When I met the now legendary Avinash Kaushik for the first time at the Google Mountain View campus in November of 2007, I brought along my copy of Web Analytics: An Hour A Day for him to sign. I was very shy to bust it out in a room of over 100 people, but I finally got the guts and asked him to sign it, which he did! Now the question is: how much is a signed copy of Web Analytics: An Hour A Day worth on eBay? 🙂
The signature, much to the disbelief of every one of my co-workers here at MoreVisibility, does not say “To my #1 biggest fan of all time!”. Instead, a much more valuable, two line exclamation is found: “Trinity Rocks!”. Sorry Tigers, but Avinash was referring to his Trinity Strategy, not the University located in Texas.
The Trinity Strategy is, basically, a way of thinking about Web Analytics in today’s Web 2.0 world. The purpose of this strategy, or mindset, is to obtain actionable insights and actionable metrics from the wonderful world of Web Analytics – specifically, your web analytics data.
As you probably predicted, there are three components to the Trinity Strategy:
1. Behavior – Behavior refers to the analysis of the piles and piles of Web Analytics data that we all collect on a daily basis. A long time ago, in a planet far, far away, marketers would simply want to know how many “clicks” or “hits” their website pages received, and their analysis pretty much ended right there (you remember all of those hits counters at the bottom of website pages, don’t you?). The Behavior component of the Trinity Strategy is intended to get you to look at your Web Analytics data at a different level, and, as Avinash loves saying, to “…take a leap of faith…” and make some educated guesses as to why people did what they did on your website (remember, Web Analytics can tell you the what and the when, the why, and sometimes the how is another story).
2. Outcomes – How well is your website ultimately performing? You wanted 40 leads a month from your pay-per-click marketing campaigns, or 5 sales from the new Banner Ad that you have running out there. Are you getting there? Where (and how) are you falling short? The outcomes component of the Trinity Strategy is to get you to look at your bottom line and really take a look to see if your website is fulfilling its objectives.
3. Experience – Experience is all about a term that is starting to gain popularity in 2008 – VOC, or “Voice of Customer”. What do your customers like or dislike about your website or shopping cart? Which pay-per-click landing page works better than the rest, and which one converts higher than the rest? What frustrations did your customers have on your website, or what made them happy? The Experience component of the Trinity Strategy exists to get you to be a man / woman of the people, with the ultimate goal of improving your website for both your financial benefit and your customer’s web experience.
When you put it all together, you have a strategy – a mindset – that should help your business, your online presence, your email marketing campaigns, and so on. It’s a great strategy if you don’t already have a plan of action, or if you have a plan, but it’s not working and you need to change for the better. And why wouldn’t you want to change for the better?
Take Avinash’s Trinity Strategy, and see if you can apply it to your current online business model. Even if you can’t apply it all at the same time, try at least one part of the Trinity, and see what it can do for you. I promise you won’t be disappointed. At a minimum, you have allowed for a different way of thinking about your online business and presence – although it may not seem immediately useful, the seed of knowledge has been planted.
The Trinity Strategy – Learn it, Live it, and Love it.
There is a great report in the “Goals” section of Google Analytics that is surprisingly seldom used by many people (seems like I’ve been saying that a lot recently!). It’s called the “Funnel Visualization” report. For each Goal in Google Analytics, you are allowed to create a custom path that you want the visitors to your website to take before they reach your Goal. This path can be anywhere from 1 page up to 10 different pages.
Funnels are used most commonly in Ecommerce type situations, where there is a shopping cart and a checkout process involved. Marketers and analysts usually set up a Goal Funnel that starts at a landing page of a pay-per-click or email marketing campaign, and that ends at the Goal, which is usually the “Thank You” page or “Receipt” page that a user sees after they complete a purchase. After some data has been collected, marketers and analysts will take a look at each page, or “step” in the Funnel, and see where users are abandoning the shopping process, or if they are experiencing difficulties in ultimately handing over their hard-earned money to the merchant.
