Web analytics have improved dramatically in the last few years. Plain data logs with cryptic entries is a thing of past. Nowadays, popular web analytics systems such as Google Analytics are powered by smart algorithms that look beyond page views and visits. Modern web analytics system has more to do with identifying browsing pattern of visitors and identifying key changes in traffic, which leads to depletion or completion of defined/undefined goals and conversions at a certain rate. GA provides excellent tools to help us identify these vital trends to better assess the shortcomings and potholes.
Every morning you open your analytics dashboard only to find pretty much same traffic pattern with no unusual activity (at a glance). But wait are you missing something? What's your primary purpose of using a web analytics system? Are you using it just to know the number of visitors reaching your blog everyday? If you answer is YES, read on.
Why Do I Need Web Analytics System?Almost all of us track our web traffic through different web analytics system, but only a handful of us utilize the power of this amazing tool to its full extent. What's your ultimate goal to use a web analytics system? It's not just about counting visitors or pageviews. To make things simple, I'll use a famous quote by former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld that highlights the crux of reporting and data analysis.
Secretary Rumsfeld is indicating about three types of data sets that can be mined by any reporting system. It is applicable to any reporting system regardless of the type of data and the type of method involved in extracting the relevant information. The first type is - known knowns - the information whose existence we know beforehand. In this context (web analytics) it can be compared to a pageview. The second type is - known unknowns - the information we know does exist, but somehow we are not able to quantify it in measurable terms. Any triggering condition that may inflate your pageviews or any causal factors that increase or decrease your conversions comes under this category. These conditions do exist, but we cannot predict, quantify, measure or detect them effectively. And, the third type is - unknown unknowns - the information that's present in our web traffic data set, but we don't even have the slightest idea of its existence. And mining this information is the most challenging problem for any web analytics system.
Analytics Intelligence - Digging Unknown UnknownsBefore going ahead, I'd like to discuss the question I asked in the beginning of this post. What's the ultimate goal of using any web analytics system? Well, use it to improve the usability of your web site. Our goal should not be just to count pageviews, but with the help of massive information we get from our analytics systems, we should strive to give the best browsing experience to our visitors. That's what web analytics systems are made for. Fortunately, combination of GA's Intelligence and Advanced Segments features helps us dig out unknown unknowns giving us the power to see those hidden trends that are so vital to improve the overall usability of our web site or blog.
Let's see how to use these two features to optimize our blog. Earlier, I've written about 'Advanced Segments' and their usage. For demonstration purpose, I took 3 days data and a popular post to properly explain creation of these advanced filters. Here's a simple guide to using Advanced Segments.
Using 'Intelligence' feature is extremely simple. All you need is to find the starting point. Ask yourself a question - "Where to start looking and what to look for?" It's all about anticipating developments within your web traffic. For example, you're running a campaign for newly launched product and are interested in measuring the demographics. We further assume, you're very hopeful for getting good results from Latin-American countries (for exp: brazil). You may create an 'Intelligence' alert such that if conversions from Brazil inflate by more than 25% compared to the previous day you should receive an alert. Here's how you can do this...
Let's take one more example. You may want to know when your new visits from organic sources (search engines) inflate by more than 10% compared to the previous day. Now if your blog is getting decent traffic, increase of 10% in total new visits from organic sources is a significant change in your daily traffic. It may happen due to page rank update. In that case, you may be interested in knowing which posts are receiving this extra traffic. So, let's create this alert.
Creating these alerts is not difficult. What matters is your anticipation and your chain of thought. When you start looking beyond pageviews and impressions, things change dramatically. Study your blog traffic and ask yourself generic questions that may affect your conversions and goals. Create a list of these questions and convert them into 'Advanced Segments' and 'Intelligence' alerts. Happy analyzing
Some parts of this post are inspired from Analytics Becomes Intelligent. Hello Insights!, an excellent post by Avinash Kaushik - Web Analytics Guru.