Google Analytics Help: Questions, Answers, Tips, Ideas, Suggestions

Tips Tags, tracking advanced javascript functions, navigation summaries and exit pages, delights of benchmarking, challenges with goals and funnels, monogamy or polygamy, flash tracking and ajax, multi domain tracking, entrance paths (my favorite!), bosses and robots (is there a difference?), we tackle all these topics & more in this post.

But before all that, some context.

A recent wonderful experience for me was participating in a analytics webinar hosted by NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network). I am very fond of NTEN, they do amazing work (plus Holly and her team are awesome!).

This was my second outing with NTEN, and this time round the idea was simple. They ask questions about Google Analytics and I try to answer as many of them as quickly as I can (with a modicum of intelligence).

It was a lot of fun. Often we live in our high and mighty towers (everyone except me of course!) and it is nice to get a dose of reality. Real people with real problems.

Of course there were waaaay more questions than I could answer in the available time. So I promised that I would write a blog post to answer them. They get what they want, and I make up for the fact that in two years I have written two posts exclusively about GA!

These questions were in the context of Google Analytics. But I think they'll apply to many different web analytics tools, in as much those of you that use other tools might also find them to be of value.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

Google Analytics: "Frequently" Asked Questions.

How can nonprofits on content management systems best use Google Analytics when they don't have access to html code on the backend?

In order to use any web analytics tool (javascript tag based) it is mandatory that you are able to add a few lines of code to your website. If that is not possible you are out of luck.

The nice thing is that almost all websites have something like a footer.html (or php or jhtml or whatever) that gets automatically added to all the pages to the site. If you can just add your .js tag to that file then you are set. So it is not a lot of work to add the base tag a site, and you don't need access to all the pages.

If are in the "out of luck" category, then you can opt to get access to your website's server logs and then use a log file based web analytics solution like Urchin from Google or ClickTracks (or in the honor of Dr. Stephen Turner: Analog!).

Remember the important part is that you don't have to live without data. : )

I would actually be interested in knowing how to track Javascript function links.

I think this question is related to links on a page that are encoded with javascript (hence can't be tracked natively by web analytics tools). Examples are links like: Print This Page or Email Me (with a mailto:) or Form Fields or Buttons etc etc.

Here's a specific one:

tracking javascript function links with google analytics is using Google Analytics (and Omniture) and they might want to track the number of people who click on the slideshow link on the home page. Note the way that link is encoded, that's a javascript function call.

MSNBC can use the _trackPageviewfunction in Google Analytics to track those clicks. Essentially that enables the javascript event to be assigned a page filename and boom (!) data. :)

More technical details in this help document: How do I track JavaScript events?

I had a question about Exit Pages: if a visitor uses the 'Back' button to exit out of a page, what is counted as the exit page? Is it the last page they got to before they started backing out, or is it the last page the hit 'Back' on?

Exit pages are typically the last page that gets recorded in a website visitors session.

Let answer the question in layers.

One difference between logfiles and javascript tags is that the tags will more accurately capture back button firefoxback button clicks. The reason is simple. When you press back button the page is most likely served from your browser cache, which means your logfile has not entry for it. But the javascript tag gets executed every time the page loads, so it will send data back to the server.

Specific to back buttons the answer will depend on which type of solution you are using.

But in this scenario: Home -> About -> Back (Home) -> Speaking Engagements -> Back (Home)

Google Analytics will report the Exit Page as the Home Page (the last page recorded in the session).

Navigation summary question – why is previous and next page often the same as the page you are viewing?

This is a good one, I was confused about it a while back as well.

The explanation of this one is really cool, it might sound technical but stick with me and you'll see what I mean by cool. . . . .

The report won't fit here so here is a badly butchered picture to show as an example (click here for a higher resolution picture):

google analytics navigation summary report-sm

The report is for my Web Analytics 2.0 post. And you'll notice that 15.90% of the referrers of traffic to that post is the post itself and the next page seen on the website by 15.90% of the visitors is that same post.


Cari explained it to me in September (when I was confused!). . . . .

It turns out that this page (web analytics 2.0) has close-ups of graphics (click on this image for higher resolution etc), and if a person reads the page, they will likely view the image / graphic, then hit the back button, causing a second hit.

This means that it will be its own "previous" page and its own "next" page.

Take this session history as an example:

Visitor Action One (view): /avinash/2007/09/rethink-web-analytics-introducing-web-analytics-20.html
Result: javascript hit generated (data collected)

Visitor Action Two (click):
Result: NO javascript hit generated (no data collected)

Visitor Action Three (back): /avinash/2007/09/rethink-web-analytics-introducing-web-analytics-20.html
Result: javascript hit generated

Visitor Action Four (click):
Result: NO javascript hit generated

Visitor Action Five (back): /avinash/2007/09/rethink-web-analytics-introducing-web-analytics-20.html
Result: javascript hit generated

To Google Analytics (or any other Analytics tool), it will look like this:

1) /avinash/2007/09/rethink-web-analytics-introducing-web-analytics-20.html – javascript hit generated

2) /avinash/2007/09/rethink- web-analytics-introducing-web-analytics-20.html– javascript hit generated

3) /avinash/2007/09/rethink-web-analytics-introducing-web-analytics-20.html – javascript hit generated

If you look at this in GA, you will see that the page was viewed 3 times, and that on 2 occasions, it was its own previous and on 2 occasions, it was its own next (!!). If this is the case, the previous and next values should always match (which it does in my case).

Amazed? Surprised? A] Cari is very good at what she does. B] Web Analytics is fun because it is such cool detective work!

Your navigational report might show the same page as the referrer because your Visitors might click Reload a bunch of times (generating "self referring" hits), and other such delightful behavior.

Benchmarking – how are the categories assigned or determined?

One of the features in Google Analytics is that those clients that opt-in their anonymous data can avail of features like Industry Benchmarking (Important : You have to make the choice to do this, you can choose to opt you data in anonymously or keep it private – not provide google permission to look at it. See: Data Sharing Setting FAQ.)

