Articles in the Custom Data Solutions Category

July 6 2009

Should I care about my Direct Traffic?

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Even though Direct Traffic is not what you thought it was, it is still a segment of traffic worthy of your valuable time. If your analytics data is currently suffering from self-referrals, redirects, or untagged email marketing campaigns, then today’s thread should be of great interest to you, as your direct traffic volume could be artificially inflated.

Direct Traffic

What exactly is “Direct Traffic”?

Direct traffic is traffic that comes to you “directly”, without the help of an organic, referral, or cost-per-click source. Folks who type in your website’s URL manually into their browser’s address bar, or folks who copy / paste your URL into the address bar are counted by Google Analytics (and most other Web Analytics platform) as “direct”.

What else can be counted as “direct” traffic?

If someone visited your website by manually typing or copy / pasting your URL into their address bar, and they bookmark your site and visit you again from that bookmark, they will be counted as “direct”. This is the good kind of direct traffic. The bad kind of direct traffic – the kind that can be destroying and polluting this valuable segment – can be caused by redirects, improper / incorrect tagging set-up, and things like banners and email campaigns that are not tagged for Google Analytics (or your favorite WA program).

How do I fix these issues?

It depends on the complexity and severity of your situation, but there is no reason why you can’t collect proper, unpolluted direct traffic data. If you are doing banner advertising or email blasts, ensure that every single link embedded within the email or every destination URL of your banners is tagged for analytics. Google Analytics offers a URL Tool Builder page that can quickly set this up for you for free.

If your site is redirecting visitors, ensure that all pages have the necessary tracking code present (even on the redirecting page itself). However, if at all possible, try to slow down the redirect, so that the tracking codes have time to fire off.

If your site spans multiple domains, please ensure that both sites and all links to and from each site are properly set-up, according to your vendor’s specifications on tracking 3rd party websites. Any analytics program will be able to do this – visit the help section of your site or contact your account rep for assistance.

It bears repeating that there should be NO REASON why your direct traffic should be a big bucket of traffic from lots of different types of sources that couldn’t be tagged properly or coded correctly. Ask your email vendor / media manager / press release guru to help you with tagging / coding issues (and if they give you any grief, tell them I said it was very important :)).

Everything is tagged and coded properly, and my direct traffic is only counting what it’s supposed to count. What next?

For the most part, your direct traffic will remain fairly steady from month to month, with the occasional lift or dip here and there. Hopefully, over the long haul, your direct traffic will have increased, as your website becomes more and more popular over time. However, if you do any type of offline advertising (TV, Radio, Print), you can use the direct traffic segment to evaluate the success / failure of your offline efforts. Did you just run a commercial on prime-time network TV featuring your website’s URL? Check your analytics data the next morning and you’ll probably find a nice spike in direct traffic. The same thing happens when your monthly catalog or special offer gets delivered to your customer’s mail boxes. Collect a few of these spikes from offline efforts and in a couple of months you may be able to gauge the pulse of your offline audience and how they respond to what you are sending them / showing them.

Your direct traffic can also increase if your latest press release just got sent out, or you just turned up the dial on your Google AdWords campaign – not everyone clicks on a link, sometimes, they copy / paste it, which will count them as direct, despite your proper implementation. For this small group of copy / pasters out there, there really isn’t anything you can do, but you should be confident enough with your clean data to still obtain great insights anyway.

Direct traffic doesn’t have to be a big pile of unorganized and useless data. It can be exactly what you thought it was, as long as you put in the work to make it happen.

May 29 2009

Down about your Bounce Rate? Do these five things to improve it today!

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Bounce Rate - Improve it Today!Bounce Rate – the most popular two words in Web Analytics today. It’s become a cliche, a catch-phrase if you will. Everyone is talking about Bounce Rate and how good, how bad, how low or how high it is, and quite a number of folks have started to use Bounce Rate as an evaluation metric for success. I can safely speak for everyone involved with Google Analytics when I extend a huge “Thank You!” to all of you who have embraced it!

Interestingly, Bounce Rate is one of the only metrics in Web Analytics that we want less of. We want lower bounce rates, not higher, and fewer bounces, not more. A question I get asked at least three times a week by clients and co-workers alike is “How do we lower our Bounce Rate?” There are a lot of things that you can do, but there are only so many options that have proven to be effective over time. Today, let me share with you five different things that you can do – today – to start decreasing your bounce rate, by keeping your website’s visitors engaged with your website.

1. A “Higher” Call-To-Action
Have you ever heard the expression “Out of Sight, Out of Mind“? A persuasive and engaging call-to-action that is very low on a page, say, below the fold of a page, can cause visitors to lose focus and get distracted by your content / video / latest web 2.0 toy, which may cause the visitor to hit the back button or close their browser before visiting the next page on your site. No matter how nice of a call-to-action you have and no matter how attractive the offer or pitch may be, it needs to be highly visible to your website’s audience so that they can react (positively) to it and click on it, thereby lower the number of folks who bounce off of the page.

2. A Sync with your Ads and your Landing Pages
No, I’m not talking about N’Sync – I’m talking about a strong connection between the ads and the messaging you are using with the page that you are directing all of your future visitors to go to. One of the biggest factors that could be driving your Bounce Rates higher and higher is a mixed message that you are sending to your potential visitors. For example, if your ad copy says “15% Off!”, you need to make sure that “15% Off!” is the very first thing that a visitor sees when they hit your website. If you have “multiple sizes and colors available”, direct the visitor to a page where they can choose their favorite color and the right size. Using a promo code in your ad? Create a unique landing page and have the promo code appear right away on the page, so that visitors will feel the connection between your marketing message and what’s really happening on the website.

