Best of Web Analytics TV 2010


Analytics visionary Avinash Kaushik and Google Analytics product lead Nick Mihailovski has produced an awesome series of videos called Web Analytics TV. It is absolutely amazing to watch Avinash Kaushik share his passion for web analytics.

In this post, I have covered the most productive insights presented on the entire 2010 video series with my take. Although, the entire video series is pretty informative, but it is great to have a list of key takeaways for the key takeaways.

Here is the list of criteria used to select the top three Web Analytics TV videos mentioned below –

1. Insights that could provide the maximum benefits in terms of sales and conversion.

2. Quality and quantity of comments.

3. # of social bookmarks and recent tweets.

4. # of unique backlinking domains.

5. Fun factor 🙂 (analysis without fun is paralysis!)

Let’s dive into these gold nuggets one by one.

#1. Google Analytics TV 4 – This was the first video of year 2010 and Avinash, and Nick covered lot of great questions.

YouTube Preview Image
  • Tracking social media referrals in Google Analytics – As Avinash pointed out, it is really easy to create social segments inside of Google Analytics using advanced segments.

Step1. Go to advanced segments section and click “Create new custom segment”

create new advanced segment

Step2. From the Dimensions sidebar menu, drag the “Source” box from the Traffic Sources drop down and drop it on the “dimension or metric” empty box.

traffic source box

Step3. Keep the condition as “Matches exactly” and add the respective domain name in the value box. You can add one or multiple social media domains by using “or” statement link. Label your new advanced segment and click “Create segment”. You can now apply this segment to any reports you want.

socia media tracking

Tip – If you want to take to next step then I suggest creating multiple social segments (i.e social network, social bookmark, social news and blogs). This sub segmentation will allow you to track the performance of your individual social marketing campaigns and traffic.

  • Why do I see clicks with 0 visits in Google Analytics keyword reports – Clicks and visits are measured in a different way, and this causes the disconnect between metrics. Multiple clicks lead to one visit. The first click will get the visit attribution and the second or the third click will show zero visits since the visit cookie is already dropped in the first visit (provided there is less than 30 minutes of inactivity)

zero visits and non zero clicks

  • Does sharing data with Google Analytics have an impact on Organic Search rankings? Avinash says that Google Analytics data is not used in the Google ranking algorithms. This has been confirmed by Google’s spam team head Matt Cutts as well. However, seos argue that Google uses some form of click tracking data as one of the ranking signals in their algorithm.
  • How to track Google custom site search engines in Google Analytics – Tracking Google site search in Google Analytics is pretty easy.

Step1 – Go to Google Analytics “Profile Settings” in “Analytics Settings” section.

profile settings

Step2 – Click “Edit” on the “Main Website Profile Information” box.

main website profile information

Step3 – In the Site Search section, select the “Do Track Site Search” radio button and enter the query parameter in the “Query Parameter” box. Save changes and you will start seeing data within 24 hours under the Content–>Site Search section of Google Analytics.

google analytics site search

  • How advanced profile filters work – Filters are use to change the way the data is reported in Google Analytics reports. Filters can be designed using regular expressions (regex). You can add filters for ip address filtering, organic search rank tracking, Google places tracking, and many more.
  • Best practices for reporting user “engagement” – Avinash points out that engagement is an “excuse” rather than a metric. There could be different kinds of user engagements for the same set of actions. Watching a five minute video to the 4:13 second mark could be a positive engagement or a negative engagement. It is important to measure the quality of engagement rather than using GA metrics. The best way to measure user engagement is to capture voice of visitor data using survey tools.
  • How can one change the cookie duration of visitsCookie duration can be changed by adding a small code snippet to your existing GA code.

change cookie duration

  • How does one become excellent at web analytics – Ah! This one is my favorite. Analytics excellence is achieved by following your passion, letting go data obsession and implementing actionable insights. Data addiction is dangerous to your analytics health, and it can cause severe career damage. What it means is stop presenting data that no one understands and present insights with actionable key takeaways. Web Analytics is full of myths that originate from unnecessary data crunching.

#2. Google Analytics TV 7 – This was another great session where Nick and Avinash talked about GZip, image search, excluding customers and lot more.

