Articles in the Benchmarking & Measuring Success Category

October 9 2008

Yahoo! Web Analytics has finally arrived!

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Yahoo! Web AnalyticsThe hottest news in the world of Web Analytics this week arrived on Wednesday the 8th, when Dennis Mortensen, the director of data insights at Yahoo, officially announced the release of Yahoo Web Analytics.

The web analytics community, and myself personally, have been waiting anxiously for this day, ever since Yahoo acquired IndexTools 5 months ago. IndexTools was always considered to be a great program for the price. In fact, a common slogan used by bloggers that referred to IndexTools was “…it’s 80% of WebTrends at 20% of the price.

So what is Yahoo! Web Analytics, and what can I do with it?

Yahoo! Web Analytics is a tag-based Web Analytics platform, like Google Analytics. However, that’s about as much as they share in common, barring some of the basic reporting features found in any analytics package. Yahoo! Web Analytics has worked really hard over the last 5 months to distance itself from Google Analytics, to claim its spot in the Web Analytics industry, and so far, it has been well received by almost everyone in the analytics community.

What are some of the benefits that Yahoo! Web Analytics offers?

Here are some of the goodies that Yahoo! Web Analytics offers:

1. It’s Free – In 2009, most every customer of Yahoo will be able to have access to Yahoo! Web Analytics (YWA). These include Sponsored Search marketers, Yahoo! Store owners, Small Business customers, and anyone else that is conducting some kind of online business with Yahoo.
2. Real-Time Reporting – YWA is going to provide up to the minute updates in its reporting interface, so you won’t have to wait a few hours or even a full day to see results. This will be great for Sponsored Search marketers, as you’ll be able to refine and optimize your efforts on the fly – and make intelligent decisions along the way.
3. Executive Dashboards – Fully customizable dashboards, where you will be able to create a separate dashboard for anyone within your organization.
4. Live Cost Analysis – This allows you to view Google, Yahoo, and MSN data, integrating it with the revenue that your website collects (Ecommerce).
5. Side-by-Side Comparative Reporting – This allows you to compare two different reports, one right along side the other.
6. Advanced Path Analysis – Drill, baby, drill! This report lets you drill down all the way to individual visit levels.

There are many more features outlined in the Yahoo Web Analytics features section.

My personal thoughts:

This is the best thing that has happened for the Web Analytics community in 2008, and into 2009. Everyone knows that I love Google Analytics, and that I even sometimes wear my Google Analytics T-Shirts in public (Oops…I wasn’t supposed to say that out loud…). Competition that YWA is going to provide against GA will only make BOTH platforms better over time. Each organization will likely try to one-up the other, introduce new reports or features that the other doesn’t have, and try their best to be the #1 “Free” Web Analytics platform out there. Ultimately, the true winners are you and I, the consumers. We’re going to get awesome reporting tools from both programs, and they are both going to improve and offer even more cool stuff over the course of time.

One feature that Yahoo Web Analytics will also provide users by default is data privacy. If this part of IndexTools has lived on in YWA, users will need to upload the necessary JavaScript file on their servers, meaning the data is never sent to a Yahoo server for processing. With GA you can do this, but the default option that is used by mostly everyone is having the JavaScript file reside on a Google server, meaning your data gets sent there for processing before you see it in your reports. This should be something very attractive for customers where privacy is a big concern.

Stay tuned folks – 2009 is going to be a great year for Web Analytics!

September 22 2008

The Trinity Strategy – Learn it, Live it, Love it

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When I met the now legendary Avinash Kaushik for the first time at the Google Mountain View campus in November of 2007, I brought along my copy of Web Analytics: An Hour A Day for him to sign. I was very shy to bust it out in a room of over 100 people, but I finally got the guts and asked him to sign it, which he did! Now the question is: how much is a signed copy of Web Analytics: An Hour A Day worth on eBay? 🙂

The signature, much to the disbelief of every one of my co-workers here at MoreVisibility, does not say “To my #1 biggest fan of all time!”. Instead, a much more valuable, two line exclamation is found: “Trinity Rocks!”. Sorry Tigers, but Avinash was referring to his Trinity Strategy, not the University located in Texas.

The Trinity Strategy is, basically, a way of thinking about Web Analytics in today’s Web 2.0 world. The purpose of this strategy, or mindset, is to obtain actionable insights and actionable metrics from the wonderful world of Web Analytics – specifically, your web analytics data.

As you probably predicted, there are three components to the Trinity Strategy:

1. Behavior – Behavior refers to the analysis of the piles and piles of Web Analytics data that we all collect on a daily basis. A long time ago, in a planet far, far away, marketers would simply want to know how many “clicks” or “hits” their website pages received, and their analysis pretty much ended right there (you remember all of those hits counters at the bottom of website pages, don’t you?). The Behavior component of the Trinity Strategy is intended to get you to look at your Web Analytics data at a different level, and, as Avinash loves saying, to “…take a leap of faith…” and make some educated guesses as to why people did what they did on your website (remember, Web Analytics can tell you the what and the when, the why, and sometimes the how is another story).

2. Outcomes – How well is your website ultimately performing? You wanted 40 leads a month from your pay-per-click marketing campaigns, or 5 sales from the new Banner Ad that you have running out there. Are you getting there? Where (and how) are you falling short? The outcomes component of the Trinity Strategy is to get you to look at your bottom line and really take a look to see if your website is fulfilling its objectives.

3. Experience – Experience is all about a term that is starting to gain popularity in 2008 – VOC, or “Voice of Customer”. What do your customers like or dislike about your website or shopping cart? Which pay-per-click landing page works better than the rest, and which one converts higher than the rest? What frustrations did your customers have on your website, or what made them happy? The Experience component of the Trinity Strategy exists to get you to be a man / woman of the people, with the ultimate goal of improving your website for both your financial benefit and your customer’s web experience.

When you put it all together, you have a strategy – a mindset – that should help your business, your online presence, your email marketing campaigns, and so on. It’s a great strategy if you don’t already have a plan of action, or if you have a plan, but it’s not working and you need to change for the better. And why wouldn’t you want to change for the better?

Take Avinash’s Trinity Strategy, and see if you can apply it to your current online business model. Even if you can’t apply it all at the same time, try at least one part of the Trinity, and see what it can do for you. I promise you won’t be disappointed. At a minimum, you have allowed for a different way of thinking about your online business and presence – although it may not seem immediately useful, the seed of knowledge has been planted.

The Trinity Strategy – Learn it, Live it, and Love it.

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.

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