Articles in the Google Analytics Coding Category

February 19 2009

Wednesday Interview Series: Average Time on Site

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Every Wednesday, I sit down and interview different metrics or report sections from Google Analytics. I ask the tough questions – and I expect straight answers! (This, obviously, is a fictional interview. However, if metrics or reports could talk and be interviewed, this is how I imagine their personalities being and how they would answer my questions. Hopefully this will be a fresh, interesting way to learn about the wonderful world of Google Analytics in a unique way).

Joe Teixeira: “Mr. Average Time on Site…how are things?”
Average Time on Site: “…Average…”
JT: “What’s with the sunglasses?”
ATOS: “…It’s bright in here…”
JT: “Well those are just the studio lights…I can have them turned down if you…”
ATOS: “No…it’s cool.”
JT: “Ummm…OK. Well let me ask you my first question. Can you explain to everyone exactly how you are calculated?”
ATOS: [Turns Away in Disgust and Rolls Eyes] “Man…come on, man. Why you gotta play me like that? Everybody knows it’s up to __utmb and __utmc to calculate the difference between the time stamps of each page. I ain’t got nuthin’ to do with any of that.”
JT: “So, two cookies – __utmb and __utmc – they calculate you…”
ATOS: “Yeah, man…”
JT: “…and the difference between each time stamp on each page is the time a user spent on that page…”
ATOS: “Yeah…”
JT: “…and then the Average Time on Site is the sum of all of the time a user – or groups of users – spent on the pages of a site, divided by the number of pages viewed.”
ATOS: “…something like that. If you know all this, how come you’re asking me, man?”
JT: “Because I wanted to hear what you’d have to say about it…”
ATOS: [Becoming more frustrated] “Look, man, this is how it goes down, a’ight? If somebody bounces from a landing page, guess what happens? I become an average of 0:00:00, because there ain’t no second timestamp to go by, so [pointing to the ceiling] the big man upstairs [GA] can’t give me credit for my time. It ain’t my fault, I’m just doing my job around here.”
JT: “So you really have a problem with this. What about people that leave their computers on and go to lunch, or go to a meeting?”
ATOS: “It’s the same thing, except backwards. Let’s say somebody goes to lunch for an hour and they leave they browser on…after 29 minutes of what they like to call “inactivity”, I stop counting. This happens ALL THE TIME, man. It just ain’t right! If they time me out, no second timestamp happens, which again means the average time for that page becomes 0:00:00.”
JT: “What I’m gathering from you is the message you’re trying to convey here is for people who look at you, and use you in their reports and presentations, to take you with a grain of salt…to use your number precariously.”
ATOS: “Well I don’t know what “precariously” means…but yeah, don’t do that.”
JT: “Last week, I talked briefly to Bounce Rate about setVar, and how his change in classification has impacted him. How has the update to setVar affected you?”
ATOS: “Man, it’s about time they did somethin’ about that. setVar ain’t nothing but a greedy metric, man. I’ve been tryin’ to tell people about setVar, and how it was being counted as an interaction hit, but they weren’t listening to me…but finally they took care of some business and straightened things out.”
JT:
“Well, thanks a lot for your time…”
ATOS: “Oh, shoot – we done already?”
JT: “Yeah, I’m sorry…”
ATOS: “C’mon, man…I get paid by the second…”
JT: “Sorry, ATOS…maybe some other time.”
ATOS: “…whatever, man. That’s what everyone always says: “Time”. More time, less time, average time…everyone always wants to know about time. People need to just chill for a second and look at everything else, not just me…”
JT: “Well…thanks again [I start getting up].

Wednesday Interview Series:
February 11, 2009: Bounce Rate

February 11 2009

Wednesday Interview Series: Bounce Rate

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Every Wednesday, I sit down and interview different metrics or report sections from Google Analytics. I ask the tough questions – and I expect straight answers! (This, obviously, is a fictional interview. However, if metrics or reports could talk and be interviewed, this is how I imagine their personalities being and how they would answer my questions. Hopefully this will be a fresh, interesting way to learn about the wonderful world of Google Analytics in a unique way).