3. Improper Tagging on your Website Pages
A silent but very deadly killer, untagged pages of your website can only do your website harm. When some pages are missing the Google Analytics Tracking Code, visitors reaching those pages will have their referral cookie updated, thereby resetting information like “google / organic”, the campaign, and the keyword they used to reach you. At all times, when uploading a new page or section to your site, stop and make sure that the Google Analytics Tracking Code is present on your new page(s) first before uploading. This will save you a lot of head-scratching, unnecessary report ugliness, and will decrease your Bounce Rate, all at the same time!

4. Writing for your audience
Khrysti / SEO Team – I haven’t forgotten about you, because I am still writing “Content Is King!” That statement definitely translates to the Analytics side of things, and helps reduce your Bounce Rate. Use a combination of Google Insights for Search, Google Ad Planner and Google Trends for Websites to get an idea of the type of traffic that your website can receive, as well as valuable demographic information which could represent your future audience. Once you are comfortable with the type of audience and volume you expect to receive, write your website’s content appropriately and specifically targeted, so that visitors will feel a connection with what you’re saying. To use an exaggerated example, you wouldn’t want to talk about the fashion stylings of the cast of “The Hills” if your website sells motorcycle insurance (This, unfortunately, happens a lot on the web and it leads to a high number of bounces).

5. Testing, Testing, 1…2…3!
Finally, it’s essential that you incorporate some program of testing and experimentation on your website on a weekly or monthly basis. Each and every week (or few weeks), you should think about some element of your website or some element of an advertisement that you’ll want to experiment with, to see which version is the more profitable and successful one. Google Website Optimizer is a fantastic product where you can easily create as many experiments as you’d like, and see clear results in no time. You can also create a Website Optimizer experiment from start to finish in well under 10 minutes, which means you won’t have to be bogged down with hours of set-up and design time. Testing and experimentation with Google Website Optimizer is one of the best ways to decrease your Bounce Rate over the long-run, while sky-rocketing your conversion rates at the same time!

So there you have it – 5 great things that you can do today to start lowering your Bounce Rate, keeping your website’s visitors engaged, focused, and happy with you!

April 30 2009

How to track a site using domain aliases in Google Analytics, and AdSense Integration

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Two things to talk about today – Domain Aliases and Google’s new announcement of officially releasing AdSense integration with your Google Analytics Account!

Part 1 of this post: Domain Aliases

“Domain Aliases” is consistently one of the top 10 searched terms on the Google Analytics Help Website. You can definitely track domain aliases properly so that Google Analytics reports cleanly, and cookie integrity holds up. The question then becomes “How do I do that?”

There are two possible ways to do this, but it depends on the type of web server – Apache or IIS – that you’re running. Following the steps outlined in this article will ensure that visitor tracking with Google Analytics is getting set under the primary domain and that all visitors are tracked consistently. Basically, you’ll want to redirect any domain aliases to the primary domain – this actually helps out with cookie integrity.

Redirecting Aliases in Apache:

Create two VirtualHost entries – the first for your primary domain (normal configuration), and the second for all aliases re-directing to the primary:

#---primary virtualhost

Servername www.mysite.com
Serveralias mysite.com
...

#---second virtualhost

Servername mysite.org
Serveralias www.mysite.org mysite.net www.mysite.net
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*) http://www.mysite.com$1 [R=301]

Redirecting Aliases in IIS:

With Microsoft IIS webservers, you can create two websites in the IIS configuration – the first being the primary domain and the second will be for all other aliases redirecting to the primary.

Follow these steps to create a 301 redirect:

  1. Log in as an Administrator and open the Internet Services Manager by going to Start >> Programs >> Administrative Tools >> Internet Services Manager.
  2. Choose the server which is hosting your primary domain.
  3. In the folder, click the primary domain with your right mouse button and select Properties.
  4. Click the ‘Home Directory’ tab.
  5. In the “Redirect to:” field, enter the domain you want to redirect to. For example, if you want to redirect to mysite.org, enter http://mysite.org in this field.
  6. Under the “The Client will be sent to” section, select “A permanent redirection for this resource.” This will create a 301 redirect from your primary domain to mysite.org.

Read the rest of this article to find out how to use a 302 redirect instead of using a 301 redirect.

Part 2: Google AdSense + Google Analytics Integration

It is now official – you can sync your Google AdSense Account with your Google Analytics Account! When you do this, a brand new “AdSense” report section appears within your Content section of reports. There, you will find four reports:

1. Overview – This gives you a top-level breakdown of how much money the pages on your website have made for you. You’ll see brand new and exciting metrics such as AdSense Revenue, Revenue per 1,000 Visits, AdSense Click-Through Rate, Unit Impressions, Page Impressions per Visit, and other awesome analytical statistics.
2. Top AdSense Content – This allows you to see specific details about each page of your website to analyze AdSense performance. See which pages lead to AdSense clicks, and which ones don’t.
3. Top AdSense Referrers – Which sources of traffic are contributing to your AdSense bottom line? This report should answer that question for you.
4. AdSense Trending – View this histogram to see which days and what times of day visitors are clicking on the AdSense Ads on the pages of your website.

Isn’t this very exciting? But wait, there’s something else – you will now notice a new “AdSense” tab in several reports throughout Google Analytics, which allows you to analyze AdSense performance in several different report sections.

Linking your AdSense Account with your Google Analytics account is not that difficult – so ask your Administrator to set this up for you, and enjoy the new report section!

…and enjoy your properly redirected domain aliases, too :).

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