Posts Tagged ‘analytics tips’
Labor day just passed which pretty much marks the end of summer vacation. The party’s over, as they say, and it’s time to get back to work. Children get back into routine for school, students gear up for another semester, people reminisce over summer vacations and plan out the rest of the year, and of course businesses begin to buckle down for Q4 so they can finish out the year on a strong note. It’s a time to re-evaluate, tweak and re-establish goals. There’s also that iPhone 6 announcement coming next week, but I digress.
One of my goals for this year was to make significant strides towards being healthier. As with anything else this requires physical effort, but more-so than that, it requires mental discipline.
I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, the huge influx of wearable fitness trackers that measure everything from steps taken, to distance, to elevation, to heart-rate, to sleep. It’s impressive what data these little devices can capture and the exhaustive reports that can be produced.
Being a data geek combined with this goal of being healthier, I decided to invest in my own tracker. While there are many options available, they are all very similar and you basically have to find one that you’ll use. Features and functionality aside, if they sit at home instead of on your person, they’re a waste of money. So my main requirement was comfort. After an exhaustive search I decided to try out the Jawbone UP24. It’s an amazing little device, and pumps out quite the stream of data. Color me impressed!
I was talking to my colleague Farid the other day about these fitness trackers prior to making the decision to purchase. To be honest, this rarely happens, but on this auspicious day, Farid had some words of wisdom which echoed in my mind for days [Edited and rejected by Farid Alhadi]. He said, in reference to the large selection of devices available, “You know, they’re essentially all the same, and they don’t do much unless you use them, but what they do is provide is that little extra motivation.” Ok, he didn’t quite make the discovery of the century, I’m probably being kind of dramatic to his compliment, but you get the point. [Edited and rejected by Farid Alhadi]
“That little extra motivation”? Maybe that’s the difference between being healthy and not quite there? Could the line in the sand really be that narrow? Would data be all I need to help me run that extra mile, or do those extra reps? Really? Could it be that a dashboard of my fitness stats would help me take that step that I’ve been trying to take for so long? Wait a second…dashboards, metrics, data, insights??? this is starting to sound a little too familiar.
Here’s some samples of the type of reports that this little thing produces:
More importantly, this got me thinking. (Yes I know I’m a geek…you don’t need to remind me). Doesn’t a fitness tracker essentially do what Analytics does for a business? Just as a fitness tracker captures the performance of an individual based on pre-defined metrics, so does analytics based on similar pre-defined metrics.
1. Use it or lose it. (And I don’t mean the weight).
The fitness tracker is only as good as our usage of it. The same principle can be applied to analytics. It only works if you use it. If I leave the fitness tracker at home, or forget to wear it, or if I don’t calibrate it, the data is going to be useless. Same goes for your analytics tool. Organizations sometimes spend thousands on analytics tools and even strategies, but they don’t put a legitimate effort to use it or even use it right! Your organization’s mindset needs to make a legitimate effort to be metrics driven and put value in the tool you spent so much money on.
If you’re intimidated by it, there are plenty of consultants and trainings that can help.
2. Plan your meals and workouts carefully with a clear goal in mind.
How can you measure progress if you don’t know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there? If our measurement strategy isn’t zeroing in on the things that are key to the business, it needs to be adjusted, but you wont be able to know that without a clear cut plan. Analytics works the same way. Have a clear goal and a strategy as to how you plan to measure your goals. Once again, this might be a daunting task, but that’s what your certified partners are there for!
3. Garbage in equals garbage out.
That doesn’t only apply to your diet, but it applies to your data. If you don’t eat the right food, you wont have the right body. If I don’t enter my calories consumed correctly, I won’t really be able to measure my progress. Similarly, if you don’t measure your digital website or mobile app data correctly, your data may be garbage and thus, your insights may be garbage. The tool needs good food/data to be able to do it’s job correctly. Make sure you’re tracking your data properly, using the correct methods and code. Track the right pages, the right events, and create clean proper funnels and goals.
4. Review your progress.
If I don’t review the data at periodic intervals and adjust my exercise routine as a result, what benefit am I getting out of it? No one get’s it right the first time. It takes optimization. Maybe your diet isn’t right. Maybe your exercises aren’t burning enough calories. Maybe your body has hit a plateau and it’s time to switch things up. Similarly, with analytics, if we’re not reacting to what the data is telling us, then what good is our analytics implementation? Your measurement strategy should include periodic review to see your progress and make the adjustments necessary to truly optimize results of your site. Just as the reports above tell the wearer of the fitness device to move, Analytics reports similarly tell us which marketing campaigns need attention, which landing pages need to be tweaked, what’s working well, and what’s not. In other words, an entire action plan can be derived just by periodic review of key performance indicators.
