Google Analytics – filters, workarounds and plugins
So I have been asked to write an article about web analytics. Two confessions, firstly I don’t consider myself a good writer, second I am not an analytics expert. So why am I doing this? Well I like to challenge myself so that covers the non-writer part but most importantly this article is about how you can do web analytics without being an expert. So in that respect I am fully qualified!
Since first getting involved with web analytics a few years ago I have relied heavily on a number of free resources to help me. Below are some examples of filters, work arounds and plugins that I have used to take my web analysis beyond the basic. I learned about all of them from the various blogs and books that I have read and they are all listed at bottom.
Hopefully you will find them useful too!
NB: I use Google Analytics so all of these examples are specific to this tool. Although I am sure that the principles can be transferred to other packages.
Three examples of filters I use on our Analytics account.
Exclude Internal Traffic Do you have your organisation's website as your homepage at work? Lots of people do and we don’t want all those page views reported when you are trying to see what actual users are doing. So, find out your IP address for the office network and set up a simple exclude filter on your main profile.
Brand Keyword Aggregator Fed up with Keyword reports where the first 50 rows are variations of your brand name? I was, so I wrote a quick filter to search and replace and capture all these so they can be reported under one line. Now I can easily get at those more interesting 'long tail' keywords that drive traffic to our site.
To do this you will need to know a little bit about regular expressions so that you can capture all variations of your brand name. I had no idea how to write one until I read this (http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/resources/#RegEx-ebook). You can practise using this filter tester: (http://www.analyticsexperts.com/resources/google-analytics-regex-filter-tester/)
Email Referral Aggregator – This works in a similar way to the keywords aggregator. When looking at referring sites you will often see tons of separate lines reporting one visit from xxxxx.mail.live.com or xxxxx.mail.yahoo.com. If you would like to see all of these visits in a single line for each email service, just write a filter - or copy it from here (http://www.analyticscookies.com/google-analytics-filter-filter-combine-traffic-email-sources/comment-page-1/)- to put all these variations into a single heading, eg Hotmail.
The Google Analytics help section has more guidance on how to set up a filter (http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55494), and more filter examples (http://www.vdgraaf.info/filters-in-google-analytics.html).
NB: it is always a good idea to keep a ‘Raw’ profile with no filters applied to it. Just in case.
Work-arounds and plugins
I use Firefox to view my analytics account, simply because of the number of plugins out there that enhance the standard interface of Google Analytics.
Google Analytics Report Enhancer (GARE) is packed full of extra features such as True Time on site, Refresh rate, extra dimensions and loads more. You can read more about it and get the plugin here (http://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2008/10/google_analytics_report_enhancer_updates.html).
Goal / filter copy - Whenever possible I create a new profile dedicated to the particular segment I am looking at. One irritating thing about this is copying across all the Goals that I want to also track in this profile (even more painful now you can have 20 goals per profile). This handy little plugin that helps you easily copy and paste goals and filters across multiple profiles. (http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2008/01/21/copying-goals-in-google-analytics-a-firefox-extension/)
Get around the “500 limit” on data exports - When you export your data from GA you are limited to 500 rows. Not so useful when you have several thousand rows on your keyword report! There is a workaround for this which involves adding &limit=50000 to the end of the URL, hitting return, and then exporting the report. You will now get as many rows in your CSV file as there are (up to 50,000).
I also find this really useful when looking at the navigation summary in the Content reports. It only shows the top 10 previous and next pages and sometimes you want to see more than this. Add the &limit=50000 as above and then export the data and you will get a full list of previous and next pages.
Full details here (http://analytics.blogspot.com/2009/08/back-to-basics-tip-for-exporting-rows.html)
For more examples of filters, plugins and workarounds this is the best list I have found (http://www.seoptimise.com/blog/2009/03/30-google-analytics-tools-goals-segments-filters-hacks-resources.html)
Most of what I have learned about web analytics over the last couple of years has come from these blogs. I would highly recommend subscribing to them.
Occam's Razor (http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/) Written by Avinsah Kuashik. If it involves websites, and data driven decision making – he is your man.
Lunametrics (http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/) – Google Analytics consultants – filled with tips for Analytics, website optimizer and more
Measuring Success (http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/) International Google analytics Expert.
Google Analytics Blog (http://analytics.blogspot.com/) – The official blog.
Google Analytics Help Forum (just click help in the top right hand corner of your Analytics interface) – This isn't a blog but a great resource. I am always humbled by the experts that loiter here answering the questions of novices like me. When setting up our cross-domain ecommerce tracking I was stuck for months until a very helpful chap on here sorted out my problem.
Sam Knight is a fundraiser for MSF UK.