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How they landed that 6-digit sale with Google Analytics

Network LocationWe have a customer who considers the SEO we do for her to be one of her “sales channels” and we get ranked along with her other channels. She sends us reports when a lead comes in and when a lead is closed. The other day, I saw that she closed one that was worth not quite half a million dollars. (!!  that was my reaction, too.)  So I wrote her and said, how awesome. To which she replied,

Started with google analytics.  Saw that they spent some time on the site… sicked Jane on a cold calling mission… after a bunch of calls she found the engineer at the company who was interested in the product. I flew out.. presented… sold and they put out a public bid. Our company is the low bidder and need to send a sample next week for review then release of contract :)”

So in case you are wondering, she was talking about the Network Locations report, which she mines daily for sales leads. It only is a good source if many of your customers are their own ISP.  You can read an analysis of various ways to read that report here, in an article we wrote some time ago.


Copyrights, Year Five

Every year,  I write one post that is basically the same (sorry, Mr. Duplicate Content.) What’s the deal on website copyrights, and should you change yours when the calendar year changes?

I wrote the first version of this in 2007, and you can read the original here.  The short version is that a copyright range, such as 2001-2011, indicates that the body of work had some changes made on one date, some on another, and some in between.  If I were a lawyer, I would argue that almost all sites (except the ones that never get changed, and we all know sites like that) should have a copyright range.

As a non-lawyer, I know that some visitors look at the copyright to see if the company is still in business, and to see how much attention they pay to their site. I sure do that, and I have watched user testers do it and comment on it.

So this is a good week to think about your copyright. Your next opportunity will be when we move our clocks to Daylight Savings Time.  No wait, that’s when you are supposed to check your fire alarm. …


ps I sent a note to our webmaster while I was writing this, telling him that I couldn’t publish it until he updated the LunaMetrics copyright. When he wrote me back, he told me that not only had he updated it, but that it was now programmed to automatically update each year.

Capitalization and GA: Basic but necessary

Today, while reading our KissInsights, I saw this question:

“[I came to your site to] learn how to aggregate all pages that are the same to be the same page when using Google Analytics. Currently, we have a number of instances where the same page shows up multiple times because the page is capitalized in one case and not in the other.

I know we’ve come really far in GA since we were force to use lots of filters and profiles, but this truly is a case for filters. In fact, there is a special lowercase filter for this (and one to use if you want to make everything uppercase, too.) Go create a new profile (never experiment on your production data, someone once told me) and then create a new filter, like the one I have below:

Lowercase filter GA


Looking at your analytics every day (or week)

scaleSome of you are devoted to your analytics and look at them hourly. You are more addicted to those numbers than to the one you ask the lottery man to give you every week. Certainly, you care more about them than you care about the number on the scale every morning.

But, not everyone is in that bucket. So this is a plea to the people who aren’t data junkies. Once a day (or more likely, once a week), your employees send you a dashboard of data, or a short report.

Look at it. Even if you don’t really understand the numbers. Once in a while, ask a question.

Of course, you could get really immersed in it, and that would be awesome. But if you aren’t ready to get really immersed in it, just … look at it for 10 seconds every week.

Eventually, without doing any work, you will start to notice trends, because you will have seen it so many times. You’ll find that you are asking, “Why did *that* happen?” It is the easiest way to use your data without having to deal with the big C (commitment.) It may take a while, but soon, you will be Married To Your Data.


So do you have a Facebook strategy?

facebook logoAbout five months ago, I decided (as did lots of other people) that social media is powerful, but it had to be used well.

So our company — led by one very interested analyst — learned all the nuances of great and no-so-great Facebook company pages.  Before we started to put together a “real” facebook presence (as opposed to just a page), we thought a lot about strategy.

What did we want our Facebook page to do for us? Sure, it would be great to do giveaways and prizes and contests there — that’s what we do with lots of our customers — but that doesn’t work as well for a B2B site.  Plus, we already have this blog. Hmm.

