Articles in the Analytics 101 – The Basics Category

March 18 2008

Your Search Function – Make Sure it Works

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Google Analytics SiteSearch OverviewI wanted to talk about something I’ve observed ever since Google Analytics introduced the SiteSearch section of reports into the program, back in November 2007. This is something that is happening across the board for most websites, regardless of industry, design, or type of content or language used.

First of all, let’s take a look at how people are finding your website. Most people will search for a keyword on Google or Yahoo, and will click on either your paid advertisement or your organic listing (and, of course, they are both prominently displayed on the first page of the search results ;).

With the exception of your branding keywords, if you ever look at any keyword report, you will see that most of the top keyword searches are either two or three words in length, and they are fairly normal in terms of refinement and how specific the search is. Chances are that these users were not looking for your website using search terms like “iphone” and “apple”, but they also didn’t use something like “green refurbished 8 gig apple ipod nano leather carrying case strap”. They probably were, for a lack of a better term, using some normal, middle of the road search term.

SiteSearch Navigation MenuNow, if you are fortunate enough to have both a Search Function on your website and Google Analytics, take a look at the “Search Terms” report, which is the second report from the top, inside of the “SiteSearch” section (which is located within the Content section). Are you surprised with what you are seeing? Yeah, so am I – I still find it tough to believe.

What I’m talking about is the fact that the top search terms people use on your website’s function are normally one-word terms, and they are very basic search terms at that. I’m talking extremely basic – words like “medical”, “label”, “mp3”, “windows”, “spine”, and so on. And, guess what? Some of these people are buying items from your online stores, or reaching the Goals that you have set-up for your profiles.

What does this all mean?
This is my theory. I believe when people land on a website and interact with a website’s search function, that they expect that the website knows exactly what to serve up to the visitor in its search results, despite their unrefined, raw search terms. I believe that people work under the assumption that once they are on a website, that the website should know exactly what the visitor (customer) is thinking right away, and that it should display exactly what the visitor wants to see, or they are back to Google to find another site to go to. I also believe that they feel Google is the place that needs that more-refined search term, so Google can understand what a visitor “is talking about”, whereas the website’s search function should already know what a visitor is talking about, and they shouldn’t have to produce some long-tail, exact search term.

Is this unfair to a website owner?
Oh yes, I feel that it is. But, you know what? That’s life. Remember, the visitor is always right. If they can’t find what they are looking for – or, what they expect to find – they’ll leave your site, and probably interact with another website’s search function, and will keep doing that until they are served up what they want to be served up.

So what do you recommend that I do?
I recommend that you make sure that your internal search function works extremely well, and produces clean, relevant search results at all times. Test it out frequently, and make sure it’s working without any bugs, or serving up any weird search results. Work closely with your programming team to make sure this happens. For example, if you sell plates, and if you search for “plates” on your search function, make sure plates appear right away in the search results! Also make sure that when a user clicks on a search result, that they are taken directly to the correct page, matching the search result listing, otherwise they may become frustrated with your site and leave right away.

…and if someone searches for something that I don’t sell, have, or promote?
Get creative. Don’t simply display a “no results found” message. Send them to a nice looking page that apologizes to the visitor that you do not carry that item or offer that service, and that also shows them the main products or services that you do offer. If there is an item that is constantly searched for that you do not carry, perhaps your visitors are asking you to add it to your website.

March 13 2008

My Google Analytics Wish List

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I know, I know…it was just the other day that Google Analytics officially launched Benchmarking and Audio Ads integration. However, I’m greedy, and I already want more!

So, I’ve created a list of things that I want Google Analytics to build into the program, and I’d like to share those with you right now. Some of them may sound like pipe-dreams, while others may actually seem reasonable. For the purposes of this post, I ask you not to burst my bubble, and play along. ๐Ÿ™‚

#1 – A “Blogs” Report
If you have a Feedburner account (like our blog does), Google Analytics should be able to synch your GA and your FB (Feedburner) accounts up, like it synchs up AdWords and now Audio Ads. Then, we could see Feedburner-like stats in Google Analytics, such as susbcribers, reach, uncommon uses, and so on. Admit it, it would be cool, wouldn’t it? This report could be found in the Content Section, right underneath “Top Content”.

#2 – Custom Reporting Options
I would love to be able to pick a custom date-range when I create an automatic report. Right now, the only four options to choose from are “Daily”, “Weekly”, “Monthly”, and “Quarterly”. What if I want a bi-weekly / mid-month automatic report? Or what if I want an “every 10 days” report that gets emailed to me automatically? Wouldn’t that be neat?

#3 – A “Reset Your Dashboard” Button
This would be perfect for that one time where you totally screw up your dashboard and you want to start over again with the default dashboard reports.