Here is the official answer to your question: When benchmarking is enabled, Google crawls the websites in the account then categorizes them by vertical and the amount of visits. The data is then made anonymous through aggregation.

In English: Google indexes and categorizes websites and uses that categorization to bucket your website.

But here is the nice thing:

google analytics benchmarking categorization

Click on that link that says Open Category List, and you'll see this:

google analytics benchmarking choose categories

You can choose your own category, if you don't like the one you were placed in automatically by Google. Win-Win.

You get three levels of categories, in this case: Computer & Electronics -> Software -> Operating Systems. And as it says at the bottom, as more data is available more categories will be available to allow you some very granular comparisons.

For more delightful details see: Using the benchmarking service.

How valuable/accurate is the benchmark data in GA?

Let's break it into two pieces.

The data is valuable.

You should not be surprised to hear that from the person who presented the web analytics 2.0 mental model – a core of which is competitive intelligence.

Here's a helpful analogy: If you only look at your web analytics data it is like sitting in a car with the dashboard in front of you. It tells you that you are going at 75 mph etc. But its as if the windshield and windows are blacked out, you have no idea what's going on around you. Using competitive intelligence data is like scraping that black paint from the windows so you can look out – and see that you are in a race and everyone else is driving at 200 mph. Context is king.

So use benchmarking in Google Analytics, use, use, or use the new Google Trends for Sites. Get context to your performance.

google analytics benchmarking bounce rate

In terms of accuracy, when it comes to competitive intelligence that is such a tough word (for any tool / data provider). Here is how the team works hard on your behalf:

1) Google will only show you benchmarking data if it has a critical mass of websites in your category. This is to ensure that you get good data.

2) Additionally the team applies mathematical algorithms to ensure significance and that any outliers are smoothed out to ensure you have the best possible benchmark.

3) You will only see yourself compared to "like sized" websites to ensure you are looking a relatively apple to apple comparison. Your blog won't be compared to , as an example.

Compare trends, ensure your category chosen is correct and you'll be set. Over time as more sites opt in and more data is available it will only strengthen the benchmark.

Our debate here-Do we have very specific niche topical blogs or have more general topic blogs so we "have bigger numbers"?

This is not a Analytics question, more like a blogging strategy question. IMHO unless you have something absolutely unique to offer (big number of bloggers, famous people to write, astounding offline reach etc etc etc) it is much hard to break through with a general topic blog.

You are probably very good at one thing, pick that topic and go. If you are good your unique audience will find you and Lady Success will be yours. Here's a helpful post: Ten More Blogging Tips From A Novice Blogger.

Funnels – ?? just a bit confused about how these things work!

Simple. You probably have a "structured experience" on your website. The simplest example of this is a cart and checkout experience. Or filling out a multi step application (credit card or a adwords account etc). Or sending a money order from a bank site.

Essentially anything that goes: Start -> Step One -> Step Two -> Step Three -> Done.

On your site perhaps: Add to Cart – > Start Checkout -> Billing Information -> Shipping Information -> Submit Order.

When you set up a goal in GA you have the opportunity to input the steps to get to that goal. In the above case the goal would be Submit Order and you can add the page urls from add to cart to shipping info. Then GA will automatically show you:

1) How many people enter at each step of the funnel.

2) How many people abandon at each step.

3) How many people make it to the next stage.

4) How many people make it all the way through.

Here is a funnel:

google analytics funnel report

It tells you that you have a major problem on the first step, 76% abandonment.

Most people come to that first stage from mifotonatura.php but a good bunch also come from the home page.

Of the 25k that exit about 10k exit your site! They are upset! :)

The second step is doing better, 58% abandonment. And your overall conversion is 9.98%.

You know what to improve and fix.

Funnels are very good at understanding where structured experiences on your websites are failing. They are typically the easiest things to fix on your website, so please use 'em.

Sorry – can you repeat again how to set up funnel and goal?

Here are a couple of helpful links:

Funnel Question: Does funnel visualization parse old data or just start tracking new visitors after it is set up?

Only the data from the day that you set up the funnel (starting an hour after you set up the funnel).

This is a common "feature" in pretty much all web analytics tools, you have no (or severely limited) ability to "reprocess" data. Some of the analytics tools comes with options where you can purchase an add on data warehouse component that will allow you to "reprocess" data. But most off the shelf ASP based solutions don't allow reprocessing of data.

Also if you set up a funnel today and a month later you remove a step, or add a step, then that change is only going forward. It is important to make a note of it.

How can I DELETE an existing goal?

You can't actually delete a goal once it's been created.

But you can turn it off.

In Analytics Settings > Profile Settings > Goal Settings click the 'Active Goal Off' radio button.


Does it make sense or is it fair to compare data among a couple or more analytics solutions? For example Google Analytics and HBX?

Nothing in life is fair. :)

It seems like a good thing to have more than one tool on your website, just in case. And I should not complain, I have eight tools on this blog.

But I have often recommended on this blog, and in Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, that it is optimal that you end up with one tool. Life is hard enough in terms of making sense of one tool and getting it to provide actionable insights. So find the one that is optimal for you and then stick to it. This is clearly a case where less is more.

It is ok to start off with multiple tools, and rather than whittling down your choice on a RFP or a vendor dog and pony, pick from your experience in a production environment. But strive to get one.

If you do use more than one tool, say GA and HBX, then realize that numbers between different tools will never tie, it is simply impossible. They will tend to be in a narrow band and tend to flow in the same general direction. If you have more than one tool and if they are approximately 8 – 10% close to each other than thank your lucky stars and move on.

If they are beyond 10% different (and you want to use both tools!) then see this post on a recommended process for reconciling between different tools: Convert Data Skeptics: Document, Educate & Pick Your Poison.

Oh and good luck.

Describe the "bounce rate". It's always high.

Bounce rate is perhaps the sexiest web metric today. Period.

From a customer perspective it measures this phenomenon on your website: "I came. I puked. I left."

