8 Tasty Takeaways from the Google Day @ Clicks2Customers

The head honchos of Google South Africa hosted a Google Day at the Clicks2Customers offices on 27 March 2013. The purpose of the event was to put names-to-faces, talk tech and share ideas between the three organisms of the SEM ecosystem:

  • Online businesses (advertisers)
  • Clicks2Customers (digital agency)
  • The local Google team (global advertising network)

I’ve attended various Google Engage events, where literally hundreds of geeks and online marketers gather for two days learning about Google’s new product offerings. I’ve enjoyed these mass-appeal events, but last week’s intimate half-day session at Clicks2Customers’ new offices in Cape Town CBD (below) delivered plenty of actionable insights.

View from Clicks2Customers' new office in Cape Town

View from Clicks2Customers’ new office in the Cape Town CBD

Here’s what I took away from the session:

#1 Universal analytics is coming

Google’s Universal Analytics is essentially an “upgrade” to Google’s popular free analytics tool, which will allow website owners to track users’ actions on their website across multiple devices.

In the past, if a person first visits a website on their phone, then visits on their work computer, and then visits on their home computer – those three sessions would be considered three different visitors to the website.

With Google’s Universal Analytics, if that same person accesses a website using different devices — provided Google is able to associate the user to a unique Google account — the user’s multiple sessions will be grouped together and treated as one universal engagement with the website.

Google’s Universal Analytics utilises a user-centric approach to aggregate all interactions, both online and offline

Google’s Universal Analytics utilises a user-centric approach to aggregate all interactions,
both online and offline

A user can be identified to Google’s Universal Analytics by using the Chrome browser, using an Android phone, or by using any of Google’s services while logged in (Gmail, YouTube, Google+, Picasa and dozens more).

The biggest impact of universal analytics’ user-centric approach — from an SEM perspective — is:

  1. The ability to attribute your traffic to the originating source/s better.
  2. The ability to get a better understanding of your visitors’ browsing habits across multiple devices.

#2 Google+ is now at 500m active users

Self-proclaimed cheese-master Brett StClair from Google ZA’s head office blew me away with the latest stats about the size of Google’s social network, Google+.

Not even 24-months old and they’re at a staggering half a billion “30-day active” users worldwide.

This is how Google+ stacks up against the other big social networks, in number of active monthly users:

Facebook: ±1 billion
Google+: ±500 million
Twitter: ±300 million

According to StClair, the beauty of the G+ network is that once you’re signed up, you don’t necessary need to go to you “G+ wall” to benefit from your Googlified social network.

Google will intelligently inject or overlay useful content from your social network into the other Google properties that you’ve been using and loving for years already. It may be a personalised search result, a YouTube video your friends watched and enjoyed, or a social share on your news site.

Bottom line: Google’s long-game, is fast becoming their NOW-game. It’s high time that online brands claim their stake in the Google+ landscape. Like all previous major Google rollouts — Search, Adwords, Local, Video — early adopters will score.

#3 Bidding on your own brand is still controversial

Without a doubt, the greatest debate of the afternoon was sparked by Google’s Declan Hollywood. During his presentation about Google AdWords strategies, Hollywood stated that it is still important to bid on your own brand terms as part of your paid search strategy.

One particular member in the audience, representing a well-established South Africa online retail brand, opposed this view vehemently, citing internal research, which demonstrates that by bidding on your own terms, you are paying unnecessarily for traffic you would have received anyway without a cost, via the first organic result in the SERP.

Some agreed. Some disagreed.

However, by end of the day, when the dust was far from settled, these fair points were raised:

  • If you don’t bid, one of your competitors could try poach your traffic (especially if you’re not able to trademark protect your brand)
  • Bidding on your own brand should be relatively cheap
  • Bidding on your brand, could push one of your competitors off the first pages
  • Bidding on your brand, allows you to present seasonal messaging, campaigns and specials to searchers
  • Bidding on your own brand, with sitelinks, allows you to show a greater number of deep links to your site
  • You can potentially monopolise the entire space above the fold

This screenshot of a search for the brand “Yuppiechef” illustrates how a brand can monopolise all real estate above the fold in the SERPs:

Yuppiechef has monopolised 90% of the area above the fold using Google AdWords, Google Search, Google+ Business listings and regular posts to their Google+ Page

Yuppiechef has monopolised 90% of the area above the fold using Google AdWords, Google Search, Google+ Business listings and regular posts to their Google+ Page


#4 Where will online brands spend their money in 2013?

