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Designing a Google Analytics friendly site

“So we’re designing a new site,” the question usually starts, “And, we want to make it Google Analytics friendly.” As you design (and if you design with GA in mind), here are some things to think about. Yes, there are plenty of workarounds if you don’t design for GA and then discover it later, but if it’s all the same, why not make your site easily measurable? BTW, I always say, don’t sacrifice your conversion for your measurement.  If you know that something is hard to measure but you also have some data that leads you to believe that it converts well — go for it.

  • Success pages. Try to have a unique “thank you” page for every goal you are going to measure. Also, think about rolling up thank you pages into one goal that you can later take apart, as needed.  For example, you might want the following two thank you (success) pages:  www.mysite.com/thanks/contactus and www.mysite.com/thanks/request-bid.  You can now make those into two separate goals, each with their own success page, or roll them together using this head match, /thanks/ — then when you want to look at the contribution of each, check out the “Goal Verification” report.
  • On-site search. It will be much easier to track your on-site search if it includes a query parameter, like this: www.mysite.com/search/?q=Robbin.  Yes, there are workarounds.
  • Tracking sections of your site.  Companies who are interested in tracking whole sections of their site — maybe even creating a separate profile for those sections — would be wise to name the URLs so that they can be easily accessed in the Content > Content Drilldown report. That report is ultimately just a report of directories, so you will see www.mysite.com/folderA and www.mysite.com/folderB, etc.  Then when you drill down on /folderA, you see /folderA/subfolder1 and /folderB/subfolder2, etc. So if you name your URLs with a strong parent/child architecture, working to keep like content in like folders, you’ll go a long way toward tracking it. Plus, you can create a profile that just includes everything in /folderA, and one that … oh, you get it.
  • The domain issue.  Jonathan Weber from here at Luna pointed out to me that this breaks down into two issues – a) try to use your own domain at all times (yes, there are workarounds) and b) If you can’t, determine if the third party domain(s) support cross-domain tracking.
    • If you have the luxury of staying on the same domain throughout your whole site, try to. I am often surprised by companies who choose to create a second domain in an effort to have a “micro site” strategy — it is not only harder on your GA, but harder for your SEO team. If you must go from domain to domain, be prepared to do the cross domain work required of GA, or be prepared to live without data you might otherwise want (such as unique visits, or referring source for those visits that went to the other domain.)
    • Above, I assumed a variety of things about that third party domain. The big question is, can you put code on it? You can’t put code on a wordpress.com site (as opposed to to your WordPress.org blog that is software you have downloaded.) You can’t put code on your PayPal checkout. Everyone who has cool workarounds for these is welcome to weigh in.
  • Subdomains. People always ask if they should do blog.mysite.com or mysite.com/blog.  Since this post is about Google Analytics — the former, i.e. blog.mysite.com, just requires an extra line of code in your Google Analytics tracking code (not such a big deal.) But if you are choosing — subdomains are not nearly as good for SEO as folders (mysite.com/blog) are.
  • Frames and iframes. They are just hard to work with. Not impossible, but since “you asked,” you probably want to have a good reason for them if you care about GA Friendly (and easy.)
  • Redirects. Server side redirects are the easiest way to go — be sure that they pass along query parameters.
  • The small stuff. Well, they say that you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. So if you have /path and /path/ (i.e. an extra trailing slash) or if you have the same page with various names, you can change it with filters. Of course, when your site becomes millions of pages, that is no longer so easy — but then, it’s no longer small stuff, is it?

Your turn — Robbin

Robbin Steif

About Robbin Steif

Our owner and CEO, Robbin Steif, is an analyst herself. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association (formerly the Web Analytics Association.)

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2010/09/22/designing-google-analytics-friendly-site/

26 Responses to “Designing a Google Analytics friendly site”

Does the subdomain issue get any weirder if the subdomain is on https? I’m trying to track goals across a main site and the application on an https subdomain. I’m not getting the results I expect, it looks like the main site is referring people to the subdomain and I’m losing the attribution of the original source.

