Web Analytics Demystified

dsc00260 New to web analytics? Confused about web Analytics? Think it is too hard? Scared of tools and consultants?

This post is for you, its goal: Web Analytics Demystified!

Yeah!

Web Analytics is complex. That is what it is. Complex.

Get the nuance? Complex. Mysterious. Inviting. Come in. Sit down. See what's there. No free rides. You'll do your part, your efforts will have a rich payback.

Complex holds the promise that you'll get it. Nay, you can get it. Come in, welcome.

Start with this post. [It builds on my post from last week: Web Metrics Demystified.]

Five simple things you can do with absolutely no knowledge of Web Analytics (or Web Metrics as Europeans tend to say!). No matter what your site does you can use the ideas below to instantly benefit from your website data.

On a scale of zero to a hundred (with a hundred being the highest analytical awesomeness peak) this post will move you from zero to thirty five.

That's it.

You are new to data. I hope to move you to forward part of the way. And I promise it won't hurt your brain and the rewards will be many.

[If have have achieved the peak of awesomeness then congratulations! The post below collects some online marketing nuggets from my experience that you might find interesting.]

Set aside a couple of hours to do the work, 20 mins to read this post, 1 min to print it.

Demystifying Web Analytics Summary:

#1 Get the Primitive Basics Out of the Way.

#2 Understand Traffic Sources.

#3 Fix Stuff / Save Money!

#4 Two Words: Site Overlay!

#5 Focus on Outcomes (To get rich is glorious! – Deng Xiaoping).

Details, Details, Details:

Get ready to swim in numbers, and survive and thrive (!)……

[Important : What Do You Do Next in each section is bonus material, it will make you super smart but not required for this Web Analytics Primer.]

#1 Get the Primitive Basics Out of the Way.

I am sure as soon as you logged into your web analytics tool you saw something like this:

google analytics site overview 1

It is ok to look at this, though even in your humble evolution you are going to get very far beyond these basic metrics.

What is it?

Visits represents the number of sessions on your website, number of times someone interacted with your site. Bounce is the number of those who left instantly!

The Page Views number is how many pages were requested in those visits. Oh and how many in each visit, Pages / Visit.

Avg Time on Site, how long did people stay on your site.

% New Visits shows how many sessions, interactions, were from people (yes people!) who visited your site for the first time.

[Note: Blogs are unique "I'll only read the latest post and be on my way" animals. In as much both Bounce Rate and Time on Site are poor metrics to judge quality.]

What is it telling you?

First bask in the glory of how good you are (or be sad at how low your traffic is!), for this first look.

statcounter unique visitors 121107Then here is how I analyze the numbers you see above…

For a non-profit (above data) that is a huge number of visits in a month. But I'll probably want to trend it over time, as much data as you have, to see if it is going up or down.

Next I am deeply impressed at the combo of Pages/Visit and Avg. Time on Site. Most websites will have two or three or five (at most) Pages / Visit. 12 is magnificent, as is almost 7 minutes on the site.

The bounce rate at 35% is very good in context of the number of visits and page views. It is hard to get so many qualified visitors.

I will now do a small dance on the table.

What do you do next?

Look at trends.

See how things are over the last few months.

See how things compare between this month (above) and last month.

No matter what web analytics tool you use this will require pressing two or three buttons at most.

The Bottomline for Web Analytics Demystification #1 :

With a tiny amount of effort (15 mins or so) you have learned your core metrics and you know how you are doing on the surface. That wasn't hard right?

This was 5 out of the 35 points of progress. Feels good?

#2 Understand Traffic Sources.

I know people are on my site. Now I am most curious where are people coming from?

google analytics traffic sources

There is so much exciting here! In this humble little graph.

What is it?

Direct traffic are all those people showing up to your website by typing in the URL of your website or from a bookmark. Some people also call this "default traffic" or "ambient traffic".

Sometimes you'll see "non direct" traffic in the direct bucket. From badly coded redirects (remember to make all redirects Permanent) or vanity urls, or even improperly coded campaigns. Now you know why that is important.

[Update: For a deeper understanding of direct traffic, it's causes and how to ensure that your direct traffic is really direct and not from other sources, please see this post: Excellent Analytics Tip #18: Make Love To Your Direct Traffic.]

Referring URL's are other websites sending traffic to you. These could be as a result of your banner ad's or campaigns. These could be all those blogs or affiliates who link to you (after you send the blog authors uninvited and usually irritating presumptuous spam!!).

Search engines, well that's you know who. Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, others. This bucket will include both your Organic as well as you Paid (PPC / SEM) traffic, so be aware of that.

Finally there is Other. These include campaigns you have run (and then have configured your tool correctly). Email, direct marketing, etc.

What is it telling you?

I look at the Direct Traffic first because I want to know how much traffic are you getting from people who know you deep enough to know your url or have you bookmarked.

I also like lots of direct traffic because it is "free" traffic, and traffic who knows you so will usually put up with some of your crap.

Finally on ecommerce websites these are "non campaign" traffic which means that they measure map 120707 121307don't have promotions and discounts etc, so they can be a bit more profitable (though be nice and give 'em something off!!).

I am going to look at referring url's to identify sources that I don't know who are sending me traffic. I might visit the referring pages and see why. For some solid ones I might want to establish a marketing relationship with them.

I'll also look for traffic sources that should be sending me traffic and if they really are doing that. The referring url world also shares a hint of customer intent, why might they be there. Small gold.

Search of course is God, atleast temporarily. It is how we look for stuff, it is how we find relevant content.

The number, 29.33% tells me how well I am doing. 80% of the web starts surfing at a search engine. I want a lot of that! Look at the search traffic and the keywords to understand which engine is working for you and why.

What do you do next?

    I am going to look for trends and see where my growth is coming from in the last six months.

    Is the growth from free traffic? Paid traffic? Have my efforts to get people through other channels panned out?

google analytics paid traffic analysis

    I also recommend drilling down to specific websites that send you traffic, and of course keywords and key phrases that are sending you traffic. Both of those help you understand that critical customer intent. That rocks!!

    Oh in both cases, look for surprises.

