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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.

March 6 2008

New Google Analytics Feature – Industry Benchmarking!


Whenever Google Analytics releases a new report on an upgrade to an existing report, I hurry to tell everyone as much as I can about it. It’s like a mini-holiday for me ????

Today, Mr. Brett Crosby – Google Analytics’ Product Manager – made the announcement that Industry Benchmarking would be added in as a new report section in Google Analytics. Industry Benchmarking will allow “…customers to see how their site data compares to sites in any available industry vertical”.

Of course, with a new release, there are normally lots of questions (“how does it work”, “what do I see”, “what’s the catch”, etc…). At this time, the best possible resource is the Google Analytics Help Center page on Industry Benchmarking and Data Sharing.

General Thoughts:
Whenever I talk to someone about Google Analytics and their position in the web analytics industry, I tell them that Google Analytics is always looking to propel itself to “the next level”. A benchmarking type of report like this one is an example of what I refer to – one of the many things we wish Google Analytics could do or had available.

To me, this report helps in filling in those missing gaps of information and knowledge that is missing in the Web Analytics industry. Now, you will finally be able to give an answer to the question “…is my Bounce Rate good?”, or “…how is my Average Time on Site?”. Comparing your web statistics against your industry averages now allows you to see where you stand amongst other websites that provide similar services or products (e.g. your competitors). Of course, this report is still in Beta – so don’t be alarmed if there are any quirks or bugs; they will be worked out and fixed over time.

Of course, if you check out the GA Help Center page on Benchmarking, you’ll see that in order for Benchmarking to be available, you’ll need to enable Data Sharing in your Google Analytics account. You will need to contact your Google Analytics Administrator if you are interested in having your data shared in order to enable Benchmarking in your account. Rest assured that Google Analytics handles the privacy of your data as the Pentagon would handle a matter of national security – it is held in the highest regard, labeled as classified information, and only those with Top Secret clearance can even get near it. As the document states, your account’s name, your URL, and the names of your pages are removed – only raw numbers and statistics are shared.

March 4 2008

Ecommerce Reports in Google Analytics – Three Random Questions


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)


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 :).

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