#4 – An even more customizable dashboard!
This is an extension from request #3. What if I don’t want to have the “Site Usage” window on my dashboard? What if I want each widget on the dashboard to show the top 10 or 15 items, instead of the top 5? How in the world do I get one of the four Google Analytics Views to show up on the dashboard page exactly as I want them (showing the pie chart, the comparison to site average, etc…)?

#5 – Cost-Data Import from other Pay-Per-Click Marketing Programs
Yeah, you probably knew this one was coming sooner or later. This is probably the most requested feature, ever (at least by me, I’ve been requesting it since 2006). This can actually be a manual import, it doesn’t have to be automatic. I’d spend that extra minute on the first of each month and upload my Yahoo! or my Microsoft AdCenter cost data into GA, via a CSV file, so that I could compare that data up against my AdWords data, wouldn’t you?

#6 – Integration with Google Website Optimizer
A logical request, as I already have requested an integration with Feedburner. This makes a lot of sense to me – you would be able to see the results of your A/B or your Multivariate Tests in Google Analytics, and be able to compare your successful combinations or pages against your other current website pages.

#7 – Embed the Map Overlay on your website
This one isn’t necessarily for me – However, I have heard a ton of requests for this particular item. I guess what you can do right now is simply take a screen-shot of the Map Overlay, and save the image and upload it to your site…but maybe there could be some way to provide a snippet of code to be placed on a website?

#8 – Improved Site Overlay functionality!
I completely LOVE the Site Overlay report. However, whenever there is flash present on a site, or there are heavy amounts of dynamic scripts, Site Overlay “breaks” and cannot show any clickstream data. I hope that someday, Site Overlay will be upgraded – and possibly with a few bells and whistles added on to it?

#9 – Bring Back the Lookup Table!
Google Analytics has an advanced filter option called “Lookup Table”, that is currently unavailable. In fact, it has been unavailable for a very long time. Basically, I’d like to play with it, so please bring it back and re-activate it! I actually had a possible use for the Lookup Table a while back.

#10 – Goal re-ordering option
I would love to have the ability to re-order Goals in the same fashion that I can re-order Filters. This way, if I happen to create a Goal in the G1 slot, and then I create a Goal in the G3 slot, I could move the one in G3 to the G2 position, so that I can be as organized as possible, and keep similar goals close together. I hate having to rename and re-configure a goal to have to do this – a lot of times I create a goal or two goals, and later on down the road, another goal becomes available or thought of. Meanwhile, the original goals have already gathered data, so it would be a shame to change the Goal URL and / or Goal Funnel.

March 6 2008

New Google Analytics Feature – Industry Benchmarking!

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Whenever Google Analytics releases a new report on an upgrade to an existing report, I hurry to tell everyone as much as I can about it. It’s like a mini-holiday for me ๐Ÿ™‚

Today, Mr. Brett Crosby – Google Analytics’ Product Manager – made the announcement that Industry Benchmarking would be added in as a new report section in Google Analytics. Industry Benchmarking will allow “…customers to see how their site data compares to sites in any available industry vertical”.

Of course, with a new release, there are normally lots of questions (“how does it work”, “what do I see”, “what’s the catch”, etc…). At this time, the best possible resource is the Google Analytics Help Center page on Industry Benchmarking and Data Sharing.

General Thoughts:
Whenever I talk to someone about Google Analytics and their position in the web analytics industry, I tell them that Google Analytics is always looking to propel itself to “the next level”. A benchmarking type of report like this one is an example of what I refer to – one of the many things we wish Google Analytics could do or had available.

To me, this report helps in filling in those missing gaps of information and knowledge that is missing in the Web Analytics industry. Now, you will finally be able to give an answer to the question “…is my Bounce Rate good?”, or “…how is my Average Time on Site?”. Comparing your web statistics against your industry averages now allows you to see where you stand amongst other websites that provide similar services or products (e.g. your competitors). Of course, this report is still in Beta – so don’t be alarmed if there are any quirks or bugs; they will be worked out and fixed over time.

Of course, if you check out the GA Help Center page on Benchmarking, you’ll see that in order for Benchmarking to be available, you’ll need to enable Data Sharing in your Google Analytics account. You will need to contact your Google Analytics Administrator if you are interested in having your data shared in order to enable Benchmarking in your account. Rest assured that Google Analytics handles the privacy of your data as the Pentagon would handle a matter of national security – it is held in the highest regard, labeled as classified information, and only those with Top Secret clearance can even get near it. As the document states, your account’s name, your URL, and the names of your pages are removed – only raw numbers and statistics are shared.

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