Analytics Buddy Gmail add-on

  • January 17, 2018
  • Michael Whitaker
When Google opened up Gmail add-ons to all developers I jumped at the opportunity to build an add-on. I wanted to share some things I learned along the way. 1) My initial interest was piqued because the Gmail add-on framework provides you with context. Here’s why I think it’s powerful. With Gmail, my task is to read and deal with emails (with me so far?). When my mind is thus in “email-mode” it would be nice and helpful if I can get additional information about the email I’m reading (to perhaps compose a better reply). Read More

Are 3rd party apps affecting your Google Analytics data?

  • October 24, 2016
  • Michael Whitaker
One of the features of our Analytics Buddy app for Shopify is an automated audit of your Google Analytics implementation. We look for potential issues in the settings and traffic data. Many issues can be fixed quickly, such as setting the right referral exclusions, but others are much harder to spot. Here is a recent case. We all know that Bounce Rate = Bounces/Entrances, right? Hit the back button right away on the landing page and you get a bounce, but if you visit other pages on your site it’s not a bounce. Read More

You can't fix what you don't track

  • October 14, 2016
  • Michael Whitaker
If you have a technical glitch in your checkout that prevents your customers from placing an order, would they tell you? Perhaps if you are lucky some visitors will tell you, but most likely they will just give up and leave your site, a classic case of “unknown unknowns”: You don’t even know that you have a problem so you can’t fix it. This is what happened to one of our clients recently where a glitchy implementation of a third-party script prevented some shoppers from placing orders, resulting in significant lost revenue. Read More

Checking out the Google Analytics Demo account

  • July 9, 2016
  • Michael Whitaker
A big thanks to the Google Analytics and Google Merchandise Store teams for opening up the kimono and giving folks access to the analytics data of a real e-commerce store. As a token of my appreciation I thought it would be fun to pretend that I am the new analyst in charge of coming up with some actionable insights and recommendations. I have no info about how the store is built and what the goals are. Read More

Multi Channel Funnels with D3 and the Embed API

  • February 2, 2016
  • Michael Whitaker
Don’t know why I am so attached to sunburst visualizations, but decided to revisit something I did a while ago. The difference between now and then is that we have the Multi-Channel Funnels API and the Embed API. The result is that you can visualize data without having to first create a csv file. It’s all running in your browser and no data is sent to me or any other server. Read More

Force-directed graph of website visitors from multiple regions

  • January 26, 2015
  • Michael Whitaker
A perhaps overlooked aspect of the increasingly large percentage of mobile traffic to your site is the fact that those users are mobile in the true sense of the word, i.e. visiting your site from multiple locations. The wonderful Google Analytics API now allows you to ask some powerful questions of your data on a user basis. You can segment your data based on multiple conditions and sequences, so that questions such as this one are possible: Read More

Visualizing Multi Channel Funnels with D3

  • March 19, 2014
  • Michael Whitaker
I thought it would be fun to amend this very cool D3 sunburst sequence demo for Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics. This visualization shows the value (by number or value) of all conversion paths. The innermost ring is the first interaction and as you move out you can see the value of the path updating. The number of paths is capped at 5 to make it easier to see and the neat thing is that you can use the export csv file from the Top Conversion Paths report as is. Read More

Z-test calculator for Google Analytics

  • December 17, 2013
  • Michael Whitaker
Just a quick note that due to popular demand (ok, just Brian C.) we have updated the z-test bookmarklet for Google Analytics. Obviously, if the GA UI gets updated the bookmarklet will probably not work anymore. Just drag the button to your browser bar. Z-Test The cool thing is that the bookmarklet now works in the new summary page, which shows Acquisition, Behavior and Conversion sections. You can now just select individual goals, which wasn’t possible before. Read More

