Common Google Analytics Pitfalls – Getting It Right the First Time

Common Google Analytics Pitfalls – Getting It Right the First Time

Blog

When implemented and interpreted properly, Google Analytics can be an extremely useful tool in digital marketing. Since 2005 when Google acquired Urchin and began re-branding it as Google Analytics, the web statistics analysis tool has given site operators immense insight into their traffic. It is widely used, partly because of the full-featured free version, and partly due to ease of use compared to other analytics suites. This ease of use can be deceptive, however. Even Google makes it sound like getting their tracking code on every page of your site is the only thing you need to do to get meaningful data. While it is true this gets you most of the way, there are several things you should do for every Analytics installation to get the most meaningful data.

The Impact of Misconfiguration

An improperly configured Google Analytics installation may contain wildly skewed numbers or no data at all. In many instances, this is irrecoverable due to the way hits are aggregated. All data coming in from your tag is tallied for each of your views with the current configuration. If, say, you made a mistake and unintentionally filtered out most of your traffic, you would not be able to recover that data since it was never really recorded at all. This is the reason getting your configuration right the first time around is so important.

Without further delay, we present the top symptoms of bad data in Analytics, and how to avoid them.

  1. No data or extremely low hit counts: most of the time this is caused by the tag not firing at all, or a configuration causing the data to be filtered out. Google provides a Chrome Extension, Tag Assistant, that can tell you if your tag is firing, if it’s inserted in the wrong place, or other tag issues. Make sure the tag is added exactly as specified, right before the closing </head> tag.
  2. Data includes non-human visitors: Analytics excludes some obviously non-human traffic by default, but you may still see spam in your Referral reports or visitors supposedly from completely unrelated organic search keywords. The first step to preventing this is to check “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” in the View Settings. To filter remaining referral or organic search keyword spam from your report, create an “excluding spam” segment and use regular expressions to exclude spam you’ve received before. When this segment is used in report views, historic data will be filtered, so this is particularly useful for cleaning up misconfigured data. This LunaMetrics article goes more in-depth about blocking known bots before delving into satire after Step 3.
  3. Session doubling: your site’s session count can end up completely doubled for several reasons. If your site spans multiple subdomains or permits access to both www-prefixed and non-www versions, a new session may be started when the visitor crosses subdomains. Google Analytics is often able to identify this automatically. If you haven’t already done so, you should decide on a canonical domain, whether it’s www.yourdomain.com or just yourdomain.com, then redirect all requests to the canonical domain. Google’s Search Console help docs discuss this further.
  4. Hit doubling: almost always this is because your tag is firing twice. Tag Assistant can identify this and help you find where the duplicate tag is so you can remove it. If multiple Tag Manager containers are on your site, only one should be sending pageviews to Analytics. Google Analytics should be only added once per page, to every page, in the same spot.
  5. No data in Conversion reports: GA does not set up any goals by default. Goals are used to create the Conversion reports and help you understand the behavior of your various demographics. Goals should be significant marketing events, like selling a product or capturing a lead form. If possible you should set a Goal Value. For example, if you know the average lead makes your company $200, use that as the Goal Value, and you’ll be better prepared to visualize ROI for advertising spend or media campaigns.
  6. Sparse data on organic search: Analytics’ data on visitors from search engines has gradually become less detailed over the years. One way Google has come up with to improve this data source is to connect your Analytics Account to a verified Search Console profile. Most likely, you’re primarily getting search traffic from Google and this link can fill in some gap in your data there. Search Console contains several other useful tools so this is a must for any site you want good data on, and extra control and insight into your SEO.
  7. No eCommerce data: additional setup is required to track purchases and product interest in a way Analytics can parse it properly. Most popular eCommerce platforms will have plugins to automatically send this special data. More information about eCommerce tracking is available in Google’s help docs.

When you sign up to have a site built or maintained by Burlington Bytes, you’re signing up for the expertise of Analytics professionals at your fingertips. As a Google Partner, we have demonstrated our proficiency with all variants of Analytics configurations and extracting actionable Business Intelligence from the resulting data. Whether you need a new site built, or just some fixes to your Analytics profile, get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help you out.

Our Digital Marketing Team is Hiring!

Careers

Our digital marketing team is growing and we’re currently hiring for a Digital Marketing Specialist to help us manage the ongoing digital marketing efforts we run on behalf of our clients. Find the job description below and apply online by emailing your resume directly to careers@burlingtonbytes.com.

