Archive for the ‘resources’ Category

Using Google Analytics Events and Custom Reports to Help Track Off-Site Conversions

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

One of the biggest challenges in using web analytics in higher education is the fact that so many of our conversions happen off-site. When a visitor comes to our website and wants to request information or fill out an application or donate or buy a t-shirt from the bookstore, more often than not those things happen off-site.

By using a combination of Google Analytics events and custom reports, tracking the off-site conversion is a little easier. Does this give us a direct link from the visitor on the website to the actual conversion (if the conversion is off-site)? No. But it’s the next best thing – and it’s certainly better than guessing – or only paying attention to campaign click-throughs.

Manually Tracking Outbound or Download links as Events

Events are not new to Google Analytics, but they are definitely underutilized. By using an onClick on the exit link (or download to a form, etc.) you can easily track those exit links as events and then tie them back to campaigns.

When you track an event, you specify the event category, action, label, and value. A more detailed description can be found in the GA event tracking guide. In post we’ll only be talking about using events for tracking outbound (exit) links or downloads.

If you want to track an outbound link as an event, here’s how to do it:

Manual onClick event to show outbound links as events in Google Analytics.

Once that is in place, go into Google Analytics reports. To view events go to content >> event tracking.

Here is how it looks in the reports. “Outbound” is the category. “Click” is the action. In the below image, if you click on “click,” you then go to the event label screen shown in the second image below.

Event category and action names

“Application Link” is the event label in this example.

In this example the event label is called application link.

This report then shows you the number of times the outbound link was clicked. Be sure to use the same naming convention with your category, action, and labels. Otherwise you’ll end up with outbound, Outbound, and exit (when they all mean the same thing). Think campaign URL parameter names (email, e-mail, and E-mail) – keep it consistent. By the way, I chose “outbound” for the category and “click” for the action above because that is what is used by default in the gaAddons script (introduced below).

So there you go. Simple, right? Now you’re tracking your outbound links as events. Well, hold on to your hats, here’s where it gets good.

Automate Tracking Outbound or Download links as Events

Stéphane Hamel, web analytics consultant, wrote a great script called gaAddons. This script automatically tracks outbound, download, and mailto links as events (and more). It’s so important for higher education, in my opinion, for a few reasons:

  1. So many of our conversions happen off-site.
  2. Creating onClick’s manually is sometimes difficult to do for many reasons (content creators might not know how to do it, they might simply forget to do it when new content is created, or, maybe they just don’t have the time to go back into current content and create manual onClick’s on existing outbound or download links).
  3. Even if you can track events manually, if you’re not careful with naming conventions, names can be separated (ie, specifying outbound and Outbound differently, etc.)

This script overcomes all 3 challenges.

Using the script is easy. There are step-by-step instructions for using gaAddons on the documentation page of the gaAddons website. Make a quick change to your Google Analytics tracking code, download the javascript file to your server and reference it, then reference jQuery and you’re done. No need to go back and manually put those onClick events on existing links. No need to remember to do it on newly created content.

If you’re still using the old version of the Google Analytics tracking code, there is an older version of the gaAddons script that can be used with the old version of the GA tracking code. Hopefully everyone has upgraded to the newer version of Google Analytics tracking code, however. There are so many advantages of upgrading to async. Also, in the gaAddons version 2.0 (to use with the new version of Google Analytics tracking code) there are so  many more options available. Of course you can track outbound, download, and mailto links as events, but you can do so much more with it.

Create Custom Reports to Make it Easier to tie to Campaigns

So, now that your outbound or download links are being tracked as events, you need to be able to easily see how your campaigns are doing driving people to those “events.”

This is where we’ll take advantage of custom reporting.

The way events are currently reported in Google Analytics is clunky. It’s great that they are there, but beyond just seeing those events, it’s hard to determine if campaigns are driving people to those events.

So we create a custom report to more easily show this data. To set up a custom report, in the left nav in Google Analytics, click on custom reporting >> manage custom reports. Then click on “create new custom report.”

Here’s how to set up this specific report. I call it “events by campaign.” You can call it anything you’d like.

Metrics and dimensions used to create custom report.

You can also use the shared custom report by clicking here.

This custom report allows you to see all at once if campaigns led to any events. Here is the first page of the custom report:

Events by campaign list.

So all your campaigns that led to an event are listed. (not set) means no campaigns led to those events.

Then, if you click on “campaign #1,” you drill down to see which specific events were credited to campaign #1.

List of events that campaign 1 drove.

Now you can both see your important outbound (exit) links as “events” and then easily tie those events to campaigns.

So there you have it. Not perfect (we’d all love to see how many off-site conversions our campaigns drove), but it’s better than guessing – or just looking at click-throughs.

What do you think? I’d love to get your feedback about tracking important outbound and download links.

Help Start a Revolution

Monday, May 17th, 2010

It’s about time we start a revolution … and we need your help! You know how important web analytics is for higher education websites, but we need to spread the word. So, where do we start? With a benchmark, of course.

Last week Karine Joly launched the “State of Higher Ed Online Analytics” survey to get a better idea of where we are as an industry with our use of web analytics.

Complete the survey today!