Tactical event tracking

  • May 2, 2013
  • Michael Whitaker
After all these years Event Tracking is still the coolest Google Analytics feature. Unlike custom variables you don’t have to tell GA what you’ll be sending, or worry about running out of slots. The only real skill lies in terms of capturing interactions, but frameworks like jQuery make even tracking complex interactions feasible. Take this example of tracking error messages people see during checkout: 1) Why make the recipient’s shipping phone number required? Read More

Universal Analytics and visitor tracking

  • November 6, 2012
  • Michael Whitaker
Lots of cool announcements and great people at the Google Analytics Summit. It’s at times like these that I wish I was part of the GA network. Going from visit to visitor-based tracking in Google Analytics is a fundamental shift and one that I had not anticipated. The lack of true visitor tracking is one of the few reasons why some organizations might have chosen other analytics tools, but once this rolls out in Google Analytics you’ll be able to get true (visitor) conversion rates and do visitor segmentation and cohort analysis. Read More

Page Value in Google Analytics

  • August 3, 2012
  • Michael Whitaker
I am really happy that $ Index is back in Google Analytics as Page Value. I had written about $ Index before but I think it’s worth taking a quick refresher. 1) The topline page value is not that useful – at least not to me. According to the tooltip, The way I read this is that you should be able to multiply Page Value by Unique Pageviews to get the overall Revenue, but that’s not the case. Read More

Visits to Transaction and Purchase Path Length in Google Analytics

  • January 9, 2012
  • Michael Whitaker
I just wanted to provide a visual equivalent to Avinash’s excellent explanation about the difference between Visits to Transaction and Path Length. Visits to Transaction is in the E-commerce > Time to Purchase report section, whereas Path Length is part of Multi-Channel Funnels. Here is an actual example of Visits to Transaction: Looks like 30 out of 33 transactions were completed in one visit. Maybe I don’t have to “worry” about attribution at all? Read More

Goal tracking and more on (not provided) keywords

  • December 7, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
I have always been a big believer in tracking mini goals. Abandonment occurs earlier than you may think: you are not going to convert someone if she is not able to get to the product detail page first. Or maybe a visitor is not ready to pull out his credit card, but gives you permission to continue the dialog by subscribing to your newsletter. That is a worthy goal to track. Read More

Using Median in Site Speed performance report

  • November 21, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
The site speed report in Google Analytics got a nice upgrade recently with the introduction of the performance report and the ability to track virtual pageviews. The performance report shows us how the page load times are distributed and you can see that the average page load time may not the best statistic to describe that distribution. The trouble is that you can have outliers with extremely high/non-sensical values: Read More

Stats calculator for Google Analytics

  • November 2, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
[Update 03/05/2012: Added support for the new Google Analytics UI] [Update 11/03/2011: We have since added goal conversion rates as well. However, please note that it uses the overall goal conversion rate, which is the sum of all goals. Use appropriately] Can you be sure that a conversion rate of 5.56% is better than 4.87% if you only have a few data points? It’s important to think statistically when working with this kind of data. Read More

Analysis of (not provided) keywords

  • November 1, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
The impact of the SSL Google Organic change can be nicely visualized using Motion Charts since we can use up to 5 dimensions at the same time. For example, are the (not provided) keywords more like branded navigational terms or more like longtail? What’s the bounce rate? What’s the percentage of new visits or the impact on revenue? And since this is a gradual rollout it’s interesting to see it unfolding over time…even if you don’t like what you are seeing Read More

Realtime web analytics

  • October 4, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
Lots happening in the world of Google Analytics in the past few days: Realtime, Premium, Webmaster Tools integration and yet another design update coming soon. I actually experienced an emotional response when I first saw the numbers and charts updating live. It feels very personal to see a certain number of people from different parts of the world right now on my site, giving me a little bit of their valuable time. Read More

The real reason Google Analytics launched multi-channel funnels

  • September 5, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
Forget all the fancy new report capabilities…the real reason why Google Analytics launched multi-channel funnels is because they got tired of having to explain why Google Analytics showed fewer conversions than Google Adwords reporting. OK I made that up, but in my years of doing web analytics this is probably THE number one question I get and I am glad I can now point folks to this post. Despite the fact that Google Analytics and Adwords use different tracking approaches and attribution models I guess it feels “wrong” to many people that Google Analytics would show different/fewer conversions than Adwords. Read More