Ultimately, we decided that our blog was the place that people were going to get more in-depth, technical, cutting edge (do I need more adjectives?) advice about Google Analytics, SEO, PPC and other web marketing. But Internet users comprise an incredible spectrum of knowledge. So we decided to create a Tips and Tricks tab on our Facebook page, where we have basic advice for those who are in the ultraviolet part of that spectrum.


User test your competitor’s website

Gourd Competition - Indiana State ChampionshipLast week, I was at Big Picture Communications , a marketing and research agency here in Pittsburgh.  We talked about their Google Analytics, their SEO and their website in general. And then I showed them one of my favorite tools, usertesting.com.

They *loved* it. (And who wouldn’t?) Fast, inexpensive, great results if you ask great questions. The Big Picture Communications thought process, though, was so interesting.

Thought #1:  “We could do this for our own site.”
Thought #2:  “We could do this for customer sites.”
Thought #3: “We could do this for our (and our customers’) competitors’ sites.”

That last thought is so powerful. SEOs are so smart about gleaning insight into their craft from competitive sites, I wonder why conversion artists don’t do the same? (OK, you do. So go ahead and comment. Would love to hear from you.) Instead of listening to real users say, “I love that widget,” or, “I’ll click, but that’s way too expensive for me,” we rely on our instincts.

Wouldn’t it be great to write a protocol for the target demographic that asks questions like,

  • “What are the three things you love most about this [competitor's] site and why?”
  • “What are the three aspects of this [competitor's] site that you dislike the most or that you found the most difficult to use?”
  • “Would you recommend this site to your friends/colleagues, why or why not?”

Then, instead of Competitor Copy Condition, we’ll have something to test. We might even become Compassionate Contenders, as we learn that users don’t quite love the competition’s site.


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

RegEx ebook Answers – for Google Analytics

Regular Expressions eBookA couple months ago, I published a RegEx for Google Analytics ebook. You can download the ebook or just “page through it” online . The last page was a quiz, and I promised the answers — here they are:

  • Question 1: Write a Regular Expression that matches both dialog and dialogue.
  • Answer:  Since you should always keep your RegEx simple, my best answer would  be dialog|dialogue . Slightly more elegant but more complicated would be dialog(ue)? I’ll just invite others here (and for every other answer) to submit alternative ideas.
  • Question 2: Write a RegEx that matchest two request URLs:  /secondfolder/?pid=123 and /secondfolder/?pid=567 (and cannot match other URLs)
  • Answer: ^/secondfolder/\?pid=(123|567)$ — note, I chose to put a  dollar sign at the end so that the regex stopped matching if anything came after the three digits at the end of the target strings.
  • Question 3: Write a single Regular Expression that matches all your subdomains (and doesn’t match anything else). Make it as short as possible, since Google Analytics sometimes limits the number of characters you can use in a filter. Your subdomains are subdomain1.mysite.com, subdomain2.mysite.com, subdomain3.mysite.com, subdomain4.mysite.com, www.mysite.com, store.mysite.com and blog.mysite.com
  • Answer: There are lots of ways to do this. My choice would be: (subdomain[1-4]|www|store|blog)\.mysite\.com$
  • Question 4: Write a funnel and goal that includes three steps for the funnel and the final goal step (four steps in all), using Regular Expressions. Notice that there are two ways to achieve Step 2.
  1. /store/
  2. /store/creditcard or store/moneyorder
  3. /store/shipping
  4. /store/thankyou

Answer: This one requires a picture:

The RegEx for Step 2 is hard to read in the picture above, it is /store/(creditcard|moneyorder)$ . Notice that I added a dollar sign at the end of all the expressions above. Without context, it is hard to know which ones are mandatory, but we know for sure that the dollar sign in Step 1 is mandatory.  That dollar sign is required, not because of regular expressions, but because of the strange way funnels sometimes work. For more information on that one, you might want to read this excellent post on goals and funnels that Jonathan Weber of LunaMetrics wrote.

