Archive for 2008
Earlier this week I attended the XChange web analytics conference held by Semphonic and Web Analytics Demystified in San Francisco. Congrats to Gary Angel, his team, and Eric Peterson on such a great conference and creating an environment of knowledge sharing. Attendees included web analytics practitioners, vendors, researchers and consultants.
The main reason I decided to attend the conference was to engage in conversations with practitioners, listen to their success stories, and and as importantly hear the issues they are facing – whether it is technology related (analytics solution/implementation), measurement process, or the brains behind all of the above, people: the analysts and specialists that make it all happen.
The sessions (or huddles as they were called) that I attended were:
- Getting Analysts to produce analysis and getting the business to listen. It was really interesting to hear how so many companies have the same challenges!
- Campaign Attribution. Which marketing dollar brought this lead or this sale? No easy answer here! Was it the the PPC ad, was it that banner, or to make things more fun, was it the cool TV campaign that just went live. As an industry, we have some time to crack this attribution nut to the degree that our CFOs and business folks like it to be. But some really good ideas on correlation and modeling were discussed.
- Web Analytics – A Center of Excellence. Where does Web Analytics reside? What is web analytics excellence? Is it to give decision makers relevant and accurate data?
- B2B metrics and best practices. I really enjoyed this session and took some good notes on neat segmentation strategies, multivariate testing, and behavioral targeting practices that resulted in significant lifts in engagement and conversion.
- I also attended a huddle on Mobile. Are you getting visits from mobile devices, is this something measurable (some of the analytics tool today will identify your mobile traffic), and what’s actionable here? Maybe if you show your boss or your client that 10% of your site traffic is coming from mobile devices and having a heck of a time navigating the not-so-mobile-friendly website, maybe you can get a budget to do something about it.
The part that I really enjoyed was networking. Plenty of opportunities to network, have one-on-one sessions and engage some of the industry’s brightest minds.
One interesting observation I had was some people’s views of Google Analytics. As a disclaimer: if you are reading our blog, you probably already know that we are a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant (GAAC) company. While we know some of the other tools, we are a Google Analytics firm and this is what we decided to specialize in.
What is the observation? It was really interesting to hear that:
- Google Analytics is for your mom and pop shop type implementations and if you need something more elaborate you need to go to the high end solutions. My comment was knowing many of the GAACs and looking at their customer lists, and seeing some of the sophisticated implementations first hand, it makes me wonder how this perception keeps coming up. Also, looking at some of the enhancements that Google added in the last several months should highlight the advanced nature of the tool. Event tracking, still in beta, is definitely not low end. Neither are the on-site search integration nor the industry benchmarking features, to name a few. Google doesn’t comment on upcoming features and release dates, but judging by the recent past one would expect more and more extremely useful features to be released.
- Google Analytics lacks the professional services and support infrastructure of a high end solution. My comment: last I checked Google created an echo-system of GA professional services providers, including over 20 GAACs in the US and many others in Europe, Latin America.
- I even hear that you can’t do segmentation with Google Analytics or it can’t do funnel analysis. You can definitely give us a call and one of our GA specialists will guide you through it.
- And then there was the privacy issue and Google will use our analytics data to up the bids on our AdWords campaigns. My comment: I see where this concern is coming from but Google has addressed these issues publicly; in my opinion it would be a horrible PR for them to act otherwise. Read Brian Clifton’s post on Google & privacy for more details.
I don’t intend on doing a feature-by-feature comparison of Google Analytics and other web analytics solutions. Yes, it is a known fact that Google Analytics doesn’t have features that other tools have. A lot has been published already on the subject so I won’t go into details.
My issue is the way some solution providers, consultants, and researchers try to portray Google Analytics as tool for the beginners, as the starting point, and as something that you can tinker with then graduate to something more powerful. I think this is the wrong advice and it is very misleading.
I’ll give you an example. During the conference, I spoke with a very smart individual who happens to be the newly hired web analyst for his organization. In fact, he is the first ever web analyst within this organization. What I later learned is that his company has some one hundred websites with a huge amount of traffic, and for years now they have been paying a premium for their web analytics tool, year in and year out. But when it came to analysis/insights/people/process, no efforts have been taken. When CEO, CFOs, CMOs, Directors of Analytics keep hearing that you should spend your dollars of the high end tool, that is exactly what they seem to be doing: spending their budgets on the tool.