Session definition updated in Google Analytics

  • August 18, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
On August 11 Google Analytics changed their attribution model and it’s had a bit of a dramatic effect in some accounts. Visits are way up, and metrics that depend on visits such as e-commerce conversion rate are consequently affected as well. There was a bug that was fixed on August 17 that did inflate visits even when the campaign source did not change, but visits seem to be back to “normal”. Read More

Segmented data in context

  • July 11, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
Segmentation is great, but segmentation in context is even better. Just wanted to point out one subtle update in the new version of Google Analytics. Let’s say I want to compare engagement metrics for two different segments. Specifically, I want to compare buyers vs non-buyers who have viewed more than 20 pageviews in their visit. Here is what it looks like in the “old” version of GA: And here it is in the new version: Read More

Tracking social buttons

  • July 8, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
In general you should be particularly concerned with tracking elements on your site where your visitors (hopefully) take action, such as adding an item to cart or filling out a form. Same thing with social buttons – you want to know if visitors click your Like button. These are mini-goals and should be tracked. So it’s great to see that Google Analytics now has a dedicated report for tracking social plugins, but it might be even better if you could add goal tracking to Social Actions, just like they did with event tracking. Read More

Site Speed analysis in Google Analytics

  • June 7, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
The Site Speed report in Google Analytics was announced about a month ago, so how about doing some analysis now that we have gathered some data? First off some background. Load times are still only collected for Internet Explorer and Chrome, and the data is sampled to the tune of about 3% of pageviews for IE and 9% of Chrome. I don’t have a problem with sampling at all, but since the metric of interest is average page load time it would be nice to know a little bit about how the data is distributed. Read More

New Google Analytics

  • April 6, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
It may be a bit premature to write about one’s impressions of the new Google Analytics because features that one is used to from the current version could be added back gradually rather than officially removed. For example, I miss weighted sort and I hope it’s just a temporary omission. GA also recently updated in-page Analytics and it’s nowhere to be found. Gone is also the $ Index metric for the Page type reports. Read More

Adwords keywords and matched search queries in Google Analytics

  • February 25, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
There is a wealth of data in the dedicated Adwords report section in Google Analytics. One of the key additions is the ability to see the matched search queries for your keywords. Remember that the paid keywords you see in your normal Keywords report in the Traffic Sources section do not show the matched search queries from Adwords. That’s why our friends at ROI Revolution created a cool hack to show them in Google Analytics. Read More

Landing Pages and what people actually buy

  • February 15, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
Of course you know what your top landing pages are But if you haven’t already done so, create an advanced segment for each of your main landing pages, including the homepage. Then apply each segment in turn and make a note of **what products visitors actually bought **in the Ecommerce section. It can be quite eye-opening, as was the case in my example. Your data may look completely different, but the analysis is valuable all the same. Read More

Top Content and Top Landing Pages reports in Google Analytics

  • February 10, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
The Top Content and Top Landing Pages reports are super important, but I sometimes wish I could see some of the data from both reports in one place. But first, let’s take a look at the standard Top Content report: Pageviews. I am not a huge fan of just pageviews (who cares if people view or reload the same page a few times during the same session?) Unique Pageviews. Read More

Top Landing Pages and outcomes

  • January 6, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
What is missing from the Top Landing Pages report in Google Analytics? Answer: Apart from bounces there are no outcomes or goals in this report. Better to start in Traffic Sources > Search Engines: Then use the first dropdown and select Landing Page: And you get: Good: Top Landing Pages that are now tied to goals. Better: Click on the Comparison View: Easy way to ease into the new year, n’est-ce pas? Read More