Bottomline for Web Analytics Demystification #2 :

You probably spent 30 mins looking at the above picture and drilling down to the next level report. You know where people come from and their intent. You are now 10 points into your 35 points of progress! Hurray!!!

#3 Fix Stuff / Save Money!

Enough reporting already, let's see how web analytics can help you save money (after all you have been at it for 45 mins already!!!). :)

We'll do two things here, we'll look at a report in your web analytics tool that shows the Bounce Rate for the Top Entry Pages.

google analytics entry page landing pages 1

The second report from IndexTools shows Bounce Rate for the search key words sending traffic to your site..

indextools keywords bounce rate

What is it?

As you perhaps already realize you have lost control of what the home page of your website is. Search engines decide what the home page of your website is. People search for you (or click through from a link on another site) and go directly deep into your site.

The top entry pages report, first one up there, shows you how many people are entering on each page of your website, and hence they show the top "home pages" of your website. Super!

By adding the bounce rate (in case you don't know what it is please read: Standard Metrics Revisited: Bounce Rate) you have a indicator of how engaging :) each of your "home pages" are.

Ditto for the keyword report. Search is where all the traffic is, for now. I did a quick custom report in IndexTools and it shows Visits and Bounce Rate.

What is it telling you?

Simple: Stinkiness. Your site's.

You are looking, first, for pages with the highest bounce rate. Remember bounce rate measures this from a costumer's perspective: I came, I puked, I left . Or technically speaking: single page view sessions.

stinkbugPages with a high bounce rate are not delivering on the promise that is driving customers to your site. The ones in the top ten Entry Pages report need your attention.

You fix 'em and you are increasing the likelihood that people will go deeper into your site, and maybe convert.

The keywords report is even more interesting. Here you have Intent. The customer is telling you why they might be coming and keywords with high bounce rates are where you are not meeting that intent.

It could be that you are ranked for the wrong keywords. It could be that the pages these folks are landing on don't have the right calls to action. Fix it.

[I have mentioned this before: Blogs are a unique beast, people come mostly only to read your latest post, your bounce rates will be high because of how that metric is defined, it is ok. On any site that exists to have any customer interaction – for profit, non-profit – it is still a awesome metric.]

What do you do next?

No matter how sophisticated you are you can use the Google Website Optimizer to do A/B or Multivariate tests. It take six minutes to set up a GWO A/B test. And the tool is free. Pick pages you want to fix, create a couple versions of the pages, put them into a test. You'll improve the pages based on customer feedback.

a b testing 1

I look at landing pages of the top keywords (one click report in most web analytics tools) and see how I can improve the copy / content / images / calls to action.

I'll take time to segment the paid and organic traffic for all the search engines and stop spending money on the paid keywords where I have high bounce rate, until I figure out why the bounce rate is so high (maybe wrong keywords, maybe you are driving traffic to generic pages and need custom landing pages etc).

Bottomline for Web Analytics Demystification #3 :

It takes you about two minutes to get to each report and another minute to look at the numbers and press a few buttons. At the end of the half hour you have created for yourself a specific list of focus areas. You know exactly where you need to start when it comes to fixing pages on your site and potentially improving your paid campaigns.

You are up to 20 of the 35 points. And you know what you are doing!! Congratulations!!!

#4 Two Words: Site Overlay!

I love this report. There I said it. I love it.

You have improved the top entry pages and key traffic driving campaigns (key phrases). Now figure out why pages that you want to win on your site are not winning, why pages with key calls to action are not delivering, obvious things you are doing wrong….

google analytics site overlay

There are a couple of reasons for the fondness I have for this report:

1) For many people numbers and metrics and spreadsheets are still overwhelming. Site Overly demystifies all that. You see the data visually represented.

2) Even seasoned analysts are not as good at analysis as they should be because they rarely actually use the website they are analyzing. A critical flaw. Using the site overlay report is a great way to walk in the shoes of the customers.

You need to do that as well. And it is so easy with any analytics tool!

What is it?

Click density. The report, in almost every tool, shows the number of clicks on each link that you have on the page.

Each tool will show it slightly differently. Google Analytics, above, shows "colored bars" and if you hover the mouse over the link it also shows goal conversion metrics. ClickTracks shows the clicks as a % (very helpful). Others show a "heat map" and others still draw boxes around elements on the page.

Perhaps my favorite of them all is ClickTracks because it also shows context, key metrics, about the page right in the site overlay report. Sooooo helpful…..

clicktracks site overlay www.kaushik.net sm

[Click on the above image for a higher resolution version.]

It is showing % Page Views, Time on Page, Time to the Page (why does everyone not have this awesome metric?), % Exits and Keywords that brought people to the page. Nice.

What is it telling you?

You are looking for clusters of heavy clicks. I look for the top two or three most clicked links and I'll try to reconcile that against links that I want visitors to click on. I'll see what people are clicking on below "the fold", any surprises there?

I also look at links that ultimately drive high conversions (you can have conversions on a ecommerce website, or as in the GA screenshot above, a non-ecommerce website).

crazyegg confetti 2 I am looking for things that connect with people. Do more people convert on my site if they click on Product Comparison on the home page or go directly to a Product Page?

I'll try to follow the couple heavy clicks and see what people do next. Walk in their shoes. Experience my own website.

Check out referrers to each page, that could explain bounce and exit rates.

What do you do next?

Identify improvements to your pages.

Consider merchandizing and cross sell and up sell opportunities now that you know what people like (for example no one is clicking on your blinking promotion in the middle of the page because it looks like an ad).

If your tool allows you the ability to do this, segment the clicks. Where do people who convert click vs everyone else, or vs everyone who comes from a search engine or Canada or on a DM / Email campaign? Segmentation rocks !

Bottomline for Web Analytics Demystification #4 :

You can take up as much time you have available on this. Initially you'll probably spend 30 to 60 mins exploring your top pages. At the end of that you'll be up to 25 out of 35!

This is a very visual easy to understand way you know exactly how people browse your website, what is working and what it not. No tables, not numbers, no graphs, even your HiPPO will get this!

If you segment your data, you can do that later when you are a bit sophisticated, you not only understand data in aggregate, all visitors, but now you are starting to understand different types of people on your site. And now you can treat them differently!

#5 Focus on Outcomes (To get rich is glorious ! – Deng Xiaoping).