Tom Van den Berckt, head of strategy at Clicks2Customers, shared some of the digital agency’s insights and predictions for the year ahead.

Two slides I found most interesting illustrated likely shifts in digital investment for 2013.

Digital marketing technologies that UK companies will increase investment in this year

Slide 1: Digital marketing technologies that UK companies will increase investment in this year

Digital marketing channels that UK companies will invest in this year

Slide 2: Digital marketing channels that UK companies will invest in this year

Source: Econsultancy/Responsys Marketing Budgets 2013 Report – which researched how UK brands will allocate their online and offline marketing budgets in 2013.

This data was reassuring. It matches almost exactly where we — an online travel retailer — are directing our marketing budget for 2013.

#5 E-commerce is becoming commerce

“E-commerce is going to be a thing of the past. In the future it’s just going to be commerce.”

This was one of Luke McKend’s strongest messages of the afternoon. In the past, buying from a bricks-and-mortar shop and buying online were distinctly different activities. He asserts that in the future, almost all commerce is going to have an online component.

Consider this scenario:

  • You search “dishwasher” in Google
  • You click on an advert or listing that takes you to the Makro / Walmart website
  • You read, research, and narrow your choice down to two models you like
  • To make your final decision, you go into Makro / Walmart to chat to a sales assistant and kick the tyres of your wife’s new best friend
  • Of your two choices, you decide on the slightly more expensive, but more eco-friendly model
  • You pay, and they deliver the next day

The question to us marketers: how do we join the dots between online research and offline sales?

The answer: Google’s Universal Analytics.

Provided Makro is able to associate your purchase with your Google account (e.g. via your unique gmail address), Google’s Universal Analytics will be able to attribute the in-store sale back to the tiny text advert you clicked, after your very first Google search a few weeks earlier.

But wait, there’s more…

Lloyd Thomas, head of client services at Clicks2Customers, shared a video later in the afternoon that demonstrates how it’s possible to track and record real-world (i.e. “analog”) actions as “page views” in Google Analytics.

(Skip to 0:47 if you’re the impatient type…)

Click to watch video

Anyone else feel the cold shivers?

So what’s next?

IMHO, once NFC technology is a standard smart phone feature, identifying a user is going to be relatively easy.

If you — or more importantly your phone — enter a NFC-monitored area (strategically placed near a physical product / store / area), any number of actions can be triggered. These actions could trigger in-store immediately or at a later stage online.

Two scenarios:

In-store:

You walk into a sports store. The NFC sensor you’ve just walked past identifies you, looks up your recent online browsing habits relating to sports (general interests or product specific). Bingo! The system picks up that you’re a keen runner and have been searching and researching Adidas’ latest range of trail running shoes.

The system passes this info to an in-store sales assistant, who now has an insight to your desired purchase, before you’ve even made it to the shoes section.

Or perhaps…

Online (after in-store “browsing”):

You pop into your local sports store. While in the store, a NFC sensor identifies you and tracks that you’ve spent more than 10 minutes trying on various trail running shoes.

That evening, you go online and start researching “trail running shoes”. If the store you went into, are advertisers on Google’s network, they could be alerted of your online activity and their adverts could be triggered and tailor made for you, based on the models / prices you saw in-store earlier that day.

Yessiree… Things are going to get interesting for marketers in the next couple of years.

#6 How to set up social extensions for your Google PPC Ads

Social extensions within AdWords is Google’s way of including your Google+ follower count to your PPC ads. Here’s an example:

Example of Google AdWords Social Extension

Example of Google AdWords Social Extension

Why bother setting this up?

On average, PPC ads with annotations see a 5-10% uplift in click-through rate. The AdWords Social Extension helps you show more of them (other annotations include map, site-links, phone number, product and customer ratings).

In order to get social extensions working, you need to do the following:

  1. Set up social extensions in your AdWords account
  2. Set up a Google+ page for your business
  3. Link to your website from your Google+ page (this is step 1 in verifying your page is associated with your website)
  4. Add the Google+ badge to your website (this completes the verification – i.e. your site is indeed linked to your AdWords account)

Bonus tip: if you post something to your Google+ page every 24 hours, your business details will appear on the RHS of the SERP (see #3 above).