This is really disturbing and it won’t serve the long term interest of any party involved. Wouldn’t this organization be served better if their resources went to bring in analytics talent instead? As an industry, wouldn’t it be better off if our clients have more success with analytics (more success stories for all of us) instead of complaining about the fees they pay and the lack of results?
|Many people, including myself, don’t enjoy filling out forms. Forms are usually long, unclear, and contain too many required fields, etc.
To the contrary, from a business perspective forms are an excellent tool for gathering information.
Our job as web analysts is to make both parties happy and help optimize form length with input analysis.
In this post, I will share with you E-Nor’s technique in determining the forms fields that people are most likely not to complete. I will show you how to make this data available to decision makers and web optimizers so they are able to make the necessary changes.
Upon submitting the form, the validation function will be called to check the filled or empty status of the fields.
The validation function is often used to verify that a required field has valid information in it. Today, we will also use it to pass two variables to the isEntered function:
- The first variable is the text that the user enters in each field. If the user enters “John Smith”, for example, in the name field, then document.getElementById(‘name’) = “John Smith”, and if the field was left empty, then document.getElementById(‘name’) = “ ”.
- The second variable is the name of the field (ex. “name”) and this is needed to send information to Google Analytics.
The isEntered function will check the el variable that is passed to it from the validation function.
- If the value of variable is null, we will send a pageview to Google Analytics indicating that the field is empty (ex. /forms/contact_us.htm/empty/phone)
Reading data in
As we might have thousands and thousands of pageviews in our main profile, I suggest creating a specific profile for the form:
1. Create a filter and name it URL Filter – Contact Us Form
2. Add the above filter (URL Filter – Contact Us Form) to a new profile with a name such as (Contact Us Form)
3. Go to the new Contact Us Profile -> Content -> Top Content
The numbers above clearly show us which fields customers usually fill out or leave empty. This level of input analysis will definitely help optimize form length
- The Name and Email fields are both required fields; they should not appear in our report since no one will be able to submit the form without filling them.
- The Comments field has a very high number of pageviews, 154, which is a sign that customers are not interested in filling out this field of the form.
- I will leave what to do after this to you. Depending on the nature of your business and the objectives of the form, the solution vary.
- It may make sense to remove fields from the form so that the form is short and to the point.
- Another option is to test the original form to shorter versions of the form using a tool like Google Website Optimizer. It may be the case that a shorter form will get you more submissions but it is also possible a shorter form will have no effect at all.
In case you run Urchin 6, please take the time to download the latest version, Urchin 6 SP1, which includes new features and numerous bug fixes.
A few of the new features:
- E-mail yourself reports
- Log management script
- A script to uncover processing errors
And a few of the bug fixes:
- Windows installer fixes, including automatic uninstallation of the old version
- Character encoding extended to handle all localized characters (UTF8 or otherwise)
- Now enforces global locale settings (language and region) on new users and profiles
Have you ever experienced a call transfer from one department to another while you were calling to troubleshoot a problem in your machine or report a credit card fraud?
This annoying experience is similar to what we experience in web analytics when we deal with URL redirects. You request one URL and end up at another! Misconfigured URL redirects can cause data loss such as not seeing any data from one or more sources in your web analytics reports
It is common practice in many sites, especially e-commerce sites, to use redirect pages to track campaign performance. The problem is that the redirect usually removes extra parameters from URLs – parameters which are necessary for proper tracking in Google AdWords and Google Analytics.
In order to identify a visitor as a paid visitor in Google Analytics, AdWords auto-tagging adds a parameter to the end of any AdWords destination URL. This parameter is called gclid.
In a normal situation with no URL redirects, when people click on a paid ad with a destination URL such as http://www.mydomain.com/landingpage.aspx?id=54
the URL that they are supposed to go to might end up looking like this http://www.mydomain.com/landingpage.aspx?id=54&gclid=a1b2c3d4e5f6g7h8i9
If there was a poorly configured redirect at this point, the visitor might end up at this URL: http://www.mydomain.com/landingpage54.aspx *
* Note that the gclid parameter is gone and Google Analytics will consider the click as an organic visit and not as a paid visit.
