Upcoming LunaMetrics Seminars
Pittsburgh, Jan 12-16 Boston, Jan 12-16 New York City, Jan 26-30 Denver, Feb 9-13

Author Archive

Extracting Schema & Metadata With Google Tag Manager

gtm-schema

If you’re evaluating the performance of your site content, it can help tremendously to segment that content into a variety of cohorts. Unfortunately, many website owners have trouble getting enough information about their content into Google Analytics to help them with their analysis.

Some information may already be available on your website, like information about your page or extra information that gives context to the page.

Ultimately we want to bring these additional dimensions about your content into Google Analytics to help with your analysis. One way to do this is by leveraging Schema and Google Tag Manager.

What’s Schema

If you’re still unaware of Schema, it’s a way of marking up your content so that it is recognized by Google and other search providers. This helps search engines to better understand your content, and hopefully deliver it in a more relevant way to people searching on their systems.

Ultimately, it’s about driving more organic visitors to your website. (more…)

Goals & Funnels in Google Analytics: Confusion and Workarounds

blog-goal-funnels

Goals are one of the most important things you can establish in your Google Analytics account, but you also need to understand what you’re looking at, so that you don’t jump to the wrong conclusions.

“Hey our email where we sent out a picture of manatees wearing men’s suits really did well! We should run more of those!”

How are our Google AdWords campaigns performing in getting people to come to our ecommerce store to buy our clothes? How does adding an extra page in our checkout funnel affect overall conversion? These are all things that goals can help answer.

There’s a lot of confusion around Goals and Funnels, so I hope to answer some common questions here, provide some (not so great) workarounds, and end with my recommendation for Google. Let’s use an example an ecommerce website which has three store sections (men’s clothes, women’s clothes, and children’s clothes).

Confusing Thing #1: Goal Completions are not related to Goal Funnels

goals are the same

“Why do all my goals have the same number of completions? Why aren’t they working?”

When you set up a URL Destination goal, such as a purchase confirmation page, that’s the page that will generate how many times that goal was complete. Maybe for our ecommerce website we’ll set up three different goals with three different funnels, one starting with a required step on the Men’s store, and one with a required step on the Women’s store, etc… Yet when we look at the Goal Conversion Rate or the Completions they will all be identical.

goal setup example

That’s because on our site we have a single page (/thanks-for-your-purchase) which every purchase finishes on. The funnel itself, even though we’ve clicked the first step being required, doesn’t matter at all to the goal completion itself. All that matters is “Did the user hit the URL Destination page listed?” That’s it.

Potential Workaround – URL Parameters

Are you able to pass information breaking up your conversions to the final conversion page? Maybe you can put a parameter on the URL that makes /purchase-complete?shop=mens different from /purchase-complete?shop=womens? If so, you’ll be able to create specific goals based on those parameters, and see different goal conversion rates for your men’s, women’s, and children’s shops.

You could even pass a variety of information and create different goals based on the product itself.

too many parameters

“What’s the conversion rate on non-waterproof blue men’s coats?”

The Problem With This Workaround

This breaks down pretty quickly unfortunately. It remains session based, so what if someone visited the men’s store, and then purchased from the women’s store? Would that get passed on? What if they’re not buying one product, but multiple? What if you have multiple portals that sell men’s gear, and want to distinguish them? Suddenly you have a slew of parameters that effectively become the user’s session history of every page they hit, and that’s just not an effective solution.

If you’re doing something simple, the workaround probably works. Start adding complexity and you are back to square one.

Another Workaround – Custom Dimensions

Alternatively, you could set a custom dimension in Universal Analytics on specific pages, and have them be session based. So if someone hits the children’s portal, you set a session level custom dimension for “children’s” and then have a view that filters for JUST that value in the custom dimension. Then when you duplicate the goal within the view, you’ll be seeing only conversions with that specific custom dimension value.