#7 Find YouTube trends

For years I’ve wondered where all my “cool friends” hear about the latest viral YouTube clips before I do. Now I know:

http://www.youtube.com/trendsdashboard

This nifty tool by Google helps you uncover trending videos. The best feature of this tool is the ability to filter by country, age and gender. You can also compare results across three different demographics, side by side:

YouTube Trends tool allows you to compare and discover trending videos by demographics – country, age, gender

YouTube Trends tool allows you to compare and discover trending videos by demographics – country, age, gender


#8 Find out how Google categorises you, the advertiser’s target market

Most of us probably know that Google uses cookies to store certain information about us. They store info, which they can use to customise adverts to our age, gender and interests.

But do you know that you can actually view and edit these interests? In other words, remove the guessing and tell Google exactly what you would, and would not like to see in your adverts.

To view or edit your Google Ads Preferences visit:

http://www.google.com/ads/preferences/

This page will list all the information Google knows about you, based on browsing / search patterns on the particular browser and computer you’re currently using.

Remember, your Ads Preferences are linked to the cookie on the machine you’re using (not your Google account), so the preferences only apply to a particular browser on a particular machine. The preferences are reset if you delete or clear your browser’s cookies.

If you want to remove or add new preferences, you can do this on the Ads Preferences page. There is also an option to opt out.

It can be quite revealing / funny / shocking to see what Google knows about you. Here’s what Google knows about me… on this machine at least :)

Find out how Google view you, using the Google Ads Preferences Tool

Find out how Google view you, using the Google Ads Preferences Tool

With Google’s recent shift to a single, product-wide set of T&Cs, its single login approach, and the recent release of Google Universal Analytics, there hasn’t been any official announcements about whether Ads Preferences will continue to be linked to cookies on a browser/computer basis, or whether these preferences will be linked to our Google accounts in the future.

It seems inevitable that the shift will happen, so keep an eye on this space.

It will influence advertisers and consumers in a big way.

In summary

The Google ecosystem is constantly evolving.

As marketers and business owners, it’s vital to read, research and talk to people that are operating at the coalface of this evolution. Events like the Google Day @ Clicks2Customers is a great place to do just that – whilst picking up a few useful tips along the way.

Digital Strategy: Keep The Wheel Turning

What is Digital Strategy?

If you go to Wikipedia the answer you will get is this:

“Digital strategy is the process of specifying an organization’s vision, goals, opportunities and initiatives in order to maximize the business benefits, digital investments and efforts provide to the organization.”

While this definition may seem very abstract it contains a few key points which allows us to greatly simplify it into something much more digestible:

At the core of this definition is the fundamental assumption that every organisation and digital investment has a goal. Moreover, that the goal of a digital investment is inextricably linked to the goals of the organisation.

THE PROCESS

Despite focusing on the digital assets of an organisation, at the end of the day digital strategy is still just a strategy. As such the process thereof can be broken up into four steps of strategy development:

One mustn’t however forget the fundamental building block of measurement, which is critical for each step of the way. This is especially relevant due to the measurable nature of the digital world, which is also one of its key strengths.

You might think this a very broad theoretical outline, which is hard to keep focused of in day to day activities. That may be true, especially since each phase will have its own sub processes which more often than not, incorporates elements from other phases. That said, I still think it is very important to have an ongoing and structured strategic outlook which incorporates these different phases, and most importantly the relation between them.

This means for instance, making sure that in the planning phase, a framework is properly outlined, to be effectively developed in the implementation phase, so that when the organisation has to react (possibly months or even years from now), it has a solid framework which allows it to be agile. A classic example would be how Amazon was able to completely change their ‘store front’ only hours after Steve Job passed away to accommodate the expected surge in interest in Steve and Apple in general.

At the end of the day my point is: Agility is arguably one of the most common elements which distinguish industry leaders. Moreover, it is only with a holistic and ongoing view of the strategic process that this agility can be achieved, especially in the digital space where things are moving so quickly.

If You Build It They Will Come. But Will They Stay?

An important part of a solid digital strategy is effective budget planning. Of that budget the main ongoing talking point is generally traffic generation, or in other words “how much and where should we invest in order to get people into our website”. In fact many digital strategies are completely based around budget allocation for traffic channels. These strategies resemble a process as follows:

The goal of this post is to focus on one of the most overlooked and beneficial areas to invest in: Conversion Optimisation. More specifically, the cost benefit of budgeting for and executing Conversion Optimisation projects.