However, you should also take advantage of setting up a Goal Funnel and using the Funnel Visualization reports in non-Ecommerce situations. If you have any lead generation or quote forms on your site, you can also use the Funnel Visualization report to get a good idea of how people are interacting with those particular pages, and if there are any bumps in the road that are causing detours from your main objective.
Let’s take a look at an example. The screen-shot below is showing the first three steps in an Ecommerce Goal Funnel, starting from the Shopping Cart page, and going through a “Sign-In” page, followed by a “Billing Information” page:
Before continuing, let me explain what we are looking at. First, look at the very top and middle of the image where it says “Shopping Cart – 10,214”. That is the first step in our funnel, which in this case is the Shopping Cart page, and 10,214 are the number of visitors that the Shopping Cart page had (within the period of time that I had selected – in this case it’s the last 30 days). That entire column from top to bottom represents each one of the steps in the Funnel. The figure below “Shopping Cart” – where it says 5,749 (82%) – are the number of people who went on to the next step of the funnel. You can then continue all the way down the page, until the very end of the funnel.
To the left of each step in the middle column are the top 5 entry points to each one of the step pages of your funnel. So, for our “Shopping Cart” page, 10,214 total visitors entered the shopping cart, 743 of those visitors came from a page called “Categories.bok”. Then, to the right of each step in the middle column are the top exit points from each one of the step pages of your funnel, including the total number of exits from the funnel above the top 5 exit points. For our “Shopping Cart” page, 1,244 visitors exited the funnel at this first step, with 679 of those visitors exiting the website, as represented by (exit). 33 Visitors went to a page called “Lost.bok”, 26 Visitors went to a page called “StoreFront.bok”, and so on.
So how is this information useful for me? Should I do anything to my website’s pages if a significant number of people are leaving my website from one of these shopping cart pages?
This is where you are going to have to understand what is actually on your website, and fill in the gaps of information between your knowledge of your website and the data that Google Analytics is displaying. I showed this particular funnel on purpose for exactly this reason. Here’s what I’m talking about: On the very first step of the example, the “Shopping Cart” page, 82% of people continued on to the next step. This means that 18% of people, or, 1,244 visitors, went somewhere else. We know that 679 visitors exited the website entirely, which means that this website’s marketing or IT team should probably take a look at their shopping cart page and see what technical issues or hang-ups are present in the system. But, what about the other 565 Visitors? We can only speculate, but if users can go back and continue shopping, or do other things on their shopping cart page, they may do just that, and possibly, re-enter their shopping cart at some point later.
Now, take a look at the second step – the “Sign-In Page”. This time, only 67% of visitors continued on to step 3, with 1,317 of those visitors exiting the site entirely! That is a lot of lost people! Why did they leave? Well as it turned out, this particular page had a very frustrating and annoying “Create an Account” feature that did not provide customers with an option to shop anonymously, or as a guest, without having to create a username and password for the website. You simply couldn’t get around this issue, which was very frustrating to many customers, so, a lot of them went on to other pages or left the site altoghether, which is not good news.
Since then, they have repaired this issue – and guess what started happening? Their conversion rate and Ecommerce revenue started climbing, just by making one change to their shopping cart pages!
This is a perfect example of how the Funnel Visualization report can serve as an alert system to the health and prosperity of a particular path of pages on your website that leads to a Goal – in this case, a website’s shopping cart. How else would this website’s marketing and IT department have known about the frustrations of their customers?
Is there a certain % of people that should continue to a next-step in a funnel? What’s a good “step-continuation” rate?
Ah, the 64 million dollar question! I’ll say this – you will never have a 100% “Funnel Step Continuation” rate (or, a 0% Funnel Abandonment rate). I would say that any step in the 90% range and higher is doing pretty well. Anything in the 70’s or 80’s should be cause for moderate concern, and you should open up a high priority trouble ticket, because any step that is losing 20% or 30% of it’s customers is a very substantial amount. Anything in the 60%-50% range or below means that you need to stop whatever it is that you are doing, sound the general alarm and wake the neighbors up, because there is a pretty serious issue going on – especially if your Funnel represents the pages of an Ecommerce Shopping Cart.
