Common Google Analytics Pitfalls – Getting It Right the First Time

Common Google Analytics Pitfalls – Getting It Right the First Time

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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.

The Hosts File

The Hosts File

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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)

Employee Spotlight: Meet Jeff Simonds – Our New Digital Marketing Specialist

Employee Spotlight: Meet Jeff Simonds – Our New Digital Marketing Specialist

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The Burlington Bytes team just keeps on growing!

We are thrilled to share with you that we’ve recently hired Jeff Simonds, as our new Digital Marketing Specialist. Formerly a Senior Web Analytics Specialist at Terakeet out of Syracuse, NY, Simonds’ experience and skill set will bring a new, complementary perspective to the team.

Simonds has been noted for his success in SEO optimization and analysis, and more broadly in digital marketing branding and strategy. Simonds holds a Bachelor’s from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he studied Electronic Media, Arts & Communications. “Burlington Bytes is an awesome opportunity and fit for me on both professional and cultural levels”, remarked Simonds, “while the role is a part of a growing and increasingly important team and initiative for Burlington Bytes, I ultimately decided to join the company after experiencing the culture and cohesiveness of the team”.

“We couldn’t be more excited to add Jeff Simonds to our team ” added Burlington Bytes founder Peter Jewett, “our digital marketing team has been growing primarily due to the outcomes we’ve generated for clients, and Jeff will be an asset as we continue to grow the team”.

Here at Burlington Bytes, we like to get to know our new hires on a deeper level and want you to as well, so that’s why we do an “Employee Spotlight” interview, where we ask professional work questions and sprinkle in some silly & fun questions to mix it up!

So let’s get started…

Q: Where did you grow up? 

Jeff: Syracuse, NY

Q: Where do you currently reside?

Jeff: Winooski, VT

Q: How did you first learn about Burlington Bytes?

Jeff: I traveled to Vermont a lot over the last two years, and really liked the Burlington area, so I decided to look for some potential jobs. After searching for SEO companies in Vermont, I found Burlington Bytes at the top of the SERPs, which is always a good sign for a company that does SEO!

Q: What part of your job are you most excited about doing?

Jeff: My previous role was focused solely on organic search, so I’m really looking forward to broadening my skills and gaining more experience with paid search and other digital marketing channels.

Q: How would you describe the work environment?

Jeff: The office strikes a perfect balance between work and play. It’s clear that everyone knows when it’s time to get work done, but every day you can count on someone saying (or chatting) something that gives us all chance to laugh and relax for a few minutes.

Q: What are your interests & hobbies?

Jeff: I love golfing and try to get out fishing as much as I can. I’ve also been a homebrewer for about 6 years, and have been known to make a pretty solid batch of beer or cider from time to time.

Q: Have you ever sang karaoke? What’s your “go-to” song? 

Jeff: Nope, but if I was ever forced into doing it the only song I would sing is Here I Go Again, by Whitesnake.

Q: What would a perfect day look like for you?

Jeff: An 8am tee time to play a round of golf with my dad (and friends if they manage to wake up on time), followed by a late afternoon BBQ featuring Liehs & Steigerwald brats on the grill, and some craft beer in the cooler.

Q: If you could close your eyes and be anywhere on earth when they opened, where would you be?

Jeff: Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon, in Anderlecht, Brussels.

Q: If you won $20 million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with the money?

Jeff: Pay off those pesky student loans, travel the world for a while, attend brewing school and finally open my own brewery.

Q: Being the newest hire, what are you contributing to your department?

Jeff: I definitely have a lot to learn from Mitch (our digital marketing manager), but early on I’ve been able to leverage my past experience with analysis and reporting for large e-commerce websites to bring a new perspective to the team.

Q: Last question, what was your all-time best Halloween costume?

Jeff: That’s tough, because my mom made some amazing costumes for me and my brother when we we younger (imagine a 6th grader dressed as Uncle Fester from the Addams Family), but I’m partial to that Halloween a few years ago, when I let the dogs out as Alan from The Hangover.

 

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If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching the Hangover, do yourself a favor and check it out. Jeff could literally be a stunt double for Alan, he nailed it!

We are glad Jeff has joined the Burlington Bytes team, and we look forward to have him involved with all things digital marketing! Welcome Jeff!

