Articles in the Google Analytics Category

March 4 2008

Ecommerce Reports in Google Analytics – Three Random Questions

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Last week, I was asked three different questions about the Ecommerce section of reports in Google Analytics. And, I was able to give a different answer for each question! 🙂

Here are those questions – and my answers to each one. Maybe (just maybe) you had a similar question in mind:

Question #1: Why isn’t order #1234567 showing up in the Transactions Report?
A: There is a high degree of probability that you will not see every order appear in Google Analytics. As I mentioned in my very last blog post, Google Analytics uses a combination of Cookies and JavaScript as its tracking mechanism. If a user doesn’t accept the Google Analytics cookies that your website is trying to set on their computer, or if a user has disabled any JavaScript tracking, then Google Analytics cannot track any data for that person, including Ecommerce data. Another reason why you may not see order #1234567 is if a user lands on your receipt / “Thank You” page, and leaves that page quickly, before the Ecommerce Data has a chance to be captured by Google Analytics.

Remember, Google Analytics isn’t a replacement for your accounting software, and you shouldn’t use and think of it as such. Use Google Analytics to view and compare trends and patterns, not to keep official records.

Question #2: Why is it that in one report, the Revenue figure is $100,000, but in another report, the Revenue figure is showing as $113,345?
A: You should know that there are two different Revenue figures. There’s “Revenue”, which is used in the Overview and the Transaction reports, and there’s “Product Revenue”, used in the Products sub-section. The difference between the two is that Product Revenue excludes tax and shipping costs, while Revenue adds in those figures. In most situations, Product Revenue + Tax + Shipping should = Revenue. If there is still a large discrepancy, your data collection process could be faulty, and have bugs – please check with your programming team to verify if your Ecommerce coding is accurate.

Question #3: I’d like to erase / delete some orders from Google Analytics. How do I do that?
A: What you can do is you can actually issue a credit for an order. Unfortunately, once an order happens and Google Analytics collects that data, you cannot erase it from the system. But what you can do is have an order processed with negative numbers, which will in effect “cancel out” an order. For example, let’s say someone purchased a $19.99 Green T-Shirt from your store, and then changed their minds and had the order canceled. You can run an order on your system for -$19.99 to nullify the order in Google Analytics. If you decide to do this, I suggest creating a new product name for these order cancellations, so that you can view how many you’ve had to handle during a given period of time. You can also apply discounts and rebates this same way, if you so choose.

I hope these answers helped you!

February 27 2008

From __utma to __utmz (Google Analytics Cookies)

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There’s been a lot of talk recently on some forums and message boards about what kinds of cookies Google Analytics sets on a person’s computer, what they do, and how long they last. So, I’ve decided to blog about it. However, be warned – there is a lot of “geek” talk here, but I’ll try my very best to break it all down in the simplest language possible.

Some Cookies created by Google Analytics

The Very Basics – The Google Analytics Cookies
When someone visits a website that is properly coded with Google Analytics Tracking Code, that website sets four first-party cookies on the visitor’s computer automatically.

…Wait a Minute, What’s a “First-Party Cookie”?
A “first-party cookie” is a cookie that is set by that same website. This term exists because there are also “third-party cookies”, which are cookies that are set by other third party websites (you don’t even need to visit that third party website to have a cookie set – don’t worry, Google Analytics ONLY uses first-party cookies).

So, What Are These Four Cookies?
Well, there can be up to five different cookies that a website with Google Analytics tracking code sets on your computer. However, four of them are automatically set, while the fifth one is an optional cookie. Let’s take a look at each one.

The __utma Cookie
This cookie is what’s called a “persistent” cookie, as in, it never expires (technically, it does expire…in the year 2038…but for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend that it never expires, ever). This cookie keeps track of the number of times a visitor has been to the site pertaining to the cookie, when their first visit was, and when their last visit occurred. Google Analytics uses the information from this cookie to calculate things like Days and Visits to purchase.

The __utmb and __utmc Cookies
The B and C cookies are brothers, working together to calculate how long a visit takes. __utmb takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor enters a site, while __utmc takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor leaves a site. __utmb expires at the end of the session. __utmc waits 30 minutes, and then it expires. You see, __utmc has no way of knowing when a user closes their browser or leaves a website, so it waits 30 minutes for another pageview to happen, and if it doesn’t, it expires.