Job Description
Title: Digital Marketing Specialist

Position: Full Time/ Salary

Company: Burlington Bytes

Location: Burlington, VT

Department: Digital Marketing

Summary: 
You are responsible for managing a significant portion of our recurring clients’ digital marketing efforts including but not limited to Paid Search (PPC) Advertising using Google AdWords & Bing AdCenter, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Facebook & Social Media Advertising as well as Conversion Rate Optimization. A major component of your work will be focused on recommending and executing marketing campaigns across various digital marketing channels to ultimately derive an ROI for our clients. You will also be tasked with combining key performance indicators KPI’s, analytics, and user experience data in order to summarize campaign performance and provide concise, actionable recommendations for clients. This is a full time, salaried position with benefits.

Principle Responsibilities:
While working independently and as a collaborative member of a small team, your responsibilities will include:

  •   Initiate and execute new SEM / SEO campaigns for multiple clients in a variety of different industries
  •   Proactively monitor ongoing SEM / SEO campaigns and implement creative new strategies as needed to meet client needs and requirements
  •   Thoroughly analyze industry trends and client data to effectively A/B test different advertising copy, landing page designs, calls to action, or conversion funnels
  •   Provide feedback to design team as it relates to developing creative assets for various advertising campaigns
  •   Prepare monthly / quarterly client reports with new and creative suggestions for improving existing campaigns
  •   Occasionally interface with clients directly for the purposes of business development or deepening client relations
  •   Field questions on analytics or online marketing, and act as a mentor to Junior SEM / SEO analysts
  •   Stay up to date on current industry trends and best practices

QUALIFICATIONS:    

  •   1-3 years experience developing and managing digital marketing efforts on Paid Search, Organic Search, Display or Social Media required
  •   Google AdWords Certifications for Search, Display, Mobile, Video and/or Shopping a plus
  •   Strong analytical skills. Must be able to gather, analyze, summarize and present data clearly and concisely
  •   Strong proficiency working with Google Analytics
  •   Experience with Microsoft Office, especially Excel
  •   Exposure to eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce, Magento, Shopify, 3D Cart, etc
  •   Knowledge of CRM and Project Management tools such as Basecamp, Asana, Harvest or ZenDesk

Core Competencies: 

  • Excellent communication and presentation skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Persistent drive for problem solving
  • Ability to resolve complex problems in an ever evolving environment
  • Demonstrated organizational skills, ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously
  • Ability to work independently and within a team
  • Highly responsive, flexible, and adaptable to changing priorities / deadlines
  • Ability to think critically and be creative.

To apply online, please email your your resume directly to careers@burlingtonbytes.com.

 

 

The Hosts File

The Hosts File

Blog

The host is somebody that most people simply think of as the person they need to thank for a great party when they head out.  But in our offices, we talk to many hosts on a daily basis, and with no cause for celebration.  A Web Host, or “Hosting Provider” is the name we give to the entities that actually provide the servers for hosting our websites.  The web site is the party, and each month, on behalf of our clients, we send thousands of notes of thanks to our most trusted and utilized hosts, like WPEngine, Nexcess and Rackspace.  

These three hosting providers also somewhat reflect the several kinds of hosting providers you might find in the wild these days.  Generally speaking, hosting is going to be identified by the level of involvement you’re going to want to have in keeping things running.  And, necessarily, with less involvement, the offerings will become more specific and tailored to specific niches and customer needs.

WPEngine, on one extreme of this scale (like Nexcess), is a Managed Hosting Provider.  The “Managed” here means that they have a layer of customer service agents and software sitting between the customer and the hosting service they’re purchasing.  While the support agents at WPEngine are some of the best we’ve seen in the industry, they probably can only accomplish that by having such a narrow focus of hosting services: they only host WordPress websites.  As in most endeavors, simplicity can yield better control.

On the other end of the spectrum you might find a company like Rackspace, which also offers fully managed services, but at an hourly rate, will also provide you with “unmanaged” servers, essentially machines that you pay for by the hour.  Paying for your web servers by the hour may seem like it’s far more precise than it needs to be when you want your website online 24/7/365, but for prices ranging from ~1/2 cent per hour to $1/hr, or ~$4 to more than $700 , the power you get for those prices also ranges by quite a lot.  One of Google’s more powerful offerings, the n1-highcpu-32, is a 32-processor beast with nearly 30GB of RAM, for the bargain rate of $0.85/hr and they’ll refund half your cost if they can’t keep it online more than 95% of that time, ie, it’s down for more than a cumulative day and a half over that month.  It’s a bargain, and it’s turnkey for the basic commodity, but somebody has to put software on that server to host a website.