Joe Teixeira – “Hey there Bounce Rate, how’s it going?”
Bounce Rate – “Hey Joe! Right now I’m doing great and flying low…but tomorrow I may be down on my luck…”
JT – “Well, why do you say that?”
BR – “There’s a reason my name is “Bounce” Rate – sometimes I’m very low and loved by everyone – other times, when I’m a bit higher, I’m scrutinized and examined like a Wall Street executive on Capitol Hill.”
JT – “Well, you’re a very important metric, Bounce Rate. People really seem to love you when you’re low…”
BR – “I know, I know…it’s just…why can’t they always love me, even when I’m high? I mean, I’m just a metric…why can’t more people look at other things, too?”
JT – “Are there any other places that you want people to start paying attention to?”
BR – “Yeah – and I hate to put him on the spot, because we go way back – but people should look at me when they’re looking at Top Landing Pages. I mean, it’s a great place for everyone to find out how effective each one of the pages of their website are as an entry point, as a landing page.”
JT – “So you feel as if people may be looking at you in a way that you feel is not necessarily the best?”
BR – “Oh yeah, absolutely! When people look at me on the Dashboard, they either love me or hate me – there’s never any middle ground. Well, I think people should really go beyond the Dashboard and see me when I’m broken down by each individual landing page or keyword!”
JT – “Have you talked to Top Landing Pages or Keywords about this?”
BR – I talked to Top Landing Pages – he agrees with me. It’s hard to get a hold of Keywords now a days, though. A lot of requests for him, you know…”
JT – “Sure, I bet.”
JT – “Let’s move on. What percentage makes you happy? 25%? 30%? 50%?”
BR – “See, there you go. You’re just like everyone else; you want a fixed percentage for me. Why can’t anyone accept me for who I am? Sometimes I can’t be 25% – but that doesn’t mean 25% is too high. Other times I can’t get lower than 60%, but – in a lot of industries – 60% is really good! Yet so many people tell me “I want you to be 15% across the board”, and depending on the site and the industry, I just can’t get that low…I just can’t…”
JT – “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. But you’re so great at pointing out to [most] of us the pages, keywords, and even the site search terms that we need to focus our optimization efforts on…sometimes we get greedy and we want you as low as possible!”
BR – “It’s not like I’m not trying to be low, Joe…I DO try…but there’s nothing I can do when sometimes there are just so many bounces that have to be divided into the number of entrances…if people just focused more on helping me be lower, rather than yelling and cursing at me for not being low enough, I probably would be much lower over time!”
JT – “I agree with you. One final question before I let you go: recently, Google Analytics has decided that your long-time friend, setVar, would no longer be counted as an interaction hit. Have you spoken to setVar at all since the announcement?”
BR – “Yeah, I talked to setVar a few times – he’s sorrier for me than I am for him, because now that he’s not an interaction hit, I’m going to go up at least a few percentage points here and there. But I’m OK – and I’m happy for setVar, you know. I think it’s important that he’s classified and tabulated properly from now on.”
JT – “Thank you, Bounce Rate. Hang in there…”
BR – “OK, thank you…I will…”

Tune in next Wednesday, where my special guest will be the notorious Average Time on Site. You won’t want to miss it!

January 5 2009

What is your competition up to these days?

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Happy New Year readers! 2009 is going to be a comeback year for everyone – I can really feel it! Let’s make the most of this fresh and exciting New Year by stepping away from our Analytics kingdom for just a little while and focusing on our Site Intelligence efforts, such as, stepping onto the dark side…I mean…your competition!

While it is illegal to use “black hat” techniques to keep tabs on your competition (such as using “spy ware” type software programs), keeping your eyes and ears open to what your competitors are doing is a critical part of being successful online. Knowing what your opponents are up to can give you great ideas and inspiration for your own website or marketing efforts. It can (and should) also serve as an alert or warning system as to what not to do online, which can be equally as important for you.

