Eric Speeth Interview

Data and Analytics Meet The Real World

Eric Speeth is a brilliant guy.  If you want to learn about how businesses are applying data analysis to online marketing, he’s your guy.  And he’s right here in Tampa.  Buy him a beer (a really good beer) and you’ll learn more than you ever will from some high-priced consultant.

Your Background

Eric Speeth Interview

Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current role as the Manager of Analytics Operations at Triad Digital.

Eric Speeth: I’ve been involved with web development and online marketing for about 8 years.  I began my career working for an asset management firm that operated around 20 startup, small and mid-sized businesses, some online and others brick and mortar.  Soon after I started, the firm’s partners handed all site development and online marketing initiatives to me.  I was young with limited experience.  I felt overwhelmed and was extremely understaffed. I learned quickly that proving success meant that my time was best spent analyzing site and campaign initiatives in an effort to drive strategy, leaving the heavy development work to the experts. This plan worked well.  Even given rudimentary tools, I was able to quantify success, build actionable strategies and help the firm achieve several major online objectives.

I continued exploring analytics through my tenure there and eventually made it my focus as I moved to Tampa and began consulting as a performance-based marketer.  In 2008, I was recruited by Triad Digital Media and entered their organization as a web analyst.  I was given the opportunity to lead their analytics relationship with several major publishers and advertisers and now manage the analytics operations and media implementation team for all Triad accounts.

Social Media Analytics

Mark Regan: How has your background in web analytics been applied to your tracking needs in the social media space?

Eric Speeth: Social is a hot topic with a lot of brands that I work with, both in expansion of retail opportunities and brand engagement/loyalty.  Beyond sheer reach, arguably, a lot of what’s caused organizations to gravitate toward use of social channels is the value in measuring audience and action-based information.

When I first started seeing brands integrate socially, there weren’t many ways to evaluate success. From what was measurable, I would notice variable impact due to a lack of audience insight.  It took several years for analytics to catch up.  However, it’s now nearly the opposite.  With tools like Facebook analytics, app integration with several analytics vendors and the plethora of independent social media monitoring tools (i.e. Radian 6, Viralheat), the ability to measure and optimize initiatives living in the social space is practically limitless. Now, the challenge to someone like myself is identifying what is truly valuable out of each initiative and finding ways to optimize those important metrics.

If I were to give an overarching recommendation to brands/businesses marketing through social channels it would be to leverage the value of capturing demographic and user activity data to find your target audience.  Free or low cost tools like Viralheat can help easily dashboard and allow you to take action on this information.  Next, do everything you can to “close the loop”.  Facebook and Twitter are great mechanisms for initiating engagement, entertaining your audience or leading them to your brand’s next conversion point, but they aren’t all inclusive destinations (not yet anyway).  Make sure you are tracking social visitation through to purchase/conversion paths.  Channel/campaign variables are capable of tracking this in nearly every modern analytics solution whether your using Google Analytics, Coremetrics, Webtrends or Site Catalyst.

Big Business and Web Analytics

Mark Regan: You’ve worked with many Fortune 500 companies, regarding web analytics what do you think big business does better than small to medium-size businesses?

Eric Speeth: A lot of larger businesses have recognized the power that analytics-driven strategy brings to the to their organization.  Almost every major marketing publication mentions analytics strategy at least once per issue, newsletter or blog post.  Big business eats this up.  Once a larger entity decides to pursue an analytics focused model, their budgets allow them to recruit top talent who know and believe in analytics from executives to analysts.  This top-down support system enables them to roll out best-in-class analytics solutions, testing platforms and research models that really help drive major strategic decisions.   It can take years to build a platform that is optimized for success.  However, once this framework is in place, that organization will have a huge upper hand against the competition.

Mark Regan: What surprises you about what the big firms don’t do so well?

Eric Speeth: Big firms aren’t generally nimble.  Once a company gets to a certain critical mass, there are meetings just to discuss other upcoming meetings.  Marketing strategy and media spends can be forecasted out a year or more in advance with little consideration for the need to change mid-stride.  Even though they know its in their best interest, a large organization may not be able to act on a change until they can brainstorm about it, get funding and resource approval for it, develop project plans against it, then finally execute on it.  Analysis needs are becoming much more real-time which means a smaller entity where only a few individuals are making the marketing decisions can react more responsively to change.  It also means that they can fail and learn faster.  This is something that several big businesses struggle with.

Small Business Tactics

Mark Regan: If you owned a small business what steps would you take to manage your online marketing activities knowing you had a limited budget?

Eric Speeth: Setting strategic and measurable goals is probably the most important first step a small business can take towards driving a successful marketing strategy.  Being able to break those goals down over a one-year period into quarters, then months will also help give better perspective on where you need to be over shorter periods of time in order to achieve those longer 1+ year targets.  One myth I’d like to dispel is that setting short or even long term goals DOES NOT require pinpoint accurate benchmarks or elaborate forecasting methodologies, but all goals should be actionable and impacting (i.e. increasing brand reach in social or viral channels, optimizing on-site conversion paths, further identifying audience segments, etc.).