Most web analytics efforts fail to catch on. Few companies are truly data driven.

One reason.

We all focus on the 14,285 reports that come out of our web analytics tool. We go crazy about visits and visitors and parameters and every sub-nuance of everything. Except outcomes.

When you start, don't do that. Don't not focus on Outcomes . :)

Answer the question why your website exists. Hard core answer. Then go through the four Web Metrics Demystified principles to identify the two or three key metrics that help measure those outcomes.

For a blog….

google analytics blog conversion rate

Or a non-profit website……

google analytics non profit conversion rate

 

Or a e-commerce website…..

google analytics ecommerce tracking

You'll have your own sweet things you want to track. It is a crime against humanity for you not to know what you are solving for (yes, yes I am being a melodramatic "13 year old teenage girl" about this!).

What is it?

For the blog it is the number of people who visit the speaking engagements page, and go attend one of the engagements, and since all my engagements are now paid – hopefully attend the event generating revenue for the organizer.

For a non-profit it is also looking at number of people using the core search functionality (to look for stuff like jobs) and for the few who pay comparing number of people who pay that small amount.

For a ecommerce website it is the bottomline numbers. Revenue, conversions, average order value, products sold etc etc.

What is it telling you?

Visitors are coming to the website, but is it having any impact on you.

If there is a impact on your bottom line. Are you converting enough? Not as much?

What's selling and what is not? Why is it selling? How much of it?

All web analytics tools have a capability to help you understand outcomes. Omniture, WebTrends, CoreMetrics, VisualSciences, Google Analytics or whatever else you have. Get the above stuff.

If you don't got it, you ain't going anywhere.

What do you do next?

Consider understanding of these beauties: Days To Purchase and Visits To Purchase (More here: Excellent Analytics Tip#6: Measure Days & Visits to Purchase)…..

google analytics visits to purchase 2

They help you understand user behavior on your website, and in turn tell you what kinds of actions you should be taking.

I have mentioned how segmentation rocks, do that. Segment your site traffic (paid vs organic, campaign vs direct, new vs returning, from different Geo's and so on and so forth).

If you have a non-ecommerce website do this: I Got No Ecommerce. How Do I Measure Success?

Bottomline for Web Analytics Demystification #5:

You probably spent 30 mins looking through your initial set of reports and since this last module was worth 10 and you are now up to 35 points!

Congratulations you have graduated this delightful Web Analytics Primer!!

Give yourself a pat on the back, or have someone do it for you. :)

Doing the first set of effort outlined above will be approximately three hours. You needed to bring absolutely no knowledge of web analytics to the table (hopefully this post fills that gap). And look how much you have accomplished. 35/100 points!! Not bad for three hours of work. [Ok, ok, ok and an hour to read this post!]

You are not God's gift to Web Analytics, yet. You'll get there soon enough.

For now you understand your customers, you understand what action to take on your website, you are in line for a bonus! I am happy.

Ok now its your turn.

Please share your own lessons, perspectives, critique, bouquets and brickbats via comments. What works for you? What does not? Add your voice. Thank you.

[Like this post? For more posts like this please click here, if it might be of interest please check out my book: Web Analytics: An Hour A Day.]

Comments

  1. 1
    Ankur Mody says:

    Web Analytics can't be so lucidly expressed and explained as you have in this post.

    Keep it up ! ! !
    Ankur P Mody

  2. 2

    Really demystified…thanks…

  3. 3
    can says:

    Best blog/post ever..

    Thank you.

  4. 4
    Joe Teixeira says:

    My only wish is that this post was created 2 years ago when I got into this mess….errr, industry :)

    Seriously speaking, my only wish is that the Site Overlay report worked better (in Google Analytics). Like you Avinash I love the Site Overlay report, but I only do when it works. It seems to me that if there is any kind of flash, heavy scripting, or other dynamic sutff happening, Site Overlay does not work. I'm not a programmer, but there's got to be a way to get the Site Overlay report to work smoothly and report on flash and other dynamic elements, right?

    I also wish that Site Overlay didn't show the total number of times a page was visited from the page you're looking at on every single link; instead, it would be neat to see the number of actual clicks each link received. Example: on my index.html page, there are 3 links to my about.html page – one on top, one on the left, one on the bottom. All three links show me "343 Clicks / 54 Conversions / $4,854 Revenue" when i mouse over them. It would be nice to have the top link show me "201 Clicks…", the left link show "54 Clicks…", and the bottom one show "32 Clicks…", for example.

    Okay enough out of me. Thanks for the great post Avinash!

  5. 5
    Ned says:

    Thanks Avinash. For someone like me who is still in the 'growth' [and learning] stage of web analytics, this was a very useful post.

    I just want to add two small comments – one, take a little time to understand the definitions of the basic metrics as your vendor has defined it. There may be subtle differences in the way certain things are measured and you probably don't want to just assume what the numbers mean.

    And the second thing I want to mention is reiterating Avinash's point about looking at simple things for a start. Sometimes we get into the 'black hole' of wanting everything under the sun (including mouse movements), when we haven't even figured out what to do with the basic information we have. The key is [as THE MAN himself says] to come up with actionable insights :-).

    -NK

  6. 6
    Jens Witzig says:

    Hey there Avinash, this is a great post! I just sent it out to all people of my company, just to get them a fun-to-read and easy-to-understand overview about what webanalytics is and what i am doing here :-) ! Once again, thanks a lot, this is a GREAT post! Jens

  7. 7
    Chuck says:

    Thanks for the article, Avinash. Besides being a primer for the non-hardcore folks around our company, it's great to have something digestible to send to my parents so they can finally understand what I do.

  8. 8

    Excellent post Avinash. I am the marketing chair the Institute of Management Consultants of Northern California. We are working to help educate our members on new media and associated tools. This is one of the better intros to web analytics. I have recommended your book on several occasions now.

    Keep it coming!

  9. 9
    Eric Chen says:

    It is getting boring to say great post for every post you write but I have to be boring again. Great post!

    I concur with Joe in wishing that I had this post when I got started in web analytics – I would have gladly traded this page for the books that were available on web analytics and all they did was provide formulas and encouraged me to learn code.

