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My 5 Favorite, but Often Ignored, Analytics Features

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

The wonderful thing about working online is that our work is just so measurable.

In just about every other industry, a lot of decisions are based on sample data, or assumptions, or just on gut feel. But online, we can measure just about everything for 95%+ of our visitors—yay for us!

In our world of pretty graphs and statistics, we have are a stack of options to ensure we’ve got our eyes on the numbers. But when it comes to bang for buck (i.e. lots of value for no outlay) there really is no equal, in my opinion, to Google Analytics—and it just keeps getting better.

I’m sure a lot of you are already feeling the Google love with Analytics—and if you’re an addict like me, you’re using it on a daily basis. So I thought I’d share my five favorite, but often ignored, features of Google Analytics.

1. Custom Reports

There are so many levels, layers, and measures in the Google Analytics interface that I often used to waste time attempting to find my first stop in the system: reports.


Custom Reports changed that. Not only does this feature allow for a myriad of different perspectives and data, but you can also save each report and head back to it at a moment’s notice. This video is a good starting point to understanding how to make the most of custom reports.

2. Scheduled Reports

Actually remembering to jump into Analytics to make sure you’re across everything can be a challenge. Scheduled Reports make the job much easier.

You’ll probably have certain reports you’ll look at more often than others. If you click on the little email icon on the top-right of a report, you’ll be able to set up a schedule so that that report’s delivered to you via the inbox.

This is a great way to ensure that your busy schedule is not getting in the way of you knowing what’s happening on your site.

3. Navigational Summary

In December I wrote about the concept of sales funnels, and a lot of you asked how on Earth you can manage to measure all those steps. Well, the Navigational Summary report will get you started.

It covers the essential details for each page view, including where the user came from (another page, external site), and then where they went to (exit, another page)—plus everything in between. This is a key report to start understanding browsing behaviors on your critical pages. You can access the navigational summary through the Content section. I tend to use the Content Drilldown report to find the specific pages I’m after, then click the Navigational Summary for their specific metrics.

4. eCommerce and the $ Index

When you set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics, you open up a whole new world of insight. It’s a feature that’s only useful for those selling online, but it’s scarily accurate and amazingly insightful.

Goals Overview

With eCommerce set up, not only can you see reports on the products you’re selling, and how much money you’re earning, but you can also start to track them back to other pages in your site. You might find that particular types of blog post generate more revenue per page view—and that’s where the $ Index kicks in.

With this metric you’ll know the average income per visit to each page or collection of pages on your site. Unfortunately setting this up is not straightforward, and you might need a little help. There’s a good article on the Analytics blog that will help get you moving. Sorry I can’t show a good screen shot of this—the information was too sensitive for the other sites I have access to.

5. Goals and Funnels

Almost all websites have some sort of desired visitor action. It might be to buy something, to fill out a contact form, to download a sample, or even just look at a bunch of other pages. Setting up goals in Google allows you to track these goals like a fox. You get insight into the overall performance of your site, but you can also track back every step of the way.

Unfortunately, like eCommerce, this feature can be a little tricky to set up and is something you might wish to get help with. I won’t go into too much detail on how to do this—it’s all covered on the Analytics blog.

Warning: Analytics is Like Quicksand

I often tell people that Google Analytics is a little like quick sand. Once you make that first step, it starts to really suck you in, and a short time later you’re stuck for good. More time passes and all of a sudden your head goes under—everything goes dark and you have no idea where you are.

It’s at that point that too many people go back to assumptions and guesswork, murmuring something about leaving “all that statistics guff” to the eggheads. If you’ve fallen into the Analytics quicksand, my recommendation is to keep things simple. Identify ten key metrics you want to measure, create a report or set of reports that deliver you those metrics, and review them over time. Once you’re comfortable, move a little deeper.

The more you understand about your business, the better-informed decisions you can make—and it’s the decisions that will make or break your business, not the numbers.

As I mentioned, Google Analytics in my favorite stats package, but I’d love to hear about any other stats packages you’re using and how you’re finding them in the comments. Or perhaps you can highlight your favorite functions of Googe Analytics that I’ve not covered…

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

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Comments

  1. Don’t forget about adding your Adsense account into your Analytics. Nice to see how pages are performing for $ Dollar Dollar Bills Yo..

  2. Rob Berman says:

    Thanks for the tips. I really need to spend more time with the package. It is a bit intimidating. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Rob

    • WebMarketingNinja says:

      Hi Rob,

      I’m naturally good with numbers, but I know not every one is. It can be very inimidating at first, but a few deep breaths, and good support from the people around here, I’m sure you’ll start to get some benifit if you stick with it.

      Always Be Testing is a great book IMO to give you perspective as well.

      Cheers,

      WMN

  3. DorleeM says:

    Thanks for this detailed description!

    You may want to also check out the analytics provided by http://www.statcounter.com. I like how I can see the summary statistics by week, month, quarter or year for pageloads, unique visitors and return visits – it allows you to see trends over time for all three measures.