Once you’ve identified a strategy to reach those goals, its important to spend your budget wisely. One piece of advice I would lend is not to put all your eggs in one basket.  Spending all of your dollars on one three month awareness initiative may not magically bring an audience back for the rest of the year.  It’s also extremely important to stay targeted, focused and relevant with your campaigns (geographically, demographically, socioeconomically, seasonally, etc.).

With that in mind, it’s vital to purchase media through outlets that are able to demonstrate they are reaching your desired audience while they’re in the right mindset.  Signing a long-term agreement with a media partner without running test or trial campaigns is probably not a good choice.   Make any media channel prove its worth before making a really expensive mistake. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that you should always take advantage of relevantly marketing yourself on any low or no-cost media channels (be it social, viral, etc.).

Lastly, be aware of how you plan on learning more about your audience and improving your campaign as you continue your spend throughout the year.  The best way to do this is through a combination of free surveys, creative testing and optimization. If you aren’t setting up your site and your marketing campaigns on some kind of optimization platform (Google Website Optimizer, Omniture Test & Target, etc.), you aren’t maximizing your marketing dollars. A terrific book that answers questions on how to do this using free tools and few resources is called Always Be Testing and is a must read for any business that wants to set themselves up to maximize their marketing testing and optimization efforts.

The Future

Mark Regan: Looking ahead 12-24 months, what tools should vendors in the online marketing space develop to help people like you?

Eric Speeth: One challenge we face in analytics is the integration/centralization of data between marketing tools. To put it simply, the ability to tie data together quickly and easily throughout all of your initiatives doesn’t exist.  Right now, you have two choices:

  1. Pull data manually out of a dozen or more tools and put it all together into a sensible report, then spend whatever remaining minutes you have to compile insight or
  2. Convince your organization to buy expensive servers and software, then hire a team of database professionals to integrate and manage your marketing analytics for you.  Next, hire a dedicated resource to pull all that information together into a beautiful report where you, as a marketer, can spend your time extracting insight and driving strategy.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am at those options. The data already exists, it just doesn’t exist where you need it to (in a report with other information from other tools).  Paying to extract and store a copy of the data isn’t a sustainable practice. Neither is paying a team of database professionals to manage and compile that information.  I foresee a lot of progress being made on this, maybe not in the next two years, but certainly in the next five.

Location-Based Social Networks

Mark Regan: Bonus question: What are your thoughts on location-based social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places? How do you see this concept helping businesses?

Eric Speeth: As mobile device technology continues to grow, location-based applications could undoubtedly have a HUGE impact on a brick & mortar business’s success. The more prevalent your organization is on these networks, the more opportunities you are giving yourself to succeed in the future.

Speaking in the current, even something as simple as Google Maps and their use of reviews/recommended listings leveraging feeds from Yelp!, Urban Spoon, Trip Advisor, etc. has opened businesses up to a sort of transparency that can literally make or break them. If a business is smart, they are monitoring their reputations very closely to see what their customers are saying, learning from their mistakes and actively seeking to correct them.  They should also be participating in real-time marketing opportunities.  Whether that involves tweeting a one-day promo code or running a campaign through Groupon, smart businesses should realize that the next step beyond monitoring and managing their reputation is to be as active as its customers are through use of real time promotions.  I foresee location-based networks to hold even further value as additional features are developed to allow for more functional marketing opportunities within them.

Contacting You

Mark Regan: Thanks Eric!  How can people find out more about your analytics work and connect with you?

Eric Speeth: You can follow me on LinkedIn or through

Do you like it on the top or on the bottom?

Web Analytics Tag Top Bottom

Top or Bottom?

This is a question I get asked a lot?  Do you like it on the top or the bottom?

We’re talking web analytics tag code placement obviously.  And just like the sexual innuendo, it depend on who I’m working with.

Bounce Rate

Until recently the argument for the bottom was easy.  The web analytics tag belonged on the bottom of the page because I didn’t want to count the visitor unless the entire page loaded.  If they bailed before then, then I didn’t consider them a bounce.  I classified them as mistake, a typo a fat finger misclick.  Placing the web analytics tag on the top would muddy that metric.

Page Load Speed

My other reason is related to page load speed.  Even though most web analytics tags are fairly light, I wanted to delay their load until the very end.  Placing it on the bottom makes for a better visitor experience and follows SEO best practices for page load speed.

But with Google Analytics recent release of their asynchronous code snippet that second reason no longer applies.  You can now place your web analytics tag at the top of the page and not worry about its impact on page load speed because it will load in parallel the main content of your page.

I still like it on the bottom.

My first reason still holds.  I track bounce rates and have a personal definition of what a bounce is and isn’t.  To me, therefore, the page has to fully load before I’ll consider it a true pageview.