    This post works so well becuase numbers and formulas are secondary, you make it so easy to know what I am solving for. That is very valuable even for a experienced Analyst like me.

    I am impressed that after such as long time of blogging you can surprise us. Thanks!!

  10. 10

    A bar has been raised, and a gauntlet thrown down. ;)

    Great work Avinash.

    Daniel Shields

  11. 11
    Jeff K says:

    "Web Analytics Demystified"

    Where I have heard that before? Oh yeah, webanalyticsdemystified.com :-)

  12. 12

    Joe : Two years ago I was in "web analytics diapers" myself!! It takes a while to get smart enough that you finally know the simple stuff!! :)

    In terms of your comment…..

    The first part I agree with you. The GA site overlay seems to work imperfectly on some dynamic sites. It should be fixed, and hopefully it will be.

    The second part is a common problem to all the tools.

    If you have "duplicate links" on the page (in your case three links on a page that point to the same destination) then no web analytics tool has the capability to be super brilliant automatically and guess which one was clicked.

    Remember all it has is that on page x a link was clicked and that click went to page y.

    Then during site overlay it has to render the data back on the links on page x. At this point it has no idea which one of the three "duplicate" links were clicked so it will show the same number.

    There is a simple solution to this: Make the duplicate links unique. Use "lid" (I call it link id, you can call it joe or link or iraq, it does not matter!).

    Let's apply this to your site…..

    You have tow links to About Us, one on the top right (orange area) and one at the bottom of the page (footer). Perhaps on a you also have that link in the middle of the page.

    This is the link:

    http://www.morevisibility.com/au_overview.html

    My recommendation is find the global elements and add a lid to it. In your case the orange box appears on all the pages, as does the footer. My guess is you have these elements in one file and they are being automatically included on all the pages.

    Find those files and change the links to…..

    In the orange box on the top right:

    From:
    http://www.morevisibility.com/au_overview.html
    To:
    http://www.morevisibility.com/au_overview.html?lid=right_nav

    In the footer change it to:

    From:
    http://www.morevisibility.com/au_overview.html
    To:
    http://www.morevisibility.com/au_overview.html?lid=footer

    No need to do anything to the link in the content body.

    What you have done is provided one additional piece of data to your web analytics tools (and your website will ignore the lid parameter which is just fine!). Now the tool knows that: on page x link with lid=right_nav was clicked to go to page y. When it paints it back in site overlay it knows where to "paint" the clicks.

    Done!

    This will work with any web analytics tool. And since you have to touch only the links in the global elements it is not a lot of work. Try it.

    Your site overlay not rocks even more! :)

    Hope this helps.

    Avinash.

  13. 13
    Steve says:

    Very welcome post Avinash! Will be pointing a few dozen folk at it.

    The only question I'd raise in addition is *Why* Web Analytics.

    I went looking for one (and went back and forth through yours too) a couple of weeks ago.

    A nice simple and short explain of Why.

    Not asking for much am I. ;-)

    Recognising that you do touch on the Why in this posting – for which I am grateful.

    I admit I am biased to our own goal of trying to explain "Why" to a fairly varied group. Content owners, designers, coders, mid and senior/exec management. Wheee.

    Cheers!

    – Steve
    PS You just *had* to pick a fight with Robbin didn't you. :-P (Evil Steve wrote this bit)

  14. 14
    Patrick says:

    Hi Avinash,

    great post! During the last couple of weeks, there wasn't a lot on your blog for me (I'm not hiring people, yet :-) and I don't have a blog myself), but this one made up for it. I'll probably read it a second time on the weekend.

    I read what you say about time on site in your book, again a few days ago (b/c somebody had a problem with that) and it made me wonder how that relates to bounce rate:

    If only the difference in time between 'last page' & 'page before last page' is tracked, I understand that time on site isn't very helpful for a blog if most people only read the homepage.

    But how does this relate to measuring bounce rate? How is it possible to measure bounce rate defined as leaving 5 or 10 seconds after entering the website on a certain page? How can this be tracked if web analytics tools (unless a java script hack is used) only measure the difference in time and we never know how long somebody stays on the last page?

  15. 15
    benry says:

    Great post and summary Avinash. Printed this off and gave it to the 10 people I know who aren't getting the 'why' we're doing web analytics.

  16. 16
    Cameron says:

    Nice post. I'm giving a talk about this general topic in January, so it was fascinating to see your take on this.

    A few issues I'm wrestling with (maybe future blog topics?):

    1. What do you tell someone who does not have significant amounts of traffic to their website? Say, 500 visitors a month? Are they wasting their time on analytics until they get more traffic to their site, or is there value in exploring their web data, scant though it may be? Is there a cutoff point at which someone needs to develop a strategy for getting more traffic?

    2. While I think your are correct that a focus on outcomes is imperative–this seems to be a problem in business, not just web analytics–don't you think that you are overstating how easy it is to get this data? Certainly it is not that easy to set up e-commerce tracking, custom goals, etc., especially for someone who is not well versed in web technologies. And, isn't finding those outcomes a big part of the art of analytics? Of course, e-commerce is a bit easier, but sites often have so many different purposes.

    Ok – sorry to write a book! This was a great post, and I appreciate you taking the time to write what seem more like chapters in a book than a quick blog post. Always a lot to learn.

    Thanks,
    Cameron

  17. 17
    Ferriol says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Once again, great post. I certainly agree with Cameron, you should think of writing a book, it would be very helpful.

    I also want to make my point about Site Overlay. I completely agree with Joe Texeira. There is room for improvement on this functionality.

    Click density does the job. Touch clarity is by far, much better. Crazzy egg does a better job than Site Overlay.

    It kills me that if you have the same link in different positions, site overlay returns you the same data.

    Ferriol
    http://www.trucosgoogleanalytics.com

  18. 18

    Hi Avinash,

    Good post with a lot of great information.

    Your answer to the google analytics overlay of course works fine from a tracking perspective in Google Analytics (adding the lid= to the URL).

    I just wanted to point out though that if you're optimizing for search engines that the best way to do this is to add an LID to the link code like so (IE; in HBX); < a href="yadadadadda.html" rel="nofollow" >. Many other higher end tracking systems (Visual Site, HBX, IndexTools, Omniture Etc) allow you to do this quite easily.