You may ask what Conversion Optimisation is. The broad answer would be “anything which could increases conversion rates”. For the purpose of this post let’s just focus on site changes, where examples would include testing different landing page layouts, testing different call to action copy or even just testing the colour of a button.

Now before we continue, I would like to highlight the underlying principle for this post: Successful Optimisation projects have ongoing benefits. While increasing conversions purely through increasing traffic is an ongoing cost increase and with little effect on ROI. In other words: successful optimisation project = once off cost = extended benefit.

Let’s use a practical example to really show the principle:

- You have a website.

- It sells widgets at R100 each.

- For every 1000 visits to your site you sell 20 widgets. In other words your conversion rate is 2%.

- You get an average of 40000 visits to your site every month.

- You’re paid traffic brings in 30000 of your monthly visits and costs R60 000. That’s R2 for every visit.

So assuming you don’t invest in conversion optimisation and all other things held constant your forecast over the next four quarters will look something like this:

Now let’s say you take 10% of your traffic budget in the first 2 Quarters and invest in conversion optimisation testing. The first quarter you start with a landing page test and increase your conversion rate to 2.1% the second quarter you hit it ‘big’ and increase it again to 2.30% with more effective copy. Then in the final quarters you put all your budget back into just traffic generation. Your forecast will look like this:

Through no budget increases you have managed to increase your ROI and yearly revenue by R80 400.

This is of course a huge simplification, but the principle I am trying to drive home is not that conversion optimisation will always produce rewards (the first quarter actually had less ROI and revenue) or in what ratios you should allocate budget. Rather what I want to drive home it that optimisation efforts do cost money and require an ongoing commitment of testing and implementing to really reap the extended benefits.

So if need be, start small, but make sure to start at all. The chances are the more you practice and test the better your organization will become at running and implementing successful tests, which means even lower marginal costs for optimisation and more potential wins.

Simple Analysis Starting Points Using Google Analytics

Site Search

If you have a search facility on your website, you should setup “Site Search”.  Site search will allow you to view the search terms that visitors are entering into your search facility.

Some Site Search outcomes you may wish to check:

  1. Are there any relatively high-volume search phrases that bounce? I.e. Visitors use your search facility, enter a particular search phrase and thereafter immediately leave your website, perhaps due to irrelevant results?

(This metric is called % Exit) These high volume search terms will require better search results, to improve the user experience and retain the visitor.

  1. You may want to promote high volume search terms, especially in the case where these search terms result in revenue – which Google Analytics also measures.
  2. Do visits to your website that include the search functionality have a higher conversion rate? If so, this could mean that your search facility is working well and you may want to lead more visitors down this path.
  3. What Percentage of visitors utilise the search facility on your website? There is no clear “right” or “wrong” here, but if you are making changes to your navigation or website structure, this is certainly a metric you would like to check, especially in the case where visits that include site search, yield a better conversion rate.

Revenue & Transactions

  1. Which marketing channels do most of your high value transactions come from? Transactions with a high sales value might originate from a particular campaign. By promoting these campaigns further you will increase the likelihood of receiving more high value transactions. You will also be able to segment the products that provide the biggest net profit and thereafter, look to see which campaigns contributed to these product sales.
  2. Other obvious metrics include Revenue and Conversion Rate per Marketing Channel (Paid Search, Organic Traffic, Direct Traffic, Referral Traffic and Email Marketing)

Where do visitors exit your site?

  1. “% Exit” is the metric that you need to observe to find this information. “% Exit” will indicate the percentage of site exits that occurred from a particular page, or set of pages. If there is a high % exit on your Store Locator page, this is understandable, as the visitors may have “found” what they are looking for – your physical location. If there are pages that have an “odd” high % Exit, these pages may need to be optimised. Of course, visitors have to end their session sometime and eventually leave your website, so interpreting this metric in context is very important.

Top Landing Page Bounce Rate

  1. Your Top Landing pages (the first page a visitor sees) and Bounce Rate (Single page visits) are a great combination. Usually only a few pages make up the bulk (> 50%) of top landing pages. Monitoring their bounce rate is important. Also, these pages could be considered ‘low hanging fruit’, as improving their efficiency would have a positive effect on the bulk of visitors.