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  • Test your tracking implementation without waiting for the data to appear in reports. – GA script works similar to popular analytics solutions. When the code is executed a 1×1 pixel image transfer (server calls) takes place between your site and GA servers. All the analytics information is then transferred to the servers.

There are several tools available in the market that can be used to debug GA code, including Firebug, GA tracking code debugger, Charles and Fiddler.

Step1 – Install your favorite debugger on the website and enable it.

google anlaytics debugger

Step2 – Load the page you want to debug the GA code on and press “CTRL+Shift+J” to load the debugger. The debugger should show up in a small window on the lower half of the browser window. Pull up the window to increase the size of the visible area.

ScreenHunter 14 Jan. 15 20

Step3 – The easiest way to debug the code is to click “Audits” button and run the audit.

ga code audit

  • How GZip compression works for the tracking code. – The ga.js script is already Gzipped. There are some known bugs in Page Speed that reports it being not Gzipped.
  • Retrieving the value for visitor level customer variables. – This question is too technical and the answer provided in the video or the link is not detailed. The question was on how to capture the first visit customer variable data before it gets lost due to the second or the last visit.

Custom Variables in GA allow you to add additional filtering to the reports. These filters can be different for different type of users (i.e paid customers, non paid customers). Custom variables can be set at three different levels – visitor, session and page. There are two functions in GA to operate custom variables.

setCustomVar is used to define the segmentation you want to set based on the type of visitors.

getCustomVar on the other hand, is used to capture the data stored by using the customer variables.

First visit custom variable data can be capture by using the following code snippet.

getcustomvar async

This will return the slot 1 customer variable. (Hint: The general format for custom variable is _getVisitorCustomVar(index) where the index can be 1-5)

  • Adding annotations via the API. – This feature is currently not available in GA as of Jan 2011
  • Why do searches from Google Image Search appear as referrals in Google Analytics? Google image is different from Google search. A click on the Google SERP results on Google search is redirected to the destination website, and it triggers the search parameter. These parameters are captured in Google Analytics under the search bucket.

Google image search, on the other hand, creates a new iFrame page for every image that is clicked from the Google image SERP. The clicks are registered in the referral report instead of the Google Analytics search report. Due to this, the keywords used for image search are lost.

google image search in google analytics

The quickest work around is to force Google Analytics to treat Google image search as a regular search engine.

script by yoast


  • Why do I see self-referrers to my site (my site referring to itself)? – I think Avinash nailed this question with his detailed answer. This is one of the most common problems in analytics and I have seen this issue 95% of the time on all the websites tracked using GA.

Self-referrers are mainly caused by –

1. Incomplete tagging – When all the pages on your site are not tagged with the GA code the visit from a non tagged page to the tagged page will be registered as a referrer visit in your referrers report. There are several free web apps available to scan your site and identify untagged pages. One of the most popular one is SiteScanGA. I created a similar tool called Web Analytics Health Check that not only scans GA but also Omniture, Coremetrics, Web trends and Yahoo analytics tag errors. Try it!

2. Temporary redirects – Non 301 or temporary redirects do not pass the redirection parameter values to the GA reports. A visit from a temporary redirect link to the destination page is registered as a self-referred visit in the referrers report. Always use 301 redirections on your site because it not only passes all parameter values but also avoids duplicate content penalties by Google.

  • How to detect new search engines in Google Analytics? – Use addOrganic() function to add new search engines including local engines, to the GA search reports.
  • Fixing site overlay to not distinguish two links pointing to the same page. – Adding a different query parameter to each link pointing to the same destination page is one method to fix the site overlay issue. (Google has replaced the Site Overlay report with In-Page Analytics)
  • How to exclude internal users now that _setVar is deprecated. – One the methods that I use to exclude internal users is to track the clicks to pages/portal only accessed by internal users using onclick pagetrackview function. These clicks are then segmented by using advanced segments.

