Articles in the Site Usability Category

November 23 2009

The features that I am thankful for

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the holiday season is officially here. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reads our Analytics and Site Intelligence blog and subscribes to our RSS Feed. You fine folks rock!

There have also been lots and lots of new features in Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and Google Website Optimizer in the past year that I am extremely thankful for. These features have made my job easier, more enjoyable, and have helped a lot of our clients improve their conversion rates, sales revenue, and their bottom lines. Therefore, I’d like to dedicate this post to all of the following features:

1. Conversion Tracking (AdWords):

For years, Google has offered a free conversion tracking script that can be placed on a receipt page, a “thank you” page, or any important page where you ultimately want your AdWords traffic to go to. Recently, the AdWords team has upgraded the Conversion Tracking section within AdWords to include the ability to create multiple conversion actions, new “one-per-click” vs. “many-per-click” metrics, and a verification feature that can detect if the tracking code is properly installed. Way to go AdWords Conversion Tracking team!

2. The Opportunities Tab (AdWords):

The Opportunities tab within the AdWords GUI provides awesome intelligence on how to improve your campaigns. Whether you should be spending more money, using different keywords, or other suggestions, the Opportunities tab can make very good estimates on areas where you could be missing out. Log-in to your AdWords account and try this amazing feature today!

3. Google Ad Planner (AdWords):

Do you need to see detailed demographic data, domains and sub-domains, keywords, and other traffic statistics for the site or audience that you’re planning to advertise to? Google’s Ad Planner is nothing short of amazing in this department! If display advertising (images, video, rich media) is important for you, you seriously need to sign up for Ad Planner before you do anything else. Any site that you want to run your ads on with Google AdWords should be listed in AdPlanner, as well as the estimated volume of traffic each site receives as well as what types of ads each site supports.

4. Segmenting (AdWords):

Did you know that you can now easily segment your Campaigns, Ad Groups and Keywords in AdWords, much like you can segment any dimension in Google Analytics? This helps you to slice and dice your AdWords campaign data to make better decisions about how you’re spending your hard-earned marketing dollars.

5. Secondary Dimensions and Pivoting (Analytics):

The combination of Secondary Dimensions and Pivoting in any Google Analytics report table makes my job so much easier, faster, and more fun! You can now see up to five separate dimensions all in one report table view, which makes data-mining a far less arduous task.

6. Multiple Custom Variables (Analytics):

No longer are we bound by one label or one bucket for any website visitor. We can now assign visitors multiple labels, thanks to the new Multiple Custom Variables feature in Google Analytics. It takes just a bit of coding to pull it off, but the little bit of technical implementation is by far outweighed by the sheer flexibility and depth that you obtain!

7. Enhanced Mobile Tracking (Analytics)

Mobile analytics with Google Analytics has improved dramatically with this new report section. Found under the Visitors section, site owners can now view the many different mobile devices and mobile carriers that bring visitors to their websites. With a little bit of additional coding, any one using a .mobi site can track their mobile website’s activity in a much smoother and easier way. Oh, by the way, iPods and Nintendo DS Lite’s are counted as mobile devices 🙂

8. Intelligence / Custom Alerts (Analytics)

Want to know about significant events that happen on your site, and some guidance as to what to do next? The new Intelligence section is your new best-friend. Google Analytics can now alert you to highly significant events that are happening on your website, who or what are the causes, and what Google Analytics expected to happen (vs. what actually happened). It can also iron your pants and make toast! Well, maybe not yet – perhaps it will be able to soon 🙂

You can also create your own custom alerts and have them emailed to you on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Define your own important criteria and observe significant increases or decreases of stuff that’s important to you.

9. Experiment Notes (Website Optimizer)

I’m also very thankful for the wonderful people at Google for their Website Optimizer product. Specifically, I really like Experiment Notes, a brand new feature within the Google Website Optimizer interface. With each new A/B or multivariate experiment, I can write notes about that experiment, such as the start date or important specifics that I need to keep track of, which I can go back to at any time.

