Trendspotting: Using Google Analytics to Track and React to Website Visitor Patterns


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Using Google

Analytics to Track and React to

Website Visitor Patterns

Chris Brown

Assistant Director IU Communications

Bob Molnar

Web Production Manager IU Communications @bobmolnar


Web Analytics

A Definition


collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and


Analytics at IU


Page Counters


Google Analytics



Analytics at IU

• Raw server logs of all “hits”

• Difficult to read and interpret

• Difficult to cultivate pageviews


Analytics at IU

• First attempt at any organized way to count visitors

• In-page analytics

• Easily manipulated and reported only how many “visitors” a page had (often incorrectly)


Analytics at IU

• IU’s first enterprise-wide analytics solution

• Extracted from server logs, but organized

• Limited in scope: Cannot show visits, how website visitors went through the site, how they left the site, how much time they spent on the site, etc.

• Available for all webserve accounts:


Analytics at IU

• Sophisticated client-side, Javascript-based analytics solution

• Free to use, but requires a Google account

• Data is processed on Google servers

• Aggregate data reporting

• No way to re-process data once it is collected

• Cannot track users who use browsers without Javascript



Analytics at IU

• Also a Google product

• Server-side solution

• Data is processed on locally owned servers

• Aggregate & individual data reporting

• Allows for

re-processing of old data

• In evaluation phase at


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Blind Spots

JavaScript Disabled

Cookies Blocked

Cookies Removed

Private Browsing

Multiple Devices

Multiple Browsers

VPN Connections

iFrame Content


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Profile Filters

Limits and modifies

traffic data within a


Only contains data

starting from the date


Can be applied to

multiple profiles, but

each must be viewed


Never apply to RAW

DATA profile.


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Profile Filters

Predefined Filters

• Exclude traffic from

the domains

• Exclude traffic from the IP addresses

• Exclude traffic to the subdirectories

Custom Filters

• Exclude/Include


• Search & Replace

• Uppercase / Lowercase


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Goals & Funnels

A goal is a website

page that serves as

conversion for your

site – i.e. completion

of call to action.

• Form confirmation

• Downloads

• Purchase

• A funnel represents the path that you expect visitors to take on their way to converting to the goal. • Conversion rate • Visitor goal abandonment • Bottlenecks


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Campaign Links

Use for online and

offline campaigns

• Direct Mail

• E-mail

• Banner Ads

• Search

URL Builder Tool

Provides UTM

parameters for

performance tracking

• Campaign Source • Campaign Medium • Campaign Term • Campaign Content • Campaign Name


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Understanding Your Audience

Where are your audiences originating from? • Internal vs. External • Geographies • Traffic Sources • Direct • Organic Search • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) • Pay-Per-Impressions (PPI)

• Off- and Online Campaigns

• Social Media

How can web analytics help you better understand your


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Understanding Your Audience

How do your

audiences access the site? • Browser • Operating System • Network • Mobile • Which devices?

How can web analytics help you better understand your


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Understanding Your Audience

How do your audiences behave on the site? • New vs. Returning • Visit Frequency • Visit Recency • Visit Duration • Page Depth

How can web analytics help you better understand your


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Understanding Your Content

How are your pages performing? • Pageviews • Unique Pageviews • Time on Page • Bounce Rate • Exits

How can web analytics help you better understand your


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Understanding Your Content

How are your pages performing?

• Page Popularity

• Content Drilldown

• Landing Pages

• Exit Pages

How can web analytics help you better understand your


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Understanding Your Content

What are audiences searching for?

• Search Volume

• Search Exits

• Search Refinements

• Time After Search

• Search Depth

How can web analytics help you better understand your


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Advanced Segments

• Allows viewing and comparison of

multiple advanced segments side by side in reports.

• Not available for absolute unique visitors, goal and funnel reports. Use filters for these areas.

• Used to isolate and analyze specific kinds of traffic.

• Non-destructive and can be applied on historical data.


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Under the Hood:

Goals & Funnels


Goals & Funnels

Any specific, measurable

action performed by a site

user that you determine is

more valuable than a standard pageview. You

can define the desired

path to the Goal and track that path using Funnel Reports.

You can have up to 20

What is a Goal (a.k.a. “Goal Conversion” or


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Examples of Goals

Downloading a

specific PDF

Visiting a specific

sub-site (e.g., Current

Projects, Alumni

Giving, etc.)

Engagement goals

(e.g., commenting on

a blog post, sharing a

site asset via social

media, etc.)


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The Importance of Goals

Single most important measurement

• Helps to define website success: completion of a Goal

• Also measures how close visitors who did not complete the Goal came to completion

• “Negative Goals” – tracking how people get to error pages, etc.


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Funnel Reports

• Funnel - the path a visitor takes to complete a Goal

• Funnel Reports

• Trace the visitor path to a Goal

• Not ideal for every Goal (e.g., Pages/Visit)

• Use for Goals that have a clear linear path

• Expect to lose visitors at each step in the path (thus, the term “Funnel”)


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Cylinder Shape

This shape represents 100% Goal completion.

It is unrealistic, if not unattainable.


The most common shape. Represents a sharp

decrease in visitors with each step in the


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The “bulge” represents an ill-designed path,

where there is a sharp increase in visitors in

the middle of the path.

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The shape of the Funnel can tell us a lot.

A shape depicting a large number of visitors

leaving early in the process. Represents poor

conversion and significant barriers to


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This is the ideal shape. Represents a

well-optimized path, with a gradual decrease in

visitors with each step in the Funnel.