Thanks,

Sean

I’d say: use lowercase URL’s, always.

Oh, another thing: allow the utm_ and gclid parameters in the URL’s.

Lukas says:

Great post. I have the same question as the guy in the first comment. Alrhough I added the subdomain tracking code line, it seems that some of the traffic from the mainly http main domain to the https subdomain is losing its referrer and gets the main domain as the referrer.

Ale says:

Great post Robbin,
really interesting!

Just 4 more things:
- don’t change (or add) page content without changing the URL,
- use “descriptive URLs” to easily understand page contents during your analysis,
- don’t add useless parameters in URLs: avoid useless fragmentation in your contents analysis
- if you use some popup or some layer, remember to track it with virtual pages.

Robbin Steif Robbin says:

@Ale, I am not sure I agree with your first comment. We have had *great* results with adding to or changing page content without changing our URL. Mostly, this is about SEO (we are still talking about the same topic when we make changes, and are still getting the same links to those pages, which are also all on the same topic.) But, maybe you had a different idea.

Your descriptive URL thought is an excellent one. @Andre, I think your thought about lower case URLs is also a great addition here.

Kyle Rudy says:

Robbin,

Excellent analysis and to the point. Many makreting managers dont get this and when I have to tell them i dont have data for it, they scoff. When I tell them its because they did something like an iframe, they just get confused. When it comes down to it; people in charge need to consider analytics more when building web sites in terms of categorization and usability. Its all in forming a culture centered around data.

Another issue, its especially for e commerce or catalog sites; try to use words instead of numbers for categories and page structures unless its a date

Robbin Steif Robbin says:

@Kyle, you are so right abou the words (which speaks to Ale’s issue of descriptive URLS) — and it is good for SEO, too, if you can use great keywords.

Jun says:

Certainly a good breakdown of things to do here Robbin. Considering measurablity when building a site would reap real benefits in the long run. It’s always good to know your site converts and where it doesn’t.

Cheers!

Hi all,
I will keep in mind when I am going to start my new project. Its very interesting thinks i know today.
tell me some more about Google Analytics friendly website. thanks

Php2ranjan says:

Excellent works.
Here you can find more information about How to make Google friendly site. Its very important to create Google friendly website because Google cover all most 70% of the market in this world.
See here google website creation tip.
http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=40349

This is an interesting point of view in handling tracking pages. Question is, how do you handle virtual pages?

Dan Soschin says:

Fantastic article! I would definitely underscore the domains issue – cross domain tracking is a headache, and you should really consider whether it is worth it or not. URL naming is so important, as it makes your data SOOOOO much easier to read. And we’d be nowhere without straightforward funnels in our goals…

Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very useful info specially the last part :) I care for such info much. I was looking for this certain info for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

Thank you very much for the tips.
I have a google analytics installed on my blog preschool.
I recommend that you please post a video tutorial on this topic.

I liked the advice.

Complement each other very well with what is offered with google analytcis

I have a blog on tarot and the design has

good use of google analytics are simple designs.

I DO NOT have Google Analytics installed and that for a specific reason. Google is almighty on the web, it’s claws reach everywhere. Do I really want Google to know everything about my website (and me). Perhaps paranoid but Google have played ugly tricks before.

What is CRM? says:

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thank you for this post ,food for thought.I would also like to put my hand up for video tutorials but great work keep it up !

ou forgot the universal ‘share’ button. It’s copied Android’s notifications, but forgot to copy the share feature

I think its important to mention that one has to update the privacy policies when using Google Analytics. At least I would consider that Analytics friendly too as stated by Google :-)
Else a pretty cool line-up and very useful! Thanks for that!

I liked the advice. Complement each other very well with what is offered with google analytcis I have a blog on tarot and the design has good use of google analytics are simple designs.

Excelent post, thank you for sharing!

Excellent information for individual to create an Google analytic friendly site…