Segmenting your dataSegment your data

Segmenting your data is very important and helps you understand how different “types” of visitors interact with your website. Here are some Segments you may wish to create in Google Analytics:

International Visitors

This will show you how visits from international countries interact with your website. Perhaps there are some good organic keywords with high conversion rates and sales. You can then start a Paid Search campaign targeting these keywords and location to maximise revenue.

Social Media and Email Marketing

Segment all your Marketing Channels. In order to segment Social Media and Email marketing campaigns, you will need to ensure that these channels are properly tagged. This post will help you do this. With proper tagging of these marketing channels, you can view how visits from these channels perform. (Perhaps average page views is a lot less for these marketing channels, prompting you to create more specific landing pages for these channels) Also, with Email marketing correctly tagged, you will be able to see, with Multi-Channel Funnels how Email Marketing ‘fits’ into your Conversion paths.

Brand and Non-Brand Keywords

Segmenting your Non-Brand keywords is always a good idea, it will depict your conversion rate for the more competitive and generic search phrases. Also, you can understand what sort of keyword diversity constitutes to the Non-Brand keyword mix.

Other segments you may want to experiment with include:

Visits that started checkout process;

Store Locator Visits – What Percent of Traffic is looking for your offline stores?;

New vs. Returning Visitors – How do they interact differently; how do conversion rates differ?

With the “new” version of Google Analytics, your custom reports can include Filters, where you can segment your data. In other words, you can extract only the metrics you want, based on specific marketing channels or types of visitors!

No Tagging, No ROI (Free Bulk Link Tagger Included)

Possibly the most important performance metrics we all know is ROI, return on investment. Every online marketer will probably agree on this, understanding what your marketing spend is earning you is critical to effectively managing marketing campaigns and budgets.

What is often overlooked however is making sure campaigns are being properly tagged and tracked. Without proper campaign tracking, it becomes very difficult, and sometimes impossible to effectively measure ROI (even on a high level).

A classic example would be email campaigns: Did you know that if links are not properly tagged in your email communications all clicks from email clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird (the most common method of viewing mails) will be attributed to Direct traffic, while webmail clicks will be attributed to referral? The implications of this are huge especially if you are investing a lot of time and money into your email channel.

Fortunately to get around this Google has made it extremely simple to tag your campaign links. How it works is that you simply have to append your links with three (minimum) tags called utm tags. In fact Google even provides a tool call URL Builder to create these links.

Here is an example of a tagged link with the tag parameters in different colours:

http://www.exampledomain.com/sub/directory?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=special_offer&utm_term=sale&utm_content=footer_banner

UTM Tags, What They Mean:

Utm_source (required)

This tag tells Google Analytics the site/source which directed the traffic to your site. For example this can be “april_newsletter_list22”, “twitter”, “our_blog”, “myspace” etc. In fact you can call it whatever, but the key is that you use the same name for the same source and also that the name is relevant to the source. Best practice though is to just name the unique site where the link is placed. If you have the same email going to multiple lists remember to indicate this on your source.

Utm_medium (required)

This tag defines what type of channel sent the traffic. You can potentially name this medium whatever you want (banner, postcard, listing) but there are some naming conventions which are recommended to be used for certain channels. Yet again consistency is key:

Email:                                email

Social media sites:          social

Pay per click search:       cpc

News/RSS feeds:             feed

Website banners:            banner

Offline ads:                       offline

Utm_campaign (required)

This is to name the campaign the link is in aid of. Yet again you can name this tag whatever you want, but be sure to be consistent in your naming conventions and which links you tag.

Utm_term (optional)

This tag is optional and is generally used for paid search campaigns to track the keyword which generated a click. It can be used for a manner of other uses like a blog author name or a page category on a site.

Utm_content (optional)

This optional tag is generally used to distinguish between different variations of an ad or link. For example you could have two ad banners running on a website, one with an image of a cat and another with the dog. Using the utm_content tag you can see which ad variation works best for you.