So tell me, do you like it on top or on the bottom?

Do you have a compelling reason for me to move the web analytics tag to the top of the page?

Let me know in the comments.

How to Implement _trackPageview() with Google Analytics new Asynchronous Tab

Tracking pageviews in Google Analytics
If you are planning your migration to the new asynchronous Google Analytics tag then you probably need to migrate your override of the _trackPageview() code you set up using the old non-asynchronous code.

Or perhaps you migrated your web analytics already and just realized that you didn’t code your new Google Analytics tag correctly.  Either way, here’s your answer.

Old code sample: Synchronous

var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));

var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-1111111-11”);


New code sample: Asynchronous

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-1136567-11’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’, ‘/landingpages/goal1.html’]);   (function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl&#8217; : ‘http://www&#8217;) + ‘’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);

Why override your trackPageview?

If you don’t change the default _trackPageview()command then the page recorded into your Google Analytics reports will be the fully-qualified URL of the page with the tag.  This is usually fine for most implementations.  But there are times when you need to control the page name being logged.

Why do people override page name

  • Dynamic pages

Depending on your website’s technology, some pages (or the code that implements them) may show the same URL even though the pages are logically different and distinct to the website visitor.  In those cases you need to have your webserver also assign a unique page name to each of the logical instances.

  • Goal/thank you page

When you use goals you sometimes come across the need to define the goal in Google Analytics in advance of knowing the fully-qualified URL.  Thus you need to pre-define the URL and have the web page assign it regardless of the where the page eventually resides.

I’d be interested in your experience with _trackPageview().

  • Why do you use it over the default URL method?
  • Are there any other gotchas migrating to the new Google Analytics asynchronous tag?

Analyzing Your Most Popular Pages for Missed Opportunities

I’m addicted to web analytics.  I guess I could have worse vices, but web analytics is the one I obsess about.  Lately I’ve delved into the performance of my site’s most popular pages and found some painful issues.

My most popular pages, the ones that interest people the most,  the ones they visit the most on my sites are also the ones that do the worst job of driving visitors to other pages and converting these visitors into customers.

I’m going to put my own site, this blog website up for analysis in hopes that it will elicit your comments below with some of your opinions and experiences.

Page Performance Analysis

Most Popular Page

Over the past 30 days my most popular page has an exit rate of 89%! When you couple that with an entrance rate of 92% (landing page) you can see this page is doing nothing in terms of visitor engagement.  They come and they leave.

Navigation Summary Most Popular Page

Home Page

When you compare that to my homepage you’ll see an exit rate that is much more respectable at 34%.  Of course the way this website is designed, the home page is intentionally developed to not bounce its visitors.  The goal of the homepage (and it should be for all) is to drive them to the next page with teasers and only partial information.  With 66% of the visitors doing that, I would claim success here.

Navigation Summary Homepage

Most Recent Page

But back to the problem.  If you compare the above most popular page to my most recent post you will see a very different tale with an exit rate of 40%.  And over the past 30 days, it’s my 4th most popular page.  Something is going well here.

Navigation Summary Homepage

Look Under Your Hood

Using Google Analytics, go to Content >> Top Content.  For each of your top pages, click on the “Navigation Summary” in the right column.  Here you will see numbers like the ones above.  After you’ve looked around, what does it say about your site?

  • Are your most popular pages also the ones that drive traffic to other pages?
  • Or are they just hit-and-run’s?  Missed opportunities to engage and convert, like some of mine?

Insights into the Problem

When I first looked at this metric, I didn’t think twice about.  In fact I wasn’t even looking to answer the question. I was just clicking around Google Analytics one day looking for something else when I happened upon the Navigation Summary report.  I had been there many times in the past, but there was something about the way I arrived that made an impression.
It was days later, with my mind working on it without my permission, that it came back and woke me up.

“Why is my most popular page not driving conversions, or least more pageviews?”

Now, I have a website designed around answering questions about web analytics, web analytics tools and the various vendors.  With certain posts optimized to target questions, you could say that if I’ve done my job and answered the visitor’s question – then you wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t stick around.  After all, my site is not a destination site.  Although we all think our site should be, right?

But that bothers me also.  I am not just targeting answers to questions.  I’m hoping that the people who are asking my targeted questions would be interested in learning more about web analytics would believe I am a trusted source and thus be interested in other insights.

If that’s true then I need to do a better job at capturing their interest.

Because to me when you most popular page has a high exit rate, something either is broken or you are missing a huge opportunity.

Solutions for a Poor Performing Page

Here are 3 of my ideas to solve the problem on this website.  They may apply to you, but even if they don’t, they surely will spark some ideas on what will work on your website.

  1. Behavioral targeting
  2. I’m looking into BTBUckets on this site to play around with behavioral targeting in an inexpensive way.

    With it I will be able to segment those visitors who have only seen one page (maybe even limiting it to my most recently popular page) and if they reach the bottom of the page (implying they found something that interested them) I would present them with a “This might also interest you” shadowbox to drive them to other pages.

