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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Understanding Facebook Link Shim Referrals

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The Referrals report displays multiple values for Facebook.

If you filter your Referrals report for facebook, the “l” (that’s l as in lemon) referrals were directed through Link Shim, which Facebook uses to protect clickers who may be unknowingly accessing malicious sites. If your site is legitimate, Link Shim is no problem, but the referrer will still appear as the l version.

This apparently represents an improvement for analytics, because the current Link Shim versions previously registered in Google Analytics without accurate source attribution, so you could not even tell that the visits originated from Facebook.

To sum up the four combinations of desktop/smartphone and Link Shim:

  • – desktop or tablet, link not directed through Link Shim
  • – desktop or tablet, link directed through Link Shim
  • – smartphone, link not directed through Link Shim
  • – smartphone, link directed through Link Shim

For more information on Link Shim referrals in Google Analytics, check out this great post by Jules White.

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Chart Visits from Specific Traffic Sources Using the Plot Rows Feature

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Two dimension values are charted using Plot Rows.

By default, the main “over-time” graphic in Google Analytics reports displays an aggregate metric for all dimension values, but you can also use the Plot Rows feature to chart up to six specific dimension values.

Plot Rows is simple and easy to overlook, but it can be a quick and powerful way to break down aggregate trends into more specific insights.

Also keep in mind that you can select metrics other than the default to display in the chart. For instance, in the All Traffic report, we can display Ecommerce Revenue instead of the default Sessions metric.

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Multi-Channel Funnel Reports Show Conversion Attribution Chain

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The Top Conversion Paths report displays conversion attribution history.

In a recent post, we saw that the Goals reports in Google Analytics attribute conversions entirely to the last click or to the last direct visit that didn’t follow a more specific source.

The Multi-Channel Funnel reports, however, do preserve the entire attribution history leading up to conversions. Also, they do not overwrite (direct)/(none) as (source)/(medium) for a visit if a more specific source (such a referral, an organic visit, or a campaign) generated a previous visit. In this way, the Multi-Channel Funnel reports can more accurately reflect the chain of sources that drove conversions.

As with any sort of visit-to-visit tracking, the Multi-Channel Funnel reports depend on browser cookies. If the visitor deletes cookies, attribution history is lost, and Google Analytics starts a new attribution record on that visitor’s next visit.

By default, the channels defined in the Multi-Channel Funnels report may be too general. In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss how to create custom channels for more actionable insights.

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Goal Overview Report Displays Most Recent Source/Medium

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The Goal Overview report displays the source/medium for the converting visits, which may or may not be the same as for the original visits.

A previous post illustrated the principle of last-click attribution: in most reports, including Goal Overview, applies the source/medium of the most recent visit. (The exception is (direct)/(none), which does not overwrite a more specific source/medium from a previous visit.)

This means that Google Analytics would ascribe all credit for a conversion to Google organic if that was the source/medium of the converting visit, even if two visits by that same visitor prior to conversion were driven by Google AdWords and an email campaign.

In an upcoming post, we’ll review the Multi-Channel Funnel reports for a more complete picture of the sources that are generating conversions on your site.

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Drill Down into a Referrer for Exact Referral Path that Drove Traffic

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Referral paths are the specific pages on referrer sites that drove traffic.

Several utilities, such as Bing Webmaster Tools, list the backlinks to your website but cannot provide any data on the actual number of visits that those backlinks have driven.

If you drill down into any referrer listed in the Referral Traffic report, you can see how many clickthroughs originated from specific pages on other websites.

Although it would not be possible to know the clickthrough rate for each link, since you do not have access to pageview data for other websites, it is still useful to evaluate how other sites are linking to you. The type of site, and the context in which the link appears, could provide input for your marketing campaigns and even new ideas on positioning your products and services within your own site.

At a minimum, it’s very interesting and gratifying to review inbound links from other sites, and we can’t deny the importance of interest and gratification as motivations in our roles as Web developers, marketers, analysts.

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You Don’t Need to “Set Up” Campaigns – Just Tag Your Inbound Links

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Campaigns are defined only by tags on inbound links and not through any campaign “setup” per se.

You may hear references to “setting up” a campaign in Google Analytics, but no campaign setup per se is required, since a campaign is defined only by the campaign parameters, or “tags”, that you append to your inbound URLs.

In some instances, such as the AdWords Autotagging option and the automatic tagging that certain emailing platforms provide, you do not have to tag your links manually. In all cases, however, it is only the campaign tags, and not any setup within Google Analytics itself, that define the campaigns.