    Some search engines will look at different links as different URL's which have the same content. If the same content is matched in a number of links search engines may penalize you for spamming.

    I've raised this with Google before (trying to change it to force the implemetation to happen in the page code rather than the URL) because Google Analytics in this one case is kind of working against itself in terms of getting good google organic serps, because Google don't like duplicate content. Duplicate content = bad! ;o)

    This post is timely because we're looking at a workaround in GA for this from their new tracking scripts which includes event tracking. If we can name a link as an event we may be able to hack it!

    Will keep you posted.
    br
    Steve

  19. 19
    Jaisri says:

    Great post Avinash! have forwarded the link to all web analysts and web analytics enthusiasts I know.

  20. 20
    Trevor Longino says:

    Great post! I've been lurking on this blog for a while, but that lengthy and reasoned post on your part brought me out of the woodwork.

    Being fairly new at web analytics myself, I find that your post just about sums up all I know about the business. I'd be afraid to write a post like that on my blog; I'd have nothing else to talk about for the next few months!

    Keep up the good work, Avinash

  21. 21
    Carly says:

    I had the pleasure of beginning my publishing career with your keynote address last week at the SIPA conference. I was there to learn more about the specialized publishing industry — I thought I would learn more about analytics "someday" and/or make a smart hire and find an employee who would know more than I know. Someday is today, thanks to your brand of evangelism! Your information, your way of thinking, and your way of spreading the word will empower me to succeed sooner. Thank you.

  22. 22
    Kim says:

    Avinash,

    Thanks for the great post. I'm just starting out in the field now and coming to grips with GA. Your book and blogs have helped immensely with my training!!

    Thanks again!

  23. 23
    Latham says:

    In regards to the problem with sites that you don't have a good way to measure Bounce Rate. I work on multiple sites that are entirely Flash and thus we have no "pages" beyond the homepage which is one big Flash movie.

    While I've created "fake page views" with GA so we can now gauge Bounce Rates, we still have old sites that no one ever created fake page views for. To combat this, I compared the length of visit as it's comparable across all of our sites.

    While not perfect, I figured that visits under 10 seconds were more or less a "bounce". I look mainly at how much of our traffic is in that sweet spot of a few minutes (3-5 or so).

    I hope that may help someone who is a similar situation (I would think it'd work well for big blog pages as well).

    I'd love your take on this idea as well Avinash.

    Cheers,
    Latham

  24. 24
    Patrick says:

    Hi Ferriol,

    Avinash has already written a book. Look at the bottom of his posts where it says something along the lines "liked this post? check out the book" :-). Or simply look at the right side, there's a picture of the book.

    It's a great book with tons of useful information (480 sites, I think) and he donates all of the money it earns him to two charities.

    @Avinash: Maybe you should consider another color for that mention of your book under the blog posts or featuring it more "aggressively" in another way? I bet Ferriol wasn't the only one who didn't see it..though of course I know making your blog look like you're about to put adsense everywhere is the last thing on your mind :-)

  25. 25
    Ferriol says:

    Actually…Avinash´s book is in our office! No doubts about it.

    What i meant is that he could keep writing books, reading all his articles (long and beautiful!) could do for writing an encyclopedia.

    There is so much to say about this topic, the web analytics, company cultures about it, etc…

    And there are no many analysts…and good ones…

  26. 26
    Thomas says:

    Sir!

    Question about bounce rates, perhaps worth discussing on your site some day: wondering about the effect on bounce rates for pages set as browser's default homepages, eg a university homepage: if, say, 1000 uni employees automatically open the uni's homepage every time they open a browser (and in most cases visit another site automatically), that must distort bounce rate (as well as distorting the "visits" figures), no? Or is, say, Google Analytics, smart enough to filter that out automatically, or must one adjust the filter settings automatically?
    And this same problem could conceivably affect not only small institutions but sites commonly chosen as default homepages, eg NY Times. Many thanks for your book and site–even if you never respond to this comment!

  27. 27

    Everyone : Am on a three week vacation, heading into a week of no internet access (eeeeeee!!! – me screaming!! : ). If there are delays in approving comments or replying to email then you'll know why.

    Cameron : Here are a couple of quick answers…..

    #1 Are they wasting their time on analytics until they get more traffic to their site, or is there value in exploring their web data, scant though it may be?

    Start at the start, don't wait. 500 is a good enough number to get a idea of who is there and what they are doing etc. Pretty much everything except my recommendation #3 in the above. Of course you won't analyze the data every couple hours because you don't have enough!

    I am a big fan of learning early and learning often and optimizing based on data.

    #2 – don’t you think that you are overstating how easy it is to get this data? Certainly it is not that easy to set up e-commerce tracking, custom goals, etc., especially for someone who is not well versed in web technologies.

    It does take a small effort but it is not a overwhelming barrier. Check out the help desk article of the tool you have. Of course along with capturing the order / revenue data you want to also capture the underwear of the visitor then it gets tricky!!

    If you are using Google Analytics you can call Caleb at http://www.pop.us or Justin at http://www.epikone.com Both companies are extremely affordable and I am a huge fan of the guys, they are bright and care about their customer's success.

    Everyone : Steve meant to type this in as a addition option for eliminating the "duplicate" links issue:

    < a href=”yadadada.html” name=”&lid=right_menu” >

    He mentions this works with Visual Sciences and Omniture. Please check if it works for your web analytics tool becuase most tools still don't support this nice feature – though they all probably should!

    Latham : This is of course a good idea. The nice thing is that you won't have to create fake page views in the near future. With the Event Logging feature from Google Analytics you can generate actual relevant business events and track success. And these events you'll generate are not fake page views, they are pieces of data stored and reported on separately, giving you a clean read of "page views" on your site if you have a site with pages and also rich media (flash, videos, ajax, whatever else).

    I am a fan of using time to determine bounce rate (in my book you'll see a stress on that). But the standard definition is "single page view sessions", which is fine as well.

    Patrick : You are too kind but I am very shy about any "selling" on this blog. I am confident that if people are interested in my book or consulting then they'll find it/me!

    Thomas : Unfortunately no web analytics tool will automatically remove the "home page set" sessions. How would it know and guess? Tough issue.