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• New feature in the latest version of Google Analytics

• Shows the path to a Goal from multiple channels (e.g., social media, banner ads, email blasts) for up to 30 days prior to Goal achievement

• For more information:

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Under the Hood:



Campaign Reporting

is a way to track a

marketing campaign’s results under a single category.

Link Tagging is a

process by which you can customize URLs to track website visits that comprise a campaign.

What is a campaign?

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utm_campaign (required) – The name of the specific

marketing campaign (e.g., “2011_Comm_Mrktg_Conf”)

utm_medium (required) – The marketing medium by

which a visitor came to visit the website (e.g., “email”, “postcard”, “billboard”, “banner ad”, “twitter”,


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utm_source (required) – A specific source for the

website visit (e.g., “vp_email_2011_10_19”, “tweet-10192011”)

utm_content (optional) – Used to differentiate ads

within a campaign

utm_term (optional) – Used only for paid keywords

(e.g., Google AdWords)

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The Source






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The Medium





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• Shorten the URL when sending it to visitors:

• Methods for shortening URLs

• Use (requires free account activation for customizing URLs)

• Use (IU’s URL-shortening service, requires CAS login):

• Add custom, shortened URL to your website’s .htaccess file

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Under the Hood:

Virtual Pageviews


• A method for making reading a report


• Replaces longer

URLs in a report with a readable format

Similar to Events (covered later)

What is a virtual pageview?

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Some dynamically-generated URLs may contain a long string of parameters used for connecting to databases: /s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-


Databases need those parameter values, but the associated URLs are hard to read and decipher in Google Analytics reports.

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Google Analytics includes the ability to create Virtual

Pageviews to replace confusing URLs in reports.

You can also use Virtual Pageviews for items that are not normally tracked as pageviews, but have similar actions (e.g., opening a PDF file).

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When should you use virtual





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Reporting with Virtual Pageviews

In any pageview reports, only the folder path and parameter string (depicted in red below) will appear:



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Reporting with Virtual Pageviews

Virtual pagviews make reporting folder paths easier to read:







/books/Herman Wells - Being




>Being Lucky by Herman B


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Under the Hood:



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An event is any action a visitor is capable of performing while

visiting a website.

• Practical definition for Google Analytics: Any

in-page action that

does not cause a pageview

• Help to reduce high bounce rate on a page that would otherwise generate a single


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• Watching an

embedded video:

• Playing the video

• Stopping the video

• Navigating an in-page slideshow • In-page gadgets (AJAX) • File downloads Event examples


category (required) – a value describing a group categorized

under a common name (e.g., “Homepage Slideshow”).

action (required) – a value describing what the user did to

trigger an event (e.g., “click”, “press play”, “stop”).

optional_label – an optional value you can use to provide

additional text information (e.g., “Slide 1: State of the University Address”, “Play Alumni Video”)

optional_value – an optional numeric (integer only) value that

use can use to provide additional numeric information. Google

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<a href=“#”






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Tagging an Event


<a href=“#”



Homepage Slideshow

', '


', '

1 - IU

Energy Challenge winners





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Events vs. Virtual Pageviews

Since Events do not generate pageviews, use them only to track actions that would not count as a pageview

normally (e.g., interacting with a video, AJAX application, slideshow, external links, etc.).

Virtual Pagviews do count as pageviews. Use them to

track actions that you would consider a pageview under most circumstances (e.g., downloading a PDF, Word document, etc.)


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Under the Hood:

New Features


Access the reports using Audience » Mobile

Overview – Simple report showing breakdown of mobile

vs. non-mobile visitors.

Mobile Devices – Presents visitors broken down by

mobile device. You can also segment by service provider, input selector (e.g., touchscreen, joystick, stylus),

operating system, and other dimensions. Also includes visitor location segmenting (using the Map Overlay

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Access the report using Audience » Visitors Flow

Uses nodes and connections to graphically represents the paths visitors used to navigate your website.

“A node represents: one metric of the dimension by which you’re filtering the visualization (first column); or a single page or collection of pages (for example, all pages in the wearables directory).”

“A connection represents the path from one node to another, and the volume of traffic along that path.”

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Access the reports using Home tab » Real Time (BETA)

Overview - shows referrals (websites and keywords) of

visitors who are currently viewing your website.

Locations - the geographic locations of current visitors.

Traffic Sources – depicts mediums and sources of

current visitors. Good for monitoring campaigns.

Content – reveals the pages with which current visitors

are interacting.

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Access the reports using Visitors » Social section

Engagement – Compares how people who used social

media (SM) on your site performed vs. people who did not use SM.

Action – compares each SM channel and the action


Pages – Compares social interactions across pages in

your site

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Measure – Best Practices

• Establish your site goals (macro and micro).

• Define the audience(s) and metrics associated to each goal.

• Update your site privacy policy.

• Create a Google Account.

• Create a RAW DATA profile.

• Create filters for isolating and analyzing subgroup traffic.

• Map goal funnels.


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Analyze – Best Practices

• Establish a scheduled review period (monthly, quarterly, semester, annually) for each goal.

• Review metrics defined for each goal.

• Raw Data

• Filters

• Advanced Segmentations

• Determine trends, performance bottlenecks, and new growth opportunities.


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Act – Best Practices

Make it a priority.

• Dedicate resources for action.

• Implement site changes to better align with goal objectives reflective of analytics findings.

• Content


• Site/Page Usability

• Process/Workflow


Send us an Email:

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Analytics Resources:

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Special Thanks

Tadas Paegle

New Media Developer IU Communications

Greg Polit

Director, Informational & Emerging Technologies

IU Communications

Nancy Clensy

Assistant for Special Projects Vice President for Public Affairs


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