10. Over-time charting (Website Optimizer)

Finally, over-time charting in Google Website Optimizer lets me view conversion data plotted daily across a Google Analytics style trending graph, at the top of my experiment report. This lets me observe experiment success / failures over the course of time, and allows me to watch the observed improvements in a cleaner, more graphically-pleasing way.

Those are just some of the many features that I am thankful for. I hope that you have a happy Thanksgiving, a happy “black Friday” and a very happy “cyber Monday”!

August 10 2009

It Takes a Village to Raise a Culture of Web Analytics

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The last 2 years have seen an influx of business men and women getting involved with Web Analytics. Owners, Presidents, VPs, Directors, Marketers, IT personnel and even Administrative Assistants have all taken an interest in this still relatively new dimension of the internet.

While it’s great that so many folks are diving head-first into the ocean of analytics, it’s very important to understand that one individual cannot do it alone. Everyone — even one man / one woman shows — needs a village…a community of individuals that can support, educate, and collaborate with one another to install, upload, and subsequently measure and take meaningful, useful insights from their analytics data.

Each person needs to rely upon any one (if not all) of the following types of people to truly achieve Web Analytics success:

1. The Web Analytics “Champion”
Each organization needs that one person who stands proud and champions the cause to their colleagues. This person takes command and learns everything possible about Web Analytics, and can eat and drink metrics and reports for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This person can calculate search campaign ROI and Average Order Value figures in their sleep. He / She is the quarterback / point guard / captain of the team.

2. A Colleague who Shares the Vision
Forging a relationship with a co-worker who can get as excited and enthusiastic about Web Analytics as the “Web Analytics Champion” is key to promoting a culture of data insights throughout your organization. It becomes contagious to the rest of the company when they see that others are being positively influenced by Web Analytics, and they’ll want to be a part of it.

3. A Friend in Need is a Friend in IT
No matter what type of Web Analytics program you choose to run with, a technical / IT person is going to be necessary at one point or another. IT folks can help you upload any necessary scripts, code your website’s pages, manage APIs, parse server log-files, fix and repair bugs, and anything else needed for Web Analytics success. Making friend(s) in the IT department is a crucial, often overlooked step.

4. Don’t Forget the Marketers
At the end of the day, the purpose of Web Analytics is to understand the behavior and actions of your website’s visitors. Marketing / advertisement is what drives traffic to a website, be it a pay-per-click ad or a couple of months of hard-nosed SEO optimization work. The marketing department is going to need reports and statistics from Web Analytics to be able to refine their efforts, and evaluate which are working and profitable, which ones are wastes of money, and which ones have potential.

5. Sell, Sell, Sell!
Sometimes, the concepts and the philosophy of Web Analytics are hard to explain throughout an organization — anyone who has ever heard “Why Should I Spend Any Time with This?” will understand. This is a great opportunity to get a sales rep, or even the VP of Sales on board with Web Analytics. They can probably share with you some persuasive techniques that can be used to attract interest.

6. Who’s The Boss?
Not Tony Danza — unless he IS your boss. The Senior VP, Chief Technical Officer, Executive Vice-President, or perhaps the CEO themselves should be on board the Web Analytics gravy train. This is, understandably, a vital part in the ultimate success of building a culture of Web Analytics within your company — important colleagues or co-workers who were on the fence before may be strongly persuaded to jump on the bandwagon if a supervisor, partner, or even the owner supports the efforts.

In a lot of situations, people do not have the ability to take the reigns and create this prosperous culture of finding actionable insights. They work alone, in a small group, or in large companies where teams are spread across several offices, making building a community near impossible. Fortunately for us, MoreVisibility is that culture of Web Analytics. We are a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant, a Google AdWords Qualified Company, and have an entire organization of colleagues who champion the cause for Web Analytics.

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.

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