    But in the past when we have wanted to know this I have analyzed the pattern of bounces (using say persistent anonymous cookie id's or other such values) to identify sessions from certain segments that consistently have a high bounce rate. It is not hard to segment the data to do that and you'll have your answer.

    Thanks everyone for your kind words about the article, I am humbled that you all found it to be of value!

    Over and out for a week!

    -Avinash.

  28. 28

    @Avinash – I may be imagining it, but I have a sneaky recollection that Omniture Clickmap does recognise multiple links on a page to the same target, and reports them correctly. My imagination can be less than lucid at times however…

    @Thomas – had the same issue recently with a university department. All the lab PCs had the department site set as homepage. Trick we suggested was to filter IP ranges – either within the analytics package, or via server side (not delivering the tracking code within the page based on IP range).

    Such a nice post. I'll be reading a few more pages of your book now Avanish :)

  29. 29
    Juan Damia says:

    Great post, I've really enjoyed it.

    Thanks Avinash!!!

  30. 30
    Alex -S- says:

    OUTSTANDING!!!!!!!

    I too will be forwarding tis article to people within the organization i'm at just now – to reinforce why they brought me on board :)

    We (finally) just added analytics to the old site (new site to be up within the next 3 months) so i'm looking forward to using the old site to "play" with the dashboards and panels and then when the new site goes live i'll be able to say "look at this figure and that figure" and (hopefully) amaze the powers that be even more.

    After this post – i think i need to get my boss to invest in a copy of your book – do you do autographed copies? BC you truly are a "rock star" in the world of analytics!!!

    Keep up the good work!

    Alex

  31. 31
    Jahangir says:

    Two words to describe this post: "Just awesome" !!

    -Jahangir

  32. 32
    Patrick says:

    I have your book but this blog post is so sweet and easy to read! Most useful thing I've read all year, as far as blogging goes….Thanks a bunch!

  33. 33
    Fan Lei says:

    Your book – An Hour a day – is the most interesting and useful book I have ever read in recent years.The demystified paper are also good,thanks!

  34. 34
    Sameer says:

    I am in heaven!! Avinash, you have given excellent insight to novice webmaster like us.

    I am reading Web Analytics: An Hour a day
    hats off, to you, Its sheer benediction…

    Reading your book seems I am listening complex Euclid's theory or sitting behind Niagara!!

  35. 35
    Cully P says:

    Avinash,

    Great explanations and great examples. People should read this blog–it's almost like Cliff's Notes!

    Thanks

  36. 36

    Excellent reading, wish more people could make could make complex systems so simple to understand.

  37. 37

    Excellent stuff, thanks for sharing.

  38. 38
    suhel says:

    Its was awesome, I have been working on GA for last two years, but never thought about its vastness. Thanks avinash for telling, analytics is not all about generating monthly reports for your main metrics.

    And congrats for getting award!

  39. 39
    Lokesh says:

    Great article!

    I am tracking visitors on my website using statcounter mostly and on one website, I am using google analytics (I like the "Goal" feature). I was just curious why this article uses G analytics as an example. Is G Analytics better than statcounter? Is there a particular reason why G Analytics is better?

    Thanks
    Lokesh

  40. 40

    […] Here’s a great beginner’s guide from blogger and web analysis savant Avinash Kausik, who writes Occam’s Razor. After you master the beginner’s guide, his blog can help you plumb the depths of web performance as deeply as you dare to go! […]

  41. 41

    I have spent a good bit of time and energy asking for help in interpreting web analytics. I was beginning to think that I was not able to ask the question correctly, or that I was the only one who did not get it.

    Thanks for this intro.

  42. 42
    modulesoft says:

    Great post! I’ve been Looking on this blog for a while. You are a wonderful source on getting the most out of Analytics.

    Keep up the good work, Avinash

  43. 43

    Hi, I have my website connected to analytics. I am curious because my numbers go down rather than up even though I get a reasonable amount of views to website. The numbers went up to about 800 and then started to go down again. Now its at 450 ish, Also countrys that once showed having had views no longer do. Can you explain this to me please. Thank you.

  44. 44
    Rohithpras says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Great post as always. I have a very common question, i have been reading lots of stuff(just bluffing..) on web analytics. I feel somehow that unless we do experiment ourselves with these things we may not be able to master things. How can an amatuer web analyst become a master with out working on some medium or huge sites? is it only theory which we speak about make us great? You are a renowed Web Analyst, and you might come across many super sites, but what about those who are just into the analytics world and dont have much access to the super sites? can you give some suggestions how to be picture perfect with the techniques.
    Thanks in advance.

  45. 45

    Rohit : In terms of your ability to answer fundamental questions I think there is little difference between big sites and small ones.

    Understanding what business problems you are solving, what goals to set, identifying what are the real success metrics, how to drive changes on the website etc etc etc. This is the hardest part of being an Analyst and you can master it any time, any place. So do. : )

    There are a couple of interesting challenges big sites/companies bring that are indeed unique.

    1] Size of data. As you go bigger the size of data expands, perhaps even exponentially. This poses challenges in terms of the tools you can use (hardware and software etc), the kinds of queries you can write, the kinds of segmentation you can do etc.

    2] Organization (politics, bureaucracy, needing to convince people etc). This is the sad part of any big organization, all the "overhead" you need to deal with to find anything or get anything done. You'll be missing "tribal knowledge", you will have to do way too much reporting (rather than analysis), it is much more tricky to navigate the waterways.

    It is hard to prepare for both of the above challenges from the outside, i.e. at a small company. You have to be in the middle of it to truly hone your skills at solving those two challenges.

    On the bright side you can still become a good Analyst where you are, and grow them as you move to larger companies.

    Good Luck.

    Avinash.

  46. 46
    Rohithpras says:

    Thank you very much for the guidance. It was really helpful to get some ideas.

    Cheers,
    Rohit

  47. 47
    Fred says:

    Thanks for the information, really clearly put and at last – understandable.

  48. 48
    Amit Bhatia says:

    Excellent Post!!!