It measures the landing pages on your websites that stink so badly that they can't even mange to get the Visitors to make a single click. Sad.

google analytics bounce rate

It is also immensely actionable. When you look at the data, it is easy to know where you need to take action. So use Bounce Rate, it is your friend (if not a true BFF!).

There are obvious exceptions. Blogs. I don't use bounce rate for my overall blog traffic because many of you are returning visitors, you will read my latest post and leave. This will mean a high bounce rate, and that is quite ok.

When I look at bounce rate for the blog I segment it for my New Visitors. I don't want them to leave after one page view, I want them to read a couple posts, be convinced of the blog's greatness and sign up for the RSS feed. So in that case bounce rate can be a little helpful.

Learn a lot more about bounce rate and how to action it here: Standard Metrics Revisited: #3: Bounce Rate.

Are pageviews/uniques getting obsolete with Ajax, Flash, etc.

Yes, atleast page views (I am so sorry I don't know what was meant by uniques).

Almost all web analytics tools today expect a page view, it is the fundamental foundation of all computations (sessions, time, etc etc). But there are no "page views" in Gmail or or much of the Paramount Pictures website. That makes them "hard" to track using standard javascript tags.

The method so far to deal with rich internet experiences was to create fake page views. Just so the web analytics tool would measure something. But this only resulted in lots of painful tagging work (which you are probably still doing) and this fake page view data polluted your real page view data resulting in a big mess.

We are now entering a new phase of evolution where we are going to use a new way to collect data, its called "Event Logging". Google Analytics uses this, and there are atleast one or two other analytics tools that use true event logging.

google analtyics event logging

No more fake page views, no more six year implementation cycles. And most of all you get to define up front exactly what "business interactions" you want to capture and you are able to do that at scale and analyze them with reports uniquely created for those rich media experiences.

Pageviews as a measure of success are on their way out, but they will still be around for some time (most of the web is still static). They will measure less and less of the complete customer experience picture.

Here's way more about GA Event Tracking than you ever wanted to know: Event Tracking Overview (Beta).

Do you need to use the newer Google Analytics code to add the event logging code?


Click on the GA logo on the top left (after you are logged into the tool). You'll be on the Analytics Setting page.

Click on Edit link next to the name of the website.

(And this is silly and waaaay hidden) Click on Check Status.

google analytics account settings

Click on the New Tracking Code (ga.js) tab.

Copy the code, replace your current (urchin.js) and you are good to go.

When analyzing navigation paths on my website, it gets really challenging because all our pages are interlinked and each can be accessed from a variety of pages. So when I ask "how many people clicked donate from the homepage and actually completed the donation form?" I can't get an answer because I can't tell from the donation page who got there from the homepage and then actually went on to the confirmation page. Ideas on this kind of multi-page navigation given lots of page re-use?

Long question, and a very complex one. But, and it is magnificent, I have perfect answer for you! A real hidden gem in Google Analytics (that sadly very few people use).

The Entrance Paths report.

Go to any page you want, in your case your home page, by going to Content -> Top Content (or Content by Title). In the summary of the page (data like page views, time on page, exits etc) you'll see, on the left, a link called Entrance Paths. CLICK!

This is what you'll see:

google analytics entrance paths report

You are looking at the Home Page and in the middle are all the possible clicks people can make on that page. Choose the link that says, in your case, Donation Form in the middle column. The report will transform to this…

google analytics entrance paths report detail

Let's say the second link in the middle column is the Donation Form link, the column on the right shows where those Visitors ended up. You'll easily be able to locate the Donation Form Completion Page and see how many donated. In my picture above let's say that is the third link so it would be 246 (9.27% of those who saw the Home Page).


I love this report because it is the anti path analysis (Path Analysis: Not A Good Use of Time). This report compresses all the other pages people might have seen and paths they might have followed. It shows you very effectively if that page (your home page) is doing the job it is supposed to be doing.

Very helpful. It takes a little thinking, but remember God helps those who help themselves. :)

How well does google analytics filter out bots? Can I be assured that my results are not skewed by bots?

Most robots / bots (say like the googlebot) do not execute javascript tags. This means they do not trigger your web analytics javascript tags and corrupt your data. [This is also the reason why robots don't see your multivariate and A/B testing pages.]

So Google Analytics and Omniture and CoreMetrics and all the other tools that use javascript tags are not affected by robots as much.

This is not the case with logs based solutions, for example log file parsers from WebTrends (or Urchin or ClickTracks mentioned above). It is a constant battle to filter bot traffic from server logs.

There are some rogue robots that can execute javascript tags (gomez is one of those). But it is rare, unlike as some folks would have your believe (it suits their goals). A best practice is that if you see a really unusual spike in traffic, go to your referring websites and your keyword reports and check if it can be explained. If not dig deeper. By unusual I mean big unusual.

Also you should know that the Vendors, including Google, has mechanisms in place to be very proactive with their monitoring algorithms to monitor such stuff. They are not always 100% fool proof, but they are on it all the time.

Not the answer you want, but I hope it helps a bit.

Can Google Analytics be used to combine stats from 2 different web servers w/2 different sub-domains?


An example could be: and

Here's Alex with the answer. . . .

Unlike traditional log analysis packages, Google Analytics doesn't rely on your web server(s) access logs. Since it's a fully hosted solution, it doesn't really matter where or how your website is hosted, so long as you can add the tracking code to every single page on your website. If your site spans 2 different sub-domains and your goal is to track the two sub-domains as one site:

(1) Create a Google Analytics account for

(2) Modify the tracking code as stated in here: How do I track all of the sub domains for my site in one profile?

(3) Add the same tracking code to both sub-domains

Happy Birthday!

How do I merge 3 or 4 websites into one set of stats?

This one can be a non trivial amount of work (in Google Analytics and many other tools). It can be done, but you are best placed in recruiting one of the many wonderful Google Analytics Authorized Consultants (GAAC's) to help you with it. They are all over the world and they offer services at all price points.