This means that you could configure campaign links that point to any website. This could be potentially useful if you’re sending campaign traffic to a partner site, even if you’re limited to read-only access (or have no direct access) to Google Analytics for the site.

Of course, campaign tracking won’t work correctly on your site or any other if the tags are not formatted correctly, so make sure to use the Google Analytics URL Builder whenever you’re “setting up” a campaign.

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Terminated Campaigns Can Still Appear as Traffic Sources

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This AdWords report displays campaigns that were terminated before the selected date range.

While reviewing your AdWords Campaigns report in Google Analytics, you see that the report lists campaigns that were terminated before the selected date range.

This is not an error. Google Analytics stores the traffic source of an original visit in the __utmz cookie that it writes to the visitor’s browser and refreshes the source with each visit – except if the returning visit is direct.

When a visitor returns to your site by typing your URL directly into the browser or accessing a bookmark saved in the browser, the __utmz cookie does not override any of the more specific traffic sources below that it recorded on a previous visit:

• organic search

• Autotagged AdWords campaign

• referral from another website

• any inbound link containing Google Analytics campaign tags

This feature in Google Analytics is quite useful, since it usually makes sense to attribute a returning direct visit to a more specific original source.

Remember to add campaign tags to inbound links from emails, or resulting visits will count as direct and you therefore will not be able to credit your email campaigns for any visits or conversions at any point in the visitor lifecycle.

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Measure Remarketing Campaigns with Return Visitor Segment, Time Lag Report, and Campaign Parameters

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Measuring the effectiveness of a remarketing campaign requires a multi-faceted approach.

By taking advantage of remarketing networks as an advertiser, you can display your banners on other sites to visitors who have previously visited your site without converting.

Measuring the effectiveness of remarketing (also known as “retargeting”) in boosting return conversions poses a special challenge, for these two reasons:

• The overwhelming majority of the return conversions for which the remarketing network credits itself are “viewthrough” conversions, that is, conversions that occurred after a visitor was exposed to at least one impression of your banner and then returned to your site not by clicking the banner but through another means, such as a direct visit, sometime after the banner impression.

• Some of those return conversions would have undoubtedly occurred even if you were not doing any remarketing.

So how can we use Google Analytics to supplement the reports provided by the remarketing networks?

Apply the Return Visitors advanced segment to the Goals > Overview report.

A significant increase in return-visit conversions relative to new-visit conversions could mean that the remarketing campaign is having an impact.

Check the Multi-Channel Funnels > Time Lag report.

A shorter average time lag might indicate that the banner ads are expediting return conversions, while a significantly longer time lag might signal that the banners are prompting return conversions that would not have otherwise occurred at all.

Include campaign parameters in inbound links.

To track the percentage of conversions that do result from actual clickthroughs, campaign parameters on inbound links are a must, especially since the banners will appear on potentially hundreds or even thousands of sites, thus eliminating any reasonable possibility of tracking by referrer.

Also keep in mind that if you participate as an advertiser in more than one remarketing network, each will likely take credit for some of the same conversions (because of the viewthrough ambiguity).

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Break Out,, and as Separate Organic Sources

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Google Analytics does not capture country-specific search engines as organic sources by default.

Surprising as it may be, visitors who have clicked through from any version of the Google search engine with a country-specific top-level domain, such as,, or, appear in the Organic Search Traffic report with plain old as the source.


To record these search engine versions as separate sources, you can add them to the organic “match list” in Google Analytics by including the following method call in your Google Analytics tracking code (with a separate line for each country and search engne as needed):

_gaq.push(['_addOrganic', '', 'q', true]);

_gaq.push(['_addOrganic', '', 'p', true]);


The ‘q’ or ‘p’ parameter represents the search phrase that user entered. You do not have to do any further configuration for this; Google Analytics reads it from the URL of the SERP (search engine results page), so just check the SERP and specify whichever parameter precedes the search phrase in the URL. For example, a search for “polar bears” in would appear in the SERP’s URL as q=polar+bears.


More noteworthy in this case is the final parameter: when specied as true, Google Analytics prepends this version of the search engine to the organic match list.


If the prepend parameter is false or omitted, the search engine is added to the bottom of the list, which defeats the purpose in this case, because a visit from would still match in the list first, and Google Analytics would look no further for an organic source match.


Big thanks to Brian Clifton for highlighting this important technique.

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