Category Archives: Web Analytics

Serving Ads – The Smart Way

A lot of businesses look at serving ads on their website in order to monetize it.  Having a good system in place for managing ads is very important, especially as your site and the number of ads grow.

As a big fan of open source software, I recommend that you check out the OpenX ad server.  Here are some of the features:

  • Easily manage your ads – OpenX makes it easy for you to create, edit and delete several different ad types.  In fact, you can set up your advertisers as users and allow them to manage their own ads!
  • You control delivery – You determine who sees what ads.  Limit delivery based on location, date or time and even custom variables.
  • Measure performance of ads – You can easily provide reports to your advertisers regarding the performance of their ads.

I have set up OpenX for several sites and have found it easy to work with.  If you have any questions about it, please ask!

Using Google Campaign Tracking

If you use Google Analytics, it is very easy to include your own tracking variables in your links.  Google Analytics will automatically take these variables and return them in your reports!

Here is how to build your own link that will be tracked by Google Analytics:

  1. Type the URL you want to link to:
  3. Add a question mark:
  5. Add a variable and value separated by an equal sign:
  7. Add any additional variable / value pairs separated by ampersands:

Google provides you with five variables that you can set:

  1. utm_source – This is the source, or referrer (e.g. Google, Twitter, Facebook ).
    Answers the question: What site did the visitor come from?
  2. utm_medium – This is the medium, or method of delivery (e.g. Cost-per-click, Outbound-link, Banner-ad).
    Answers the question: What channel did this visitor come through?
  3. utm_campaign – This is the campaign, or particular marketing effort (e.g. Spring-drive, Christmas_specials).
    Answers the question: What marketing effort caused this visitor to take action?
  4. utm_content – This is used to identify the content of the link or ad.  This will be used when you are split testing two different ads that may have all the other variables in common.
    Answers the question: Which ad did the visitor click on?
  5. utm_term – This is used to identify the term, or keyword that brought the visitor to the site.
    Answers the question: What keyword did the visitor use to find us?

There are a lot of ways that you can use these variables to improve your click tracking.  How do you plan to use these?

Website Analytics for Beginners

Congratulations! Your website is growing and you have recognized the need for analytics on your website. Knowing that you have a need, let’s take a look at the next steps…

Tracking Analytics: The First Step

Since you are new to the idea of web analytics, it is a good idea to start out simple.  Don’t spend a bunch of money on analytics software when you aren’t familiar with basic metrics.  I would recommend Google Analytics to anyone wanting to start tracking metrics on their website.  It is completely free and has a lot of room for you to grow.

Set Up Your Account

Go ahead, it’s easy!  Set up your Google Analytics account now!

Install the Tracking Code

Once your account is setup, your main analytics page will show your new profile for your website.  You can get back to this page at anytime by clicking on the ‘Analytics Settings’ link in the top right corner.  On this page, look on the far right-hand side and you should see two links for your new profile: ‘Edit’ and ‘Delete’.  Click on ‘Edit’.  Below the orange bar in the top right corner, click on the ‘Check Status’ link.  The second section on this page is specific instructions for installing the tracking code.  Simply copy the code provided and paste it on the pages you want to track just before the </body> tag.

If you are using WordPress, install the Google Analytics plugin and insert the ‘Web Property ID’  (looks like UA-xxxxxxx-x) into the settings screen to have the code inserted automatically.

Once you have installed the tracking code, go back to the main analytics page and click the ‘Edit’ button next to your profile.  Click the ‘Check Status’ link to be sure everything is working correctly.

View Your Analytics Reports

Once you have installed the tracking code and waited a day or two, you should have some analytics data to look at.  From your main analytics page, click on the ‘View Report’ link next to your profile.  This will bring you to your ‘Dashboard’.  On the left-hand side of the screen you will see a navigation menu that will allow you to explore a bunch of standard reports.  The main section will show you a graph of visitor activity on your site and a ‘Site Usage’ section with some basic metrics listed.  Below that are some additional sections that you can customize as you get to be more familiar with the information you want to keep a close eye on.

Track Your Site Metrics

The basic site metrics that Google Analytics displays are:

  • Visits – The number of visits to your website.  This includes people who visit your site multiple times per day.
  • Pageviews – The total number of times a page was viewed on your site.
  • Pages per Visit – The number of pages the average visitor viewed on your site.
  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of people who came to your site on one page and left without visiting another page.
  • Average Time on Site – The average amount of time a visitor spent while on your site.  This may include the time that someone left the browser window open with your site loaded while they went to lunch.
  • Percentage of New Visits – The percentage of visitors who have never visited your site before.  This is tracked via cookies, so users who clear out their cookies will be counted as a new visitor the next time they visit your site.

Here are some other things you may want to consider adding to your dashboard:

  • Traffic Sources Overview – This is something that is initially on your dashboard.  Find out more about website traffic sources.
  • Search Engines – Lists the search engines that are sending traffic to your site.  To add this information to your dashboard, click on the ‘Traffic Sources’ link in the navigation menu on the left and then select ‘Search Engines’ in the submenu that appears.  At the top of the report section, click the ‘Add to Dashboard’ button.
  • Keywords – Shows the keywords that people are typing in the search engines to find pages on your site.
  • Referring Sites – This is great information because it tells you what sites are sending the most traffic your way.
  • Top Content – The most popular content on your site based on pageviews.
  • Top Landing Pages – Lists the pages that people are coming to first and is prioritized by the number of entrances.
  • Top Exit Pages – List the pages that people are leaving your site from the most.

