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Author Archive

Build Weighted Sort for GA Page Value

A while back, analytics aficionados hailed the return of Google Analytics Page Value, formerly known as $ Index, one of the fastest ways to figure out which pages get more visitors to convert.
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Site Search Flow in Google Analytics

Visitors flow thru SERPs

Where do visitors go after using your internal site search? How quickly does site search lead visitors to conversion pages? Do specific search terms lead to unexpected pages, for better or worse?

The answers are in your Google Analytics data, but not in the regular Site Search reports. Allow me to introduce Site Search Flow in Google Analytics: a way to use Visitors Flow for site search insight.

In the regular Site Search reports, you get useful data like which search terms resulted in immediate exits and which terms kept visitors engaged or even led to conversions. To see which pages visitors chose, go to the Visitors Flow report instead.

Turn Visitors Flow into Site Search Flow in 3 easy steps:

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The Art and Science of Analysis, Part 2

left brain vs. right brain

In part one I wrote that you should use both sides of your brain to do analysis. Use curiosity and intuition, and at the same time rely on structure and evidence. What exactly do I mean? Let’s take a look at a real-life example.

Suppose I work for a university and we’ve introduced a new section on our website. We hope the new section, a center for news and events, will boost views of content that’s previously been overlooked or underutilized. Three months after the section launch, I’ve been asked to find out how this new section is doing. What do the data show?

Define What You’re Looking For
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The Art and Science of Analysis, Part 1

Zen garden paths

Last week my colleague Sayf Sharif posted another rant and playfully suggested it might be the second in a series named, “You’re Probably Doing It Wrong.” This week I’m starting a series of my own: “There Is No Right Way.”

There’s no perfect process, no one true path that guides you from reporting to analysis, from data to insights. Instead it takes both intuition and calculation, knowing when to let your curiosity follow tangents and when to let structured thinking rein it in. You have to use both your right and left brain in the art and science of analysis.

Ask Questions: Be Curious and Contrary

Create your own path to analysis by continually asking questions. Start with questions. End with questions. Be curious. What did your visitors do? How did the data change? Why did that happen? How can we make it better? What will you do next?
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Why You Need a Custom Report for Page-Level Custom Variables

If you have Google Analytics page-level custom variables, you might be missing some data. Click and save our custom report to find out!

What’s this about missing data? It’s more accurate to say it’s hidden, and you might miss it. If you’ve implemented page-level custom variables, you might actually be getting a lot more hits on those pages than the standard reports show.

That’s because the metrics in the standard Custom Variable reports are visit-based, not page-based. But pages don’t get visits, they get pageviews. If you hear someone talking about GA visits for a page, remember: “That word doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

In fact, Google Analytics has tried to clarify this issue by renaming the metrics in the standard Custom Variable reports. Instead of “Visits” they now show “Visit Starts” and “Pages / Visit Start” and so forth.

Visit Starts: The number of visits starting with this value of the custom variable.

For session-level or visitor-level custom variables, the last value of the custom variable applies for the entire visit. Not so for page-level custom variables. Assuming you’ve implemented custom variables correctly, their values apply only to the page on which they are set.

If no visits started with the page where the custom variable was set to value X, then value X will not appear in the standard reports.

That’s right, it will look as if you never tracked any page with that value of the custom variable. It might make you wonder, “Did I get the code wrong?” Or, “Did no one see that page?” Or you may chalk it up to another unsolved Google Analytics mystery.

Well, wonder no more. Take a look at this example of our custom report in action. We’re setting a page-level custom variable with the authors of all our blog posts.

Custom Report for Page-Level CVs

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Google Analytics Goal Flow: More Funnels with Less Work

More than one way to start a funnel

Let’s say you want to add an event to the beginning of your Google Analytics funnel. Maybe you want to compare the success of various internal promotions. Do people who click on promo A go all the way through the conversion funnel more often than people who click on promo B?

Traditionally that would mean tracking each of those clicks as a virtual pageview, and adding the virtual URL as a funnel step in two different goals. That’s inconvenient for a couple reasons. Using virtual pageviews will inflate your actual pageview counts unless you set up a special profile that includes virtual pageviews and exclude them from the rest of your profiles. You also have to set up separate goals for each promo click. More promos mean more funnels, and more work not only setting up but also analyzing the results.