<a onclick=”javascript:pageTracker._trackPageview(‘/outbound/customerportal);” href=”></a>

  • What is the best way to begin with web analytics? How do you focus? – You will not learn to swim until you hit the water nor learn to drive until you hit the road. Learning web analytics is similar and the best way to learn or atleast I can say the way I learned is to install Google Analytics on your website / blog and start performing analysis. Once you understand the reports, metrics and the lingo you can then buy a book or register for a course/forums to get some advanced knowledge. Web analysis is a mix of skill and experience. Drawing actionable insights and asking the right questions will help you become a pro analyst pretty quickly.
  • Why do longer date ranges return different results? – Sampling of different sets of data is definitely one of the cause of different results. The other issue that I constantly come across is the difference in unique visitor data for different date range. Unique visitors are calculated for the set date range and the calculation changes with the change in date range (day/week/month). It is highly advisable to stick to one date format (daily/weekly/monthly) when reporting unique visitor data to avoid confusion.
  • How can you use the Motion Chart bar graph? – I am not too fond of motion charts. Motion charts are generally best when reporting competitive landscape.
  • Best practices for setting up conversion goals for e-commerce sites. – Use GA goals for each product / conversion point.

#3. Google Analytics TV 8 – Nick and Anvinash are have a great time on this video when discussing affiliate tracking, flash measurement, site overlay and other fun analytics topics.

YouTube Preview Image
  • How to create Advanced Segments for many sites (or other parameters) – As discussed in the video, regular expressions can be used to speed up the advanced segment creation process. There is a slight learning curve to writing good regular expressions and it requires a some understanding of how computer programs work.

To construct a regular expression for adding multiple cities use the following regular express

Matches regular expression = New York|Los Angeles|San Francisco

regular expression

  • AdSense in $index calculations – Index is used to track the performance of ecommerce transactions and goal conversions.
  • Tracking affiliates in Google Analytics – Unfortunately, affiliate tagging is a very tedious and manual process in Google Analytics. This is one of the reasons why I am an evangelist of enterprise class analytics solutions like Omniture, Coremetrics and WebTrends. I have spent hours testing and researching for a viable solution to automate the tracking but there is none. The only best way to track affiliates is to build affiliate URLs using Google URLs builder tool. Enterprise web analytics solutions like Omniture and Coremetrics allow the use of any parameter variable for campaign tracking. Google Analytics offers something call setCampSourceKey() but it does not work the way it is supposed to.
  • Using an Event as a goal like tracking people who watch videos to conversion – Events cannot be tracked as goals in Google analytics yet, but I am completely satisfied with the technique suggested by Anivash.

GA events tracking is achieved by using _trackevent() method.

events tracking

Here is the code snippet to track video interactions. You can apply advanced segment to track the relationship between this event and conversions.

_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Videos’, ‘Play’, ‘YourVideoLabel’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Videos’, ‘Pause’, ‘YourVideoLabel’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Videos’, ‘Stop’, ‘YourVideoLabel’]);

  • Measuring embedded Flash with Google Analytics – There are two main options to track flash in GA. One option is to use event tracking discussed in the above question. The limitation of this tracking is it will not allow the tracking of the actual site where the object is embedded on. The second option is to use iFrame tracking.
  • Should you use two analytics packages like Google Analytics and Urchin? – This is where I do not completely agree with Avinash. Depending on one analytics platform is putting all your eggs in one basket. GA/Omniture/Coremetircs outage could impact your business significantly, and you could lose critical business information. I highly recommend having a backup analytics. You can either have a cookie based and a server based (AwStat) analytics combination or have two cookie based solutions. Last year we experienced a one week analytics service outage and had we relied on just one platform we could have been in serious trouble.
  • Using custom reporting to display landing pages and page titles – Here is the screen shot on how to create custom reports with page titles.

custom reports google analytics

  • Breaking down paid vs organic search by landing page – Use advanced segments to segment the organic and paid search data. Apply the segment to the “Top Content” report. To further drill down to a specific landing page you can use the report level segment filters.
  • The difference between unique visitors and absolute unique visitors – One of the myths that I busted in my “Top 10 Web Analytics Myths Busted” post is why unique visitor is not unique. Unique visitor calculation changes with the change in date range and other segmentation criteria. If you still want to look at the unique visitor data then I would suggest using one date range (daily/weekly/monthly) and stick to it.
  • How to get the / and /index.html pages to be the same – Here is the screen shot for this setting. Go to Analytics Settings > Profile Settings and click edit under the “Main Website Profile Information”.

removing dups from google analytics

Hope you enjoyed this post. Please share your thoughts, insights and comments below. Thank you!

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