    Or I could display unique sidebar elements depending on the actions (or inactions) of past visitors who match their behavior in hopes of changing their next steps.

  3. Better calls-to-action
  4. [IMAGE]

    Call To ActionThis is an obvious one.  Unlike what I obsess on during my day job and for my clients, I can definitely do a better job of writing and placing better calls-to-action for my readers.

    Getting them to view very interesting posts, subscribe to the RSS feed, sign up for my newsletter or connect with me are my most important conversions.

    I think we could all do a better job of this on our websites.

  5. Interrupt
  6. In the same vein as behavioral targeting there are many websites (blogs like mine and mainstream commercial websites) that have implemented a particular type of shadowbox or lightbox.

    This shadowbox will display at a specified time after the visitor arrives and promote the primary call-to-action of the website.  Popup Domination is a sophisticated and powerful solution here.

    While many people have written about the annoyance factor, more people can attest to the fact that their calls-to-action go through the roof with these tactics.  And in the end if that’s your goal, then you really need to do everything you can to reach it.


OK now that I’ve opened up the kimono on my site and what bothers me, I need to hear from you.

  • What has been your experience?
  • Am I too focused on details and missing some bigger message?
  • What would you do to solve this problem if it were you?

Let me know in the comments below.

<span class=”drop_cap”>T</span>

Pump Up Your Website With These 25 No-Brainers

<span class="drop_cap">T</span>Whether you’re new to online marketing or a seasoned veteran, it sure is nice to see what others consider important when setting up or taking over the online marketing for a business and its website.

Below is my Top 25 list of things to do from Day One.

It’s a simple list and knocking them out is not really that hard after you’ve done each once.  So don’t let it intimidate you.

Start with the simple ones and move from there!

  1. Implement Web Analytics!
  2. Setup Google Webmaster Tools
  3. Setup Google Webmaster Tools for www and non-www
  4. Track 404 Errors – Pages Not Found
  5. Create 301 Redirects for pages not found
  6. Exclude yourself from Web Analytics (Google Analytics, Adobe Omniture SiteCatalyst, etc.)
  7. Create a mobile version of your site using MobiSiteGalore
  8. Test your page load times using Page Speed
  9. Create HTML, XML and geo sitemaps
  10. Archive your website using SurfOffline
  11. Audit broken outbound links  using Xenu Link Sleuth
  12. Use a trackable phone number
  13. Create robots.txt
  14. Implement Hcard
  15. Redirect non-ww to www
  16. Redirect index.html to /
  17. Claim your business on Google Places
  18. Create a favicon.ico for your website
  19. Confirm your website’s IP address is not blacklisted
  20. Add alt tags to your website images
  21. Validate the HTML used on your website
  22. Claim your business on, and
  23. Set up Google Alerts
  24. Validate Browser compatibility
  25. Set up site search within Google Alerts
  26. Set up a globally recognized avatar (gravatar)

My list is actually much longer than this, but these are my top 25.

Do you think they’re right?
What did I leave off?

Tell me in the comments below.

Visitor Insight with Site Search and Google Analytics

Site Search Google AnalyticsI don’t know about you, but I rarely use the site search box on any website.  If I’m searching, it’s on Google.

But I’m the exception.  Or if I’m in the majority, there are plenty of users who do use a website’s site search feature.

So let’s see how you can tie your site search into Google Analytics to derive some visitor insight.

Making the Connection

Site Search Configuration Options

Site Search Configuration Options - Click To Enlarge

Connecting the two is quite easy.  Presuming your site search produces a results page with the search string in the address (e.g. you just identify that parameter (‘s’ in the previous example) to Google Analytics.

To do this go into your Analytics profile settings, edit the profile and select ‘Do Track Site Search’ and enter your search parameter.

Site Search Menu Options

Site Search Menu Options - Click to Enlarge

From then on Google Analytics will track and report on your visitors’ site searches.  That’s where the gold comes out.  From your main Google Analytics report menu on the left, choose ‘Content’, then ‘Site Search’.

The Golden Ticket

You can now track:

  • How popular is your site search feature?  [Usage Report]
    • This could be a good or bad number depending on how important you consider site search.
  • How many people were not satisfied with their first results page and did a 2nd search (refined)? [Search Terms Report]
    • What terms did these visitors have in common?
  • Which search terms caused people to leave your site? Or stay much longer than the average visitor? [Search Terms Report]
  • Which search terms result in conversions? Which resulting pages result in conversions? [Search Terms Report]
  • Which internal page prompted the most searches? [Start Pages Report]
  • What were they really looking for? [Destination Pages Report]

No Search?

If you don’t have a search tool already integrated into your website, take a look at Google’s Site Search.  It’s simple, free and easily integrated with Google Analytics

Dead End Page – How To Track Error 404 – Page Not Found

Dead End - Page Not FoundLanding on a website and getting a 404-Page Not Found error is frustrating.  But owning the website with those errors can mean lost money.  If you’re not already tracking these errors, here’s your primer to start today.