Yes people, an individual is similar to a business in this sense. While that won’t get you on the Fortune 500 list, it’s still something to ponder It’s an interesting comparison, but one that resonated in my mind and helps me apply the concept of “Measure, Analyze, Optimize” we learn in the world of analytics to my daily life as well. The thought did cross my mind that perhaps I should import this data into Tableau and go all nerdy with it, but that would be a bit too over-zealous. I’ll leave that for another day, or maybe I’ll have “a little extra motivation” once I start hitting my goals.
One key takeaway from this little lesson I learned: Performance is an attitude, not just a device.
Google is planning to roll out Universal to all Google Analytics accounts, and that might be a little scary. What does that mean for you?
Essential Guidance from an Early Adopter
E-Nor is proud to have had the opportunity to serve as early beta testers for Google Analytics Universal and also to partner with TiVo on a particularly interesting implementation of Universal to track the usage of their mobile app. We’ve also performed Universal implementations for a wide range of websites.
Since we have a little hands-on experience with Universal Analytics, we wanted to answer some important questions and outline steps you should be taking for a smooth transition. Below are some tips (along with a video from our principal consultant, Feras Alhlou) to make the migration a little more understandable.
Benefits of Migrating to Universal Analytics
Before we even get into the tips, what’s so great about Universal Analytics? Google has made some significant improvements in the evolution of analytics. For example, updates that might normally require changes in code can be done right from the Universal Analytics interface. Most notably, the system is evolving to support the multi-device/medium world we live in today – that is, tracking not only websites, but mobile apps and even allowing the import of offline data – so you can have a truly 360 degree view of all your engagement and marketing efforts.
While this post won’t explore the more advanced topics, the basic steps for Universal migration – outlined in the sections below (and in the video) – will allow you to take advantage of all features that Google Analytics Universal offers, now and in the near future.
1. Transferring your property to Universal Analytics Process Technology is DIFFERENT from upgrading your code.
As shown in our video, if you go to the admin section of your account, you may see a message from Google encouraging you to migrate your property. Also, under the settings for each property, you’ll see this:
This is simply asking you to upgrade your property to the Universal Analytics infrastructure. This will NOT affect your data. It’s just moving everything behind the scenes at Google to the new “processing technology”.
It might be a little confusing, but it’s necessary to understand that the Universal property transfer is different from upgrading your code and tags to Universal Analytics syntax, which eventually will be required. We’ll discuss that step later.
2. No immediate action is required (as of yet).
Although a full migration to Universal is recommended, you don’t actually have to take any specific steps for Universal right now. If you don’t upgrade your Google Analytics properties to the Universal infrastructure, Google Analytics will at some point do it automatically. However, if you want to go ahead, you can proceed by clicking the upgrade link in your property settings (shown in the picture above).
3. ga.js (Classic) tracking code will still work once my property is transferred to Universal (for now).
For now, ga.js will continue to track correctly, even if your properties have been automatically transferred to the Universal infrastructure. So your data will be fine and your tracking will still work.
Note: while Google Analytics may continue to support ga.js up to two years more, you don’t want to wait too long to upgrade your code to Universal Analytics, because at some point, ga.js will sunset and your data will no longer be recorded reliably.
4. You can replace ga.js (classic) with the analytics.js (Universal), but don’t forget some caveats!
You must upgrade your infrastructure for the new analytics.js code to work!
First, before you swap out ga.js for analytics.js, you must make sure to upgrade your corresponding Google Analytics property to Universal as described in tip 1 above. Although you can use the old tracking code with a Universal property (at least in the near future), you CAN’T use the NEW analytics.js tracking code with the CLASSIC infrastructure. Again, if you see the upgrade notice on the admin screen pictured above that says “transfer not started”, your property has not yet been transferred to Universal, so click on that and follow the steps if you want to use the new code.
If you initiate the transfer of your property yourself, you should wait 24-48 hours before switching to the analytics.js tracking code.
Update your tags’ syntax!
Also, at the same time that you switch to analytics.js, you must update any events, virtual pageviews, social actions, custom variables, and Ecommerce tracking that you have already coded for your site.
In the offsite link example below, an event is coded using Classic syntax:
<a href="http://www.anotherwebsite.com" onclick=" _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'link', 'offsite', this.href]);">Another Website</a>
For Universal, you would need to revise the event as follows:
<a href="http://www.anotherwebsite.com" onclick="ga('send', 'event', 'link', 'offsite', this.href);">Another Website</a>
5. Subdomain tracking is supported, but cross-domain tracking needs code revision.
The Universal tracking code supports subdomain tracking without any revisions; you can use the default tracking code on two or more subdomains, such as www.mysite.com and blog.mysite.com.