Suggested solutions to this problem:
- Ask your webmaster to configure the redirect page to pass any parameters to the final URL. This is will allow you to maintain your internal redirects and properly segment your visitors.
- Tag your destination URLs manually:
- utm_source = google
- utm_medium = cpc
- utm_term = your AdWords keyword (ex. e-nor blog)
- utm_campaign = your AdWords campaign (ex. blog campaign)
The final URL will look like this now: http://www.mydomain.com/landingpage54.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=e-nor%2Bblog&utm_campaign=blog%2BCampaign
- The best solution: do not use redirects at all! My colleague at E-Nor, senior web analyst Rehan Asif, suggests not to use redirect at all. He says, “configure Google AdWords to send visitors straight to the landing page. Add whatever internal tracking scripts you want to us on the actual landing page.” (ex. http://www.mydomain.com/landingpage54.aspx)One of the reasons we usually suggest avoiding URL redirects is because of our concern about the keyword Quality Score. Page load time and number of redirects are an important factor in determining the Quality Score. Redirects could be slow at times which would lead to long page load times which would lead to low Quality Scores.
We often have an email address that is scattered all over our website and we not only aim to track the number of clicks on this email but rather also track the pages that this email is posted at
In this blog we will go over very simple steps of how to achieve the above goal
1. Add the following java script code to the main header or to the template file default.aspx
To view report:
- Log into your Google analytics account (www.google.com/analytics)
- Go to the Content section -> Top Content
- Filter the list of URL’s to only addresses contain “email_click”
Also we can track the email clicks using the Goal section!
- Go to: Profile Settings -> Conversion Goals and Funnel
- Create a goal as described below
- To view the data go to: Goals -> Goal Verification
Hello world! I’ve always wanted to say that I’m new to the blogosphere – I’ve posted on this blog before, but it’s been an eternity. I’m hoping to be much more consistent going forward. This post and the upcoming posts you’ll see from me will be focused on communicating what I’m learning about Web Analytics. I’ve been in Creative Marketing now for several years – I have a strong background in Web Usability and Marketing Consulting. You could say I’ve always been analyzing, just not with the tools/concepts in Web Analytics. Although our company is a Google Authorized Analytics Consultant (GAAC), I’ve only been involved in a limited capacity in Analytics. That’s changing now I attended an event held by the SVAMA 10 days ago and figured my notes about the event would be the best way to get the ball rolling. Being new to Web Analytics, it’s a challenging subject to start writing about, but I figured there’s no better way to learn than to write about what I’m learning. This helps reinforce what I’m learning in my own mind, and also opens the door to feedback from readers. As I learn new concepts and techniques each week, I’ll blog about them. I’m pretty excited about it, and hope this is useful and beneficial.
It’s 1:00 AM as I’m writing this and it’s been a super long day at work. My 9 month old baby has been having tummy trouble the last few days so I’m feeling a little sleep deprived. In any case, I’ve had my coffee and everyone’s asleep, so it’s quiet and I can focus on writing I have this new found love of woodworking and wanted to spend time in the garage but if I started cutting wood with my electric saw at this hour (no man is complete without an electric saw), I’d wake up the neighbors. Besides it’s too late to finish that workbench I started building this weekend…I’ll get back to that next weekend I suppose.
To Web Analytics and beyond…
I recently attended a session held by the SVAMA at the Googleplex, with guest speaker and Analytics Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik. Before I start off, I want to say that Google food IS all it’s cracked up to be… my colleagues and I thoroughly enjoyed breakfast
Avinash is author of the book: “Web Analytics: An Hour a Day.” He’s a wonderfully articulate, inspiring speaker. As a newbie to analytics, I learned more from this session than what I had previously heard or read about. We have several Analytics geeks here at the office and I hate getting left out of the conversation when they start talking in their ego-maniacal uber cool geek-speak. Well, after this session, I can at least keep up with them, even if it hurts a little.
The title of the session was Actionable Web Analytics. Avinash began by talking about data and how there is an overwhelming abundance of data available to companies. There’s so many tools out there that result in data overload. He posed the question: Does all this data provide us the insight needed for a successful site?
He emphasized 6 points which I’ve listed below.
