Play Google Analytics Jeopardy!

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Google Analytics Jeopardy! board from the Evolve with Google Analytics conference.

Today’s tip combines 30 tips in the form of a Jeopardy! board.

Among highlights of the Evolve with Google Analytics conference in Boston this month, Judah Phillips hosted a live round of Google Analytics Jeopardy!

You can read more and access the game from the original post on the E‑Nor blog.

Round two is coming up…

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Impact of Bot Filtering? Duplicate a View to Test

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Bot Filtering could have more of an effect on reporting for certain types of websites.

If you’ve looked at the View Settings panel over the last month or two, you may have noticed a new Bot Filtering option for excluding hits from bots and spiders. It was a bit surprising at first to see this option, since at least some of the commentary on this issue up to that point opined that bots and spiders cannot run JavaScript or accept cookies as a browser does and cannot therefore execute the tracking code required to register a hit in Google Analytics or other tag-based Web analytics packages.

Apparently, however, traffic inflation by bots has been reported as serious problem on certain websites, particularly those selling ad space based on pageviews: the more impressions that the advertiser and publisher report, the more they can charge the advertiser.

For other types of sites, this issue may have only minimal impact. How can you find out for your own site?

1. Copy a view.

2. In the settings for the view copy, select the Bot Filtering checkbox.

3. After a period of time, compare sessions and pageviews between the original view and the bot-filtered view.

In the test that I ran, there was a difference of only five sessions and six pageviews over the course several weeks, but you can very easily set up your own test as described above and determine if the impacts are greater for your own website.

For additional perspective on the bot issue, see this article on TechCrunch.

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Why Is “All Web Site Data” Still Your Only View?

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In the Admin screen, it’s easy to create a new view.

If you or your team have already created additional views for your Google Analytics property (or properties), congratulations. You’re already doing at least one thing the way you’re supposed to.

Why is it considered best-practice to have multiple views per property? For one thing, you should be filtering out your internal traffic and your development server activity, and there are also a range of other view settings and filter that can help you to clean, consolidate, and segment your view data.

However, you should not apply any settings or filters to your single All Web Site Data view. At a minimum, you should create a test view and a backup view.

As a note, the previous name for view was profile. In Google Analytics, the terms are synonymous. View is a more descriptive name, since the purpose of a view is to provide a particular view on your raw Website or app data.

You can create up to 50 views per standard Google Analytics account, but you do need Edit access at the property or account level.

Still have only that one view? Create test and backup views today, and try out a filter or setting in your test view. In any case, don’t be afraid to create additional views: backup and test to begin with, and whenever you need a more specialized representation of your data.

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Default View/Profile Page Added to All URLs Ending in /

A previous post discussed the default page in your view/profile settings.

This setting applies not only to your Web root, but also any other URL that ends in a forward slash (/).

The idea here is that a specified default filename, such as index.php or default.aspx, should be appended not only to the root directory but also to any other directory within your site’s hierarchy so that every URL in your Google Analytics reports ends with a filename.

This additional aspect of the default page setting may or may not be useful to you, but it’s something to be aware of if you do specify a default page.

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Reconcile URL Variations with “Exclude URL Query Parameters”

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You can exclude URL query parameters that are not relevant for analytics.

Many of the query parameters used in your URLs may not be relevant for analytics. For instance, an “orderid” parameter in your confirmation page URL may be needed from a Website programming standpoint, but it would probably be most useful to strip “orderid” out of the URL for consolidation in the Pages report and elsewhere in Google Analytics.

Does the query parameter affect page content? Will it be useful for analyzing traffic data? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you should exclude the parameter from your URLs to simplify reporting.

Also see Consolidating URL Variations: Google Search Engine vs. Google Analytics.

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Consolidating URL Variations: Google Search Engine vs. Google Analytics

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Excluding URL parameters in Google Webmaster Tools does not affect Google Analytics.

In the following URL from your website, the “category” parameter serves only to display a specific banner on the page but does not otherwise dictate page content:

http://www.myhikingsite.com
/faq.aspx?category=tents

Because this URL parameter does not determine significant differences, it makes sense to exclude it from both Google search engine indexing and Google Analytics.

In Google Webmaster Tools, you can direct the Google search engine to consolidate or ignore specific URL parameters. One of the main benefits here is to consolidate inbound link value towards a specific URL, so all link equity flows to /faq.aspx (for better Google rankings) instead of being divided among /faq.aspx?category=tents, /faq.aspx?category=boots, and /faq.aspx?category=backpacks.

In Google Analytics, excluding URL query parameters in your profile settings can make your Content reports much easier to interpret.

Before you exclude or consolidate URL parameters in Google Webmaster Tools, make sure to understand each setting so do don’t inadvertently eliminate unique page content from the Google search index. In Google Analytics, make sure to designate a completely separate raw profile before you apply any profile settings or filters.