To track across different domains, you need to make separate tracking code revisions on the different sites. For details, see E-Nor’s Google Analytics Guide: Best Practices for Implementation and Reporting.
6. Google Tag Manager: Replace the classic tag with the Universal tag.
If you’re using a Google Analytics classic code in Google Tag Manager to track your website pageviews, you can simply switch to a Google Analytics Universal code. However, as mentioned, don’t forget to update any other Google Analytics classic tags, such as for events and Ecommerce, that you may have added to your Google Tag Manager container. Third-party tag management systems should also provide the option of upgrading your Google Analytics tags to Universal.
7. New Implementation? Don’t waste time – go Universal!
If you’re tracking a new website, don’t waste time! Either with the native Google Analytics tracking code or through Google Tag Manager, choose the Universal option and join your fellow Web analysts as we march into the next generation of tracking.
On the Horizon: Enable the Demographics and Interests reports in Universal
While the Demographics and Interests reports are currently available only in Google Analytics classic, they should soon become available in Universal as well, at which time you can follow the instructions provided by Google.
Download Our Universal Analytics ebook!
Thanks for checking out the article. Hope it helps.
For more on Universal Analytics, click here to download our free ebook.
What in the….? “Google Analytics” is a browser?!
(For the quick answer, skip to the “Conclusion” below…)
We ran into a confusing situation the other day with a client. They were getting traffic from a browser called “Google Analytics“. It threw us for a loop, because obviously, we’re familiar with Google Chrome, Firefox, the awesomeness of Internet Explorer (sarcasm), Opera, and Safari. Haven’t had the chance to use the Google Analytics browser though.
That’s cause there isn’t actually a Google Analytics browser as you might have guessed. So we were weirded out to see that in our reports. What does it mean when you see on your reports that a large number of visits are coming from “Google Analytics”?
Here’s what we figured out:
On a hunch, we decided to segment for mobile traffic only.
The number of visits from the browser “Google Analytics” essentially didn’t change (the change was so minor, we could assume this was due to sampling). Thus, it looks like this traffic is pretty much mobile traffic.
For this client in particular, they saw a spike of traffic that corresponded to this number. We asked if anything special happened around the time of the spike. They confirmed that they had recently launched a new version of their mobile app.
Conclusion: The Answer Is…
After some more digging and testing, we concluded that when the browser says “Google Analytics”, it’s mobile app traffic! Apps using either the iOS or Android SDK for Google Analytics will report their usage under the browser “Google Analytics.” Not sure when Google will change that, but hopefully, that will help anyone trying to solve that mystery explain to their executives or clients where this traffic is coming from. One method of preventing this from happening entirely is to report mobile app traffic to an entirely different account than your web traffic.
If you have been around marketing and analytics for a while, you know that getting a solid reading of your analytics and optimization is a journey, not a destination. You understand that data is not clean, and 100% accuracy is not attainable. So I think the most we can ask for is to establish processes and educate people on how to keep things under control and still have faith in their data.
This post addresses practical analytics processes to maintain and improve the quality of your data when upgrading or redesigning a site, or migrating to a site/new content management system. While the examples in this post are Google Analytics specific, the approach is applicable to other analytics solutions.
The old adage of Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance is so very true here. Those 5 P’s can make a world of difference before a site migration or upgrade.
You definitely don’t want to end up with this scenario (no data)
If you have done your analytics implementation right, you should have maintained different documents; a reporting/metrics doc (marketers) and a solution design or an analytics technical specs doc. In such documents you define what code to add, what custom tracking you are doing, where customization have been implemented, etc. When you plan to migrate or upgrade your site, it’s time to clean the dust off these documents and put them to work for you again!
1- Site Migration/Upgrade Analytics Planning – Marketing
First of all, review your site goals, and ask questions such as:
- What micro conversion am I tracking now and do you want to track on the new site?
- Video/multimedia user actions (play, forward, stop, etc.)
- Have a new blog and I want to measure comment submissions
- I really want to get an understanding of social interactions on my site
- Are my macro conversions changing?
- I didn’t have e-commerce, now I do
- The site didn’t accept paypal/google checkout, but now we need to track it
- I am using a marketing automation platform with tens of landing pages and lead capture forms. How do I want to see lead conversions in my reports?
- Any custom segments that you track closely?
- Your reports might include members vs. non-members segments, member classification, user segments, time-stamped user actions, content groups, etc. this type of data is typically available in your reports based on GA customization and need to be discussed with your technical team
- Make a note of this type of data and ensure this customization is carried over to the new site
- Third-party System Integration
- Identify parameters you are passing to third party systems or integrations you’ve done CRM solutions (e.g. SalesForce.com), or other rich data integration work you’ve done (and rightfully got recognize for!)
