12 Google Analytics Resolutions for 2013

 

1) Set up goals for all form submissions.

Goals aren’t retroactive, so make sure to set them up for all form submissions as early as possible in your Google Analytics implementation. Without conversions, there are no conversion rates.

 

2) Learn the ins and outs of funnels.

Once you have a goal, it’s very useful in many instances to build a funnel on top of it so Google Analytics can calculate metrics such as Abandonment Rate, but to use funnels most effectively, you should understand a few of their idiosyncrasies and limitations.

 

3) Don’t ignore Page Value.

The unassuming and underused Page Value metric (formerly $index) is indispensable in determining which pages are pulling their weight towards goal conversions and e-commerce transactions. (For this reason, make sure to assign values even to non-monetized goals, in a separate profile if you don’t want to skew actual e-commerce and goal monetization.)

 

4) Tag all inbound links with campaign parameters.

How effective is your monthly email newsletter at driving visits and conversions? How about your press releases? There’s no excuse to be in the dark on these basic questions – tag those links!

 

5) Track PDFs views and external links with Virtual Pageviews or Events.

It’s easy to forget that views of PDFs (and most other document formats) and clickthroughs to external sites are not captured with the default, pageview-based Google Analytics Tracking Code. Virtual Pageviews and Events provide an easy solution.

 

6) Avoid the built-in “Non-paid Search Traffic” Advanced Segment.

Lumping branded organic traffic and non-branded organic traffic is, for most purposes, a very bad thing. Define your own non-branded organic Advanced Segment. (And define other Advanced Segments of your own as well – better segmentation generates better insights.)

 

7) Track different social actions differently.

A Facebook Like that originates from your website can mean two very different things. Understand how social actions differ and track them appropriately.

 

8) Keep a chronology with Annotations.

When did the new home page go live? When was our company mentioned in the Wall Street Journal? You can’t make correlations between your Web data and relevant events if you don’t remember when those events happened. Maintain a comprehensive timeline with the convenient Google Analytics Annotations feature.

 

9) Incorporate qualitative evaluations into your conversion optimization plan.

An in-person or online user test can quickly reveal a conversion pitfall that could otherwise lurk in your Google Analytics reports indefinitely.

 

10) Run Content Experiments regularly.

Nothing like a head-to-head contest to tell you quite definitively what works better for conversions. If you haven’t yet run a Content Experiment or used a third-party A/B testing tool, start now.

 

11) Establish core KPIs (key performance indicators), and check them at least monthly.

As Brian Clifton says, Web analytics is like going to the gym: if you don’t do it regularly enough, you’re not going to be satisfied with the results. Consistent scrutiny of meaningful KPIs will lead to useful and actionable insights across the board.

 

12) Use Those Same KPIs for Daily or Weekly Custom Email Alerts

Don’t wait unnecessarily to find out that visits or conversions have dropped by 20%. Take advantage of Custom Intelligence Events to actively monitor your essential metrics and receive email alerts for substantial deviations.

 

Best wishes for a customer-focused, data-driven, conversion-optimizing new year!

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You Can Use Events for Goals but Not for Funnels

Goal Setupview at full size

You can create a goal based on an event, but only Destination URL goals allow a funnel.

The good news:

As a relatively recent addition, Google Analytics allows you to define a goal based on an event.

The bad news:

You can’t create a funnel for an event-based goal.

The good news:

You can replace your event with a virtual pageview so you can instead create a Destination URL goal, which does allow funnels.

For example, let’s say that you want to track a PDF catalog download as a goal and also create a funnel for the three pages leading up to the download.

If, as follows, you generated an event for the download, you could certainly create an event-based goal, but you would not be able to create a funnel, since the “Event” goal type does not have a funnel option:

_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','pdf','download','2013-catalog'])

To take advantage of the funnel option, you could generate a virtual pageview as follows and, instead of an event goal, create a “Destination URL” goal, which does allow you to define a funnel on top of the goal.

_gaq.push(['_trackPageview','pdf-download-2013-catalog'])

Note that events cannot be used for funnel steps themselves either; you can define a funnel based only on pageviews, whether actual or virtual.

Looking beyond goals, there are a couple of potential drawbacks to using a virtual pageview where you might have otherwise used an event. For one thing, each virtual pageview counts towards overall pageviews, which might somewhat skew some of your Google Analytics reports, and secondly, virtual pageviews would not in any way appear within the reporting for any other events you may be tracking, so it would compromise an integrated event view.

If, however, the benefit that you’ll enjoy from funnel reporting outweighs these relatively minor inconveniences, make sure to use virtual pageviews instead of events.

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