The Problem With This Workaround

What happens when someone hits the women’s portal page next, does it use a second custom dimension, or overwrite the one you’re using? If you have a small site, you could get away with this, but otherwise you’ll quickly run out of custom dimensions that could be used for much better things. Or maybe you have multiple ways into the funnel, and skip those pages entirely. Once again, if you have a very simple site, you can probably make it work, but it breaks down under complexity.

Confusing Thing #2: The Funnel Conversion Rate is not the Goal Conversion Rate

funnel conversion is different from goals

So the goal completions are the same, but those aren’t the Funnel Conversion Rate. The Funnel Conversion Rate can be found inside the Funnel Visualization report page under Conversions>Goals. There you can see how many times the goal was completed along with that Funnel Conversion Rate.

The Goal Conversion Rate is tied simply to the final URL Destination, and doesn’t care about the funnel. The Funnel Conversion Rate is JUST the percentage of people who completed the goal who entered the goal somewhere. If someone didn’t ever touch any of those steps, they’re not counted.

This is partly what leads to the funnel conversion rates being so much higher than goal rates. The goal might have a 0.5% conversion rate, but the funnel conversion rate might be 50%.

We don’t need a workaround

The funnel conversion rate is what it is. It’s just important to understand that it’s NOT a goal conversion rate that includes the funnel, but something specific to the number of people who entered that funnel, rather than the total number of people who hit the website. It’s a good metric, even if we can’t access it ANYWHERE but on the funnel visualization.

Confusing Thing #3: The Funnel Numbers Are a Lie

Hey but at least we know that people hit all those steps in the funnel right? Sadly no. Ever see a funnel that has 100% of the people moving through several steps along the way? One reason might be because these numbers are “backfilled”. The first step is required, so if Google Analytics sees you hitting a later step, it will assume you hit those earlier funnel steps. It then fills in the numbers for the previous steps assuming that there was some error that caused them to not see those hits.

So did 100% of the people really see that personal information page and pass through to the credit card processing page? Or did nobody? The Funnel numbers themselves can be lying to you.

For more information how this works, refer back to some of our previous articles: Funnel Problems in Google Analytics or Google Analytics Goal Flow: How Visitors Really Move Through Your Funnel.

We don’t need a workaround

Like #2 there’s not much we can do here, besides be aware of it. Probably the best thing we can do is use this knowledge to be very careful about how we construct our goals, and if we see weird things like 100% users passing through several stages, we might want to look at editing the goal, or checking the actual user flow on the page, to confirm that things are working. Just don’t ever assume that the numbers are 100% accurate.

Confusing Thing #4: You Can’t Segment Goal Funnels

Are you interested in just looking at how the organic traffic is performing in your funnels, rather than all traffic? Well, unfortunately, you can’t use segments in the Funnel Visualization. If you have a Custom Segment applied while looking at one report, you might get confused when you switch over to the Funnel Visualization and lose the ability to segment. So let’s say you really wanted to look at only sessions where a visitor saw that new banner with the manatee wearing a suit picture on the home page. Sorry, that segment won’t work, and you are forced to look at 100% of the traffic to that view in the funnel.

Potential Workaround – Using Multiple Views

The best thing you can do here is leverage your views. If you want to see your goal funnels for just organic traffic, then you should create an organic traffic view, and share your goal within it. That way the funnel visualization and conversion rate within the organic view will show just those goal and funnel conversion rates for that segment.

The Problem With This Workaround

If you are doing something like firing an event on your home page manatee banner image, and have been segmenting based on that, you’ll need to change how it’s handled. You could use a similar custom dimension session scope solution like with the first confusing thing, but that leads to the additional problems listed above like running out of custom dimensions.

In addition, views are only populated going forward. Want to know what your organic funnel conversion rate was last month? Well this solution won’t help you. You’re just not going to get that number easily.

Proposal to Google Analytics #1: Goal Override

overwrite goal conversion

My proposal to help solve some of these problems is basically to have Google Analytics create a Goal Override on the Goal itself.  A toggle which lets the Goal Conversion Rate be affected by the funnel itself.