The __utmz Cookie
Mr. __utmz keeps track of where the visitor came from, what search engine you used, what link you clicked on, what keyword you used, and where they were in the world when you accessed a website. It expires in 15,768,000 seconds – or, in 6 months. This cookie is how Google Analytics knows to whom and to what source / medium / keyword to assign the credit for a Goal Conversion or an Ecommerce Transaction. __utmz also lets you edit its length with a simple customization to the Google Analytics Tracking code.

The __utmv Cookie
If you are making use of the user-defined report in Google Analytics, and have coded something on your site for some custom segmentation, the __utmv cookie gets set on the person’s computer, so that Google Analytics knows how to classify that visitor. The __utmv cookie is also a persistent, lifetime cookie.

That’s all Great, but What if Someone Deletes These Cookies from their Computers?
Unfortunately, you cannot do anything about someone deleting their cookies from their computers. The __utmb and __utmc cookies are gone before you know it, but the __utma, __utmz, and __utmv cookie (when applicable) will remain for a long period of time. Whenever someone deletes the __utma cookie, they are in essence deleting their history with your website. When they visit your website again, they are considered a brand new visitor, just as they were the first time they came around.

How Concerned Should I Be about This?
Concerned isn’t the word I would use. I would be “aware” of this, but there should be no cause for concern on your part. Over time, you will have collected enough data, and you will have been able to make some pretty good guesses on what’s going on and what to do, by analyzing trends and observing patterns, rather than having to rely on whole numbers. Remember, Google Analytics is a trending and analysis tool, not an accounting software program or a report of your server logs. It relies on data collection via javascript and cookie placements, and not every single person in the world has either enabled on their browser of choice.

My thanks to Justin Cutroni’s “Google Analytics Shortcuts” book for the inspiration on this post :).

February 19 2008

Why are my Visits different from my Clicks?

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Traffic Sources Navigation in Google AnalyticsA very popular Google Analytics report amongst the Campaign Management and Campaign Strategist teams here at MoreVisibility is the AdWords Campaigns report, located within the Traffic Sources section. This report is fantastic, as it pulls in click, impression, and click-through rate data straight from your Google AdWords account, and integrates it within the Google Analytics system.

This report really makes our lives easier, as we don’t have to toggle back and forth between two different systems. All of our Google AdWords Campaigns, Ad Groups, and Keywords are all in GA, and we can even see how much we spent! This report is probably one of the most under-rated features of all of Google Analytics.

Anyway, let’s talk about the title of this post, which is another very common question that I get asked. First of all, let’s define both “Visits” and “Clicks” – this is exactly how Google Analytics defines them:

Visits – The number of Visits to your site
Clicks – The number of Clicks on your search ad(s)

Clicks are pretty simple to understand – a person clicks on your ad, a click is registered, and counted as such. Visits is the tricky one. Visits counts the number of unique sessions created by your visitors. A unique session is basically a connection between a user and a webserver (your website).

There are a few different reasons why these two metrics are always different from each other, in the exact same date-range:

Multiple Clicks – There is nothing stopping a person from clicking on your ad multiple times in a specific date-range. No, it’s not click fraud, it’s probably comparison shopping. They click on your ad once, they go back and click on a competitor’s ad, then they go back again and click on your ad again, because they liked your offer or website better :). AdWords will record both clicks in that same session; however, Analytics only counts that as one visit, as the session was never terminated (they left your site, but the connection was still alive / their browser was still open). AdWords = 2 Clicks, Analytics = 1 Visit.

Multiple Visits – This is very close to the opposite of the first reason. Someone can click on your ad, close their browser or shut down their computer. Later, they can come back to your site via a bookmark, or if they remember your URL, they’ll type it in manually in the address bar. In this case, AdWords = 1 Click, Analytics = 2 Visits.

The Impatient Visitor – There’s also nothing stopping someone from clicking on your AdWords ad, and while your website is loading, they may get tired of waiting around for your website to load and go back to Google Search, or hit the “Stop” button on their browser. AdWords will count that click, but chances are that Analytics will not have had enough time to register that person as a visitor. Here, it’s AdWords = 1, Analytics = 0.

Invalid Clicks – There is always the issue of invalid clicks on your AdWords ads. The Google AdWords system automatically filters out invalid clicks from your account before you even see them. However, if these clicks land on your website, Analytics has no choice but to count those as visits. Analytics can’t automatically filter out “invalid visits” like AdWords can filter out “invalid clicks”. Therefore, the score here can be something along the lines of AdWords = 4, Analytics = 9.

The best possible answer that I can provide for the question “Why are my Visits different from my Clicks?” would be that both metrics are tracked and calculated differently by two completely different systems. Remember, you’re charged for the clicks – the visits are free ;).

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