1) Actionability is an Attitude
The concept of actionability helps identify underlying issues on websites really fast. Without much knowledge about the site or the subject matter, you can easily find Actionable Insights by looking at key metrics.
Bounce rate (To quote Avinash “I came, I puked, I left”) is a great way to measure how effective a page is performing. Generally speaking, the lower the bounce rate, the better. This has to be taken with a grain of salt though, since some pages might be designed to have a high bounce rate (ie. blogs, contact us pages, etc.)
Another point emphasized was about site home pages. Too much emphasis is placed on the home page. I’ve participated in hundreds of web site design cycles, and I can wholeheartedly agree that far too much emphasis is placed on the home page. The concept of a home page assumes that the user will always walk through the front door into your home. That simply isn’t the case. We don’t live in a world where users have to enter your site through the front door. The search engine holds the keys and the blueprints to your site. Whatever the search engine determines is the home page, essentially becomes the home page of your site. If your user searches for a keyword that results in the search engine displaying your “About Us” page as a result, than that’s effectively the home page for that user, for that visit. So basically every page is a home page.
Armed with the above knowledge, you could now look at the top entry points of your site and easily determine what is working well and what isn’t. This metric gives you information about your users (ie. what they are looking for) and also tells you what they are doing on your site, so you can focus on optimizing pages that need it.
2) Give your Data Context
Avinash had this neat little acronym he called PALM – People Against Lonely Metrics. I laughed, but then realized what it really means. Data needs context. Without context, the data is meaningless and definitely not actionable. Data is relative and needs comparison to have meaning. A report showing a month’s data isn’t as insightful and actionable as a report showing a comparison of the current month to the last month and to previous months. This latter approach facilitates actionability whereas the previous approach would simply show a view of the data inside a bubble. In highlighting metrics, focus on goal conversion and outcomes – these are what’s important to your client, the rest is just extra information. Use tools such as compete.com or Fireclick to compare results to your competitors.
3) Say No to Data Pukes
This section really opened my eyes because it cemented in my mind what Analytics is about. It’s not about throwing a bunch of data and numbers to your customers. Showing them top 10 pages or top 10 keywords is useful in the beginning stages but this list becomes stagnant very quickly. How often does it really change? All the little tweaks being done on the site – the ones that really matter – typically won’t result in a significant change in the “top 10″. What’s important to highlight is what’s changing on the site, such as the top 10 rising pages, or the top 10 falling pages. Again this gives data some context and is actionable.
4) Segment Like Crazy
I come from the Usability world, so when Avinash mentioned his next point about Personas, it connected several dots for me. Personas! Personas! Personas! it’s all about personas! In order to understand your users, you have to know who they are where they are coming from and what they are doing on your site. In analytics, data can be segmented by visitor source to identify where traffic originated from (ie. Organic search engine traffic, Paid campaigns, direct, referring sites, etc). Visitor paths, etc. can identify what your users are doing on your site and give you insights on what you can do to make their experience more beneficial.
5) Ask Your Customers
Surveys are a great little tool, revealing tidbits of information that is very valuable. Ask your customers “Why are you here?” and “Were you able to find what you were looking for?” Two simple questions – but they provide feedback that will help you transform any site from a mundane to a rich experience, identifying what Avinash referred to as “segments of discontent” – another actionable insight.
6) Automating Actionability
Avinash has these creative little acronyms to illustrate his points – HiPPO is another gem of an acronym. He said that websites are typically designed by HiPPO’s - HiPPO stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. This brought back so many memories for me because I’ve facilitated so many creative designs and this is so true. The only way to really tell which banner works best or which font style works best or which color works best, is to let your users decide. Huh? but how can they participate in the creative review cycle? Easy… By doing A/B testing or multivariate testing, your users literally tell you what works and what doesn’t work. Actionable Insights….
If there’s one thing I got out of this presentation by Avinash, it was that Analytics is Qualitative. What???? Qualitative???? I almost wanted to press the rewind button to make sure I heard that right. Wouldn’t it be great if life was a Tivo? Qualitative? Analytics is all about numbers right? It’s about the data, right?