Item page segmentation

  • December 20, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
If you have an e-commerce site with section and item pages, you’ll want to be able to tell those page types apart in your web analytics. Unless you have a URL structure where you can tell directly what type of page it is (e.g. or /?section=abc), you must tell your web analytics tool what type of page it is by doing some manual page tagging. For Google Analytics I use custom variables to tag each page as ItemPage and SectionPage (along with some other types of pages). Read More

How to visualize power laws using motion charts in Google Analytics

  • December 13, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
I recently looked at Pages/Visit and asked what would make a good engagement goal. The answer is not at all obvious since the data seemed to show a long tail distribution (aka **power law **distribution), where it’s really hard to boil down the data into one neat average. There are just too many outliers and the various averages, such as mode, mean and median are all different. A characteristic of a power law is that if you plot the data on a logarithmic scale you get a linear relationship. Read More

Visualization of the Long Tail in Google Analytics

  • December 11, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Here is a fun way to visualize the long tail of keywords using motion charts in Google Analytics: Want to follow along? Grab this custom report and apply to your Google Analytics profile Filter out (not set) – those are visits that don’t have keywords Click Visualize Choose the bar chart option in the top right of the motion chart Choose Order: Visits Hit Play. And play and play and play The actionable part? Read More

Average time on site and average pageviews revisited

  • December 10, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
I want to take a closer look at two common metrics: average pageviews and average time on site. What I want to find out if these average metrics adequately describe the underlying data. To start, lets work wth non-bounce visits. It’s a fact of life that most sites have a ton of bounces, i.e. visits with one pageview and 0 time on site. I just want to look at visitors who have shown a little bit of engagement. Read More

Product Conversion Rate

  • October 21, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
You already know that there are lots of conversion rates in your web analytics: Every PPC, keyword or email campaign has a specific conversion rate. But what about the stuff that really matters: the actual products you sell? Shouldn’t products have a conversion rate as well? When a transaction occurs you can (and should) send the order details to Google Analytics, such as product name, SKU, price, order number. You’ll get very rich data and be able to attribute revenue to your various campaigns. Read More

Entrance Paths and segmentation in Google Analytics

  • October 5, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Have you looked at Entrance Paths in Google Analytics recently? It’s a great report, particularly if used in conjunction with segmentation. I was asked a pretty straightforward question: “What are the most valuable links in terms of revenue on my homepage?” The homepage is the most important page on your site so you should pay close attention to the internal links you put on it. You also don’t want to have too many links on your homepage as this dilutes the PageRank passed to those pages. Read More

Google Instant and keyword length

  • September 8, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
One of the things I would track in Google Analytics/Yahoo! Web Analytics following the Google Instant rollout is the **number of words in your keywords **driving traffic to your site. It’s possible that **short keywords will become more prevalent than longtail **keywords. Using regular expressions (regex) we can easily **segment **our data based on the number of words in the keyword. If you use Google Analytics, just click on the links below to import these segments into your account. Read More

SEO Analytics in Google Analytics using Page Title

  • July 22, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Seeing Page URLs and Page Titles in the same report is like the gift that keeps on giving. Not only can you easily track 404 error pages in Google Analytics without having to change the tracking code on your site, but it also makes it very easy to optimize your Title Tags. The Title Tag is probably the most important on-page SEO element, so it’s in your control to change it. Read More

Track 404 error pages in Google Analytics reports the simple way

  • July 20, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Great tip by John at Lunametrics on how to show Page URL and Page Title side-by-side in a Google Analytics Contents report. Here is a little background. Out of the box in Google Analytics, you can see **Page URLs **in the Top Content report and Page Titles in the** Content by Title** report: but you can’t directly see both the Page Title and the Page URL: Again, hop on over to John’s post on how to do this, but here is one practical example why this is so useful: Read More

Visits to Purchase revisited in Google Analytics

  • July 12, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
I still like the Visits to Purchase report in Google Analytics even though it may be sub-optimal. At first glance you could be led to believe that 77% of transactions occur in a single visit. If almost 80% of your transactions come from single visits then why bother with attribution management? There are many other things you could be doing before worrying about those 20% multi-visit conversions. So what’s the issue? Read More