Another concept you may encounter when trying to find a hosting provider is the difference between Shared and Dedicated hosting.  A shared host, like that often sold by GoDaddy, MediaTemple and other “low-cost” providers, typically means that the resources you’re using to serve your site are shared with other customers.  You’ll have a directory on a server running a single operating system, you and all the other sites on that host will be competing for that power.  If one site has a large spike in traffic, your site may slow down or stall until the server can recover its stride.  On a dedicated host you may only only end up causing your own slow-downs, which is something you can control, and can also fix.

Blurring the lines between shared and dedicated hosting, there siits the concepts of the server being “Bare Metal” vs a “Virtual Machine”, aka a “VM”.  A “bare metal” server sounds really cool (and it is often cold to the touch), but it just means that it’s not a virtual machine.  Virtual machines are a relative newcomer to the hosting landscape, but have been a fixture on the hosting scene for at least a decade now.  A virtual machine is exactly what the name implies that it is, it’s a machine provided by software.  At some point you need some bare metal to actually act as a machine that runs software, but you could install a VM layer, aka a hypervisor, on a powerful machine and spin up as many less powerful “virtual” machines as you wanted.

The difference between a virtual machine, and shared hosting may only seem semantic, but they are really very different.  To put it simply, a shared host is like living in a dorm, where you have shared facilities like bathrooms and kitchens, and a virtual machine is like living in a condo, where you have all your own rooms, but you may still hear the neighbors making a ruckus from time to time.  The only way to live without being disturbed would be to run your own bare metal servers, and you’ll then need a place to put them where they will stay cool, have continuous power (with a backup generator) and always connected networks with good bandwidth.

Because all these things are needed by anyone who needs hosting, the industry has organized itself so these common needs are simply commodities.  Computers, these days, live in data centers, they’re close to bodies of water they can use for cooling, and near large power plants where they can purchase cheap electricity at bulk rates.  That data center is probably close to a network hub too, for fast and cheap connection rates, because what good is a server farm that can’t push things out to users and other farms?  As you might expect with somewhat narrow requirements like this, data centers are beginning to collect in certain areas of the world.  In the US, often our major urban areas fit this bill nicely, and you might not be surprised to learn that many of them have been crammed into massively populated area along the east coast, stretching from Boston to Richmond, VA.  With moderate temperatures throughout the year, plenty of affordable power, and low risk of catastrophic natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis, it’s a perfect place to keep the folded nests of wire that we now use to run our economy.

Competing with these ideal locations and practiced professionals, on either cost or quality of service, is pretty much a non-starter in this commoditized environment.  So if you’re not currently renting your computing power, and instead you’re trying to run the full stack yourself, there’s probably a more cost-effective solution out there, even (actually, especially) for those with unusually specific requirements or certain high-security needs.  Keeping computers on and constantly functioning isn’t easy, but if that’s all you have to be concerned about, and not the many layers of software above, it makes it less difficult.

Branding & Color Psychology

Branding & Color Psychology

Blog Design Tips

Have you ever read the headlines: “Colors That Make Consumers Buy!”, “Why Blue Makes You Successful!”, or “16 Ways Color Influences Our Behavior?”

If so, do you believe that’s true in any way? Can color really affect us that dramatically? Yes, it can, but not universally. Someone in North America will most likely not have the same reaction to color as someone in Japan. Our cultural differences, experiences, and a variety of other factors help form our opinions on color.

When thinking of color, one attribute to consider is traits. Colors and traits directly influence one another and brands are a big part of this equation. Take a moment to look at our infographic displayed below, and see how colors, traits, and brands align.

Which color resonates with you?

Color-Psychology (1)

Nudity on Church Street

Nudity on Church Street

News

We spotted a nude man strolling on Church Street yesterday and posted it to Facebook, various media outlets stopped by the office today to get a comment.  Our leadership team has issued the following official statement…

Media Outlets,

Thank you for stopping by the Burlington Bytes office earlier today.  We apologize no one was in at the time to give an official statement on how the nude man on the street yesterday was impacting our Church Street business.  Upon your inquiry, we immediately formed an exploratory committee to determine how this situation could happen, and how we could prevent more au naturale pedestrians from wandering Church Street in the future.

 

The findings of our exploratory committee were striking.  While theories ranging from the man being an Emperor, to being the lost “UVM naked bike rider of 1969” were offered, we believe this was a case of an uninformed consumer.  Clearly this “in the buff” man had been searching online for clothes, and due to poor SEO, Google Adwords, and retargeting campaigns by local haberdasheries, he simply did not know where to buy clothes.  Our committee offered the following as a solution: If more local retailers had purchased Burlington Bytes’ digital marketing packages, consumers would be more informed, and we could reduce Church Street nudity by a staggering 76%.

 

Retailers interested in pursuing this noble option are encouraged to reach out to Pete Jewett at pete@burlingtonbytes.com for a free consultation