This was the biggest revelation of the day for me. All this time I was under the impression that Analytics was all about numbers and data. It was purely quantitative in my mind. In reality it’s just the opposite. The numbers are only indicators of what is essentially qualitative data. If you focus on the numbers, you’ll get lost. If you focus on what the numbers represent (ie. user behavior), therein lies the heart of analytics. Once I got this point down (and it took a while to sink in), it changed my perspective on what analytics really is and how it all fits together.
The last thing that he mentioned that I really liked was that companies should spend 10% on the tool, and 90% on the people. Again this ties back into analytics being a qualitative discipline – it’s not just number crunching, we’re talking about user behavior.
Well time to go catch some zzzzzz’s now. Look for more entries from me as I continue my learning curve in Analytics. Looking forward to hearing feedback, and feel free to send me any tips about woodworking as well
Mark your calendars, July 8th, 2008, 9-10am PT! Another free webinar from Google, but this time it is a collaboration of three Google teams:
So sign up, learn and improve the effectiveness of your website!
My high school English teacher advised us about writing essays, “you have to assume the reader is an intelligent alien”. This was meant to say that they are smart enough to figure things out but we have to assume that they don’t know anything. Basically, to write a good paper, make sure you lay everything out but at the same time respect the reader and don’t patronize them.
This type of thinking forces you to balance giving enough information to cover any holes in your work while preventing you from putting too much extra fat that may bore or frustrate the reader.
Replace the word “reader” with “user” in the previous sentence, and I think you have an excellent philosophy for usability.
The internet is the fastest and most convenient way of getting information. In the small amount of time it’s existed, we’ve realized that the easier a site is to use – well…the more people will use it. In turn, as surfers we’re spoiled like this and now come to expect that a website will get your job done quick and dirty. So as surfers, we are on the hunt – frantically scanning pages. If we have to think too much – there’s no penalty for hitting that back button and moving on to the next search engine search result on the list – in hopes that maybe this next site “dumbed it down” enough.
It’s safe to assume that the user that stumbles upon your page is thinking just that, and that’s why it’s important that your site is as “dumbed-down as” possible – so even a smart Martian could use it…
Continuing my reminiscing of high school (quick, someone pinch me with a 2 by 4 and get me out of this daydream nightmare), there were two mannerisms that I learned without being taught:
1) When walking down the hallway, there are two lanes – On-coming traffic and On-going traffic. When you want to go somewhere, you walk on the right side of the hallway in the On-going traffic lane.
2) When you open a door, you have to go that extra inch to swing it all the way open as an etiquette to the random student who may be following behind you coming through the doorway. This eventually is a reflex for everyone and is done in all instances, regardless of who’s behind you. In fact, after awhile it was so automatic you didn’t even check if anyone was behind you, you just swung that door wide open.
What the heck does this have to do with usability?
Well, Sociology 101 – a bunch of people doing something and consistently repeating it means everyone will end up doing it (almost naturally). No one explicitly instructed me to do these things. I just picked it up by copy-catting everyone else.
This is an important concept to take advantage of in Usability – standard conventions – understanding what EVERYONE has been trained to do and are doing.
The new laptop you bought is easy to use because it works just like all the hundreds of other laptops you’ve seen/used recently. The ‘on’ button is this circle at the top of your keyboard, there are a bunch of pretty lights indicating different things, you have external volume buttons on the outside, usually on the front bumper of your laptop, etc. In the back of your computer, most average Joe’s now know that, for my audio speakers, I plug the green plug into the green socket.
None of these conventions are mandatory – your laptop manufacturer could’ve put your ‘on’ button on the bottom of the laptop or your speaker plug could have been the color ‘orange’ – but the convention everyone uses is what makes it “natural” and thus, easy for everyone to figure out.
So unless you plan to be a trendsetter (“I’m going to wear my underwear on the outside of my pants until everyone copy’s me!!!!” – let’s see how far that one goes Superman), a good bet is that your website design will be usable when it copies conventions that everyone’s used to doing.
A good place to start, then, for design inspiration is looking at the big dawg’s websites that everyone uses which have now defined common usability conventions. For example, if you are planning to create a site that will be displaying a huge amount of videos, you may want to look at the video big dawg (we’ll call him “TouYube”) and design your layout that way – i.e. video display at the top left of the page, search at the top middle, â€œrelated videosâ€ box on the right, etc. If you’re designing an email client or some sort of document creation user interface, the “compose”and “reply” are usually buttons at the top left. In your design, you may not want to have those as just hyper links in the top right corner then -use buttons and put them at the top left.