Finally, let me end with a great quote!  (I didn’t ask permission to use her name, so I will just use an initial.) This reader wrote me yesterday to ask, where were the answers? Here is part of what she wrote:

Seriously, your ebook was so full of win. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around RegEx and have been using the basics in GA for a while. But I really expanded my understanding b/c your explanations were so plain English and applicable to GA. A lot of tutorials I saw online weren’t written for GA and were written by propellerheads, I suspect. :)

Having worked for a graphics publishing company, I also REALLY appreciated the layout, font treatments, and graphics. A world-class job all the way around. — A

– Robbin

How to use GA Annotations to keep track of your site’s history

Last fall, Google Analytics announced, and gradually rolled out, a much-needed feature, annotations.  Annotations allow you to create personalized notes in your analytics. Now, no more wracking your brain for (or reanalyzing) that incredible peak in traffic last August or that dip in your goal conversions the month before.  Instead, you merely write a note in your analytics when something unusual happens. Examples:  “New Site Launched.”  “Fall AdWords campaign began.” “New blogpost retweeted and retweeted.”

How do I create an annotation?

There are two ways to put notes onto your GA interface. The first is to “pull down” the annotations alternative, which you can see right below the graph at the top of your GA screen – it looks like a little handle with a tiny grey arrow on it.  The red arrow points to the pull-down in the screen shot below.

Annotations handle

You only have to click on the “Create new annotation” link to get started at the bottom right of that screen.

You can also create an annotation from the graph at the top of the GA screen. You can see the number of visits on Wed, March 17 in the screen shot below and right under that, an opportunity to create a new annotation.

Create an annotation from the graphWhat can I do with an annotation?

Once you start to create an annotation, you’ll have the ability to write it (160 spaces and characters), star it if you like (so that you can pull up only your starred annotations down the road), and choose either “shared” or “private.” That last choice is important – anyone who has access to the profile where you created the annotation will see it if you choose “shared.”  Only your sign in will have access if you choose “private.” No matter whether you choose to share or not, the annotation creator is the only person who can edit it.

What good are annotations, really?

Annotations can be used to get the whole organization on board. Here you can see a screen shot of a company has just started to use annotations to let the rest of the company know what Marketing is doing. They even went back and added old annotations so that other departments could learn what Marketing has been doing in the past.

We love annotations because not everyone at the company always thinks to tell their consultants what they are doing.  When a client runs any kind of advertising, it helps if they use annotations. That way, we don’t waste time trying to figure out the cause of a sudden surge of traffic. Or vice versa – if they one day decide to stop running AdWords or display ads, annotations keep us from panicking about the sudden “loss” of traffic.  You’ll love them, too, because you’ll have a history for *yourself* of why those things happened.

Some best practices in annotations

Outside of special events that come your way, you should consider using annotations when you:

  • Start a new profile.
  • Make major technical changes to your website (e.g. add events that change your bounce rate calculation)
  • Make major design changes to your website
  • Start important marketing initiatives
  • Rearrange goals and/or filters


How we decreased our bounce rate by 25 points

Our old website had one of the worst bounce rates I ever see. (And the design was so 1999….)

Prior bounce rateNevertheless, I put up with it for a long time, because who has time to write and design a new site?   That is, until I tried usertesting.com, a story I wrote about last summer. (The short version: it was one thing to see the bounce rate in GA and know in your heart of hearts that you have to fix it. It was quite another to hear people tell me that the only site we were neglecting, our own, was significantly less than wonderful.)

The redesign took almost an entire year. Let’s face it, customers came first. But as we did the redesign, we listened very closely to the things that we heard in our first set of user tests. The most important lessons they taught us were the same ones we try to teach our customers:

  • They wanted to understand what we did immediately (i.e. within five seconds)
  • They wanted text they could skim
  • They wanted to see pricing
  • They wanted to know more About Us

New Site bounce rate 1 weekSo we worked it (and it was hard — we wanted to create text that customers could scan, but not lose rankings.  We wanted to talk About Us but not be All About Us.)

At this point, we have only a week of data. Not exactly statistically significant, but I can see that our bounce rate for the site (i.e. not including our blog) went from somewhere in the high 60′s to somewhere in the low 40′s. (I highlighted the comparisons in the two screen shots.) We did the identical user tests as before, and while we still got some criticism, we also got a lot of compliments.

More later, when we have more data. I am especially looking forward to see if/why/whether the decrease in bounce rate on blog pages keeps up too.