If you’re here to implement 404 Page Not Found tracking and know why you need it, you can skip this first section.  If not, I’ll cut to the chase.  Tracking when your website visitors request a page that doesn’t exist has many advantages.  To do this is not just a nice feature to implement, it’s a requirement.  The downside to this is a very poor user experience.

  1. You may have links into your website from other sites that you aren’t aware of.  Those links may be pointing to non-existent pages on your website.  This has two major downsides:
    • Visitors hate 404 – Page Not Found errors.  They typically bail on the site rather than work to find out the real page they were meant to land on.
    • Search engines can’t pass any of their link love from the other site to yours.  Losing that love is a tragedy.
  2. The tactic of creating a custom 404 page is good business.  It forces you to consider the scenario and how you would like to be perceived should someone land on a dead page on your site.

The Code

Common Code

Regardless of your vendor you will need to either locate the current 404 page on your webserver or create one if one doesn’t exist.  This is where you’ll be creative and really consider the user experience with humor, information (sitemaps?) or redirects.

On this custom 404 page you will tag it like all of your other webpages with the following exceptions.  One for Google Analytics and for (Adobe) Omniture’s SiteCatalyst.

Google Analytics

For Google there are two tagging versions you can consider depending where you are in your timeline of migrating from their synchronous versions to their latest asynchronous version.

Note that as of this writing I personally have run into a significant problem with the asynch code and have rolled it back until it can be addressed by Google.

The code snippets below are your typical code snippets provided by Google Analytics with the addition of detailed trackPageview parameters.  These parameters allow your reporting to expose which page the visitors were trying to reach and where they came from.  See Google’s explanation of 404 tracking.

Old School: Synchronous code
var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? " https://ssl." : "http://www.");
document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));

var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-xxxxx-x");
pageTracker._trackPageview("/404.html?page=" + document.location.pathname + + "&from=" + document.referrer);
} catch(err) {}
New school: Asynchronous code
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X']);
_gaq.push(['_trackPageview', '/404.html?page=' + document.location.pathname + + '&from=' + document.referrer]);
(function() {
var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '';
var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);

Regardless of which version of code snippet you use, your reports will look similar to this.

Sample Resulting Report

google analytics 404 error pages not found report

Google Analytics Report - Click To Enlarge

The simplest way to view these reports is to create an advanced segment that sets the Page as containing “/404.html”, or whatever your custom 404 page URL begins with.  Make sure it is qualified as “contains” and not “matches exactly” or anything else.

After applying this advanced segment go to “Content-Top Landing Pages”, from there you’ll be able to see a report detailing each instance of the 404 error along with the intended destination page and the site the inbound link came from.


sample code


Do not set the s.pageName variable on this page!

From (Adobe) Omniture’s SiteCatalyst v14 Implementation Manual

SiteCatalyst pageType Implementation

SiteCatalyst pageType - Click To Enlarge

2.1.44 pageType

The pageType variable is used only to designate a 404 Page Not Found Error Page. It only has one possible value, which is “errorPage.” On a 404 Error Page, the pageName variable should not be populated.

Table: pageType Variable Parameters

The pageType variable captures the errant URL when a 404 Error Page is displayed, which allows you to quickly find broken links and paths that are no longer valid on the custom site. Set up the pageType variable on the error page exactly as shown below. Do not use the page name variable on 404 error pages. The pageType variable is only used for the 404 Error Page.

! NOTE: In most cases, the 404 Error Page is a static page that is hard-coded. In these cases, it is important that the reference to the .JS file is set to an appropriate global or relative path/directory.

Syntax and Possible Values

The only allowable value of pageType is “errorPage" as shown below.




SiteCatalyst Configuration Settings


Pitfalls, Questions and Tips

To capture other server-side errors (like 500 errors), use a prop to capture the error message and put “500 Error:

<URL>” where <URL> is the URL requested, in the pageName variable. By following this course of action, you can use Pathing Reports to see what paths caused users to generate 500 errors, and the prop will explain which error message is given by the server.
omniture sitecatalyst pages not found report

Omniture SiteCatalyst Report - Click To Enlarge

Tracking 404 Error Pages Improves Visitor Experience

This tactic has proven invaluable to me and my clients.  Over time we notice the number of visits to the custom 404 page go down because we create custom 301 redirects for each bad inbound link and redirect to the most appropriate page on the site.  This regular maintenance slowly firms up your website and in the end creates a better visitor experience.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Web Analytics!

We Don't Need No Stinking Web Analytics

  • Perhaps you’ve been told to add it to your site.
  • Maybe your client is asking for details that your raw web logs can’t answer.
  • Maybe you’re so deep into your tactics you’ve come to realize the only way you can optimize them is with the sophistication provided by web analytics.