Once again, here is the GA Supreme Guru Alex. . . .

In the absence of roll-up reporting, and passing first cookie information from one domain to the next (to de-dupe unique visitors) can get tricky if you have more than 2 domains. If you're not so worried about unique visitors, you can simply add the same tracking code to all your domains to log the data into 1 "super" profile. [AK: Cheap trick! :)]

You can try linking a visitors navigation between the 3-4 websites together by tagging all outbound links that point to one another, using the _linker() method, but if a visitor doesn't click on the tagged links to get to each site, and instead navigates to each domain directly, Analytics will identify each that visitor as 4 unique visitors (one for each domain hit) in the super profile.

Not exactly straightforward.

Here's a helpful article: How do I install the tracking code if my site spans multiple domains?

If you only have 2 domains

Shortest follow up question ever!

1] ALWAYS _link() method method on any links that point from one of your domains to the other: What is _link() and how can it help me?
(2) Do as this article says: How do I install the tracking code if my site spans multiple domains?

What are the best reports to get top management to pay attention to web stats?

After two years of MBA school the one thing I learned was that you can answer any question with this: It depends. :)

All kidding aside, that is quite true in this case.

See this post for more awesome, practical, ideas: How To Excite People About Web Analytics: Five Tips.

And rather than reports might I suggest that you initially focus on reporting to them metrics that will connect with them and provide deep actionable insights.

My advice, pick metrics that pass these four filters: They are Uncomplex, Relevant, Timely and Instantly Useful.

Indepth details on strategy here: Web Metrics Demystified.

For dynamic sites, esp using AJAX, can the goal URL have a dynamic attribute such as mypage.aspx?ID=Success instead of a totally separate URL?


I am way out of my league with this, here's Alex again. . . .

I think what this question is asking is "how do I differentiate a goal page from my funnel pages if all appear to have the same URL?"

The answer is to use the _pageTracker(); method to generate fake pageviews each time a goal is "hit". See the section titled "Identical URLs across multiple steps" in this help center article.

– – –


You are a tough bunch. But that was a lot of fun, got me to share some of the knowledge I had and a couple things I feel excited about.

I hope you learned a lot as well and that this was productive.

Did we get the answers right here? Would you add / remove anything? Was something mis represented? Did I forget something? Is there a unique way you have solved one of these problems?

Please share your feedback with us, it would be greatly appreciated.

Important PS:
The most scalable way to get help with Google Analytics is sadly not this blog.

Google provides direct email support in 27 languages, simply click on the Contact Us link at the bottom of any Google Analytics report.

Option two is the wonderful Analytics Help website, run by Google.

Option three is the fantastic Analytics Google Groups site, run by our users (who we love and adore and cherish!).

Option four is getting Accountable Support through GAAC's – Google Analytics Authorized Consultants. This option is very affordable, the GAAC's provide full service or a la carte service at very competitive price points – worldwide!


  1. 1

    This post to me is definitely an overview of all things Occam's Razor. References of "I came, I puked, I left" and other now-famous quotes are great!

    It's always great to see the level of interest for Google Analytics, and really Web Analytics in general. Makes me feel real good that people are asking questions and are interested in WA and GA. And it's great to read the responses too! So don't be shy and keep sending Avinash your analytics questions :)

  2. 2

    Excellent post Avinash, but how come I did not know about this webinar? Looks like I am not visiting your Speaking Engagements page. But wait, it is not there!!! Please update all your 542 speaking engagement per month ;-) What about creating a feed for this page? This way all Google Reader addicts will be up-to-date with your engagements…

    Two comments. I think there was a misspelling that changed the whole meaning of an important phrase:

    We are not entering a new phase of evolution where we are going to use a new way to collect data, its called “Event Logging”.

    Shouldn't it be "We are *NOW* entering a new phase (…)"?

    Second. About GA sources of knowledge, I would warmly recommend Lunametrics Blog: very actionable and ground breaking, at least for me. Another excellent blog is Juntin Cutroni's.

    Again, thanks for the post, it is certainly useful for all tools but for GA users it is a gift from God (or whatever name He may have :-)

  3. 3


    Why didn't you split these questions into separate blog posts?

    Wouldn't it be more digestible if one post had only single question [with answer] or small group of closely related questions [with answers]?

  4. 4

    The concept of event tracking is a great weapon to track the visitor activity. As google is still in the Beta stage to lauch it in their GA. I look forward for more real time tracking features to be included in the GA with the help of analytics industry guru's. This post is a real gold mine of most of the critical trackings of a site. Must read for each one, who is into analytics.

  5. 5
    Bryan Cristina says

    Great information, I will have to pass this on to people who want a nice, concise, and linked to the goods reference for all their questions.

    I also want to thank you for again mentioning that path reports aren't the best use of your time. I've sprained my eyes numerous times due to the excessive rolling I've involuntarily done when people keep saying how much they want them. I try to explain and, well, you can only be so polite :)

  6. 6
    Samantha says

    How fantastic! I attended that webinar and found it to be so informative and too short! Thank you so much for taking the time to write out this post – I've shared it with my team here and we'll definitely be referring back to this.

  7. 7

    Avinash, thanks as always for being so generous in sharing such useful information.

    Event Tracking is a big deal and will give imaginative marketers very cool new ways to track metrics that are important to them. Once you get comfortable thinking in terms of events happening on your site rather than page views you won't want to go back…

    I just wish you could release this already rather than talk about it! ;-)

  8. 8

    Nice Post Avinash.