Enter your email address at the end of the survey to receive an executive summary in July highlighting the survey results.

Thanks to Karine for putting together the survey and starting the revolution!

Survey closes on May 24th.

Must Read Book – Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics – Second Edition

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

This post is long overdue. I wanted to do a review of Brian Clifton’s book Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics (second edition) last month when it came out. For those of us in higher education, this book is essential reading. Period.

When it comes to web analytics and, specifically Google Analytics, Brian Clifton is at the top. The book is the second edition, but it is so much more than just an update of the first book – it’s almost a complete re-write. So much has happened since the first book came out. You can read all about it over on Brian’s blog.

Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to read the book before it was published and offer feedback and comments. I’ve never done that before, but what an excellent learning experience!

So, let’s get down to the book. The name of it says “advanced” but you don’t need to be an advanced user of Google Analytics to get a lot out of it. It takes you from the very basics of what web analytics is, how to get started with both web analytics and Google Analytics all the way to advanced topics and techniques.
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Must Subscribe Blogs – December 2008

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

For this month, I’ve subscribed to 3 great blogs (well, 2, I’ll explain below)  that I hope you find useful and entertaining. It’s worth noting that I was introduced to all these blogs via the people I follow on Twitter. Yet another reason why Twitter is invaluable to me.
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What’s in my RSS reader? – November 2008

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In November, for some reason, I was much more focused on the web analytics tools themselves, reading blogs about both Google Analytics and Omniture, since I use both tools.

Here are a few that are definitely worth adding to your reader (depending upon what tool you use).
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Google Analytics – oh, the controversy

Monday, November 24th, 2008

This past week was Google Analytics week for some reason. It was in the news and all over the blogs. Controversy *and* good stuff. I, of course, am going to focus on the controversy for this post. Nothing new here, but worth mentioning.

Article Number One. First, read The Disturbing Truth about Google Analytics on iMediaConnection. The post charges that much of the way Google Analytics collects its data is inaccurate and therefore the calculated metrics (i.e., time on site) are inaccurate. The comments were generally negative. Brian Clifton, author of Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, even said the post was incorrect. Very interesting post and comments overall.
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Twitter – A Different Kind of Conversation

Monday, November 17th, 2008

There have been a ton of posts and news lately about Twitter. The mini-blogging platform has been everywhere. The presidential election was a hot topic (and still is!), hashtags are all the rage, one user raised $10K for a dowry using Twitter, and it’s even seen by the Army as a possible communication tool for terrorists.

Higher education blogs have mainly focused on how Twitter can help as a marketing, recruitment, advising tool. There are so many great uses for Twitter both in higher education and for corporations.

What about us Twitter-users as individuals, though? How does it affect what we do, our sense of community, our sense of professional involvement?

It’s fantastic to talk about Twitter as a tool to help our students and customers. I’m completely on board with that.

Let’s do something that I don’t like to do a lot on this blog, though.

Let’s talk about us!

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Omniture vs. Google Analytics

Monday, November 10th, 2008

During the past week, there was quite a lively debate going on at the Web Analytics Forum on Yahoo! Groups. Paul Holstein, who blogs over at Web Analytics Demystified, started the conversation by asking people the simple question, “Why do we still need Omniture?”Omniture vs. Google Analytics

Sidebar: For those of you aren’t familiar with Omniture, it is a proprietary web analytics tool. It’s like Google Analytics, but more robust and, therefore, more complex.

Since there are so many schools that use Google Analytics, I thought I’d share my thoughts. If you don’t want to read through the entire Yahoo thread, Paul listed a summary of the comments on this blog post. I’ll give a readers digest version here – focused mainly on features higher ed sites might use.
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What’s in my RSS reader? – October 2008

Friday, November 7th, 2008

I’m a little late this month (I completely missed October), but here is the most recent installment of What’s in my RSS reader? This time I’m focusing less on higher education websites and more on the customer (yes, all you higher ed sites, your students and users are your customers!) and social media.

So, here is my list for the month of October, 2008 (I know, I know, it’s already November) …
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“Must Read” Posts – Week of 10/17/08

Friday, October 17th, 2008

There were a lot of interesting posts out there this week. My picks:

  • Choosing the right classification words – Giraffe Forum – This is a great post dealing with the way users search on keyword phrases, even when the phrase isn’t technically correct. For instance, the official term on government websites is climate change. According to Google, a monthly search average for climate change is 300,000 while the monthly search average for global warming is 2.2 million. It gets even more interesting when “low fare” is compared to “cheap flights” search volume. Worth the read.
  • We Don’t Need More Social Networks. We Need More Purposed Social Networks. – Social Media Explorer – I couldn’t agree more with this post. We need more focused and specific social networks. Although this post isn’t specific to higher education, it’s true within higher education. It gives a great example of a social network specifically for middle-aged affluent women.
  • The Ultimate Google Analytics Plugins, Hacks, & Tricks Collection – GrokDotCom – I only use Google Analytics for my blog, but I know that the majority of higher education websites (no, I don’t know that for sure, I’m making an assumption here) do use Google Analytics. Quite a comprehensive list.

Do you have any favorites from the week?