(Hey, there’s no shame in taking your Goal Funnel seriously. You should take it seriously – your livelihood probably depends on your website’s success, and how your website’s visitors interact with the pages in your funnel will affect the overall number of sales or leads your website generates).
Is there any other advice that you can give us?
I’ll answer your question with a question of my own: What is the shortest distance between two points? It’s a straight line. Keeping that in your mind will help you with your analysis – and help you understand why your website’s visitors may be leaving your site before filling out your Lead Generation form, or before they buy something from your online store.
In my latest, most desperate of attempts at trying to make our loyal blog readers think I’m hip by using titles that come straight out of popular phrases in rap songs (which is in conjunction with my last attempt with a blog post entitled “Tryin’ to make a dollar outta fifteen cent!“), I’d like to give you an idea of what the typical day-to-day life is like here for me at MoreVisibility. Every time I describe what I do to friends, colleagues, co-workers and even some clients, I talk about how being in Web Analytics is like being a private investigator or a federal agent of the internet. You gather data, compile statistics, find clues, compile some more data, interview a couple of people, and solve the mystery! Then you typically have to present your findings to your boss(es) and your clients, and then talk about where to go from there.
Here’s an outline of a typical day for me (which is sort-of a false statement, because no two days are the same, so there really is no such thing as a “typical” day…but you get the idea).
Date: Wednesday, July 9, 2008, Boca Raton, FL, USA (Temp: 91°)
7:04 AM – I have just woken up, and I’m already thinking about what I’m going to be doing for that day. Do I have an Analytics presentation to give? Do I need to check the coding on a site before it launches? What accounts will I be doing some investigating on? Do I have enough laundry to last until the weekend?
7:57 AM – I arrive at my office, turn on my computer, and see a yellow sticky note on my monitor that reads “Joe – Please see me about [Client]’s Top Landing Pages.”
8:01 AM – While my computer is loading and my email is downloading, I catch my co-worker who explains that our client is concerned that the exits from their homepage is too high. I suggest evaluating the page’s Bounce Rate and maybe a quick Navigation Summary to get a better idea of what is really going on with their homepage. I also mention something about A/B testing with Google Website Optimizer.
8:02 AM – I log-in to my Google Reader account and catch-up with the 60+ Web Analytics and Search Marketing blogs that I subscribe to, while simultaneously responding to emails with questions and discussions from co-workers.
8:41 AM – I am finalizing my speech for an in-person Analytics Presentation to one of our clients, when Amber (Client Strategist) buzzes me and tells me her client added an email address to their Google Analytics account, but they cannot log-in. She tells me she knows what the reason is: “The Email address is not a Google Account yet! It needs to be a Google Account in order to log-in with that Email address into their GA Account.” I start smiling, because that’s exactly right.
10:30 AM – I am out of water, and I’m starting to get hungry. I think about all of the different possible ordering options, and think how cool it would be if some of our favorite local take-outs would have an online ordering option, and imagine what I would give for a large turkey & swiss right now.
10:35 AM – I start to open up a brand new Google Analytics account for a new client. I provide our client with the necessary tracking code to be placed on every single page of the website. I also explain the many different options available, such as SiteSearch, Ecommerce, Benchmarking, and Filters that can be utilized.
10:59 AM – I receive a phone call from another client who asks me to explain the difference between A/B Testing and MVT (Multivariate Testing). We throw around some ideas of what to test and experiment back and forth, and we agree to launch an experiment using Google Website Optimizer for their AdWords Campaign’s landing page.
11:33 AM – Okay I am REALLY hungry right now and I can’t imagine being able to last another 27 minutes without eating something!
