Joomla! 1.5 : Tracking and Tracing to Improve Your Web Site - Looking at your options (part 3) - How to analyze Google Analytics

8/30/2012 3:04:00 AM

How to analyze Google Analytics

As I mentioned before we will be looking at Google Analytics for several options that are not present in the other statistical service options or are very limited. We have already covered some parts of Google Analytics such as setting up the initial mail account and implementation of the code in a module. But now we need to set some extra options before start looking at a large amount of data.

First things first, when you log in and select the web site of your choice, you get a great dashboard that shows you the main statistics for that site.

You can alter that dashboard later, if you want some different views. But one of the things that we really need to do right now is to filter our own visits. If you have a static IP address, you can set up a filter.

Filtering out your static IP address visits

Go to your Dashboard and click on Analytics Settings in the upper left corner of page. You will find a link to the Filter manager in the right corner at the bottom of your screen just after the site profiles.

Now you can add the following filter:

If you don't know your IP address you can look it up at Please note that the input should be formed as 63\.212\., and so on, so don't forget to put the "\" in the right place.

Excluding your visits from a IP dynamic address

If you don't have a static IP address you need to create a page for your web site that contains a special string for a cookie to be set. The page should contain the following code:

<body onLoad="javascript:__utmSetVar('no_report')">

Create that page outside Joomla! as a standard HTML file that only you know about. The HTML page you create only needs to contain this string, so you don't need to create a new content page. After you placed the file online using FTP, you can browse to it using the URL you have chosen, and upon opening the page with your browser the cookie is set.

If you want to filter out other computers please go to that page using that computer. Now you are ready to create a new filter with the following settings:

That should do the trick and clean your future visits. Looking at your Dashboard menu you have several options, the best to start with:

  • Visitors—the overview

  • Traffic Sources

    • Referring sites

    • Keywords

  • Content

    • Top landing pages

    • Site overlay

Getting the big picture of traffic

Let's look into the specific areas of your Google Analytics and see what you can do with all that data.

Visitors overview

In the default screen of the visitor overview you get a graphical expression of your web site's state of growth over the last month. In this specific graph you can see the wave movement of weekend drops in traffic. You also get the numbers that give you an expression of how well your site is built to get people to read more than just one page.

In this case there is work to be done as 1.5 Average Pageviews for the site in question is not good enough. If it was a blog, then it would not be a problem as blog post readers tend to read one article and then move on.

To compare the figures above, here is another screenshot of a different web site for the visitors overview:

As you can see, the numbers are very different. This site has many returning visitors and a very low bounce rate.

What to look for by numbers

Let's look at what information we should look for in the numbers shown in the preceding screenshot:

  • The visitors:

    The numbers you saw in the two preceding screenshots tell you how often the site is visited. You can see how many visitors you get (in both cases for a month), along with the number of unique visitors. A unique visitor is tracked by a cookie that Google places on the computer of your visitor. These cookies have a long lifespan, some up to five years. This means if a visitor revisits your site in a month or two, he/she is seen as a returning visitor. If your visitor clears their cookies or has cookies disabled, his/her next visit is counted as a unique visit. The last option is an indication of whether your site attracts people who are coming back to your site to read more over and over again, or if they are just one day flies who move on and never return. If your site is an e-commerce site, then you really want more returning visitors because they are more willing to buy after a few visits to your shop.

  • The pageviews:

    While the number of pageviews is a traffic indicator, the number of pageviews per visit is a quality indicator. A page in this respect is not a reload of the article your visitor is reading, but it is the page displayed if the visitor moves to read a new article on your site. The more pageviews per visit, the better the site is at retaining visitors and encouraging them click through to other pages on the same site.

  • Time on site:

    The time that a visitor spends on your site is also a good quality indicator, but it can also have a different meaning. If your site is very fast loading (which it should) and mostly picture based, you can go through relevant pages very fast. If you have a long loading time, few pages, and short content per page, you need to check your loading time. It is very likely you will see fewer returning visitors as well.

  • Bounce rate:

    A high bounce rate means that people will come to your site, read a page, and will move on to the next site. This can also be seen as a quality score. In most cases a low bounce rate means people have a higher interest in your web site and find the information good enough to browse around. A high bounce rate can also be an indication of good quality—it depends on what kind of site you have built. A site that wants to capture the visitors and keep them on the site has bounce rates and time spend on the site different as compared to a site made for AdSense or an affiliate site. The last two (AdSense and an affiliate site) want their visitors to click on an advertisement or move to a vendor's site. So, if they do that well, visitors won't stay long! If you have a site that presents people with solutions for their problems, then a high bounce rate could also mean that they have found the information they wanted right away and they are off to implement it.

In all the previous four cases, you need to take the actual purpose of the web site into consideration. An e-commerce web site has to have a different visitors' overview than an affiliate web site. The first one needs returning visitors to do well, the second one needs to get their visitors to act and buy the product from another web site.