    It also offers you a listing of keywords used to find your site (not just the most popular ones) with the actual count per each keyword as well as many other friendly pieces of info. That said, I only use it as a supplement to google analytics and the regular “stats” section (and not as a replacement).

  4. Ethan says:

    I have also noticed that Google Analytics is upgraded recently. Thanks for discussing about some new features added in analytics. You are right; giving too much time to analytics just blows out the mind.

    • WebMarketingNinja says:

      Hey Ethan,

      A lot of these features have been in there for years — but a lot of people just don’t know about them.

      Cheers.

      WMN

  5. I use both Google Analytics and I like the real time data Visistat provides me. My website’s purpose is to generate calls and I can often track how those callers came to the site via location, search terms etc.

  6. Thanks for the great info! Just signed up for my weekly report!

  7. Mike Piper says:

    Excellent tips, thank you. :)

    Would anyone happen to have any thoughts on what to track and how best to track it for circumstances in which the conversion takes place on somebody else’s domain? (In my case, my main revenue is from book sales, which occur on Amazon.com.)

    Would the best thing be to simply set up a goal for each click to Amazon?

    • WebMarketingNinja says:

      set up a goal for each click to Amazon — yep that’s exactly what I’d do. It’s not perfect, but a least you can track everything up to the sales page view / check out.

      • Andy Merrett says:

        Hi Mike,

        I decided to have a go at doing this. Here’s an important guide from Google on setting this up:

        http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=72712

        You have to set up an artificial page name, and put some JavaScript into each external link that you want to track, because external web pages don’t have your Analytics tracking code on. It’s a bit of effort to set up retrospectively, but probably worth it, particularly for one of my affiliate programs that has virtually no way to tell where the visitor clicked in from (and I don’t have too many of those links yet!)

  8. deniz akay says:

    I’m using Statcounter and Analytics together. It’s nice to see recent visitors activity on a simple report.

  9. Analytics is awesome. I pretty much use the features above except for the custom reporting, so thanks for the video link :)

  10. zoop says:

    analytics is by FAR the best tool that every webmaster needs. I did not know most of those tips – golden advice!

    I will def use it on my sites

  11. Beth says:

    What do you know about the on page analyics? I know they are in beta testing or something. You can see where people click on the actual page.

    Any tips or tricks with this?

    • WebMarketingNinja says:

      I’ve tried to use the on page analytics, but haven’t had great success. I use click tale when I want to get that up close and personal — but that’s pretty pricey

  12. Indeed analytics will suck you in but it’s a good thing because that’s the only way to measure and record performance. I think I might add the bounce rate to the list of 5. I like it because it tells you if readers want more of your stuff (writing) and not just the latest post.

  13. Angela Giles says:

    Great tips, especially on how to avoid being sucked by the Analytics quicksand. You’re right, it would be better to keep things in the right perspective. Analytics can do that,there are many people who then become so obsessed with the figures that they forget what their initial goal was supposed to be.

    -Angela Giles
    Social Media and Publicity DIVA

    Yes, I am giving away my 3rd edition Twitter Blueprint FREE, no strings attached. http://bit.ly/a527ZI

  14. At last! Someone is talking about Google Analytics. Yes I check it for traffic, what pages are viewed to see what subjects are attracting traffic, bounce rate, keywords etc. It would be wonderful if someone wrote articles about Google Analytics and what they mean.

  15. Pumama says:

    I didn’t know these features. I need to spend less time managing my blog . Thanks for valuable post

  16. Yatin Mulay says:

    i’m shocked to see that goals & funnels are often ignored feature? that’s unbelievable !

    i’ve found Google website optimizer & Clicktale mouse tracking to be great complimentary tools to analytics

  17. Pete Carr says:

    Hello Mr Ninja,
    I like many others get confused with some of the features of Google analytics. The basics are fairly easy to understand, but there is so much to it.
    I like the idea of having reports sent to me, maybe on a weekly basis, helps to keep a tab on things.
    I use Statcounter as well as analytics. It helps on a day to day basis as it is accessible from your WP dashboard.
    Thanks
    Pete

  18. Excellent article. I can relate to the quicksand metephor. So much potential, so much data its all about first thinking about what you want to find out and then figuring out the simple reports that will get you this information. Of course no point in doing any of this unless you think about how the data then maps to actionable intelligence.

  19. Ryan says:

    Thanks for the tips, I really need to customize my analytics and setup an email report. What is the difference between Google Analytics and Webmaster tools? I’ve heard it is good to sign up for both but don’t know much about the other. Thanks.

    • WebMarketingNinja says:

      Webmaster tools are great, but the information and insight you get is different. You’ll be able to see things like how often your site is crawled, where your inbound links are comming from, what your keyword performance looks like, and be able to update some settings about how google treats your site…

      Analyitics allows you to understand visitor behaviour at a granular level.