UTM Tags The Bigger Picture

As an example, let’s look at a Christmas Promotional campaign targeting bicycle sales. The campaign utilises 3 channels over 5 different sites and mailers to increase sales. The diagram below shows how the structure of this campaign’s tags fit together. For all links the campaign tag will be the same, the medium tag however will be one of the three channels used. The only unique tag will be the source which indicates where the link is located. With a structure like this you can easily view the return of your campaign, as well as drill down to see which channels and sites/mailers gave you the most return within the campaign.

utm_big-Picture

REMEMBER all campaign tags are CasE SensiTive eg: tag ≠TAG

Automatic UTM Tagging

Unfortunately tagging often has to be done manually, there are two big exceptions though: Google Adwords and Email. Since Adwords can be integrated with Google Analytics it’s no surprise that Adwords has the function for Auto Tagging to track your campaigns. A little less known fact is that most Email Service Providers offer the functionality to also auto tag all links in your emails. That said you should always check the tools you are currently using if they do offer auto tagging. Also make sure the automatic tagging is working in the most optimal format for you.

Our Gift To You: Bulk UTM Tagging Tool

*This workbook has been extensively tested but the responsibility to make sure the built links work rests on the user. If you do however find any fault with the workbook, please let us know.

*This workbook has been extensively tested but the responsibility to make sure the built links work rests on the user. If you do however find any fault with the workbook, please let us know.

Google’s URL builder is definitely useful, but only doing one tag at a time can be a bit of a drag. So to help you tag and manage your campaigns more efficiently we have created a special Bulk URL Tagging Excel sheet for free download. All you have to do is paste in the required parameters into the sheet and your tagged link will be generated. You will find two sheets in the workbook, for simplicity the first sheet only covers the 3 required tags, but if you want to include the optional utm_term and utm_content tags you can find these options on the second sheet.

*This workbook has been extensively tested but the responsibility to make sure the built links work rests on the user. If you do however find any fault with the workbook, please let us know.

SMART Tip: UTM Tags and Link Shorteners

With all these tags, you find that your links are getting a bit too long for your liking. This is particularly relevant for social media sharing especially with services like Twitter. Good news though, if you do use a link shortener your tags will be still be preserved when the visitor is directed to your site.

That’s all for this post, stay tuned for the next post where we look at some more advanced methods for tracking offline campaigns and overriding conversion attribution settings.

Web Analysis: The Forest For The Trees

Data represents peoples actions. *Image sourced from The Matrix.

Data represents peoples actions. *Image sourced from The Matrix.

All too often web analysis is confused with online analytics tools and data they measure. For example, it will surprise many that Google Analytics is not in fact Web Analysis! Nor are website hits and time on site the bedrock of Web Analysis.

How has this happened? Well, one just has to look at the dashboard reports of any online analytics tool to get an idea. There you’ll find loads of data and ‘interesting’ indicators and graphs all available at the click of a button. In fact there is so much data available presented in such an appealing way that it must mean something and must be important. And not knowing what it means or why it’s important, makes it easy to put the data and the tools in the same box as analysis itself.

The fact of the matter though, is that the whole of “web analysis” is not that new, just the “web” part is. As an example let’s take an ecommerce site. The purpose or goal of this site is fundamentally to sell goods, and increase revenue. In fact its goal is essentially the same as an offline store.

Now let’s look a little closer at the task of product positioning in an offline store, in particular the task of arranging goods on a shelf. Over the years, much time and effort has been invested into optimising this seemingly simple task. Now imagine if instead of running expensive real world tests marketers could measure exactly what goods consumers are looking at, picking up and not/purchasing as they are shopping (and re-arrange the shelves in real time!).

Now let’s look at an online store.  The end goal is exactly the same (sell goods). The shelf is now a screen. And guess what, all those key points of interaction can be recorded: where the consumer is looking at (heatmaps), what they’re picking up (clicks) and finally what they purchase (ecommerce tracking). Just like the offline store data still has to be tracked interpreted, which is often more tricky than it seems. But the point is at the end of day it’s not the “analysis” part which is new, just the “web” part and the data sets and methods of data collection it brings with it. This is a great simplification of course, but the principle is there. A web presence exists to accomplish goals and web analysis is a just a methodology for optimising online activities to achieve those goals.

So next time you look at web metrics do try remember, ultimately the data is just a (rough) etching of what real people did when their worlds interacted with yours, just like before the internet. And the task at hand has remained the same (albeit new data is now more readily available): to make sense of the data available to improve your world and subsequently your visitors’ worlds as well.

My e-commerce data is under reporting

In this post, I would like to highlight three fairly common implementation errors that may cause your e-commerce data to be inaccurate or incomplete.

E-commerce Tracking correct?

