Inferring the general from the particular

  • March 14, 2012
  • Michael Whitaker
I typically don’t veer too far from web analytics on this blog, but a couple of news stories have caught my eye this week. One has the headline Ex-Google employee says Google+ has ruined the company (Source: CNN) and Goldman exec quits, calling firm ‘toxic’ (Source: CNN). What is remarkable about these stories is that they are the opinions of two single individuals, yet somehow they were able to make national headlines. Read More

SSL Google search, historical goals and event tracking

  • October 25, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
Lots of stuff happening. 1) HTTPS default search for logged in Google users. ****I personally don’t think it will change analysis all that much, but it might be too early to tell as I don’t know how far along the rollout is. You may recall that this is not first referrer change for Google Organic. With the introduction of Ajax-powered search results came a new referrer. I tracked the rollout over time and the last time I checked in September 2010 the rollout was around 50%. Read More

Comparing future date ranges in Google Analytics

  • May 31, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
Date comparisons are great and allow you to see trends over time. As web analytics we care about trends rather than absolute values, right? However in Google Analytics, by default you are comparing your selected date range to a date range in the past, but there are cases where you’d want to compare the data to a range in the future. It’s basically a different perspective, similar to saying that 20 is 100% larger than 10 (basis 10), as opposed to 10 being 50% smaller than 20 (basis 20). Read More

Speaker diversity at conferences

  • March 24, 2011
  • Michael Whitaker
I enjoyed going to the Conversion Conference recently in San Francisco and picked up a few great nuggets to try out on my sites. I especially like it when speakers approach conversion rate optimization from a different perspective than AB or Multivariate testing. Michael Summers‘ presentation on eye tracking was quite literally an eye-opener for me. I also appreciate hearing directly from retailers and practitioners doing conversion optimization, rather than consultants doing CRO for retailers. Read More

Tracking 404 error pages with Yahoo! Store and Yahoo! Web Analytics

  • November 15, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
One of the many benefits of having a Yahoo! Store as your e-commerce platform is that you get Yahoo! Web Analytics. Not only that, but the tagging is done automatically for you and aspects that typically require some sort of setup, such as e-commerce, site search and action tracking, are done for you out of the box. The flipside is that the YWA tracker can’t be modified if you use auto-tagging. Read More

In-Page Analytics

  • October 29, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Guess which button I’d like to have click data for? I know, I know. Along comes a great new feature from the Google Analytics team, which is still in beta, but if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want more The add to cart button is typically a form post, and In-Page Analytics works with links, so I shouldn’t expect this data to be there. Would be great though to know how many people saw the product and then clicked that oh-so important button, wouldn’t it? Read More

Google Ajax search results update

  • September 8, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
I have made it a habit to check the roll-out of the new Ajax-powered search results page on in Google Analytics. December 2009: 10% (proportion of traffic from to my site with the new Ajax referrer) February 2010: 20% September 2010: Over 50% It looks like the most recent significant bump came on August 25, 2010. And no, this is not the death to search term tracking. In fact, you get more data, such as exact keyword ranking. Read More

Weighted sort in Google Analytics

  • August 31, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Weighted Sort has got to be one of my favorite new features in Google Analytics. There is a nice demo for using weighted sort with bounce rate, but I thought I’d suggest another metric on which to use this new ranking algorithm. Let’s start by asking a simple question: What are my most valuable pages? As a proxy for “valuable”, we’ll use the $ Index metric in the Google Analytics Top Content report. Read More

Using motion charts to fix campaign tracking in Google Analytics

  • July 28, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
There are a few reasons why clicks and visits from Adwords campaigns will likely never be same in your Google Analytics reports (or indeed any other web analytics tool), but you should of course make sure that you have a correct implementation as Adwords is a paid campaign… But how can you tell if everything has been implemented correctly? If you have lots of Adwords campaigns driving traffic to lots of landing pages any errors might be hard to spot. Read More

Repeat Customers

  • March 29, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
What’s the only thing better than customers? Repeat Customers. According to the book Flip the Funnel the conventional wisdom is that it is far more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain existing ones. Many companies now base their strategy on increasing purchases from repeat customers, which in the case of Zappos is 75% of their business (again from the book Flip the Funnel). You should be able to get repeat customer metrics directly in your e-commerce order system. Read More

Optimization tips for smaller online retailers

  • March 12, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
In terms of web analytics and statistics more data is always better. Ask 1000 people who they’ll vote for and you get a 3.1%margin of error. Ask a 100 people and the margin of error goes up to 9.8%. Since you are asking fewer people you are less confident about saying something about the underlying population. Same thing for AB and MVT testing. You can see for yourself with the handy Google Website Optimizer calculator. Read More