11:34 AM – Marni (another Client Strategist) sends me an IM that reads “It’s working!!!” She is referring to the neat advanced filter that we wrote which added the name of the source and the visitor type in front of the transaction ID in this particular client’s Ecommerce Report section. This is great news, as I’m sure the client will be very happy to hear about this.
12:00 PM – I’m about to grab my sunglasses and walk across the street when I see an Email come in that reads “GA Tracking Issue – Please Help!”, flagged as High Importance. Guess lunch is going to have to wait a while…
12:19 PM – Problem solved! Turns out there were two sets of Google Analytics tracking code on the same page, one urchin.js version and one ga.js version, which is bad news. I then proceed to solve another problem – my hunger.
1:10 PM – I return and find some great discussions starting up on the Yahoo! Web Analytics Forum. It’s really a great forum to check out whenever you can.
1:15 PM – My in person analytics presentation is in 45 minutes. I am very obsessive when it comes to presentations, as I like everything to be perfect, neat, and organized, so I visit our client’s website one more time, and find that they have repaired a bug in their shopping cart that was the focus of one of my main points in the presentation!! I think of a good way to still use this slide in the presentation.
1:38 PM – One of Khrysti’s (Director of Optimized Services) clients is in a bind. They cannot figure out why they are not seeing “yahoo / cpc” or “msn / cpc” in their Google Analytics profile, like they can for “google / cpc”. I reference my latest blog post about Google Analytics URL Coding, and I strut away confidently as I’ve capitalized on another opportunity to tell someone about my Analytics Blog. 🙂
2:00 PM – It’s showtime! Our clients have arrived, and I hand out my business cards and begin with introductions. It’s always great to be able to meet people in person and talk analytics, Site Search, and Shopping Carts to them. This particular client is using both Google Analytics and WebTrends, and they were really concerned about the differences in data between the two, even though they swear that they have everything installed properly. I explained that different analytics packages will always report different values for the same metric, no matter how perfect your installation and coding is.
3:32 PM – I come back and check my own Google Analytics profile for this blog, and I’m surprised to find so much referring traffic from European blogs! I love that someone in Austria and someone in the Netherlands is reading a blog written by someone half-way around the world. I know this because I frequently check my referring traffic reports, to see who is bringing me additional traffic.
4:00 PM – Another one of Khrysti’s clients cannot for the life of them understand why people type in such simple, generic words such as “shoes”, “belts”, and “hats” into their website’s search feature on their online clothing store. They believe something is wrong, broken, or not working correctly. I am pretty sure that their search function is working properly, but I go to their site and double-check with some test searches anyways. After I verify that it is working properly, I pick up the phone and begin to explain to the client that people have much different behavior (and level of tolerance!) when they perform keyword searches on Google or Yahoo vs. performing keyword searches on someone’s website. Again, I direct their attention to my blog by referencing my post about a website’s internal search function.
4:45 PM – My day is starting to come to a close. I like to take a few minutes each day and “spot check” different analytics accounts, just to ensure that everything is still running smoothly and data is being collected and displayed properly. I’m glad I did this, because an important Goal in one of April’s (Director of Strategic Accounts) clients’ accounts has stopped collecting data. After a test on the client’s website, it turns out that the Goal URL has been changed from “thankyou.html” to “thanks.html”. Websites are updated all the time, which is a good reason to routinely double-check your Goals to make sure they are working properly.
5:03 PM – I’m just about wrapping it up here and saying good night to everyone in the office. Out of nowhere, Danielle (my boss) catches me right before I walk out the door. She explains that a new client needs to speak with someone urgently (first-thing tomorrow morning) about what analytics platform they should choose between Omniture SiteCatalyst Hitbox (HBX) or ClickTracks. They also need help in defining new Key Performance Indicators for their executive team, and possibly setting up some custom reporting. I love to think about things like this, especially on off-hours, so I’m glad I have this opportunity.
7:00 PM – Analytics is going to have to wait a while – an episode of Law and Order is on right now that I’ve never seen before. 🙂
All in a day’s work. 🙂