Instead of reporting on the percentage of people who visited the WEBSITE who hit the URL Destination page, it would be the percentage of the total visitors who hit all the REQUIRED STEPS in the FUNNEL and also hit the URL Destination Page.

This way your Goals could be much more specific to a pattern of activity, rather than a single event.

Proposal to Google Analytics #2: Required/Optional/Disallowed Steps

I would like to be able to set a toggle on each step in a funnel, which would define that step as required, optional, or disallowed.  If the step is optional, no need to forcibly backfill it. If the step is required, and a person doesn’t hit that step, they don’t convert the goal. If the step is disallowed, and they hit that step, then they don’t convert that goal.

An example would be a funnel where you want to look at the conversion rate of those that were brand new customers, so you want to require the new account creation page, meanwhile in another goal for existing users you want to DISALLOW that page, so if someone hits the new account creation page, it should be left out of the goal.

Proposal to Google Analytics #3: Segments on Goals

I would like to segment goals within the Goal setup itself. For instance I would like to be able to go into an essentially unfiltered view, and create a goal and as part of the goal define that the Source/Medium needs to be google/organic. That way I could create a “Google Organic Conversions” goal in a view, without necessarily having that view be ONLY Google Organic visitors.

It would simply only restrict the conversion on that goal to the person’s source/medium (or other dimensions like say Country or Region, or multiple variations) rather than simple behavior.

TL;DR

Goals and Funnels can have confusing aspects, and when you really dig into them they sometimes can’t do what you want them to do. There are potential workarounds, but nothing that is perfect. I have few proposals for how Google Analytics could improve Goals and the Goal Funnels, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you’ve got a great workaround or suggestion for how to fix some of these common issues, leave them in the comments!

How to Fire a Virtual Pageview in Google Tag Manager

Virtual-Pageview

Firing a Google Analytics Virtual Pageview with Google Tag Manager is easy, and far more powerful than ever before.

When our clients or training attendees upgrade from classic Google Analytics to Universal Analytics implemented through Google Tag Manager, we often get questions about how to transition these Virtual Pageviews from inline code to being implemented through GTM.

There are a number of different ways you can implement Virtual Pageviews, and hopefully this will provide one solution to help ease the transition to a GTM implementation of Google Analytics.

(more…)

Understanding Bot and Spider Filtering from Google Analytics

blog-spider

On July 30th, 2014, Google Analytics announced a new feature to automatically exclude bots and spiders from your data. In the view level of the admin area, you now have the option to check a box labeled “Exclude traffic from known bots and spiders”.

Most of the posts I’ve read on the topic are simply mirroring the announcement, and not really talking about why you want to check the box. Maybe a more interesting question would be why would you NOT want to? Still, for most people you’re going to want to ultimately check this box. I’ll tell you why, but also how to test it beforehand. (more…)

How a Local Business in Seattle Can Gain Street Level Insight in Google Analytics

Street-level

Did you ever want micro-level geographic information inside Google Analytics? What if you really need “street level” knowledge about your users; like where are they, what neighborhood are they in? Often, when we talk and write about Google Analytics we’re thinking about the big guys. National or even International traffic, filtering by country, comparing one region to another. We’re thinking macro, not micro.

I wrote previously comparing DMA areas to gain insight, but that’s really only helpful if you have a true national or bigger presence. What if you’re just a local Seattle business, and don’t really have much call for looking at traffic outside the Seattle-Tacoma metro area?

Well, first thing you should do is think about taking our Seattle Google Analytics, AdWords, and Tag Manager Training (shameless plug). Second, read on…

Seattle is actually ahead of the game when it comes to data, which is the real reason I’m using them as an example. The city has a Chief Technology Officer, and data.seattle.gov was started in 2010 as a central hub for all local Seattle data. In fact, a number of businesses claimed that the use of this local data helped them with their businesses.

