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GA Certified PartnerOur web analytics blog provides a space for us to educate our clients and visitors about how they can use analytics to gain insight into user behavior. As a Google Analytics Certified Partner and Google Tag Manager Certified Partner, our team is highly versed in Google's products, but our knowledge isn't limited to just those! On this blog, our analytics experts share a diverse variety of tips, tricks and techniques for a wide range of analytics platforms, as well as explore big picture concepts for tracking and measuring online success, and answering some of the questions commonly asked by clients and team members. To stay up to date on everything our analytics blog has to offer, subscribe to our feed.

March 23 2009

So, what’s wrong with Google Analytics?

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MoreVisibility - Google Analytics Authorized ConsultantIf you’ve been to our website recently, or have just seen our site’s footer, you’ll notice that MoreVisibility is a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant (GAAC), making us one proud company. We love everything Google Analytics, which means you’ll read a lot of GA-oriented material on this blog. We really feel that Google Analytics can help every company, every business, every ONE, regardless of size, number of employees, or complexity of needs / wants.

With all that being said, this doesn’t exclude Google Analytics from suffering a few bugs, glitches, breaks, and flat-out inaccuracies – this is life on the World Wide Web. A lot of posts and emails have come across my eyes over the last few weeks about some of the troubles with certain elements in Google Analytics. So, below, I have a few of the biggest current bugs / issues with GA. Rest assured, each and every one of these items is currently being looked into or being worked on as you read this. They may not be able to turn things around in 24 hours – but give them a break; they are very busy people with a lot on their plate!

1. Column Sorting
Clicking on any column heading within any table in GA Reports will not properly sort that column by the metric you clicked on. It’s definitely a frustrating bug. In the meantime, what you can do is you can download the report in a CSV file, which is available towards the top-left of Google Analytics, and do any kind of sorting locally, if you absolutely must.

2. Site Overlay “Gray Screen”
This is an issue that has received a lot of attention, especially lately. At random times, Site Overlay will fail to load successfully, causing a gray overlay over your website’s homepage. You can still see your website, but none of the overlay bars or metrics will appear. If this happens to you, try closing your browser and re-open it (not just the tab where you have GA open – the entire browser).

3. AdWords “Clicks vs. Visits” Discrepancies
There are have been some issues in some accounts with the importing of AdWords data into the AdWords Campaigns reports in Google Analytics, found underneath the “Clicks” tab. Even though Visits are not the same thing as Clicks, they should be “somewhat close”. There have been accounts that have not had all of their AdWords data properly imported over, causing huge data discrepancies for some accounts. If this pertains to you, simply use the actual Google AdWords interface for the time being until this bug can be sorted out.

4. Inability to halt automatic reports
Some users are currently affected by a bug that continues to send them automatic reports from the Google Analytics Email Scheduler, despite being removed from the email (or despite the email being deleted). The workaround to this temporary problem is to set up a rule to automatically delete the email in your email client, or, click on the “Unsubscribe” link towards the bottom of the email.

5. Ecommerce Data “way off”…
This is something that has been mis-reported as a bug, when in fact it is just the way it works. The reports pertaining to Ecommerce in Google Analytics are on a different schedule in terms of viewing the data, separate from the rest of the GA Reports. It takes anywhere from 24-48 hours for complete Ecommerce data to appear in Google Analytics, which is different from all other data, which takes anywhere from a few hours to 24 hours. The solution? You will need to wait a day or two in order to view full Ecommerce data for your website.

6. Absolute Unique Visitors shows “N/A”
In almost every account, having an advanced segment turned on will show “N/A” for the Absolute Unique Visitors metric / report. This is not necessarily an error, but due to the way Google Analytics uses Advanced Segmentation, Absolute Unique Visitors is a metric / report that cannot be displayed.

I’m experiencing other technical issues / bugs with my GA Account, or I have a suggestion for Google Analytics – is there a way to tell them about this?
Yes, there is. You can use the Google Analytics Contact Us for, located here:

https://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/request.py?cf_question=qc_5_1&no_support=1&contact_type=login

You can also keep track of known issues with GA from this page:

http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/request.py?contact_type=knownissues

March 4 2009

The difference between the Linear and the Logarithmic Scales

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By now, mostly everyone has tried using a Motion Chart by clicking on the “Visualize” button, toward the top of several Google Analytics reports at least one time.

…What? What do you mean “No!“? What do you mean “I didn’t even know it existed!“? Well, if you haven’t taken a look, I strongly suggest doing so. For example, go to your Traffic Sources >> Keywords report and click on “Visualize” towards the top – you should see something like this:

Motion Chart using the Linear Scale

There you go – you have just been visualized! :). You can increase the number of circles (or “bubbles”) that appear by going back to the regular report and increasing the number of rows, toward the bottom-right of the report table.

One update to Motion Charts that happened a few months ago which flew a bit under the radar was the option for you to define your viewing scale – Linear, or Logarithmic. I can get into a complex mathematical / statistical explanation of the differences between the two – which I’m sure will satisfy some of you – but for the masses, the easiest possible explanation I can use to differentiate the two is:

Linear Scale – Based on Addition
Logarithmic Scale – Based on Multiplication

The first image above is an example of a Motion Chart using the Linear Scale. Notice on the X axis (going from left to right, the “Pages / Visit” metric), the values from left to right increase by 5 on each point – 5, 10, 15, 20, etc… The values in the Y axis (Visits) increase by 100 on each point – 100, 200, 300, and so on.

Now let’s change “Lin” to “Log” and watch what happens to our Motion Chart:

Motion Chart using the Logarithmic Scale

The motion chart data is exactly the same, but much different looking now, is it not? Notice how the bubbles are much more spread out and more “all over the place” using the Logarithmic Scale. The Motion Charts in Google Analytics use what is known as a base 10 sequence, as each point in the scale is multiplied by 10. A little tough to notice here in the X axis (Pages / Visit), but noticeable on the Y axis (Visits) – 1, 10, 100, 1,000, and it continues off the chart infinitely.

When to use the Linear Scale? When to use the Logarithmic Scale?

A good rule of thumb is to use the scale that best shows off your data. If you are only using the motion chart for the top 10 rows of your report, chances are that the linear scale will work just fine. If you’re going to be using 25 or more rows, you’ll most likely find it much easier on the eyes if you use the logarithmic scale. So, less data = linear; more data = logarithmic. But, please, play with the Motion Charts and decide for yourself what’s easier for your chart.

“The Difference Between” Series:

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

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