Using web analytics to optimize checkout forms

  • June 25, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Although I tend to be skeptical of best practices – they might be a starting point, but I prefer doing testing to find out what works or not – there are some things that are always better than others. A fast-loading site always beats a slow-loading one, working links are always better than broken links, and reducing errors in general makes obvious sense. In the same vein I would say that a short checkout form is better than a longer one. Read More

Onsite personalization example with Google Analytics

  • April 28, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
I have had quite a few requests to confirm that you can read custom variables so I thought I’d just show a quick demo. I also recommend you take a look at the video from the Google Analytics team that describes this feature (fast forward to around minute 29:00). As the name implies _getVisitorCustomVar() only reads custom variables that have a visitor-level scope. You can’t use this approach for reading page-level or session-level custom variables, so the scope should be set to 1 when you set a custom variable. Read More

Unique visitors, 0 visits and pages in web analytics

  • April 23, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
It’s always good to pause and ask yourself if the data you are looking at makes sense. Particularly with the awesome powers of advanced segmentation in Yahoo! Web Analytics and Google Analytics you are likely to come across cases where the data looks weird when you set up custom reports. The likely explanation is that you are mixing together dimensions (in GA parlance) or groups (YWA lingo) that don’t really go together. Read More

Onsite targeting with Google Analytics

  • March 30, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
A logical progression from segmenting your data in web analytics is to then be able to target those segments. For example, you might want to show a special offer only to loyal repeat customers and not to others. In a very informative webinar last week by the Google Analytics team on custom variables, one particular example caught my attention: the ability to not only set a custom variable, but also to read its value. Read More organic referrer update

  • March 30, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Back in April 2009 Google announced a change to search referrals coming from The old familiar format when you search on would be replaced with: Initially, some people were concerned that the use of the hashtag # in the URL would cause issues with web analytics tracking, but Google found a way to make sure that the referrer data would still be valid (albeit different) when visitors click on a results link. Read More

Is attribution management right for smaller online retailers?

  • February 4, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
First of all, what is attribution management? If I may quote John Lovett from his paper “A Framework For Multicampaign Attribution Measurement“: The practice of attributing credit to all marketing exposures that led to a Web site and subsequently resulted in a conversion event, rather than attributing all credit to the exposure immediately preceding the conversion. Multi-campaign attribution is the practice of attributing credit to all marketing exposures that led to a Web site and subsequently resulted in a conversion event, rather than attributing all credit to the exposure immediately preceding the conversion. Read More

Google keyword rankings in web analytics

  • December 22, 2009
  • Michael Whitaker
In April 2009 Google announced a change to the referrer information coming from Google organic searches. The interesting bit to many people was the addition of the cd parameter, which is the actual search results position. There are a few ways you can see the keyword position in your web analytics, such as with filters, custom variables or event tracking. I personally like event tracking in Google Analytics, and before the change in referrer information we were at least able to see the page a keyword was on. Read More

Product merchandising in Google Analytics (part 2)

  • November 18, 2009
  • Michael Whitaker
Following my post on Yahoo! Web Analytics, here are some ideas for doing product merchandising analysis in Google Analytics, As a recap, online retailers want to know what products sell together; they can then use this information to create content that shows relevant cross-sell products on the most relevant pages. In your Google Analytics UI (with e-commerce tracking enabled of course) click on Advanced Segments and create a new custom segment. Read More

Event Tracking value

  • September 21, 2009
  • Michael Whitaker
I am a big fan of Google Analytics’ event tracking feature and I think all web analytics programs should have that capability. There is one feature that would make event tracking even more useful in my opinion. In addition to Category, Action and Label, you can send an event value, but this is supposed to be a positive integer. It would be more powerful if event value could be used also for cost data, i. Read More