Use Customize Dimension to Segment Funnels

With Goal Flow reports you have another option (not available in the traditional funnel report) – segment your funnel to make as many funnels as you need. The key to this approach is the “customize dimension” feature of the flow reports.

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Google Analytics Goal Flow: How Visitors Really Move Through Your Funnel

You may think visitors move through your goal funnel exactly the way you set it up in Google Analytics. Unfortunately even after you take care to avoid the most common funnel issues, surprises (sometimes hidden) may appear (or lurk) in your data.

Check out the Goal Flow report to bring more details into view. Chances are you’ll see visitors doing things like skipping steps and looping back to previous steps – things you just can’t see in the standard Funnel Visualization report.

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Analytics Goal Workshop, Part 3: Engage with Events

The quest for conversion data continues! Previously in part 2 of the goal workshop we looked at how to set up URL destination goals. You identify important pages on your site and count a conversion when a visitor views one of those pages.

Now it’s time to move beyond pageviews and look at conversions that come from other visitor actions – especially actions that might be good indicators of visitor engagement. In Google Analytics you can track almost any action as an event, and then set events as goals. Follow the steps below to start turning visitor actions into conversion data.

Step 1: Define visitor engagement with events

The easiest goals to set up in Google Analytics are the basic engagement goals for time spent or pages viewed. A more effective measure of visitor engagement looks at the actions your visitors took. Did they use a free tool or resource, watch a video, or play a game? Did they leave a comment or rating? Did they click on an important external link?

Event tracking lets you define visitor actions like these with up to 4 pieces of information called category, action, label, and value. Use any of those pieces alone or combine them to configure a goal in Google Analytics.

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Analytics Goal Workshop, Part 2: Pages Playbook

With all the buzz about attribution modeling and the ever present need for conversion optimization, you may have been wondering, “How can I get my hands on some multi-channel data?” If you have Google Analytics, all you have to do is set up one goal and you’re on your way. First make sure you have a strategy – a purpose and a plan – then dive into your analytics goal settings. Follow the steps below to set up some goals (ideally, more than one) and collect smarter data.

Consult Our Pages Playbook

Step 1: Decide between pages vs. events

To set up the most common type of goal in Google Analytics, a URL Destination goal, you need to choose which pages to set as goals. This means you decide to count a visit as a conversion when someone views a specific page – the receipt page for e-commerce sites or non-profits collecting donations, or the “thank you for submitting the contact form” page for lead gen sites.

Your site may have thank-you or confirmation pages for other things visitors can do, like accessing online tools, making appointments, or leaving ratings or comments. Or there may simply be important pages that you want visitors to see. You can set any or all of these as goals.

Sometimes it’s not the view of a page that marks a conversion, but something a visitor can click on the page, like downloading a file, or sharing an article, or making a selection – any type of button or link. For those actions you almost always want to use event goals instead of page goals.

I say “almost always” because if you want to set up a funnel – a series of steps that lead up to the final URL Destination goal – you can’t put events in those steps. But you can use “virtual pageviews” in funnel steps, and I’ll cover those along with event goals in my next post.

Once you’ve decided on a few important pages to set as URL Destination goals in Google Analytics, all you need to do is go look at those pages on your website, copy the URLs into the goal setup box, and you’re done, right? Well… maybe.

The way the URL looks in the browser isn’t always the way it ends up in your data. Customized tracking code or account configurations like profile settings and filters may alter the URL on its way to your content reports.

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Analytics Goal Workshop, Part 1: Plan Ahead

You already know you need to collect conversion data, even if you’re not an e-commerce site, right? To know the value of a visit, the first step is figuring out what visitors might value about your website. Identify the actions visitors may take to indicate they’ve found something valuable.

The next step is to set up a few goals, with whatever tool you use, and get that valuable data rolling in. If you use Google Analytics, you’ll also finally have data for multi-channel funnels and attribution modeling. So let’s make it happen!

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