Those of you in the above categories can already answer the question, “why use web analytics” and have a solid, concrete reason to do so.

I’m going to speak to those who have heard of it, but aren’t sure why they should use web analytics?

Is This You?

  • No boss to report stats to?
  • No active campaigns tied to a marketing campaign?
  • Early in implementation of something big that’s not ready for prime time?
  • Not really interested in the complexity of tagging or the resulting reporting tools?
  • Don’t even have a website to tag with web analytics?

These are common situations I run into and you can even group and expand them to include more people who may not even be as close to their web presence as these people are.  Those people may also benefit from web analytics in support of their tactics, campaigns and initiatives.

If you look at these roles and their interest in web analytics you can really speak to them as a whole.  You can bring them with you as they lose their web analytics virginity.  The result is a Kool-Aid drinking fanatic who will help you promote implementations, customizations and dependence on web analytics into higher level business decisions.

The Top 3 Answers: “Why Use Web Analytics?”


Benchmarking DataFor those who don’t need it now, you will one day. If you don’t know why you need or didn’t even know about web analytics until recently, this is the first reason you need it.  One day you will need to know how well your website and web presences are “performing”.

Don’t even worry about what I mean by performing.  It doesn’t matter.  The reason it doesn’t matter is that with just the most basic of implementations of web analytics (the same exact tag on every page) you will begin collecting so much data that you will be amazed one day in the future.

This basic tagging is so simple I consider it a zero dollar ($0) investment.  How can you argue that math?

Whether that future need is for you or for someone you bring in to manage it, they will need historical data.  If you bring someone in (internal or external) and immediately ask them to affect the following changes:

  • Increase our organic rankings
  • Track our pay-per-click campaign success

How can you expect them to measure their progress without historical data?  Sure you could tag your site and collect two weeks’ worth of data as a benchmark, but what if you have peaks and valleys within a month?  Or even within a year?

If you have data back to the beginning of time (when your website went live) then you will be able to slice and data all future work and set goals for that works with a much higher level of certainty!


Today's ProblemsWith a basic to basic Plus implementation of web analytics you will quickly find problems on your website from day two.  I guarantee it.  There is always room for improvement.  Here are some of the common quick wins I find almost immediately with my implementations.

  • Pages not found – Error 404.  While this does require one additional implementation step to your tagging process (you need to implement a custom 404 error page and tag it slightly differently than the others), it will almost certainly illuminate your 404 errors.  Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a site and initially landing on a bad page due to a bad or outdated inbound link.

While this will not solve that first visitors experience, once you find out what the bad link is you can correct it with some simple redirecting.

  • Internal traffic is muddying up your data

Your report can quickly hone in on your website visitors and many times I have found that internal visits are artificially inflating either poor performing metrics or overstating the important high performers.  Rarely does anyone want to track their internal visits in the same view as their targeted external visitors.  Next step is to exclude yourself from your web analytics reports.

  • Misspellings on your website

Taking a quick look at the organic keywords that are driving traffic to your site, I am continually surprised at how many misspellings this tactic finds on a website.  The value of this exercise eventually drops off but in the beginning it pays big time.

I am continually taking the keyword string that a visitor used to find one of my sites and actually running it myself on the search engine they used.

Make sure you’re not using personalized search for this exercise otherwise your results will not closely match what your visitor saw.  For example, not only should you log out of your Google account, but you should also append “=pws=0” to the resulting search result to truly make them non-personal.

Now looking through these search results, if one of the search terms was a misspelling and one of your pages is in the results, audit that page to see if there is a misspelling or if the search engine did the right thing by interpreting the misspelling.  Rarely will you find a misspelling on your website.  But when you do, it’s gold.

Nothing is worse than a misspelling on a website.  I will gladly lose that search traffic rather than have a visitor see a typo.


Diamond in the roughThere is always an opportunity waiting to be found in your initial web analytics reports. (Actually viewing visitor actions is an even more enlightening experience) .  Stumble around some of the predefined reports and gain insight into how your visitors are using your website, where they’re coming from and where they’re going.  After that create advanced segments (in Google Analytics) to target a specific question.

If you’re lucky you may find some diamonds like:

  • High pageview pages (other than the usual first place page – the homepage).  Does this page surprise you?  Is it a deep page on your site that you paid little attention to?  Does it not only get high pageviews, but people spend an abnormally large amount of time on it?  Is it a popular entry page?  If so, where are they coming from?  A referral? A search engine?

What you do with this information can vary.  Maybe you highlight it on your homepage because you now know people are interested in it and you want to ensure that as many people know about it as possible.

Maybe you add some promotions on that page in hopes of more sales.  You could drive people from it to a tailored sales landing page that is explicitly written for someone who just read that high pageview page.  From here you’ll be able to track your web analytics goals.