Here are just some of the many different things you can do to stay on top of your competitor’s efforts:

1. Visit their website!
Pretty simple, right? If you know the URL of your competitor’s websites, check it out to see what they have going on. Pay close attention to how they market to their potential customer base, the language they use, and the type of sales angle that they incorporate. Be observant of the layout of their website, color scheme, navigation, and – of course – products and services offered.

2. Search for them online
See how successful (or how futile) their online marketing efforts are by searching for their brand name. You don’t have to click on their ads or organic search results – just look them up on Google and Yahoo a few times. Here, you’ll want to take note of how aggressive / passive their marketing language is, and what incentives / discounts / promotions they are offering.

3. Sign up for their newsletter / monthly email alerts / RSS Feeds
This is an excellent way to learn “what’s hot” with you business adversaries. Normally, your competitors will promote the latest and greatest product or service to their email database, including any speaking engagements or other important announcements that they have. Learn how they speak to their database and what re-marketing efforts they are using, and consider similar methods for your own Email marketing efforts (if they are using good methods).

4. Check out their social media / blog / viral marketing programs
Are your competitors present in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? Do you know what StumbleUpon and Digg are? When was your competitor’s last blog post? If your competition isn’t focusing on any of these newer mediums, then this is an excellent opportunity to gain ground and establish a presence before they catch on. If they are already engaged in Social Media efforts, consider subscribing to their blog, their RSS feed, and “follow” or “connect” with them. They will most likely speak to their audience much differently in these mediums than they will on their website or newsletter – take note of what they are saying and doing here.

5. Do your competitors advertise / market offline?
Have you seen your competitor’s brand and products in a magazine or newspaper? Are they running a late-night infomercial or day-time TV ad? Have you heard their phone number repeated 9 times in a 30 second radio spot on your drive home from work? You may not be able to afford these mediums as they are FAR more expensive than pay-per-click advertising, but it’s good to pay attention to their offline messaging – visit their site the next time you’re in front of your computer and see if there is a connection between the ad that you read or heard and their website.

6. Look at your Referring Sites / Hostname / Domain Name Reports
Your analytics package should be able to tell you what websites have been sending you traffic, and, what domains are delivering you traffic. This is a great way to tell if your competitors are checking you out. Fight the urge to block out or exclude this traffic from appearing in your reports – keep this valuable data in your analytics package. If your competitors are really checking you out, chances are that you are doing something that has caught their attention, and you are most likely going down the right path.

7. Enable Data Sharing / Benchmarking (with Google Analytics)
Google Analytics allows for you to compare your basic website’s metrics against the averages of websites that are a similar size to yours. This is available within the Visitors >> Benchmarking report. The catch: You must anonymously share your data with Google and other services, such as AdWords, to be able to have access to this section. The benefits of knowing how you stack up against websites in your industry – and across every available industry in this section – far outweigh the risk of anonymously sharing your data with Google (keep in mind they already have your website data when you use Google Analytics, so it’s not that much of a leap of faith to enable Data Sharing in your Google Analytics account).

8. Use online research tools like Google’s Insight for Search!
Finally, get a grip on historical and current trends of keywords and key phrases with free programs like Google Trends for Websites and Google Insights for Search. You can perform searches for your competitor’s brand names and products, and you’ll be able to gauge the level of interest at global, national, and regional levels. If there are terms or key phrases gaining popularity that your competitors are using, you may want to consider jumping on those while they’re hot.

Checking out what your competition is doing can help guide your own efforts, as you learn what to do and what not to do. However, always keep in mind to play fair and behave in an ethical fashion – NEVER slander, defame, or bad-mouth your competitors on your website, your blog, or on your MySpace page. Don’t click on their pay-per-click ads, never subscribe their contact or info email to spam mailings, and refrain from posting negative reviews of their YouTube videos or their Local Submission listings.

Have a great 2009!!!

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