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Filter Your Company’s IP Address Range from Your Profiles

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The Google Analytics IP range tool can help you set up an IP address filter for your profiles.

As a best practice, your Google Analytics profiles should not display activity on your company’s website that originated from within your company. To exclude this traffic, you can apply a profile filter based on IP address.

Since many organizations access the Internet through an allocated IP address range, Google Analytics has provided an IP address range tool that you can use to express an IP range as a single regular expression. You can ask your IT folks for the lower and upper bounds of your IP range, plug them into the tool, and then use the resulting regex as the Filter Pattern in your Exclude > IP Address profile filter.

Two types of profiles that you should not apply this filter to are those that you are using for your development websites, since you’ll probably want to track internal activity there for testing purposes, and also your raw profile, which you should always maintain without any filters.

Filtering activity from a single computer (in your home, for example) may actually be a little trickier, since many “standalone” computers dynamically acquire different IP addresses each time they access the Internet. If you can determine that your IP address is static, you can also set up a profile filter based on your single, static IP address.

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To Filter for Australia and New Zealand, Use a Single Regex with the Pipe Symbol

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For multiple dimension values, use a single profile filter with the regex pipe symbol.

Let’s say that you manage a website that sells ski equipment and that you want to create a Google Analytics profile specifically for Australia and New Zealand. It might seem logical to apply two include filters: one for Australia and one for New Zealand. The problem is that the first include filter would irrevocably exclude all traffic that didn’t match the dimension value specified, so applying additional include filters for different values of that same dimension would be pointless.

Regular Expressions to the rescue!

To achieve our objective, we need only to apply a single profile filter that specifies both dimension values separated by the regex pipe symbol (|), which, very simply, means “or”.

In this way, we include both Australia and New Zealand with a single filter. You can use the pipe symbol for the same purpose in advanced segments and advanced table filters.

And if you’d like to create a more comprehensive filter for Southern Hemisphere ski spots, you can use the pipe symbol with multiple values:

Australia|New Zealand|Argentina|Chile|Brazil|South Africa

(As a note, skiing is actually available in all of these countries.)

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Set the Default Page in Your Profiles

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The Default Page setting can help to consolidate pageviews of your home page in Google Analytics.

When a visitor requests a URL that does not contain a filename and does not match a URL in your content management system, most Web servers look for a default filename in the root directory of the website or the corresponding subdirectory.

For instance, if you enter the following URL into your Web browser:

   http://www.gatipoftheday.com

the Web server actually delivers:

   http://www.gatipoftheday.com/index.php

Whether you access the page directly as www.gatipoftheday.com or maybe click an internal link to www.gatipoftheday.com/index.php, you’re seeing the same page.

Depending on the type of Web server and its configuration, the default page could also be designated as default.aspx, index.jsp, default.cfm, index.htm, and so forth.

What’s important to remember is that Google Analytics does not automatically consolidate the two different forms of the URL. In the Content reports, by default:

   /

would appear separately from:

   /index.php

The same would apply for subdirectories, such that:

   /mysubdirectory

would appear separately from:

   /mysubdirectory/index.php

It’s generally more useful to merge these two forms of the URL into a single Page value in Google Analytics, so that, for example, all requests for / and /subdirectory/ would appear consolidated with the actual requests for /index.php and /subdirectory/index.php respectively. To accomplish this, you only need to specify the Default page in each profile’s settings.

As a related note, the Default Page setting does not in any way canonicalize URL variations to avoid page duplication issues for search engine optimization; it consolidates URLs only within Google Analytics and not in search engines.

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Create Additional Profiles: Raw, Test, and Any Others You Need

Although Google Analytics generates only a single profile for each property (that is, website or app) that you add to your account, you can create up to 49 additional profiles yourself.

You should, at a minimum, create the following additional profiles:

  • raw/unfiltered – Maintain one profile with the default settings and no filters. Remember: data filtered from profiles is irretrievable, and you’ll want to be able to refer to a completely unfiltered data set if the need ever arises.
  • test – Are you unsure about the configuration of a new Custom Filter? Are you using a complex regular expression as the Destination URL in one of your Goals? Use a test profile for a quick dry-run before transferring over to the default profile.

Other specialized profiles that might be useful:

  • referring partners or affiliates – Apply a Referral or Campaign Source filter to the profile. You could then provide your partners with read-only access to this profile while withholding data for traffic that originates from other sources.
  • geography – Apply a Country, City, or Language filter.
  • development vs. production environments – If you have the same Google Analytics Tracking Code running in your development environment as your production environment, apply a filter for your development hostname (such as dev.mysite.com) so you can track and test exclusively on the development server.

There are many other profiles that you might want to create. With 50 available per account, there’s no need to hold back.

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