    A couple of comments on your answers:

    re. in Navigation reports why is the previous and next page the same as the one I'm analyzing?
    From the way GA works, if you have 2 subsequent pageviews with the same URL, it will show up in all 3 places in the navigational analysis report. Yes this can happen from the refresh button, or web 2.0 links pointing to the same URL, but I suspect the main reason is people clicking off the website and clicking the back button to return to the page. This is a much more common browser behavior and will result in GA collecting two subsequent pageviews with the same URL.

    re. Are pageviews becoming obsolete with Flash?
    I argue they never were really that great of a metric to start with. Take a look at some of the top News sites, 1/3 of the article pages have headers and footers common across all pages. The other 1/3 has banners and ads which you likely have seen before….so how much of the page are you actually 'viewing'? 1/3? Moreover, is it a pageview if I come to your hompage everyday and immediately click to the sports section. That more of a 'page navigation'……So what we really are measuring are 'pageloads' which a type of content interaction. So if we think of pageviews as a subset of content interactions, which we can track, then nothing is obsolete….we're just getting more advanced

    re. What are the best reports to get top management to pay attention to web stats?

    I'm going to go on a limb and say any report from which you can derive insights that are tied to something you can take action on. For example: Knowing that repeat visitors convert 10x higher than first time visitors is useless if you can't find a way to target either of those groups. Knowing that search campaign x performed 10x better than campaign y is great because you can spend more on x. Insights are interesting, but tying them to something one can take action on will make people pay attention.

  9. 9

    Hey Avinash –

    First off, thanks for linking out to the Paramount site. :)

    I believe we've talked about this before, but I'm still unclear about the consequences of switching from "fake pageviews" to event logging, and specifically, how it would effect a site's average time on site calculations.

    As you know, all of our film sites are one big Flash movie so to calculate an average time on site, I create fake pageviews for each "section" of the site (video, about the film, games etc.) and then more recently I tag all "events" within a section by using event logging.

    So before ga.js I used to only do pageviews, but now I currently do a mix and I think we're still ok with time site.

    But can you confirm that if I used event logging exclusively, I would lose GA's ability to calculate an accurate (or more accurate) average time on site? The reason being that I would have no other pages for the site to calculate time on site against.


  10. 10

    I am impressed with this post. The amazing thing is that most Analysts and Gurus keep repeating that Google Analytics is a basic tool and yet I can't seem to make Omniture do half of the advanced things you have described here. I have tried to really work with them and their support folks.

    Google Analytics just moved up our "must consider" path. Thank you.

  11. 11

    Thanks Avinash the Navigation summary answer came just at the right time. Now here is my challenge:

    a) I have minisite hosted on a 3rd party platform, so I can only add tracking codes to one page. This could potentially lead to the issue you described

    b) I have a added Morton Bock Javascript to this page as well, which will create a PV for all outgoing links (in my example all links are outgoing)

    In your example this would create a PV for the image click as well and should resolve the "missing JS issue".

    BUT I still see huge numbers for next page = landing page and how no idea where to start looking. Any sparks of wisdom would be highly appreciated.

  12. 12

    Daniel: You surely meant "whatever name She may have"!! :)

    Dennis: The ended up as one blog post because all the questions came from one webinar, and wanted to get through all of them in one go.

    Of course there are, as you pointed out, a number of benefits in terms of readability, SEO, time of splitting it up. Food for thought for the next time.

    Michael: You are special, you can always email me to get into the beta! "Friends of Avinash" (which includes all readers of my blog!) get special fast track entry!!

    Nick: Awesome! Great adds. I especially like the exit and entry / web 2.0 explanation for "self referrers".

    Latham: I am sorry if I did not explain it clearly in the past.

    Google Analytics will treat the "fake page views" the same as events when it comes to time on site computations.

    Here is a way to think about it….

    There are five kinds of "hits" in Google Analytics today. They are: Page, Transaction, Item, User Defined, Event. Each user click causes one of these clicks to happen on your site, and that click (hit) to be stored in the GA logs.

    So Time on site = t(last hit) – t(first hit).

    It does not matter if the hit came from pages being viewed or events (Play, Pause, Forward etc) or a combination of page "hits" and event "hits".

    So if you move to all events, you are fine. If you stay mixed or purely fake, that is fine as well (from the perspective of time on site).

    Florian: Ahh a challenge. :)

    The way outbound link tracking is implemented would influence the outcome (ironic use of words!).

    If the page DOM (browser's HTML representation) unloaded before the gif hit reached the server, the gif request would be dropped and tracking was lost. Hence the outbound "click" would not help.

    The solution could be to add a .5 sec delay after sending the gif request to make sure it had enough time to reach the servers and be recorded before the page changed.

    Slightly technical explanation, but I hope it helps a bit. [Did you also see Nick's comment above, he also had another thing that might cause "self referrers").


  13. 13


    I found your book and your website from Rich Page who i've been reading for the past month or so.

    I'm really enjoying it:-) Its so hard to just "jump in". I have a very limited, self-taught background, but I guess i needed a little "grounding" and structure and you're book is helping me to do that as well as give me some great fundamental questions and ways to look at the sites I'm interacting with.

    I'll be reading.


  14. 14

    Awesome post, though i am pretty new to blogging and internet publishing scenario, i now somewhat understand about Internet markets and scenario.

    Though , would have been bit better had this post been split into parts :P too much to digest in one go.

  15. 15

    Excellent as usual.

    I'm never sure the comments are the place to ask specific questions about report details but as this post is all about that I will allow myself:

    In the Entrance Paths report what does "ended up here" mean? the next page? the last page? all pages?



  16. 16

    I have been following this blog for a while (which you probably could find out!) It's great, especially the actionable insights perspective.

    I am using GA and get a lot out of it, but there is one question that I always pops into my head when I am looking through analytics data. "Where did these conversions come from?"

    It seems like there should be a report that gives total conversions and their sources. Then I could see that sent me 10 conversions this month. Of course, you can segment and look at goal conversions, but they only give conversion rates – not totals (for the given date range).

    I can do the do the math and figure it out, but this gets tedious and hard to gain insight. And, if I may be even more demanding of GA, why can't I compare two metrics with one of them being total conversions? Only conversion rate is available. To me these are obvious, and since they aren't there, it makes me wonder if I am thinking of these things correctly.

    Is there a better way to answer, "Where did these conversions come from?"

  17. 17
    Bhagawat says

    Hi Avinash,

    It is a great post since it has been solved my lot of questions, for which I was unable to get answers in Google Help.