1. Errors passing e-commerce values into your tracking script.

When passing product names and sales values into the e-commerce script, always ensure you closely follow the strict technical requirements. Some examples: You should never include any currency symbols in the data you pass into the script and always “escape” special characters that will break the JavaScript code. For example: If your product names contain an apostrophe, ensure that they are “escaped” so that the apostrophe within the product name does not “break” the script and avoid the transaction from being successfully captured.

2. You are using different versions of Google Analytics code.

Although this is not a common error, I have experienced this. Most webmasters have migrated to the asynchronous version of Google Analytics code which was released in December 2009. You will also need to update your e-commerce tracking to the asynchronous tracking. Herewith some more information on the e-commerce asynchronous tracking: http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/tracking/gaTrackingEcommerce.html

3. You are using a different domain name or sub-domain to record the transactions.

Although you may be successfully tracking sales, if you do not correctly implement cross domain tracking, you will lose the original traffic source that provided the sale. Ensuring end to end tracking is critical for measuring and optimising marketing campaigns. Herewith some more information on Google Analytics multiple domain tracking: http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/tracking/gaTrackingSite.html

There may also be other reasons for not successfully recording all transactions. It is always good to check what percent of transactions is being tracked in Google Analytics against your actual number of transactions.

If there is a significant difference between the recorded conversions in Google Analytics and your actual number of conversions, we highly recommend doing some end to end testing to ensure your Google Analytics implementation is correctly setup. For some simple debugging, we recommend the Google Chrome extension, debug.js which can be found here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/jnkmfdileelhofjcijamephohjechhna

Google Analytics Update to Sessions – The Impact on Metrics

There has been a recent change in the way Google Analytics calculates sessions:http://analytics.blogspot.com/2011/08/update-to-sessions-in-google-analytics.html .

Some of our clients who monitor their sites with GA have seen large changes to their metrics, and inevitably questions  regarding the perceived change in the performance of our marketing campaigns, land on our desks.

The size of the effect depends on the typical user behaviour on the site, and the type of campaign strategy. We see the greatest change in sites where there is short interaction time and low page-depth interaction. The effects are also greater where the campaign is deep-linked to the site. This arises because the person searching is sent immediately to the most relevant page so his interaction in terms of navigation and time is lower.

We have observed some secondary effects of the change which affect the actual value of parameters, not just the average value per visit, etc. As an example, consider the time-on-site  metric for sites where a significant number of interactions are one page deep

A typical scenario could be the following: a person  comes to page A on the site after searching for the term “Dog”; he then goes back to the search engine and searches for the term “Cat” and lands on page B sixty  seconds later and then leaves the site.  Previously this would be considered one session (as the browser was not closed) and time-on-page A would be sixty seconds (page B would be zero seconds). With the new method of counting sessions, a new session starts as the person comes back on the search term “Cat” and you end up with two  visits,both with zero time-on-site. When you add all the time-on-site metrics and divide by visit numbers, not only do you get a smaller number (because of the larger number of sessions), but the actual total will be smaller as well. To illustrate, in one site we observed a 25% increase in session count, but a 50% drop in time-per-session.  A similar effect can be seen if you use goal values to monitor some events. Only one goal is recorded per session, so if you have goals which can be achieved more than once in a session you might find that the actual number of reported goal completions has increased – as you now have more sessions.

Drill down to search query level in Google Analytics

In our second Google Analytics post focusing on paid search, we illustrate the use of very useful reporting tools in Google Analytics for gaining some quick and actionable insights into into your paid search campaigns.  A useful three-tier strategy is to

  1. Focus on the major performance shifts at a campaign-level
  2. Identify the keywords in the campaigns that are driving those shifts in performance
  3. Zero in on the actual search queries  to look for opportunities

Lets consider the above strategy at the hand of an example from a multi-product retail site.

Step 1 – Identify major shifts in Campaign-level performance

Below we show quarter-on-quarter shifts in campaign revenue for all paid search campaigns for the first 2 quarters of 2010, from the Campaigns Report under Traffic Sources.   We include filters to focus on the higher traffic non-brand campaigns.  Predominantly there has been strong growth in revenue across most campaigns.  We can now drill down to a keyword-level to understand which keywords are driving the strong growth in some of the categories.

Step 1: Identify major shifts in campaign performance

Step 1: Identify major shifts in campaign performance

Read more