Homepage segmentation

  • March 4, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
You already know that the homepage is one of the most important pages in your online store. Many, if not most visitors, will land on your homepage, and a big chunk of your revenue will pass through the homepage. Unlike a product detail page who’s job it is to sell a particular product, the homepage has to cater to lots of different groups of visitors: not only to those who want to buy, but also to those who are doing product research, looking for support, checking order status, etc… Incidentally that is why I typically don’t recommend A/B testing the homepage, at least not right off the bat. Read More

Advanced segments

  • March 1, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
Nice collection of Google Analytics custom segments from Google South East Asia. For an online store I would add: Visitors who used site search. (click to add to your GA profile) Why? Particularly for paid search campaigns I would like to send my visitors to the most relevant landing page. A high percentage of site search usage may suggest that visitors are not immediately finding the content they were looking for and hence using your internal site search. Read More

Upcoming webinars

  • February 25, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
I will be speaking in a couple of upcoming webinars for online retailers: 1) Friday 2/26/2010 at 4pm ET / 1pm PT. Internal Site Search analysis for online retailers. Many thanks the Shawna for the invitiation! 2) Tuesday 3/2/2010 at 2pm ET / 11am PT. Make Analytics Work: Spend Less, Make More With Segmentation. Many thanks to my friends in the Yahoo! Store team for including me alongside John Marshall and Rob Snell. Read More

Why you need a custom error page

  • February 12, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
First, what is a 404 error page? Google provides a great definition: A 404 page is what a user sees when they try to reach a non-existent page on your site (because they’ve clicked on a broken link, the page has been deleted, or they’ve mistyped a URL) Having a custom error page helps your visitors. Broken links or typos happen, so at the very least try to point them in the right direction. 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

Visitors like “new”

  • February 2, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
We know that visitors tend to click in order on section pages, but you can focus attention and hence click-throughs by adding a descriptive New label to an individual item. The item with the **New **label has by far the highest click-through rate when looking at a site overlay report, even though it is further down the list. The effect is at least 10x more clicks than you would expect for that position. Read More

Product attribute segmentation and web analytics

  • January 12, 2010
  • Michael Whitaker
This post may be applicable mainly to online apparel retailers, but I thought it would be interesting to look at product attributes that are consistent across products, such as size or color. I also know that some retailers only use a base SKU per product, but not for each product attribute, so tracking these different attributes on a product level could help with anticipating the right inventory levels. The main reason for aggregating product attributes is to get a lot of data! Read More

New blog platform

  • October 30, 2009
  • Michael Whitaker
I am in the process of moving blog platforms, but if you are subscribed to my RSS feed, no update should be necessary. If you are having any issues, please let me know. Many thanks, Michael Read More

Smush it! image optimization

  • October 4, 2008
  • Michael Whitaker
I have had the pleasure of listening to Nicole Sullivan recently about website performance optimization and the impact it has on the bottom line. Read her blog. Nicole and her teammate Stoyan have now released a very cool Firefox extension called smush! it that downloads the images on a webpage, smushes them (ie reduces their file size) and zips them all up. Just upload those optimized images back to your website or Yahoo! Read More

Analytics KPI gadget for iGoogle RIP and Debrief

  • September 19, 2008
  • Michael Whitaker
Sadly, our Analytics KPI gadget has joined the deadpool, as Techcrunch would put it. Our gadget required the use of inlining, which has been deprecated. Inlining essentially means that the gadget becomes part of the iGoogle page. This allowed us to not have to ask for usernames and passwords to access Google Analytics reports, and all you had to do was log in to GA in a separate screen. On the downside, inlined gadgets can potentially change and affect the display of the iGoogle page, so I understand the policy change. Read More

Wasteful MSN adCenter packaging

  • January 18, 2008
  • Michael Whitaker
Again off topic, but I am quite frankly baffled by the MSN adCenter welcome package I got in the mail. The search marketing guide may very well have great information in it, but why did they decide to add a piece of Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam)? To make the package look bigger (and therefore presumably more attractive to me)? Or to somehow protect this valuable content? I feel that this is a very poor environmental choice that adds zero value to me. Read More

Interesting Phone Spam

  • January 17, 2008
  • Michael Whitaker
Got a call from Google today. Or so I thought, judging by the caller ID screen on my phone. Turns out it was a pre-recorded message from some company promising top rankings in search engines. “Press 1 to learn how you can achieve a top ranking or press 2 to be taken off our list”. “Cheeky” is probably not the right term to describe whoever is behind this scheme, but surely this is no way to run a business, deceiving people. Read More