- Social: this post would be not as popular if it doesn’t have the word “social” . Look for how your are measuring your socially active users. You might be using GA’s social tracker natively or you might have integrated with AddThis or ShareThis
- Mobile: if you, like many, are launching a mobile site, add your measurement plan for your mobile site to the to-do list. And don’t forget about any niche mobile analytics tools that you have previously implemented (and actively using)
- In addition to your web analytics solution, review the long list of tags/pixels you currently have on your conversion pages such as AdWords conversion tracker and other pay-per-click tags, doubleclick, affiliate, or maybe a niche heatmap tag, or a phone tracking tag, or the testing code such as the Google Website Optimizer (and the list goes on and on, I know)
- If you are using a Tag Management System (TMS), you’ll have less issues with migrating your tags, but then add an item on your to-do list to engage your TMS vendor and seek their support during the planning and implementation of your new site
Have your new or updated goals list ready and then reach out to your friendly webmaster/analyst/consultant to help you implement.
2- Site Migration/Upgrade Analytics Planning – Technical
Sit down with your developer and go over:
- Your standard GATC
- In most cases, you’ll use the same GA account (same UA number). I have seen situations where clients prefer to start a new GA account altogether (with a new UA number) especially if the historic data is a bit messy and they want to have a fresh start
- Any code customizations you have done
- If your current site has sub-domains or you have cross-domain tracking, assess how the new site will be structured and if the domain/sub-domain structure will be intact or is changing
- If you are using events or firing virtual pageviews, look for code updates necessary to maintain the same data collection method
- If your URL structure and page naming convention is changing, document impact on:
- Filters, Goals, E-commerce variables, Custom variables, Advanced segments (that your users are actively reporting on), Custom Alerts, Custom reports with filters, Dashboards with filters
- URL Redirects: redirects are very useful and commonly used on websites. However, they are real culprits if not properly set up and cause all sort of issues such as breaking sessions, dropping parameters or linking to older posts. And while you’re at it, review your URL query parameters and decide what you want to exclude in your GA/Profile Settings.
- Site Search (or Internal Search): if your internal site search has changed along with the site upgrade, then update the search query parameter in your Admin/Profile Settings
3- Post-Launch Analytics Validation – Technical
Webmasters & Developers
- Ensure your GATC is on all your pages and then run your favorite site scan software
- Ensure you are collecting data only from your production web properties. Look for development and staging environment domains. Review your hostname reports and filter out what doesn’t belong there.
- Pay extra attention to key pages
- Landing page/static pages that are not part of your site template
- Conversion pages (thank you pages, form completion pages, e-commerce purchase complete pages, etc.)
- Site Speed Report (under Content) will be your best friend after site launch. Look for Average Load Time, Page download time and other related metrics and spot any spikes and investigate root causes, with pages, server or redirection time
Don’t forget to plan your configuration changes across all your profiles and not just the main profile.
4- Post-Launch Analytics Validation – Marketing
One quick way to see the before and after is to set up a date range comparison (equal number of days, and days of week before and after launch), then monitor the following:
- Run a quick report on traffic/key metrics/conversion by browser. Also, review your mobile traffic and behavior on various devices. If you see significant variances in any of your key metrics pre/post launch, let your designer and webmaster know immediately. The new site might be experiencing browser/device compatibility issues.
- Traffic Sources
- Look for new traffic sources that didn’t exist before (new self referring sources?)
- Look for a sudden spike/drop in direct or referring traffic
- Review your Pages report, is the reported page names what you would expect to see?
- Setup a report on your 404 page and have it emailed to you/your webmaster on a daily basis
- Review your reports on any internal (on-site) campaigns
- Goals, e-commerce numbers look ok?
- In our Analytics Reporting Framework, step #6 was about “automation” and automation comes very handy here
- Set up Auto Alerts (intelligence) on all vital metrics
- Look for abnormalities in your default alerts
- Do take a minute to add an annotation when the site goes live and include a meaningful description of major changes (page names, goals, etc.). Trust me, the person who comes after your will love you for helping them making sense of all these changes (when they come back few months down the road and no one is around to tell him what happened that day)
- It’s not uncommon that site migration has an impact on ranking and organic traffic. The idea here is to be aware of the changes and communicate findings with your SEO team so they can monitor and update as needed. Look for the Organic Traffic Report and drill down when you see issues.
So there you have it. Preparing yourself before updating your website will lead to less headache in the long run. By following these suggestions, your site will not only have that fresh new look you develop, but also have the functionality for ease-of-use for visitors and the ability to track the necessary data for you.
PS. Proper planning for a site migration includes SEO considerations and PPC considerations, content and many technical aspects but that’s something I’ll leave for another time (and probably to someone else)!
Related Posts & Articles