If you find very large discrepancies for your site, you know that the layout of your site and the articles need more work to capture your visitors. A very good indicator is the Benchmarking function, which you can find a link to, in the visitor menu. To get those benchmarks you need to share your data (anonymously) with Google.

The question is: Is it worth it? Well, the answer is yes. Just look at the following picture and you will have some good indicators, which will show whether your site is doing above or below average.

Learning more of you traffic sources

The traffic sources screen is clearly divided into several sections to give you a direct view of the different sources that bring traffic to your web site. Having a large percentage of visitors through search engines means you have done your SEO work well. But the higher it is, the larger the drop will be if your ranking in the results starts to fall.

What you are looking for is direct visitors who know your web site address already and more referring sites.

At the bottom of the screenshot there are two sections—one is called Sources and the other Keywords. There is also a table that shows the top five for each of those fields directly, and following that is a link called Full report, and that is the one you want for the keywords.

For the traffic sources, you need to look at the following two options in the traffic sources menu.

  • Referring Sites:

    This is a great source overview to see what sites are linking to your pages and are sending you traffic. You can use this list to find possible partner web sites to start communicating, sharing, and exchanging links with. You can also identify possible scraper sites that use your RSS feed or articles to their benefit. It is up to you if you want to take action on those sites. It is possible that they are sending you more traffic than you might have expected.

  • Search Engines:

    This gives you a table with the search engines that send you traffic. In most cases this will be Google, followed by Yahoo!, and then the smaller search engines. If you click on the search engine's name in that table you will get the keywords in that engine that have sent you the most traffic. It is very much possible that your Yahoo! keyword terms are different to those from Google.

Reading more about your Keywords

The Keywords section of Analytics will give you, just as the other statistics providers have done, the keywords that rank at top in the search engines at this time. Google does not stop after 500 pages. It will give you all the keywords for that month or any other time period you select. In the example we used it means there are 2.456 keywords that have directed traffic to your web site.

Looking through such a list will give you all kinds of variations for the same keyword combinations. You need to look at the top 25 or 50 and see if there is a pattern that matches your keywords list. If there is, you are on the right track.

Don't see a keyword pattern

If there is no pattern visible, you have to work harder as the visitors you are attracting are not the ones you want to come to your site. Most of them will be incidental visitors that were misdirected. As we have seen before, this might also be supported by a high bounce rate.

A large number of totally unrelated keywords means not only your visitors are lost but also the search engines. Go back to your keyword list and start working to get them a place in your articles and make sure that the menus and categories of your site match in a topical structure.

Structure and content analysis

The last, but certainly not the least important section is all about content, which is the cornerstone of your web site.

Take your time to go through all the different menu items to look at the pages in your site from different angles. One thing you might notice is the fact that your top landing pages are also your top exit pages. This is also largely dependent on the topic of your site and your site's "stickiness".

Again it is totally different for e-commerce sites and affiliate sites. If the top exit page for your e-commerce site is the page just before the checkout payment page, you need to analyze the process and see how to improve that final page. Just improving that single page may result in a lot more transactions being completed.

Another way to see how your pages are helping you to keep more visitors is by using the Navigation Summary. This will show you which pages your visitor visited next and tells you the exit click and next page click percentages. The entrance paths will show you in a clear manner the pages to which people are moving next.

Site Overlay

The Site Overlay is one of my favorite tools. It opens in a new window and puts an overlay over your web site as a kind of transparent sheet. On that sheet Google shows you the number of clicks that have been done on a specific item. You can click through and navigate your web site right through that overlay and see the click information in numbers and percentages for each item. Now, you can see where people click on your site and which items are not as popular as you might have thought. In one case I noticed that a certain image was clicked on a lot, but there was no action attached to that image. By connecting a link to a relevant page that fits the image I realized a higher click through rate, more pageviews and, even more important, a better experience for my visitors as they clearly expected the image to be clickable.

How to select a different time span

In the standard view, Google Analytics shows data for just a month. You can select another time span by clicking on the start date and an end date for the Date Range in the agenda and then hitting Apply.

You can also select the Timeline and change it by moving and/or extending the sliders. This might give you a better view if you are looking for a special spike or drop in your site's traffic.

If you select a large time range, you may need to try and use the other views such as week-or month-based graph.

You can even compare two different date ranges to see how your traffic has changed.

Joomla! statistics

They will only show you the number of hits your articles have had and that can be cleared by clicking on the Reset button.

The reason I haven't included any Joomla! statistics components is due to the fact that they slow your site down over time as the data in your database grows. Most of the components are also focused on visitor numbers and not on how they got to your web site. Having a nice module with a number of visitors to your site may sound appealing, but it offers no insight to the behavior of those visitors.

I have run Joomla! statistics components on several of my sites, but now, they are all replaced by StatCounter combined with Google Analytics. These services give you more information that you can use to further optimize your site than any Joomla! component I have seen.

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