Sparkling Sparklines

  • June 29, 2007
  • Michael Whitaker
One of the things I really like about the new GA interface is the addition of sparklines. Sparklines, which were developed by information design guru Edward Tufte, are those tiny graphs next to a metric to give you an idea of trend and context. People are really good at pattern matching and seeing trends in a visual form, rather than looking through a long table of data. But let’s give credit where credit is due as the Yahoo! Read More

Checking back in after the San Francisco seminar

  • May 1, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Thanks to everyone who came to our Yahoo! Store seminar last week, particularly those who traveled a long way to attend. A special thanks also to the Yahoo! Store team who have kindly organized a cocktail reception for us and chat with merchants. Check out Istvan’s site. He is polling visitors for new seminar venues. A location on the East Coast some time during the summer months looks very likely. My favorite though is Hawaii… Read More

Yahoo! Merchant Solutions affiliate program?

  • April 10, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Is there such a thing as an affiliate program for signing up people to the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions platform? It seems that this is what this site does: This site does PPC advertising on Google. I was not aware of any affiliate program so I am wondering what the model may be… Some kind of arbitrage perhaps? If anyone can clue me in I’d appreciate it.   Read More

The anonymous Yahoo! Store design company

  • March 15, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
The folks at Yahoo! are in the process of revamping the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions Developer Network, which should be an improved resource for merchants. It’s always informative to see what other people are up to, so I spent a little time going through those sites that are listed. Amongst other things, what surprised me is that roughly 50% of those companies don’t have a real “About Us” page. By “real” I mean actual information about the people behind the business. Read More

Official Yahoo! Store blog open for business

  • March 3, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Paul over at Yahoo! announces the launch of the official Yahoo! Store blog – with contributions from the Yahoo! Store team. Quote: The official Yahoo! Store blog is intended to be a forum for communicating tips and tricks for using the tools and services available to merchants. We want to share best practices in terms of improving usability, increasing conversion rates, and becoming a successful online business. This is going to be a good one, so make sure to subscribe to this blog. Read More

Order Motion for Yahoo Store

  • March 3, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Order Motion has been offering a back-end order processing solution for Yahoo Store merchants for several years. It looks like the folks at Solid Cactus are now offering a co-branded version of Order Motion. What surprises me is that there is no mention of Order Motion anywhere on SC’s site. They even use the same feature list found on Order Motion’s site. Update Joe Palko of Solid Cactus contacted me about this post, and asked me to post his reply: Read More

Yahoo Store developers and RTML templates

  • March 2, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Learning how to become an accomplished Yahoo! Store RTML developer is quite a challenge. The template editor with its set of built-in templates and 80 or so RTML operators is used nowhere else. Yahoo! provides little documentation on RTML, and their tech support will not provide any help if you use custom templates. Creating or modifying templates can only be done online with a peculiar template editor, which goes against the normal programming paradigm of writing code in PHP or ASP. Read More

hardly legible email

  • February 28, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Got the Yahoo On Target newsletter today. The footer in this email looks kind of spammy (let alone being illegible) with super-light gray text on a white background. Try to find the unsubscribe link in there somewhere. Read More

Breadcrumbs Pattern – Yahoo! Design Pattern Library

  • February 16, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Best practices for Breadcrumbs according to Yahoo. I have always been a proponent of breadcrumb navigation, and not just because they are so easy to implement in the Yahoo Store Editor. Link: Breadcrumbs Pattern – Yahoo! Design Pattern Library. Breadcrumbs Read More

WordPress and Movable Type in Yahoo Webhosting

  • February 1, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
Folks, this is big. You can now add the professional-grade blogging platforms WordPress or Movable Type to your Yahoo web hosting account with the click of one button. These two programs used to require some PHP and MySQL knowledge to install. Very impressive. Read More

Miva for sale?

  • January 18, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
John Battelle reports that Miva may be up for sale. bought a bunch of companies in 2004, including the small business e-commerce shopping cart software (and competitor to Yahoo’s Merchant Solutions platform) Miva, and then assumed its name. The actual e-commerce part now seems to be nothing more than an afterthought when you read the “About Miva” statement. Interesting, I never knew  this. Read More

Learning CSS

  • January 9, 2006
  • Michael Whitaker
The best way to learn something is by doing. Here is what I find useful for learning CSS: Get Firefox if you don’t already have it. Install the free Web Developer Extension. Go surf to any site you like and click on “Edit CSS” in the CSS menu of the web developer expension. This will open up a sidebar that displays the CSS used in the page you are looking at. Read More