How so? Well, if you’re a local business then the traffic from, and information about, the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle might be more important to you than Downtown or Riverview.

But how can you use Google Analytics to help you on this sort of granular level? Also what if you DO care about national level data, but you care about it on a very granular local level as well, maybe looking for interest in your brand to help place billboards, or expand your franchising? The truth is that you can’t, at least not right out of the box. But with a few very easy additions, you can start getting some great local data that can let you make street level decisions about your business in Google Analytics. (more…)

Using APIs To Add Insight To Google Analytics

a.baa-small-neighborhood-on-shore

Want to segment your users by whether they live in a cool neighborhood in GA? We’ve got an API for that.

How Much Does Scrap Metal Cost?

About a year ago we were working with a client who wanted to bring some very specific data into their Google Analytics account. They wanted to compare their site traffic with the current price of scrap metal, by adding it as a Custom Variable on the visit. While scrap metal prices aren’t exactly something that would help many other clients, we started thinking more about different kinds of ways we could pull other information from APIs around the web, into Google Analytics, in ways that would increase our insight. (more…)

Tracking Clicks Using Custom Data Attributes, Google Tag Manager, and Google Analytics

Let's Go Pens

Let’s Go Pens!

By setting up some simple Macros, Rules and Tags in Google Tag Manager you can track anything you want on your site as an Event or Virtual Pageview by simply adding Custom Data Attributes to the on-page HTML elements, rather than adding additional Google Analytics tracking code to your website. This has several benefits:

  1. You keep all your tracking code in a single location, Google Tag Manager. Rather than have tracking code all over various pages and templates, now all your actual tracking is in one location.
  2. Your analytics become fuller with more insight. No other method lets you as easily track external links, downloads, or events on your site. Documents which before were untracked, now can be quickly tracked with various specific dimensions for much greater insight.
  3. Your site tracking becomes less prone to technical errors. Rather than 100 lines of tracking code all over the place, or even on specific links, now your actual tracking code is in one place and less likely to do something horrible like break your entire visitor session.
  4. You can easily add additional tracking in the future. By following the rules below you can almost immediately and easily track anything on your website that is clicked.

(more…)

Universal Analytics Out of Beta and Into Our Hearts

multi-devices

We write about Universal Analytics all the time in this blog. In fact we’ve been talking about it since October 2012, which seems like an eternity ago. That’s when Google Analytics first announced that it existed. Now, close to a year and a half later, that twinkle in the eyes of several dashingly handsome Google Analytics engineers, has become a full, non-beta, reality. April 2nd, waiting to be sure to be clear of the horrendous world that is announcing things on April 1st, Google announced that Universal Analytics was officially, truly, no holds barred, out of beta.

So what?

(more…)

Tracking Offline Transactions with Universal Analytics

girl-1

“We don’t do ecommerce, we just have a lead generation form.”

Google Analytics last fall shot some video talking about Universal Analytics that featured Dan Wilkerson and myself here at LunaMetrics. At one part of the video I talk briefly about Georges Seurat’s painting ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’.
(more…)

Three Ways Your New Website Will Murder Your Conversion

universal-monsters

“Oh, it’s alive…. IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!…IT’S ALIVE!”
-Henry Frankenstein, Frankenstein (1931)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before… A man walks into a marketing department and says “Our website is so old! It’s like it was made in the 1990’s! Let’s update the design, and make it responsive! Mobile users are the future! Our competitors all have flashier newer websites, we’re getting left behind! We can make a new website! A better website!” Then they start cackling really evil like, and get twitchy eyed.

The department all nods in agreement, ignoring the obvious creepiness of the guy, because they’ve read stories about mobile users and those “kids today” with their newfangled “smart phones”. So they design a gorgeous new site, sleek, great uses of whitespace, a real pro job. Responsive too! Loads of new functionality. Looks great on their phones, their pads, their pods, their droids, and of course their laptops. So they launch it to great fanfare!

And their conversion gets cut in half. (more…)