Web Analytics Blog

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Our 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.

July 8 2008

Yes, Google Analytics can track that, too!

by MoreVisibility

Google Analytics can automatically track your Google AdWords cost-per-click activity within its system by simply applying “Cost Data” and enabling “Destination URL Auto-Tagging” within your AdWords account. However, you will need to do a bit of extra work if you want to track your Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft AdCenter, Business.com listings, banner ads, email marketing campaigns, or any other links that you have out there on the internet.

By default, Google Analytics will treat any click to your website from, for example, the Yahoo Search Results page as “yahoo / organic”, regardless if the click actually occurred from a natural listing or a sponsored listing. In some situations, it can show as a referral from yahoo.com, and sometimes, as direct traffic. This, of course, isn’t going to work for just about everyone.

For Google Analytics to track your non-Google AdWords marketing efforts, you must append a query string to the end of each URL in any of your marketing initiatives that you want to track. This string of parameters tells Google Analytics what term or what ad a user clicked on, what campaign served up the ad or keyword, and from what source or medium someone originated from.

Example: In one of my Yahoo Search Marketing Ad Groups, I am using the following destination URL for every ad and / or keyword in the group:


Google Analytics will treat anyone that clicks my ad with this destination URL as coming from “yahoo / organic”, from a Campaign called “Not Set”.

Now, let’s slap on some Google Analytics URL coding on this URL:


Now, Google Analytics will be able to collect the keyword and the ad that a user searched for and clicked on, the name of my campaign, and most importantly, it will know to not lump clicks (visits) from this URL as “organic”.

Great! But…what does everything in the URL mean?

Let me break down each part of the end of the URL:

? – This starts off the Google Analytics URL Tracking. If a ? symbol already exists in a URL, this can be replaced with a & symbol (Two ? symbols in a URL will, in most cases, break a URL)
utm_source=yahoo – There are five separate dimensions to URL Tracking with Google Analytics. Each dimension in the URL starts off with “utm_”, followed by the name of the dimension. This first one is called Source, and Source is simply where someone originated from. This could say google, yahoo, msn, altavista, client-newsletter, july-email-campaign, and so on.
&utm_medium=cpc – The medium dimension tells you by what means did someone access your website? For our example, someone clicked on a sponsored ad, which Google Analytics classifies as “cpc”. However, this could also be “cpm”, for any site-targeted campaigns that charge per thousand impressions, “banner” to denote a banner advertisement, or “email” if it’s an email blast of some kind.
&utm_campaign=Yahoo+-+Branding+Campaign – The campaign dimension will track the name of the Campaign in your marketing interface, or the name of the Campaign that you are using internally. In this example, this destination URL is in our Yahoo Branding Campaign. Don’t worry about the + and the – symbols quite yet – I’ll explain in just a little bit.
&utm_term=analytics+blogs – Basically, the term dimension represents the keyword that is being assigned this particular destination URL.
&utm_content=Second+Ad+Copy – Basically, the content dimension represents the actual ad version that is being assigned this particular destination URL.

Important Notes about Google Analytics URL Coding:

  1. Did you notice how I used lowercase lettering for both the source and the medium dimensions? I strongly advise you to do the same. Google Analytics will not recognize anything coded with an uppercase CPC as a “cost-per-click” keyword, source, or term, and will think that an uppercase CPC is not the same as a lowercase cpc, causing the Keywords and Search Engines report to be highly innacurate.
  2. + and – signs – Each space in a name of any dimension must be represented by a + symbol. Well, it doesn’t HAVE to be, but your URLs may not work if there are blank spaces anywhere in the URL. So play it safe and use + signs to replace spaces (or, to identify spaces in names of things). – symbols are used to make line items in Google Analytics look neater. For example, I used “Yahoo+-+Branding+Campaign” in my Campaign dimension; this will look like “Yahoo – Branding Campaign” in the Google Analytics interface.
  3. Avoid Really Long Names – Names that are incredibly long will make your reports look very ugly, as you cannot expand or contract the columns in report tables. Try to keep names of things short and concise, but descriptive at the same time.
  4. Use the source name in your Campaign – Just like my “Yahoo – Branding Campaign” example, put the name of the source in the Campaign Name. This will help you see which campaign is doing what much faster, and you won’t have to segment a campaign by source. This also helps if you have an organized naming convention, where all of your campaigns across all marketing programs have the same names.
  5. Keep in mind that the destination URL must actually resolve to a page that has Google Analytics Tracking Code (urchin.js or GA.js) on it, otherwise, that visit’s information won’t be collected.
  6. In a few cases, your web server may not allow for query parameters at the end of your URLs. Please work with a member of your IT / Web Development team to get this issue resolved.

Please tell me that there is a tool out there that can help me put my URLs together!

The Google Analytics URL Builder is the best online resource for helping you build your URLs. Bookmark that page for future use – it will come in handy.

June 30 2008

U-Haul’s Shopping Cart System is a model of Excellence.

by MoreVisibility

In about three weeks, I will be moving into a brand new two-level apartment across town. The apartment has a huge patio area, great location, a very nice and long bike / running trail, and a fireplace! I’ve never had a fireplace before, but again I’ve lived in South Florida for 9/10ths of my life, which begs the question “Why does an apartment in Boca Raton need a fireplace?”