    I will take one crucial thing from this post… knowledge of goals .. why your website exist? what is the purpose of the website and then apply analytics in order to get the actual data for the goals. May be, we can call it reverse funnel approach. Otherwise, what good does the unique visitors/pageviews serve? The power is in the meaning behind each unique data point or relationship between them.

  49. 49
    Mint Tree says:

    Uhmn… I've gotten to ask: how do we get to the 1000 points (you son of a WA God ;)?

  50. 50
    Angie says:

    WOW!!! What a great post!!!
    Such great guidance!!!

    Keep it up!!
    Thank you!

  51. 51
    Admin says:

    Hi,

    How would you track links hovering events? I guess with Rich Internet Media becoming more popular these days it is important to track non-navigation behavior such as tooltip hovering, and other interactive events.

    Please advise.

  52. 52

    Admin: You can use something like clicktale to do this if you want. I know crazyegg also has features that allow you do this. In an ideal scenario you can use Event Tracking features from web analytics tools to also do this.

    What's important to do first is figure out:

    1) If you have the capacity to process all the data you'll get. And by you I mean you, now your analytics tool.

    Most people underestimate what it takes to process this info and convert them into insights. I would much rather be a lot more deliberative about the "hovers" and "mouse movements" I collect, and make sure it can be segmented else in aggregate it is a complete waste of time.

    2) You have other ways to give context to the data (like surveys or usability or tests etc).

    We often think that if only we had a video of the session we would know what the person was trying to do. This is false. Even more so for mouse hovers and movements. It is hard to get into people's heads.

    If in your case you understand the above two challenges and have some way of overcoming them (using intellect or tools) then you'll be a massive success.

    -Avinash.

  53. 53
    Stuart says:

    Hey there Avinash, awesome post!

    I just emailed this to all the guys at the place I work, just to get them a great resource to gain a better understanding of what Analytics is, and why it is so important to get this right. Once again, thanks a bunch matey – keep up the good work… and hello from York, North Yorkshire!!

  54. 54
    Admin says:

    Avinash: Thanks for the insightful response!

  55. 55
    DJ München says:

    Now that is really good info. I use Analytics also for my DJ Site…. but now I learned that you can do a lot more.

    Thank you

  56. 56
    dj hochzeit says:

    hello- is there any chance for a german version ?
    Your site was recommended by mr. wong

  57. 57
    Patrick says:

    Hey DJ (always wanted to say that haha) München/hochzeit – I assume youre one and the same person? I'm from Germany, too (Nuremberg area).

    What do you mean by a German version?just curious..?

    EDIT: the new edit feature is real nice, Avinash ;-) – just saying..I did actually edit something, though.

  58. 58
    DJ says:

    Great analytics. I think it's very neccesary to have a look at it!

  59. 59

    It took some time to get it all, but now I think I can use Google-Analytics more effective – Thank you very much for this! :-)

  60. 60
    Recruiter says:

    Firstly I should thank 'Actionable Analytics' for sending me to this great article.

    I started off researching 'direct traffic' and all its variations, but ended up reading the lot and being a whole lot wiser.

    Many Thanks

  61. 61
    Peter says:

    Where on earth can I find an analytics tool that is as user friendly as those screen shots make it seem!?

    Google analytics is out (I have my reasons). What program is Avinash using in the #3 fix stuff save money section?

  62. 62

    Peter: The first screenshot is from Google Analytics, this one:

    http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/google-analytics-entry-page-landing-pages-1.png

    The second one is from Indextools, now called Yahoo! Web Analytics:

    http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/indextools-keywords-bounce-rate.png

    -Avinash.

  63. 63
    Kanika says:

    A very well written blog. You made it so easy for a beginner to understand the basiscs of Web Analytics. I went through the free Google online course provided on Google Analytics, and trust me it was not as easy to understand as this one.

    Great job Avinash!

  64. 64
    Kala says:

    Great post Avinash, you have really made it simple for newbie like me to understand what actually we can do with Analytics and how to use that data to improve. I want to get into depth of how we can use google analytics to improve our website conversion and profit from it. Pls guide me to some of the best interest resources that will be helpful to read and understand more on this.

    Thank you

    Keep up the good work.

  65. 65
    Saagar says:

    Great Post !!! Avinash. I know you have written this post long time ago. Even I have read it long time. Still it is fresh !!!! Just wanted to become 100th Commentor!!!

  66. 66

    Hi Avinash,

    Thanks for the post. Its always great to get back to basics as one ends up picking a new point or two.
    I have a question on the site overlay bit:
    a horizontal portal like sify keeps changing the content showcased in various sections/ tabs on the homepage few times day. But when one takes a look at the site overlay, it gives heat map for only the content currently showcased. How does one get to know the heat map of content showcased for the previous day to begin with as it will give us an idea of what kind of content, showcased where works…

    ( hourly break up will also be grt as it will help us understand how office traffic behaves vs home traffic, NRI Vs RI etc)

    some help on this will be greatly appreciated. We have tried things like crazy egg but the cost prohibits us to do this on a continuous basis

    Cheers,
    Kount

  67. 67

    Kount: As you mention Crazy Egg does archive snapshots but other tools don't.

    I would push back and ask you why would you need site overlay for every hour? Would you have a capacity to take all that data and make intelligent decisions?

    It is quite likely that the only data you might find valuable will be for persistent things (like top nav or some persistent promotional spots), for which any tool's site overlay will work. For the fast changing links and content there are other navigational analysis reports that will work just fine.

    I realize this it not the answer you were looking for, but hopefully it is food for thought.

    Avinash.

  68. 68
    Nicky says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I manage a content website and would like to know how can the optimizer test be set up or be useful for me to know which layout works better for user, For Eg: I have 2 versions of my article page, i would like to test which of them is leading users to click of other related stories and thus increase PV/Visit of my site, would optimizer help me test this?

    Nicky

  69. 69

    Nicky: You can do a/b testing with the optimizer, it is much easier than doing multivariate testing.

    Here is the four step process you would follow:

    Advanced A/B Testing

    If you don't want to measure a conversion page (say lead submission or donation etc) then you can also test which version of your page, A or B or C, did better on other metrics. You will simply integrated Google Website Optimizer with Google Analytics and use GA to measure any metric's performance you want.

    Here's a helpful link for integrating the two tools:

    GWO / Google Analytics Integration

    Good luck!