At this point, it’s unlikely you’d have to worry whether, “Hmmmmm…would the placement of these functions objectively be logical to the user?” They’ve already been trained to use this layout the millions of time they used the big dawg’s site. Your usability now has already been ingrained into the user’s skull by someone else.
If you insist on being original and innovative, at least consider the conventions big dawgs have defined, and make your site a combination of them or at least some sort of derivation based on them, as to still take advantage of the familiarity.
In conclusion, (large numbers of people) + (consistent repetition of an action) = a Social Standard. Take advantage of these standard conventions and apply common practices to the layouts of your website design.
Creative Director, E-Nor
On June 14, I attended a networking event hosted by OPEN Silicon Valley. It was an all day event with an impressive list of keynote speakers and entrepreneurs, including Howard Dean (DNC Chair), Mike Mortiz from Sequoia Capital, (the VC firm that funded Google and many other big name internet brands today), Steve Westly, and many others.
I took some random notes of tips and proven practices form those that are more experienced and those with a track record of success and accomplishments. I took my notes on my Blackberry. From the looks of some people, I felt like my teenage daughter at the dinner table when we ask her to stop text messaging .
The notes are not very structured but I hope you find them useful as I did and pick one or two golden nuggets that would help you grow at the personal and professional level.
- Mike Moritz said when they look for start-ups and entrepreneurs, they are inclined to invest in companies that require “small” funding initially. Also companies that are about to catch a huge tail wind. They also look for companies that can have a healthy margin, so they can turn cash-flow positive quickly and reinvest in growing the company. He also looks for entrepreneurs that are big on the mission, and want to do great things for their customers.
- There was a discussion about investing in a company where the founders/key players are “young”. One of the characteristics of being young is that you are single-focused on your start-up. Mike Mortiz did acknowledge that fact, but also said they invested in companies (e.g. eHarmony) where the founder was a grandfather, but he still had the fervor and passion to accomplish his goals.
What is Success?
- A panel of successful entrepreneurs addressed this topic. The answers varied: “Having a lot of fun and make some money along the way, and also make a dent”. Others said “Success is about positive relationships”. One speaker said a key element to their success was by “always having a mentor in my life”.
Making it big without VC funding, possible?
- A session was dedicated to this topic. 5 very successful founders of now-established businesses spoke. They echoed the same themes we hear all the time. You have be optimistic and realistic. You have to work hard, long hours.. One panelist said that since he was 16 he has been waking up at 4:30am and working 14 hours/day. He does his spiritual routine, swims 40 laps, then off to the challenges. He is now in his mid 50′s and reaping the benefits of his hard work. Others attributed their success to how they built their companies around taking care of the customer, about strong relationships they have had with their customers for year after year.
I always enjoy attending such events and mingling with bright minds; you share what you know and most importantly learn from others!
Last week I moderated a panel discussion organized by NSHMBA and hosted by Google at the Mountain View campus.
The event was well planned by NSHMBA organizers with a very impressive line of speakers:
Cisco – Guillermo Diaz, VP of Information Technology.
Oracle – Vince Casarez, VP of Product Management.
Google – Gonzalo Begazo Escobedo, US Controller.
Safeway.com – Michelle Marian, VP of Interactive Marketing.
Moderator: E-Nor – Feras Alhlou, President.
The panelist’s discussion was very insightful and offered some very practical advice to the audience. A few points that I really liked:
- Don’t be left behind! Even if you are in a non-technical field, embrace new technology and applications. Use them in your personal and professional life (blogs, social networking, wikis, etc.)
- Listen to the customer! Get end user input throughout your process. Don’t wait for your products/services to be “perfect” before you introduce them to the user. Gonzalo from Google pointed out how Google applies this a number of Google products that are released as “beta” to collect end user feedback/ideas/suggestions for improvements.
- Reach your customer where they are and again listen to their needs and wants.
- Use collaboration/connection technologies (hardware and software) to improve productivity and stay in touch with team members, especially those that work virtually in other offices or in different time zones.
- Mobile is big and will only be getting bigger… (this needs a separate post altogether!)