      As the names suggest, webmaster tools is more about configuration, Analytics is all about information.

      There is some overlap, but only at a high level.

      Personally — I use both.

  20. I use Google Analytics.It is an awesome tool.Thanks for giving me some tips.

  21. Ben Norman says:

    Well that’s embarrassing! I’ve been using Google Anayltics almost daily since I started my blog and haven’t tapped into even half of the stuff you mention here. Talk about not using something to it’s full potential.

    Thanks

    Ben

  22. Greg says:

    Hey Darren (and anyone on Problogger staff),

    I was wandering around my Twitter page and clicked over to this website from the profile of someone who followed me, and they had reproduced some of your articles (I’m not sure how many, but definitely including this one) in their entirety. Thought you might want to do something about this:

    http://thebloggingprofitformula.com/my-5-favorite-but-often-ignored-analytics-features

    Not cool at all.

    Hope you can get this straightened out,
    -Greg

  23. Learn seo says:

    I had never tried this custom report,just tried after going through your post. its a great tool, thanks for sharing the insights

  24. Dev Basu says:

    These are some great basic steps to making better use of Google Analytics. I would add to this the use of advanced segments, filtering out traffic that belongs to your own IP or company, and using Google analytics intelligence alerts. http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/ is probably one of the best resources of the web to gain a more in-depth knowledge of GA.

  25. I’d overlooked scheduled reports, but I think I might well set a few up now. Thanks man!

  26. Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I had only gotten my feet wet in Analytics, but I knew there was so much more to be had, I just didn’t know hwo to even begin!
    Bernice
    Are you too busy to be yourself?

  27. Brandy says:

    I love these tips, I always have trouble what to run reports on and what I should truly be analyzing in my analytics account. This has helped me a bit! thanks for this guest post

  28. Lee Cole says:

    I’ve been using GA a lot for some time, both for myself and for clients. I confess that I only use the tip of the iceberg, though. I’ve been avoiding learning more about it simply because I didn’t have time. You’ve saved me a ton of time with this post. Thanks!

  29. I’ve just begun really using analytics on my sites. The “quicksand” portion is so true for me, but you’ve given me some great insights into other valid uses. Thanks.

  30. Ben says:

    How did you create the “Navigational Summary” report in Analytics?

    • WebMarketingNinja says:

      In analytics — click on the content menu (left hand top), then you can use the content drilldown report to find the page you want to see the navigational summary on,

      Once you’ve loaded the default report for the target page, on the right hand side (just under the graph) you’ll see a title ‘Navigation Analysis. Click the navigational summary link and your there.

  31. WebMarketingNinja says:
  32. this sounds really interesting. I’m sure gonna try this one…

  33. Erin says:

    Thanks for this post. Is anyone a fan of InPage Analytics? I really dont know if I can trust the percentages I see on that, plus it is hard to tell what link the little bubble is hovering over. That aside, I enjoy the custom reports feature a lot- especially to see the stats for recurring days of the week/times of day.

  34. Petrov says:

    True, True! If we want to know what is happening in our on-line marketing activities we are obligated to do all these things you are talking about. Unfortunately the data is not always true but it could be used as landmark.

  35. Andrew says:

    Many thanks for a really interesting insight into Google Analytics. I only started using it very recently having heard a lot of excellent reports about it. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some of the features you’ve highlighted. Goals and funnels is of particular interest to me.

    Thanks again.

  36. James says:

    Thanks for this. It is easy to get lazy with analytics and just focus on the headline numbers such as number of visitors. This post has given me the inspiration to dig deeper!

  37. Lenny Neslin says:

    Thanks for the tips about e-mailing. I can’t believe I forgot to set those up!

  38. Jason says:

    Thank you for writing this! I’m just getting myself started with using GA and trying to understand how it works.

  39. Analyzing your sites stats and understanding where your visitors come from, what they do on your site and more is one of the keys to making your site more successful.

  40. yep finding analytics a key part in my online success and can easily eat up all your time

    cheers for the post of to make a note on my blog
    have a good day

  41. Vking says:

    Thank you so much!

  42. Awesome post on Google Analytics. I have found great use from this tool, it is even better than the stats provided by my web host (which I have now neglected). I have not given much thought to generating reports as yet but it’s something I should really look into. At present, I seem to be more obsessed with the amount of traffic my website attracts over a particular period and daily as well as the primary browsers my audience use. I will absolutely seek to use more of of the resources. Thanks again.

  43. Tech Crates says:

    Thanks for the share….bro, I never looked into these features !! but will try now

  44. GrimCris says:

    You all can try Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Yoast who will automatically activate lots of Google Analytics features. You can get some information by visiting this page: http://yoast.com/wordpress/google-analytics/

  45. Great post – Just one little query:

    I run a small ecommerce development business – do I really need something paid and feature rich as Omniture or is Google Analytics enough to get the job done? Can anyone help me on this please?

    Thanks in advance :)