Anyway, I have only used one moving service in my entire life – U-Haul. Normally when I am booking my truck reservation online, I am not paying attention to the functionality of the website or the load time of any of the pages – I’m looking for the biggest truck and most amount of supplies for the cheapest dollar amount. I had already booked a U-Haul truck a month ago, but all of a sudden, it dawned on me that I did not want to ruin my perfectly new king-size mattress and box spring set by dragging it across the moving truck’s rusty floor. So, I went to U-Haul’s website and ordered a set of King-size mattress bags.

It wasn’t until well after I had purchased these items when it struck me like a bolt of lightning: “That was a great shopping experience!”. I went back and traced my steps, and sure enough, I was right! Starting with the individual product page for the King-Size Mattress Bag, each step in the Shopping Process was smooth, easy, efficient, and effective. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a few days, so I’d like to share with you an image of the U-Haul Shopping Basket Page, and why I think it’s so awesome: (Click on image for a full-sized picture)

U-Haul's Shopping Basket

I like this so much because:

  1. Clean Site Architecture – The framework of the website is simple, easy, and clean.
  2. Item and Subtotal Review – I like the single-line review at the very top of this basket
  3. Shopping Cart Items Table – Look how clean and simple that is! You can update quantities easily, remove items at will, and a clear breakdown of the price of each item.
  4. Second Sub-Total Figure – I can’t explain it, but it makes me feel “safer” by having a second sub-total amount on the page…as if the cart is verifying itself.
  5. Action Buttons – The silver “Continue Shopping”, “Update Subtotal”, and “Checkout” buttons don’t clash with the page or seem obtrusive. They are sleek and neat.
  6. Free Shipping on orders over $25 – That’s a nice statement to have at the bottom of your shopping cart, where there would normally be white space. $25 is a very attainable amount, by the way.

Other notes from the shopping system (not pictured):

  1. Log-In Screen – A log-in screen follows this page. Normally, I dislike “create your account” steps in a shopping cart, but this one is so neat and effective that it wasn’t a problem. You enter in your email address and password, and you continue. I also like the fact that, if you’ve already created an account before, you can enter in your information in the ‘New Account’ area, and it’s smart enough to keep you moving forward, instead of serving up a “This account already exists” type of error. Very nice.
  2. Thank You Page – The order confirmation / “Thank You” page follows the same format as the rest of the cart, but it doesn’t leave you hanging. There are links to continue shopping and pictures of other stuff that I may be interested in.
  3. The Other Cart Pages – Shipping / Billing Info, Shipping Options, and the Review Your Order pages carry out the momentum that started at the shopping basket page. None of these pages are cluttered or lack pertinent information when you expected it. They also don’t refresh annoyingly when you update a cart item or change a shipping options – they have buttons that you click on to let you know when the page is going to refresh.
  4. Individual Item Pages – I’m also liking what I see with the individual item pages. Clean descriptions, well-written copy, and high-resolution images really do make a difference, folks.
  5. All Pages – In general, all pages are quick to load, they are all functional, and they have given me a very good experience – and left a very good impression with a very picky and observant customer. 🙂

I can go on and on about U-Haul until I move into my new apartment. So I’ll close this post by giving two thumbs up to U-Haul’s web development and analytics personnel for a job well done on their entire Ecommerce platform. You’ve definitely earned yourselves a returning customer, and I’ll definitely be recommending U-Haul to anyone who will listen to me. Now, let’s just hope the moving truck doesn’t break down on while on the road! 🙂

June 23 2008

Your “Thank You” page should not end the customer experience on your site.

by MoreVisibility

There’s a joke in the Web Analytics community: “Your “Thank You” page should be your highest exited page” (which means that the highest percentage of people that leave your website are leaving at your “Thank You” page – which of course means that those people have all contacted you, requested more information, or probably bought something from your site).

I disagree. In fact, I think that it doesn’t matter what page your visitors leave your website from. For all you WWE wrestling fans out there, you will remember that some years ago, The Rock used to ask someone for their name, only to interrupt the person mid-answer with “It doesn’t matter what your name is!”, to a roaring ovation from the crowd. That’s how I feel about exit pages – “It doesn’t matter what page you leave from!”.

People have to leave your website eventually – it’s just a fact of life

Death, Taxes, and Website Exits – they all occur eventually. Visitors to your website can’t stay on your site forever, as much as we’d like for them to, they eventually have to go to work, to sleep, or walk the dog. However, quite a number of folks exert a tremendously unnecessary amount of energy into finite studies of their top exit pages, only to wind up right back where they originally started their analysis. Save yourself the trouble and anguish and understand that people, no matter how good your website is, will need to log-off at some point, unless they are attempting to set a Guinness Book of World Records feat by having the longest uninterrupted internet user-session.

…but it doesn’t have to be the “Thank You” page of your website!

So, a visitor comes to your website, likes what he or she sees, and contacts your for more information or purchases an item from your store. Fantastic! However, don’t send them home quite yet. Don’t serve them up a cold, one-line “Thank you for your order” or “We’ll get back to you ASAP” type of message, that doesn’t include your website’s framework or anywhere else for them to go. As I’ve mentioned a few times already on our blog, get creative with your “Thank You” page. Add some more information for them, a PDF for them to download, or even additional items that they may be interested in purchasing at a later date. Keep them “hanging around”, much like a store owner would want customers to continue to hang around their shop, shooting the breeze, talking about products or related industry info – giving the appearance of a busy store to everyone else.

Definitely don’t have a page with one short sentence, or something that quickly re-directs back to the homepage appear. You just converted them – why treat them like yesterday’s news? Keep them “hanging around”, keep it friendly and informative, and you will probably win yourself some returning customers.

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