URL is in our Yahoo Branding Campaign. Don’t worry about the + and the – symbols quite yet – I’ll explain in just a little bit.
&utm_term=analytics+blogs – Basically, the term dimension represents the keyword that is being assigned this particular destination URL.
&utm_content=Second+Ad+Copy – Basically, the content dimension represents the actual ad version that is being assigned this particular destination URL.

Important Notes about Google Analytics URL Coding:

  1. Did you notice how I used lowercase lettering for both the source and the medium dimensions? I strongly advise you to do the same. Google Analytics will not recognize anything coded with an uppercase CPC as a “cost-per-click” keyword, source, or term, and will think that an uppercase CPC is not the same as a lowercase cpc, causing the Keywords and Search Engines report to be highly innacurate.
  2. + and – signs – Each space in a name of any dimension must be represented by a + symbol. Well, it doesn’t HAVE to be, but your URLs may not work if there are blank spaces anywhere in the URL. So play it safe and use + signs to replace spaces (or, to identify spaces in names of things). – symbols are used to make line items in Google Analytics look neater. For example, I used “Yahoo+-+Branding+Campaign” in my Campaign dimension; this will look like “Yahoo – Branding Campaign” in the Google Analytics interface.
  3. Avoid Really Long Names – Names that are incredibly long will make your reports look very ugly, as you cannot expand or contract the columns in report tables. Try to keep names of things short and concise, but descriptive at the same time.
  4. Use the source name in your Campaign – Just like my “Yahoo – Branding Campaign” example, put the name of the source in the Campaign Name. This will help you see which campaign is doing what much faster, and you won’t have to segment a campaign by source. This also helps if you have an organized naming convention, where all of your campaigns across all marketing programs have the same names.
  5. Keep in mind that the destination URL must actually resolve to a page that has Google Analytics Tracking Code (urchin.js or GA.js) on it, otherwise, that visit’s information won’t be collected.
  6. In a few cases, your web server may not allow for query parameters at the end of your URLs. Please work with a member of your IT / Web Development team to get this issue resolved.

Please tell me that there is a tool out there that can help me put my URLs together!

The Google Analytics URL Builder is the best online resource for helping you build your URLs. Bookmark that page for future use – it will come in handy.

June 30 2008

U-Haul’s Shopping Cart System is a model of Excellence.

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In about three weeks, I will be moving into a brand new two-level apartment across town. The apartment has a huge patio area, great location, a very nice and long bike / running trail, and a fireplace! I’ve never had a fireplace before, but again I’ve lived in South Florida for 9/10ths of my life, which begs the question “Why does an apartment in Boca Raton need a fireplace?”

Anyway, I have only used one moving service in my entire life – U-Haul. Normally when I am booking my truck reservation online, I am not paying attention to the functionality of the website or the load time of any of the pages – I’m looking for the biggest truck and most amount of supplies for the cheapest dollar amount. I had already booked a U-Haul truck a month ago, but all of a sudden, it dawned on me that I did not want to ruin my perfectly new king-size mattress and box spring set by dragging it across the moving truck’s rusty floor. So, I went to U-Haul’s website and ordered a set of King-size mattress bags.

It wasn’t until well after I had purchased these items when it struck me like a bolt of lightning: “That was a great shopping experience!”. I went back and traced my steps, and sure enough, I was right! Starting with the individual product page for the King-Size Mattress Bag, each step in the Shopping Process was smooth, easy, efficient, and effective. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a few days, so I’d like to share with you an image of the U-Haul Shopping Basket Page, and why I think it’s so awesome: (Click on image for a full-sized picture)

U-Haul's Shopping Basket

I like this so much because:

  1. Clean Site Architecture – The framework of the website is simple, easy, and clean.
  2. Item and Subtotal Review – I like the single-line review at the very top of this basket
  3. Shopping Cart Items Table – Look how clean and simple that is! You can update quantities easily, remove items at will, and a clear breakdown of the price of each item.
  4. Second Sub-Total Figure – I can’t explain it, but it makes me feel “safer” by having a second sub-total amount on the page…as if the cart is verifying itself.
  5. Action Buttons – The silver “Continue Shopping”, “Update Subtotal”, and “Checkout” buttons don’t clash with the page or seem obtrusive. They are sleek and neat.
  6. Free Shipping on orders over $25 – That’s a nice statement to have at the bottom of your shopping cart, where there would normally be white space. $25 is a very attainable amount, by the way.

Other notes from the shopping system (not pictured):

  1. Log-In Screen – A log-in screen follows this page. Normally, I dislike “create your account” steps in a shopping cart, but this one is so neat and effective that it wasn’t a problem. You enter in your email address and password, and you continue. I also like the fact that, if you’ve already created an account before, you can enter in your information in the ‘New Account’ area, and it’s smart enough to keep you moving forward, instead of serving up a “This account already exists” type of error. Very nice.
  2. Thank You Page – The order confirmation / “Thank You” page follows the same format as the rest of the cart, but it doesn’t leave you hanging. There are links to continue shopping and pictures of other stuff that I may be interested in.
  3. The Other Cart Pages – Shipping / Billing Info, Shipping Options, and the Review Your Order pages carry out the momentum that started at the shopping basket page. None of these pages are cluttered or lack pertinent information when you expected it. They also don’t refresh annoyingly when you update a cart item or change a shipping options – they have buttons that you click on to let you know when the page is going to refresh.
  4. Individual Item Pages – I’m also liking what I see with the individual item pages. Clean descriptions, well-written copy, and high-resolution images really do make a difference, folks.
  5. All Pages – In general, all pages are quick to load, they are all functional, and they have given me a very good experience – and left a very good impression with a very picky and observant customer. πŸ™‚

I can go on and on about U-Haul until I move into my new apartment. So I’ll close this post by giving two thumbs up to U-Haul’s web development and analytics personnel for a job well done on their entire Ecommerce platform. You’ve definitely earned yourselves a returning customer, and I’ll definitely be recommending U-Haul to anyone who will listen to me. Now, let’s just hope the moving truck doesn’t break down on while on the road! πŸ™‚

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