    I have been using Entrance Paths report for last 6 months.

    In the Entrance Paths report I have observed that from entered page to next viewed page report only (excluding where they have ended) provides lot of insights and feeds better idea to improve site navigation.

    Thanks once again!


  18. 18

    Came to know a lot about some of the cool GA features.
    But still i am facing some problem :( —
    1. Linking Adwords and Google Analytics
    2. Getting Goal data with Content/Keyword data.
    3. Site overlay – i have a subdomain which is called once the user registers from the home page.
    i have added this line to the GA code
    But my overlay report is not working.

    Can you help me


  19. 19

    Zvika: "Ended up here" refers to the last page in the session. So take everyone who saw a page and then list, by count, the last page one each of those Visitor's session.

    Jeff: This is quite a easy question to answer in any GA report (or in most web analytics tools for that matter). Whatever report you are in, just click on the Goals Tab and you will see "where did my conversion come from". And if you have Ecommerce, click on Ecommerce tab and it's Happy Birthday! :)

    For the second part our friends from ROI Revolution come to the rescue with this excellent FireFox extension:

    Google Analytics Report Enhancer

    You will get something like this in your reports:

    Now you don't have to do the Math!

    Common Man: One and two should not be a problem, they are quite easy to do. Please checkout the resources I have mentioned at the end of my post above (and the first one is free email tech support directly from Google).

    Three can be a problem for some sites, depending on your site architecture and how GA works. Again use the resources above or you could also consider the independent Google certified GAAC consultants. They charge affordable rates and are very good at what they do.

    Site Overlay is one of my favourite reports and I wish that it worked better than it does currently in Google Analytics.


  20. 20

    Great post.

    I just spent quite some time reading both the post and the comments. And as someone that deals quite a lot with web analytics on ClickTracks and recently on Google as well, I can say I will definitely re-read this post.


  21. 21


    Wow, looks like the nonprofits kept you on your toes! Thanks for this wealth of wisdom.


  22. 22

    Hi Avinash, great post as usual! I have a question regarding this topic:

    How can I track keyword/source for each visitor who fills a form? As a result I'd like to have a db with the following fields:

    'Source'-'Keyword'-'First Name'-'Last Name'-'email'

    This way, when a client makes an offline purchase I will know where he came from.

    Any clues?


  23. 23


    Go to "top content" find your purchase confirm page (your goal page), click on it and segment it by anything you like. You can send this report to your email regularly to create a database. Hope this helps, good luck!


  24. 24


    You can create some custom JavaScript that will attach the visitor's referral information to a form submission. When the form hits your server you can store the referral information (be it a keyword, email, etc.) in a DB along with the form info.

    I wrote about this topic in a post titled Integrating GA with a CRM.

    Hope that helps,


  25. 25

    Hi Zvika and Justin, thanks for your responses! I will follow your advice!

  26. 26

    Hi Avinash,

    Great post again! I'm every single time astunished about the quality of your posts.

    One simple question though (to check if I understood right).

    In the entrance paths report, the most right column means the "exit page" (of the ones who have entered your site on the most left column en had as second page the middle column)?

    Thanks for your answer!

  27. 27
    Scotty S. says

    I have a question about Google Analytics Traffic Sources/e-commerce. I'm trying to pinpoint what e-commerce transaction numbers resulted from Paid Search.

    Currently no matter how far I drill down in any report (either in the "Traffic Sources" or "Ecommerce" sections): I can't seem to break out the source of each individual transaction. Is there any way to do this w/Google Analytics?

  28. 28
    Bhagawat says

    Hi Mark,

    I think whatever you have understood is right.

    In the entrance paths report, the most right column means the “exit page” since this can give you an idea about where mostly visitors are exiting from selected entrance page.

    I hope that this will help you.


    Hi Avinash,

    I thought that, I knew the answer.


  29. 29

    Mark: Bhagawat explained it really nicely. Just in case there is any confusion let me build on what he said.

    The report is for a specific page (say A).

    The middle column is the very next page that people visit from page A (say B).

    If you select page B from the middle column then the right most column gets filled out and it represents the last page in the session of everyone who was on page A and their action was to click on the link to page B. From page B they could have seen nine pages or nine hundred, that does not matter.

    Makes sense?

    Scotty: If you have ecommerce tracking then you should be able to do this easily. But might I also recommend this excellent extension from our friends at ROI Revolution:

    Segmenting by Source/Medium

    It vastly expands the segmentation possibilities with GA and also exposes more functionality. I think it also has what you are looking for.

    Just in case it does not address your question, please use one of the four recommended help options at the end of the above post.

    Good luck!


  30. 30

    The guidance i got through this post is amazing, many facts helped me a lot specially that "previous and next page often the same as the page you are viewing". query. Amazing replies and very helpful.



  31. 31

    Thanks AK,
    The ROI Revolution add-on you linked to is remarkably helpful!


  32. 32

    I have a further question about your answer to the question about bots being counted in Analytics traffic. I have a page that was recently launched, last couple of months, and the traffic to it is oddly consistent, unlike other parts of the site. It isn't an unusual amount but rather an unusual consistency day to day, even the weekends, which tend to dip on other parts of the site. In digging down, I found the vast majority of traffic is Direct. I am just not sure where to dig next.

  33. 33

    Sandra: Direct traffic could be:

    1. People who type in your URL directly in the browser.
    2. People who might have bookmarked your website.
    3. Any campaigns that you might have wrongly and your website is stripping them aware and/or not recognizing.
    4. Wrongly created website redirects (so no referring url).
    5. Any click that comes without a referring url (and hence no tracking parameters). [This happens with say email campaigns you might have sent with links to your site, but for some reason the email program is not passing the referrer).
    6. In some web analytics tools, organic traffic. [Though this is increasingly rare.]
    7. Magic. :)

    Most of the time Direct traffic is explained by #1 and #2 above and it tends to be people who know you (existing users / customers).