    Avinash.

  70. 70
    DJ München says:

    Again me. Just fpound out, that the analytics don't work 100%. Maybe I did something wrong?

  71. 71
    Douglas Face says:

    I am having trouble finding where to put the code. I use quickblog by godaddy and I don't really see the code for their page. I know it needs to go before the last body tag but what do I do when I can't see the body tag.

    Thanks in advance
    Doug

  72. 72
    Dirk says:

    Excellent ! I am the photographer from photography world and Media akzent in Cologne. We are working to help educate our members on new media and associated tools. This is one of the better thinks. Regards from Cologne!

  73. 73
    Wandtattoo Sprüche says:

    Great article about analytics. Best regard MJ

  74. 74
    Margaret says:

    Thank you for this well written article, you have managed to explained analytics in a really clear manner for me.

  75. 75
    Eugene T.S. Wong says:

    Thank you for sharing all of this information. It's good to have all these statistics put into perspective for a blog.

    I'm currently publishing ODF templates, so it really helps me to get the word out.

  76. 76
    Chad Musgrove says:

    Great post!

    You explain website analytics very well. Internet Marketing without website analytics of some sort is just guessing. Many business owners do not have the time to look at these reports every month.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Regards, Chad Musgrove

  77. 77
    vinc says:

    Very intresting article about analytics, I have learned a lot – Thanks!

  78. 78
    Rob Perkins says:

    Very intresting article about analytics, I have learned a lot more and now somethings are more clear for me to apply in my job.

  79. 79
    DJ Micha says:

    So, it’s time stop thinking of direct traffic as people typing in your URL, this isn’t necessarily the case. ‘Other’ or ‘unknown’ would be a more accurate description.

    It’s also time to realise the importance of campaign tracking on your inbound links, as Avinash Kaushik points out in his definition of direct traffic. If you always ensure that your links are passing source and campaign info, then you are forcing the referrer field to be populated even if the browser doesn’t pass it. There’s an easy way to build campaign tracking URLs in Google Analytics.

  80. 81
    C M Vyas says:

    Analytics is actually a very commonsense activity requiring patience, skill and a great understanding of processes immediately. But how to use it to your advantage is what marketers are doing.

    Is there a freelance opportunity for those who wish to provide such a service? I would be very interested in such an assignment.

  81. 82
    Yoav Taler says:

    Great guide.

    I've discovered some hidden surprises!

  82. 83
    Trev Jones says:

    Avinash,

    Love your article about demystifying web analytics.

    I definitely used as this as a reference point. Thank you sir.

Trackbacks

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  34. […] A more detailed explanation of website analytics can be found at Kaushiks web analytics demystified post. […]

  35. […]
    En segundo lugar, os recomiendo una publicación del omnipresente Avinash Kaushik llamada web analytics demystified. En ella explica como interpretar las métricas más básicas (visitas, porcentaje de rebote, páginas vistas, etc.) así como el uso de algunas herramientas, de las complementarias a las más conocidas. Merece la pena que le deis un vistazo, incluso los iniciados.
    […]

  36. […]
    It’s worth knowing what makes up “direct traffic” in your analytics reports. Why? I’ve been seeing a strange set of numbers in Page traffic reports in Google Analytics recently: when comparing traffic sources for the homepage, I’ve seen much higher bounce rates for direct traffic than for organic Google referrals. Direct traffic is usually defined as traffic coming from:
    […]

  37. […]
    If ever there was a web analytics guru, it’s Avinash Kaushik. His books, Web Analytics: An Hour a Day & Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability & Science of Customer Centricity are web analytics must-reads. His blog, Occam’s Razor, is also extremely useful. In Web Analytics Demystified, he lays out some of the basic metrics:
    […]

  38. […]
    Web Analytics Demystified” – Post de Avinash Kaushik
    […]

  39. […]
    Understanding It All: Web Analytics Demystified. Avinash Kaushik is the godfather of Analytics. This is a great guide that breaks down what it all means.
    […]

  40. […]
    More than 10 million sites use Google Analytics, which is easily the leader in analytics solutions.
    The free tool thankfully does not have a steep learning curve. In fact, after reading a simple beginner’s guide, you can develop an impressive working knowledge of the tool and analytics in general. Distilled has plenty of other Google Analytics Resources for Beginners to Advanced Users that are worth a look.
    […]

  41. […]
    Understanding It All: Web Analytics Demystified
    Avinash Kaushik is the godfather of Analytics. This is a great guide that breaks down what it all means.
    […]

  42. […]
    Web Analytics Demystified – Analytics evangelist, Avinash Kaushik, breaks down Google Analytics. A nice, dense read
    […]

  43. […]
    Web Analytics Demystified – Analytics evangelist, Avinash Kaushik, breaks down Google Analytics. A nice, dense read that you’ll get a lot out of.
    […]

  44. […]
    Demystifing Analytics. This is a nice site to get a 5 step breakdown on how to make sense of the data given to you from google analytics
    […]

  45. […]
    Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik posted his guide to Web Analytics Demystified back in December 2007 and although some of the graphics may have changed in the interim, his core principles still hold true.
    […]

  46. […]
    " Web Analytics Demystified "- Avinash Kaushik
    […]

  47. […]
    “Web Analytics Demystified” – Avinash Kaushik
    […]

  48. […]
    Social – This metric tells you about the social sources that are driving traffic to your site and how people are engaging through their social networks.
    Source: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/web-analytics-demystified/
    […]

  49. […]
    Bouncepercentage ofwel bouncerate is voor SEO een van de belangrijkste raadgevers. Bouncerate is het percentage bezoekers die op de website zijn gekomen en geen vervolgactie hebben ondernomen zoals Avinash Kaushik zei “I came, I puked, I left”. Men is op de website gekomen, constateerde dat de inhoud niet interessant of relevant was en klikte direct weg.
    […]

  50. […]
    I did learn some new tricks on how to set it up on the multiple sites I “manage” and how to track some specific actions. I can always get to the mechanics of it, it’s the analysis – the what does this all mean – part that I get hung up on. I’m hoping this guy can help: Occam’s Razor: Web Analytics Demystified otherwise I might need a razor.
    […]

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