This is all pretty basic information and will get you familiar with using Google Analytics.  If you want to go a step farther, look into setting up goals. Let me know if you have any questions!  If you have any other metrics that you like to track, let me know by leaving me a comment.

Conversion Rate

What is a conversion rate?

A conversion rate is the percentage of visitors to your website who complete a transaction.   A  transaction for an e-commerce site is usually a sale. Transactions can be different for every site and could be a free download, newsletter subscription, donation, quote request or other activity.

Why is the conversion rate important?

Knowing your conversion rate allows you to make smart decisions.

Let’s say you own an e-commerce site that sells t-shirts.  Your website’s conversion rate is 5%.  The average sale is worth $30 in revenue.  Given this information, for every twenty people that visit the site, one person will spend about $30.  If you divide the $30 generated revenue by the 20 visitors required to generate it, you will get $1.50.  If you were to participate in an advertising effort that required you to spend this amount of money or more per each new visitor to the site, you would either break even or lose money.  Knowing this type of information will allow you to invest wisely.  If you were to increase your conversion rate or your average sale amount, you could make more money with the same amount of traffic!

Assume that you want to look at a few keywords that are bringing you traffic through the search engines: ‘big money’ versus ‘quick money’.  You find that the conversion rate for the keyword ‘big money’ is 40% and for ‘quick money’ is 10%.  Assuming you have the opportunity to increase your website’s traffic for each keyword, the keyword ‘big money’ will generate four times the sales as the keyword ‘quick money’.

How do you calculate a website’s conversion rate?

Your website’s conversion rate is the number of transactions divided by the number of unique visitors for a specific time frame.

Conversion Rate = Number of Web Transactions / Number of Unique VisitorsYou can have a conversion rate for your website, a keyword, an advertisement, campaign, referring site or any means of traffic generation.  To determine the conversion rate for a specific keyword, you would determine the number of unique visitors who came to the site via that keyword within a given time frame.  Next, you would determine the number of those visitors who performed a transaction and use the formula above to determine the conversion rate.

How do you track conversions?

If you don’t have access to the number of unique visitors to your site, you will want to start using an analytics tool such as Google Analytics.  If you are tracking basic site metrics but aren’t sure how to track conversions, it is just a matter of properly configuring your analytics tool to track them.  In Google Analytics, you would use goals or events to track users who took the desired actions.

Google Analytics: Using Goals and Events

Google Analytics is a great free tool for tracking valuable metrics on your website.  It has a bunch of standard reports that can tell you how many visitors come to your site, where they came from, what browser they use, what pages they visited, what your most popular pages are, and what keywords are driving the most traffic, just to name a few.   Today, I want to help you make use of two important features of this analytics tool: goals and events.

Setting up Goals

Goals are always good to have, but without goals in Google Analytics you will never know your conversion rate.  Your conversion rate is basically the percentage of visitors to your site who take a desired action.  Every site is different and this is why you must specify your specific goals, or actions, that you want your visitors to take.

For example, take a service business that is looking to get quote requests online.  A customer who requests a quote is sent to a thank you page after they submit the form.  In order to track this as a conversion, all you have to do is set up a goal that tells Google Analytics to count all visits to the thank you page as a conversion.  Since the page is only visited by those who fill out the form, this works great.  Now you can track which websites and keywords are sending you the most quality traffic; or traffic that results in the most conversions.

Get started now!  Go to Google Analytics, click on ‘Goals’ in the left-hand navigation menu and then click on ‘Set up goals and funnels’.  This will take you to your profile setting page.  Scroll down to the ‘Goals’ section and click on ‘Add Goal’ on the right hand side.  Just be sure that the pages you want to track have the analytics code installed!

Creating Events

So what about those actions that don’t take a user to a special page?  That is what events are for!  Events can track when a user clicks on a link, plays a video or views a PDF.  All of these actions require that the user click on something.  All we have to do is attach some information to the link that a user clicks on and Google will track any of these events!

Let’s look at how to set up event tracking.  First, the page must have your Google Analytics code installed.  Second, all you have to do is add the following code to the onclick event in HTML:

pageTracker._trackEvent(category, action, optional_label, optional_value )

Just be sure to change the category to whatever you want to name it and put it in quotes.  Do the same for the action and you can provide an optional label and value if you want.

Suppose you wanted to track how many people follow a link on your site to another website:

<a href=”#” onclick=”pageTracker._trackEvent(‘External Links’, ‘Followed link to another site’, ‘’ )”>my business partner</a>

Google analytics will automatically add categories and actions as events take place so you don’t have to do any additional setup!  To view the results, go to Google Analytics, click on ‘Content’ in the let-hand navigation menu and then click on ‘Event Tracking’.

Website Traffic Sources

Website traffic can come from different sources:

  • Direct – Direct traffic is anyone who types your domain name into the browser and visits your site, well, directly. There are some technical exceptions to this, but generally this type of traffic is the fruit of your offline marketing efforts.
  • Referral – Referrals are when a visitors clicks a link to your site from another web page. You could be paying to have another website link to yours or a link could be posted voluntarily by someone on another site; all of these are considered referrals.
  • Organic – Organic traffic occurs when someone performs a search on a search engine, such as Google, and clicks on your site link in the results page. This type of traffic generally requires that you optimize your site so that it ranks high on the results page for your targeted keywords.