    Hope this helps.


  34. 34

    Thank you for your quick response. Since my post I figured this out by looking at the Network Locations GA report. Your caveat on the bots showing up in Analytics reports mentioned rogue robots, like Gomez. It was Gomez.

  35. 35

    Hi Avinash,

    Nice post! Can you please write a post for best practices for Microsites analysis/reporting since this is something untouched area on your blog and a lot of companies launch microsites it can be beneficial for all of us.

  36. 36

    Thanks for useful post. Google Analytics is complicated aplication, but this post makes the using easier :)

  37. 37

    FYI: Google analytic has also updated its tracking code..!!!

    old tracking code is still working but…new one is more effective..!!!

    as when i was using the old code…my data are not accurate..but once i switched to…new one…its working great..!!!

    i can see the detailed result now..!!!

    Seems like…Google is gearing up for fight against yahoo analytic!!!

  38. 38

    i want to track my web site like by using school id, and i want no of times page visits by user

  39. 39

    Hey Kaushik

    Great website! I was just wondering if you know anything about posting data on google analytics without using javascripts. I have checked out a few methods stated online in some forums, but they never seemed to work for me. Just wondering if you have some idea on this issue. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks a lot for your time.


  40. 40

    Hi Padma,
    i don't know if that's what you mean but the only other way i know of posting data to GA is by using Action script. check out this post:
    hope this helps

  41. 41

    Hi Zvika

    Thanks for your reply! :)


  42. 42

    Hello, I have many questions about google analytics and I'm not even sure where to start. First off my site is a lead generation tool for local TV stations. I currently have a TV spot driving to this site in Charlotte and Denver. I'm wanting to create specific advanced segments for those market – which I have done by selecting the entire state. HOWEVER, I would prefer to select the 8-10 cities that are making up each market (surrounding areas). When I create an advanced segment and choose County – it only offers me about 8 different values of cities. I want to see ALL possible cities – not just the 8 it is determining for me. Any advice?

  43. 43


    I am running two sites that are linking to each other with Analytics installed on each. On one site, in the Site Overlay I see 141 click on the link to the other site. However, on the other site under Referring Traffic, I only see 2 visits. I am wondering if anyone on here has has dealt with this inconsistency or if anyone knows what the deal is?

  44. 44


    A lot depends on how you have things configured. If you're using cross domain tracking then you shouldn't see site A as a referral to site B as the visitor's original referral information is carried over from Site A to B.

    But, if you're not using cross domain tracking, then you should see referrals. If you're not, there may be some type of redirect that's eliminating the referral information in GA.

    Hope that helps,


  45. 45

    Is there anyway I can show the result of google/analytics of my own website on the main page of my website?
    For example I'd like to show the number of visitors for yesterday on my website.
    How can I do this?

    Thanks in advance for your help.


  46. 46

    Hi, great post!
    Is there a way to see the "previous page" for a given page?

    My setup is this: the site has hundreds of pages. Many of these have a link to the Donation form (my funnel page). I want to find out which pages are most effective for channeling visitors into my funnel. There are too many pages that may lead a visitor to the Donation form for me to be able to set up each one as a starting funnel page.

    I also found the "Entrance Paths report" but it doesn't say which was the entrance path to the page I selected, only the nest step. It should really be named the "Next step report". Either that or I have completely misunderstood that report…

  47. 47


    Try using the Goals > Reverse Goal Path report. It shows the 3 or 4 pages prior to a conversion.


  48. 48


    Yes, you can see the 5 pages before and after any given page. Choose the page from the Top Content report. Then choose Navigation Summary from the Analyze drop down. You may also want to try the Goals > Reverse Goal Path report. It shows the 3 or 4 pages prior to a conversion.


  49. 49

    Hi there,

    Great post, we have a couple of questions to ask?

    Question 1:

    We are trying to create a filter so that we can monitor traffic coming from a specific site, for instance if we decided to run a ad-campaign on twitter we would like to be able to measure the traffic & the goals setup specifically for leads generated throught this campaign & through twitter.

    So far, we have created a custom filter, selected include for custom filter type, referral for filter field, should we put only as filter pattern or should we include also some special regex characters, if so, what?

    Question 2:

    How to monitor the path of traffic once on our site??

    From a keyword which landing page is viewed (time on this pg), what is the following page viewed (time on pg) e.t.c, until their exit? Any help in setting up a report in this manner would be much appreciated!

    Thanks for your help

  50. 50

    Hi Caroline,

    Q1: You should be tagging all of your campaigns with campaign parameters (utm_campaign, utm_medium, etc.) Then you can use these fields in your include filters. You'll also be able to use these parameters to create advanced segments (they're called Dimensions in the advanced segment builder).

    Remember, you don't have to set up specific profiles as GA will report all site usage and conversion metrics in the Campaigns report and other Traffic sources reports.

    Q2: GA path reporting starts with landing pages. Pick a page from the top content report, then choose the type of analysis you want to do. There is a drop down with various analysis options. The Entrance Paths view will show you the first 3 pages for a visit. The Navigation Summary will show the 10 pages before and the 10 pages after the page you chose in the top content report. To segment these paths by keyword you'll need to use an advanced segment.

    Hope that helps!


  51. 51


    I have a couple of questions:

    1. If a visitor repeats steps in a funnel, will the funnel report track an exit at the step they leave and another entrance for the step they return to?

    We have a tabbed workflow that allows the visitor to go back to previously visited tabs before finally reaching the goal page.

    Visitor's path:
    step3.html (does an exit get counted here?)
    step2.html (does a second entrance get counted?)

    2. If the visitor 'refreshes' a funnel step page or if the pages is reloaded due to an error, how does that show in funnel report? Is it counted as an exit and entrance to that step?

    I know the funnel will report only 1 conversion for the entire visit (session), but I can't seem to find good information for how GA handles repeated steps within the same visit.


  52. 52

    Tammy: Great questions, my answers. . .

