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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Autotagging for AdWords, Campaign Parameters for Other Cost-per-Click

Enabling autotagging in AdWordsview at full size

You can link from Google AdWords to Google Analytics so your profiles can display AdWords keyword and cost data.

In a previous post about campaign tagging for inbound links from emails, we saw that the three values that Google Analytics uses by default for Medium – that is, the medium through which visitors arrive on your site – are organic, referral, and (none) for direct traffic.

CPC traffic (“cost-per-click”, also referred to as PPC, “pay-per-click”) is analogous to traffic from inbound links from emails to the extent that Google Analytics does not record a special Medium value for either type of traffic by default. As with email links, we need to make sure that CPC traffic arrives with a Medium value of its own.

It’s not surprising that Google allows data-rich campaign tracking for AdWords traffic to your site. Autotagging provides not only the usual three campaign values for Medium (“cpc” for Autotagged AdWords traffic), Source, and Campaign, but also a range of additional data such as keyword, paid ranking, and cost data. From within the Google AdWords interface, you can link AdWords to your Google Analytics profiles and then verify AdWords Cost Source within the Profile Settings.

Conversely to AdWords, and also not surprisingly, there’s no real equivalent to AdWords Autotagging for other CPC sources, such as paid Bing listings (or any other paid source). For this reason, you should make sure that inbound links from all other paid campaigns contain the manual Medium, Source and Campaign tags, which the Google URL Builder tool can help you configure.

You may also be able to include non-AdWords cost data by using the new Google Analytics Cost Data Import Tool.

Circling back to the introduction of this discussion, what happens if you don’t Autotag or campaign-tag inbound links from paid search engine listings? All resulting traffic is recorded with the “organic” Medium value, which does not help you evaluate the performance of paid traffic.

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123 LinkedIn Visits in November Does Not Mean 123 LinkedIn Clickthroughs in November

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The 123 LinkedIn referrals that appear for November likely include some direct return visits.

However plain it may seem that the 123 LinkedIn-referred visits in your Referral Traffic report for November would correspond to 123 clickthroughs from LinkedIn for that month, there were probably fewer actual clickthroughs than visits during that time period.

Very significantly, a direct visit does not overwrite the previous medium and source recorded in Google Analytics for that visitor. If a visitor first clicked through from LinkedIn in October and then returned in November by entering your URL directly into the same browser (withough deleting cookies in the interim), the November visit would still count as a LinkedIn referral.

In addition to referral visits, Google Analytics also preserves organic search engine clickthroughs and campaign clickthroughs (such as pay-per-click or tagged links in emails) as the medium/source when a more recent direct visit occurs.

This is a useful feature, since the original clickthrough is, very arguably, more significant than a more recent direct visit for analyzing traffic sources.

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View Referring Pages, Not Just Referring Websites

Custom Report Setup for Referral Pathview at full size

You can define a Custom Report to display referring website and referring page in the same view.

One of fundamental objectives of Web analytics is understanding where and how your traffic originates. For each website listed in the Referral Traffic report, you can drill down to view the one or more specific pages that drove traffic to your site.

You can also define a Custom Report to display the referring sites and pages in a single view:

  1. Select Flat Table as the report type.
  2. Add Source and Referral Path as dimensions.
  3. Add Visits as a metric.
  4. Add any other dimensions (such as Landing Page) or metrics (such as Bounce Rate) that you’d like to include.
  5. Specify a filter as Include – Medium – Exact – referral.

As a complement to the quantitative referral data you’ll see in the Google Analytics reports, you can review the referring pages themselves to better understand the context of the clickthroughs – or, stated more simply, to see what type of page is driving traffic to your site.

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Use Campaign Parameters to Track Email Clickthroughs

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You need to add campaign parameters to your inbound links for email clickthroughs to count towards a campaign.

By default, Google Analytics tracks only three values for the Medium dimension:

  • (none) – for direct traffic
  • organic – for clickthroughs that are 1) from sites that Google Analytics recognizes as search engines and 2) not tagged with campaign parameters
  • referral – for clickthroughs that are 1) not from sites that Google Analytics recognizes as search engines and 2) not tagged with campaign parameters

Take special notice that there’s no default “email” medium.

Unless the inbound links in your newsletter and marketing emails are tagged with campaign parameters, any clickthroughs will count either as direct traffic in the case of a desktop email client such as Microsoft Outlook, or as referral traffic in the case of an online email client such as Yahoo or Hotmail.

Particularly confusing is that inbound links from Gmail appear in Google Analytics as “organic” (instead of “referrer”).

You can easily avoid this confusion and instead specifically track email as a medium by adding campaign parameters to all inbound links in emails:


You can use the Google Analytics URL Builder to make sure that you’re using the correct parameter names.

The order of the parameters names is not important, and you can mix them with other URL parameters:


Some email newsletter platforms can automatically append Google Analytics campaign parameters. Take advantage of this option if it’s available; otherwise, make sure to manually add campaign tags to all inbound links from emails. You need to know exactly how many visits and conversions are originating from this source.

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