  • Tagging your footprints.  Maybe you’ve found that certain domains are driving traffic to your site.  And maybe those are sites you are actively participating in, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter referrals.  Especially if you have multiple links on those sites you should tag them appropriately and peel another layer back to see more detailed forensics into how your other web presences are performing.

Why Use Web Analytics?

While these reasons are strong enough on their own, they aren’t the types of reasons that convince most people to answer the question “Why use web analytics?

I find many times you either need to convert them into being a believer in the concepts of tracking data as a foundation to better decision-making.  Or you just need to go behind their back and do it yourself without permission.

How do you exclude yourself from Google Analytics or Omniture SiteCatalyst?

Google Analytics Exclude YourselfLast year I blogged on excluding yourself from web analytics reporting.  In particular, I dove into how to manage large numbers of IP addresses in your exclude filters for Google Analytics.  But the landscape has changed since then.  Now the methods need to be tweaked and there are some gotchas worth sharing on how to exclude yourself.


Depending on the size of your company, or more importantly the visitorship of your websites, the impact of internal visitors to your reporting could be huge and misleading.

Even for some of my tiny sites where I’m looking for traction in the early stages of life, I don’t want my footprints to be muddying up my web analytics.

Fortunately most web analytics packages allow you to remove, or at least hide, yourself and your visits.

When I refer to “my footprints” I’m really talking about me, my company, my client’s staff maybe even vendors.  Anyone that would be considered “internal traffic”.


The two most common methods for excluding yourself from your web analytics reports are: cookie-based and IP/domain exclusion.  There are pros and cons to each and that’s why Google Analytics and Omniture’s SiteCatalyst leave the decision up to you by providing you both options.

Cookie-based Exclusion

  • PROS:
    • For mobile computers or computers that regularly connect via dynamic IP addresses, this is the only method that works.
    • If there are devices on the same IP (not internal IP, but rather Internet-facing IP) as you then again you have to use cookies
  • CONS:
    • If your machine or software regularly deletes cookies (browsers can be configured to do this on closing) then you will need to continually re-add the cookies
    • Once a visit has been excluded via cookies, they cannot be retrieved.

IP/domain Exclusion

(Domain names just resolve to an IP address so they are lumped together for this purpose)

  • PROS:
    • If you do not have the ability to place cookies on the target devices (too many or remote) then you will have to exclude them via IP addresses or domains
    • You can use the filter on some profiles and not others. This allows you to have some reports with internal traffic excluded and others with the internal visitors included.
  • CONS:
    • You may not be able to inventory each and every one of your IP addresses, therefore leaving you open for contaminated web analytics reports.

Current Techniques

For Google Analytics, you need to go to your setup view and click on “Filter Manager >>”

Google Analytics Filter Manager

Google Analytics Filter Manager - Click To Enlarge

From there click on “Add Filter”

Google Analytics Add Filter

Google Analytics Add Filter - Click To Enlarge


There you will name the filter “Home Router” or “Corporate Office IP”, choose “Predefined Filter” and choose to either exclude based on IP address or domain.  It’s that simple.

Google Analytics Filter Types

Google Analytics Filter Types - Click To Enlarge

If you need to exclude many IP addresses, you need to dive into regular expressions which then lead you to the 225 character maximum and custom filters.  It’s not hard, but it’s also not 5 minutes of work.  I’ve built custom filter lists numbering over 30, encompassing over 200 IP addresses.  Fun times!


Here you’ll need a custom filter that Google has done a great job of explaining it in detail.

Google Analytics Cookie Filter

Google Analytics Cookie Filter - Click To Enlarge

Note the code needed on the exclude.html page had been updated with the latest asynchronous Google tracking code snippet.  Here’s the HTML code from a site that I have not yet upgraded to the latest code version.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "">
<html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<title>Exclude Me</title>
<body onLoad="javascript:pageTracker._setVar('test_value');">
<p>This computer now has a cookie placed on it to exclude it from any Google Analytics reports.</p>
<p>If you delete your cookies, you will need to revisit/reload this page again.</p>

var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));

try {
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-1111111-11");
} catch(err) {}

Update: Here’s how the code should look using the new asynchronous tag.  Note, I haven’t actually implemented this yet, but it’s pretty straightforward.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "">
<html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<title>Exclude Me</title>
<body onLoad="javascript:pageTracker._setVar('test_value');">
<p>This computer now has a cookie placed on it to exclude it from any Google Analytics reports.</p>
<p>If you delete your cookies, you will need to revisit/reload this page again.</p>

  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-1111111-11']);

  (function() {
    var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
    ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '';
    var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);


With Omniture’s SiteCatalyst, there may (and should) be a quicker way (please comment if you know it), but I manage it by logging in and going straight to “Exclude by IP”

Omniture SiteCatalyst Exclude by IP

Omniture SiteCatalyst Exclude by IP - Click To Enlarge


Here you’ll be able to add IP addresses one by one to your report suites.