    1. During one visit if the person goes back to an earlier step and then continues the funnel later that will be counted just as 1 (not 2 as you might expect).

    2. If the same page is refreshed in the funnel it shows up as 1. The funnel report is measuring visits and not page views so refreshes don't matter.

    Hope this helps.


  53. 53

    Thanks Avinash! I appreciate your quick response.

    Good news: Your answers are what I was expecting based on some other analysis I've done both from your blog and others …

    Bad news: I still don't know why for any given step, exits would be recorded to that same step. For example, Step 3 has 1,927 exits and 440 of them are to Step 3. And it also shows 363 exits to Step 2. Why does it count these visitors as exiting the funnel?

  54. 54

    I have install GA and CT in my server, but there are difference in data, so it's confusing me . Also difference in referring websites as well.

  55. 55


    I have configured site search appropriately. I am trying to track the userid+the search terms what he had searched. Always the report contains the same userid. I don't know why other userids could not be traced, please help me.

  56. 56

    Can GA give me stats for traffic on one specific page only? TKS.

  57. 57

    David: That is the basic purpose of any analytics tool, including GA.

    Just go to Content, Content by Title, find your page, click on it, and do a little dance for in front of you is the data you want. :)


  58. 58

    Hi Avinash

    Was looking at the dialogue on the self referrers – I agree that in case of reloads if would show in the navigation report.

    Would it also show it in the referral traffic sources?


  59. 59
    Rahul Singh says

    I was little bit confused with benchmarking using in GA now little bit relaxed. Thank you.

  60. 60

    I have created only one Goal in my Google analytics account for thank you page.

    I am tracking conversion through reverse path.

    I have a problem regarding conversion landing page.

    My thank you page is not in Google indexing and not visible on search engine.

    I have a organic conversion but it is showing from thank you page.

    How can it possible that my thank you page is not in Google indexing but the conversion is showing from organic and i am unable to check the reverse path.

    Please help.

    • 61

      Prince: I'm afraid the reverse goal path report is a lot less useful than you might imagine. There are simply too many caveates in terms of what is going on, and the path is such a difficult thing to think about when people cross sessions to deliver outcomes.

      But, if you want help diving deeper into the issue you describe please reach out to a GACP. Here's a list:



  1. […] Google Analytics Help: Questions, Answers, Tips, Ideas, Suggestions | Occam's Razor by Avinash… – Great article if you're still hesitant about Analytics. Why are you so hesitant anyway? […]

  2. […] Google Analytics Help: Questions, Answers, Tips, Ideas, Suggestions Google Analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik answers analytics questions and give tons of tips and help in the monster blog post. […]

  3. […] Google Analytics Help: Questions, Answers, Tips, I… saved by 11 others     theodora375 bookmarked on 07/14/08 | […]

  4. […]
    A large part of my work at Compucall Web Marketing has to do with web analytics. I wanted to write my own post on the subject, and I probably will. However, yesterday I received a link to a very good post on the subject of web analytics and more specifically Google analytics.

    After reading the post I decided I will simply post a link here so you can go and read it straight from ther source. I strongly reccomend doing so.

    The post is written by Avinash Kaushik in his blog. So if you want to learn more about Google analytics now is the time.

  5. […] Google Analytics Help: Questions, Answers, Tips, Ideas, Suggestions – Avinash Kuashik […]

  6. […]
    Two final, golden nuggets of information I found:

    * Use custom reports – Create custom reports in Google Analytics for the people in your organization that need metrics from the website. You can control what information they receive and when they receive it, instead of your team getting lost in all of the information.
    * Assign monetary value to your website – When you’re tracking goal conversions, which you should be doing, you should also assign somewhat realistic values to each of those pages. Even if you aren’t an e-commerce site, this will help you and your team conceptualize the traffic on your website.

    Update: Avinash has written another excellent post covering a lot of the questions presented in the webinar.

  7. […] Google Analytics Help: Questions, Answers, Tips, Ideas, Suggestions […]

  8. […] Google Analytics gebruikers opgelet. Avinash Kaushik behandelt vaak vragen van gebruikers. Zo ook 10 juli. Een vraag die gesteld werd was: “Navigation summary question – why is previous and next page often the same as the page you are viewing?”. Leuke vraag. Het zal jullie waarschijnlijk ook al eens zijn opgevallen. Wanneer je in Google Analytics kijkt naar een bepaalde pagina en kijkt naar de volgende en vorige pagina’s, dan zie je vaak de naam van de pagina zélf terugkomen, zoals in onderstaand screenshot: […]

  9. Pfadanalyse in Google Analytics…

    Google Analytics bietet in seinem Content-Bereich ein nettes Feature an, die Navigationsübersicht. Der Report zeigt für eine bestimmte Seite, von wo die Besucher kamen und wo sie danach weiterklickten. So lässt sich z.B. ermitteln, ob Besucher einer Seite sich durch die Navigation klickten oder direkt auf den Teaser der Startseite …

  10. […] Google Analytics Releases Advanced Segmentation: Now Be A Ninja! – Occam's Razor – Oct '08 […]

  11. […]
    Why does the Same Page show up as the Previous and Next Pages?
    I haven’t experienced this problem for a while, but here’s a summary of the cause (in case the issue returns) and how Google Analytics interprets the same events now. The credit for the insight goes to Avinash and his friend Cari.

    You probably already know that Google Analytics tracks visitors using a JavaScript + Cookie. When a page is loaded by a visitor, the JavaScript loads and the data is collect (For example, what page the user is on and a time stamp, etc).

  12. […]
    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?”

  13. […]
    Why does the Same Page show up as the Previous and Next Pages?

    I haven’t experienced this problem for a while, but here’s a summary of the cause (in case the issue returns) and how Google Analytics interprets the same events now. The credit for the insight goes to Avinash and his friend Cari.

    You probably already know that Google Analytics tracks visitors using a JavaScript + Cookie. When a page is loaded by a visitor, the JavaScript loads and the data is collect (For example, what page the user is on and a time stamp, etc).

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