Thank You For Joining Us For Our Web & Wine Night!

Thank You For Joining Us For Our Web & Wine Night!

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It has been a couple of days since we hosted the first Web & Wine night – and while slightly delayed, we want to express our deep gratitude for those of us who joined us!  We were very fortunate to have partners like EB Strong’s, the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, Pete Kenseth, and Baker Distributing, who helped us put the event on!

Our goal for this event, was to bring people together to have a fun evening, but also have them take away at least a tidbit about digital marketing, design, SEO or wine.  Our hope is that we accomplished that!  To that end, we have posted the slide decks from Web & Wine here. If you have any questions on what was covered, you can contact the person directly at their email on the slides.

kristinagreg-schoppe-burlington-bytesmitch-berriman-burlington-bytesemily-bellmore-burlington-bytes

Additionally, we would like to thank the community who support trying different events like this, joining us after hours, and being open to different ideas.  It helps us be more creative, progressive, and let’s face it..more fun.

Lastly, if you’d like to read a recap of Pete Kenseth’s presentation on “The Effects of Terroir and Winemaker Influence” from this evening, check out his website, Truth In Juice: Myth-Free Wine Education & Commentary.

Have a great summer!

How-To: Maximize Your Technical Support Experience

How-To: Maximize Your Technical Support Experience

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Whether you’re receiving or providing technical support, I think we can all agree the experience has its ups and downs. ZenDesk, our support ticketing platform with which so many of you are familiar, says that 82% of people have cut ties with companies due to bad customer service. Now that’s scary! Upon reflecting on my own customer service experiences, though, that statistic becomes less surprising. Honestly, I can remember more bad customer service experiences than I can good ones!

This is why we put a lot of time and effort into modifying how we do technical support here at Burlington Bytes (that, and we have a passion for helping people). Like other parts of the company, we are constantly striving toward improving our Technical Support team so our clients get the best technical support experience possible. But enough about us – let’s talk about what you, as a recipient of technical support, can do to fully maximize your experience working with us.

Here are a couple helpful tips that will leave you happy with your experience working with us, every time:

Choose your means of communication wisely

This seems like a no-brainer, but effective communication is so important that I can’t not mention it. We receive and handle support requests via phone, email, and, in the rarest cases, walk-in visits at our office. Choosing which form of communication you’d like to use can have a bigger impact on your support experience than you might imagine.

Maybe you’re too busy to write a clear and concise email stating what you’d like done on your site or perhaps you’re a slow typist and emailing is just plain frustrating for you – whatever the reason, you can always give us a call! More often than not, a quick phone call can provide our support techs with all of the necessary information in half the time it would take you to write an email – saving you time, money, and frustration.

If you’re able to more effectively explain the problem you’re having through writing, that’s great! Send us your request via email to support@burlingtonbytes.com – but not before you’ve read the second item below!

Ultimately, choosing a means of communication that you’re comfortable with will keep you in a good mood and will increase the effectiveness of your communication with us.

What to include in your initial support request

If your choice of communication is email, make sure to give us as much information as possible about the problem you’re having. This will cut down on the back and forth of emails, decreasing the amount of time we spend handling your request, leaving you happy at the end of the month when you receive your invoice. What pieces of information are we looking for? Great question! Read on for a convenient reference you can use when you’re sending in an email request.

If something’s visually broken on the frontend of your site, you should include the following:

  • Screenshots of the issue you’re seeing – find out how to take a screenshot here (Windows) or here (Mac)
  • Links to the pages that are having the issue
  • What web browser and operating system (OS) you’re using

If a piece of functionality is broken on your site’s frontend or backend, you should include the items listed above, as well as:

  • Give us steps we can take to recreate the issue. We can’t fix it if we can’t replicate it!
  • If it’s not obvious, give us an idea of how it is supposed to function

Finally, if you get an error message on your website… ever:

  • Take a screenshot of the message, or copy/paste the error message into an email
  • Include steps you took that gave you the error message and perhaps some context as to what you were doing or trying to do when you encountered the error (were you installing or updating a plugin? were you uploading an image? were you saving a page?)

If you have any questions, concerns, or experiences (good or bad) working with our support team that you would like to share – you can email me directly at lilly@burlingtonbytes.com. I would love to keep this conversation going!

Image Credit: Performanse