Omniture SiteCatalyst IP Exclusion

Omniture SiteCatalyst IP Exclusion - Click To Enlarge

Two limitations: I don’t know of a way to add a domain exclusion, and if you want to exclude a large number of IP addresses, my Omniture account manager told me it would involve their professional services team ($$$).  I’ll have that need soon and I’m too stubborn to pay for something that should be free.


To enable cookie exclusion, on that same “Exclude by IP” you will see a very well-hidden link title “click here” (brilliant label) that will take your cookie “jar”.

Omniture SiteCatalyst Cookie Exclusion Option

Omniture SiteCatalyst Cookie Exclusion Option - Click To Enlarge

Here you’ll either see a button that says “Exclude” (your computer is not yet excluded and needs to have a cookie placed on it) or “Reactivate” (your computer already has the needed cookie placed on it).

Interesting!  When I went to take my screenshot I ran into an error.  I tried multiple browsers, report suites and computers.  For now you’ll need to trust me the button usually exists where “undefined” is below.

Omniture SiteCatalyst Cookie Exclusion Error

Omniture SiteCatalyst Cookie Exclusion Error - Click To Enlarge

A very big downside of Omniture cookie exclusion implementation is that you must log on to SiteCatalyst to place the cookie.  So you can’t have non-users just visit a page that places the cookie on their machine.  You have to either grant them access or log in yourself from their machine.


  1. Beware of automatic cookie deletions.
  2. Dynamic IP addresses, ISP changes and location growth can quickly invalidate your filters.
  3. Creating new profiles (Google Analytics) or report suites (SiteCatalyst) requires you to apply your chosen exclusion technique to them.  It will not occur automatically.

I hope this helps explain the two exclusion methods, two web analytics vendors’ implementation of those methods and a few of the hazards to avoid when implementing them.

Please leave comments if this was helpful (or not)!

ClickTale User Review

Is your website poorly performing? ClickTale will show you why
ClickTale is one of my Top 3 web analysis tools.  Its power and quick payoff are huge.  I wish I had more time to truly exploit it on a regular basis, I believe in it so much.

My Typical Use

When I’m first initiating a customer engagement after making sure they have basic analytics set up, I’ll install ClickTale on their site for 2 weeks.  During this time there will be no changes made to the site.  We’ll collect data on the users of the site in a way that is more advanced and telling than straight Google Analytics.

Here are the 3 features that have sold me on the product and make me fork over $99/month (this link will get you the Bronze Plan for $79/month):

Recorded User Sessions (Videos)

After you’ve tagged all pages of your site, you can literally watch one by one as your users move their mouse, type into your forms and click un-clickable images.  By the way, I love how they’ve coined them as videos, very approachable and easily understood.

In fact there is always at least one ah-ha moment within the first 5 sessions we review where we find a significant usability problem with the customer’s site.  As you present your proposal to a client, your VP or Marketing or your CEO, it’s always nice to know you can count on at least one instant win that sometime pays for all of your costs.

Once you’ve come down from the recording high, though, the filtering that you can do to focus on failures (see the jserror below), how different browser visitors experience your website and even engagement time, is where the tool really pays off.

ClickTale User Recording Video List

One of my favorite deep dives is to watch recording of users who came in through what I consider to be highly qualified organic search terms, but had very short (if not bouncing) visits.  I want to see their screen, watch their mouse move and attempt to put myself in their shoes to determine why they didn’t stay.

Mouse Move Heatmaps

This is total eye candy and one of the easy ways to win over those skeptical of your analysis.  Of course, you’ll need to follow-up with your hard core recommendations, but presentation is everything and heatmaps are a great first slide.

But these are not just static heatmaps.  And they really go beyond eye candy.  After two weeks of data you’ll know so much about how effective your web pages are that your client or boss will be converted and become engaged in learning more about how to improve your website.

You have to upgrade to the enterprise level to get heatmaps beyond just the one available in the Bronze package.  That package only maps your most popular page, usually the home page.  There’s a big jump in price beyond the Bronze package.  So I recommend starting with the Bronze package first to make sure it’s what you want.

But as you’ll learn, not only can you quickly see where the visitor’s mouse moves (with its 80% correlation to eye movement), but you can turn layers/filtering on and off to help you find what’s working and what may be causing confusion to your visitors.

Form analysis

This is another monster.  In addition to friendlier reporting on your conversion metrics, the tool, when combined with user recording, can really hone in on problems with forms.  Since so many of my clients are focused on lead generation, the completion of a form is the money shot.  Quickly finding holes in their lead funnels can justify months of future work looking for smaller lifts in conversions.

Form conversion report

Another Secret Weapon

I would probably pay the $99/month (discounted Bronze Plan for $79/month) for just these 3 features.  They are that empowering.  Other features of the Bronze package that I use less include:

  • Scroll reach heatmaps
  • Up to 3 domains tracked – perfect number for me
  • Click heatmaps
  • Link analytics
  • Event-based filtering
  • Custom email alerts

SPY on your Visitors