The Hidden Treasures Within Google Analytics

September 15, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

HELLO! And we’re back. Time to talk about TREASURE! More specifically, treasure that can be found within your Google analytics.  This time around we have Matt McGee moderating Annie Cushing, Adrian Vender, and Adam Ware.  We also have a freeeezing session room so I hope everyone enjoys my loud coughing.  Air conditioning makes me die.  Deal with it.

Matt McGee is up on stage and says he’s ready to have his mind blown.  I’m ready for some sweats and a hoodie, not that I’m going to whine about how cold it is in here. Not even a little.

Oh, look! We’re starting.

Up first is Adam Ware.

Adam goes to begin his presentation and someones opera ring tone goes off. Adam said he brought that as background music to get everyone in the mood. Heh, well played, Sir.

My main hidden treasure: regular expression and it’s power in Google Analytics

Overview of RegEx

A regular expression provides a concise and flexible means for matching strings of text. It’s a language for matching patterns through searches. It has different flavors in different applications. What might work in Google Analytics may not work in another application.

Where can it be used in Google Analytics?

  • Report queries
  • Advanced segments
  • setting up goals – the page destination in goals
  • In Profile Filters

He’s going to focus on intermediate use in report queries and advanced segments.

Example 1: Report query in branded keywords.

Where its handy here is in the issue of spelling. He shows how many misspellings there are for [britney spears].   He took the data, dumped it into a text editor,  and did his searches with regex to make it more manageable.  Say you own some Britney Spears fan sites. You have to find a way to filter all these misspellings so that you can look at your nonbranded traffic. You do this by building a regex.

Building a regex: Start with stings

Tie together likely strings: br[a-z].*t[a-z].*y.

This string will cover britney, brittney, bratney, etc. That got us 326 out of 593! How do we get the rest? You string together even more using pipes and parenthesis. He shows a really long code I can’t get down because I’M NOT A MACHINE. Basically it adds a lot of OR functions. It got him to about 383 out of 593. He said that was good enough since he doesn’t actually WORK for Britney Spears. Heh.

What do you do with this? Take that string, go to your KW report, and then head to to Advanced Filters. Once you’re there, create an Advanced Search, select Exclude (or include) Keyword, and then select “Matching Regex” from the dropdown. From there, just enter your string and go.

Example 2: Query 2 and 3 Word Phrases

What’s in a word? He says this is basically stolen from Carlos del Rio and then displays the longest and most confusing code ever. I tried to do a search for it but, my Internet keeps crashing. My advice is to check out his slides later or go stalk that Carlos de Rio guy. Once you HAVE the code, put that in the advanced keyword search and select “match regex”.

Example 3: Finding Specific Types of Landing Pages

Ridin’ & Ropin’

You want to see the key metrics for visits from people who landed on pages for cowboy boots or ropers and lacers.

Here is (part) our regex (/men/.*cowboy*)

He loves using motion charts on the landing pages. When you have your graph in the Landing Pages Report, you can change your chart type.  The Motion Chart lets you play a bunch of different history and see how different metrics change. It’s a good way to identify landing pages that have problems with bounce rates.

But wait, there’s more!

This is just the tip of the iceberg with RegEx. Try building Advanced Segments with these. Don’t just look at the landing metrics for those pages, but see what those visitors do with the rest of their visit. It’s a way to filter data through Google Analytics.

To use these default segment, hit the Advanced Segment button. You can create custom ones to get more value from it. Click the New Custom Segment, it will allow you set it up and name it. There’s a lot more you can do here than in the Advanced Report Filter. You take that RegEx and you can put it in there with the same dimensions and create an advanced segment. Then, you can actually go through GA and look at how people actually interacted with your site.

Next up is Adrian Vendor.

Adrian says you either love analytics or you don’t love it. When you don’t love it, all you see is data. When you do love it, you see through the data and you see insight. It drives action.


GA already gave us all sorts of dimensions that cover visitor scope, page interaction and session level stuff. But it wasn’t enough. Google gave us more custom variables.

The magic code looks like this:

_setCustomVar (index, name value, opt_scope)

  • Index: The slow for the custom variable
  • Name; Key
  • Value: Value:
  • opt_scope: Scopre 1-3. Defaults to 1.

Understanding Scope

There are three different scopes for Google Analytics Custom Variables:

Page Level: A page level custom variable will only persist for as the visitor is viewing the page where the custom variable has been set. Once the visitor moves to a new page the custom variable will expire.

Visit Level: A visit level custom variable will persist for the visitor’s entire visit. Once the visit ends the custom variable will expire.

Visitor Level: A visitor level custom variable will persist for 24 months as a cookie on the visitor’s machine until the visitor deleted her cookies.

You can also set custom variables to hone in even further. For more info on this, visit Mastering Google Anatlyics Custom Variables.

Set a custom variable with _setCustomVar(), send using a tracking GIF request. The sum of the same-value pair of a customer variable must not exceed 64 bytes.

You prepare all these custom variables, you got the code running and you’re sending the info to the GA reports. When you throw all these variables into advance segmentation, you can really find some great insights.  This allows you slice and dice data.

What can you do with Advanced Segmentation?

  • Members/Non-Members: You can how members respond vs non-members
  • You can assign different membership types.
  • Analyze behavior of people logged in vs not logged in

Search intent and user demographics

You want to build your site based on the intent and who your audience really is and what they want so your content speaks to them.  You can use the Facebook open graph to pull demographic info and pull it into Analytics.  He shows a script for a cookie reading function. I don’t even know what that means, let alone how to write it down. Aren’t you glad I am not responsible for the SEO or analytics here at Outspoken Media. ;)

Hopefully Adrian will post those slides soon because I did not do that presentation justice in the slightest. :)

Next up is Annie Cushing.

Her presentation is called How To Know If  Your GA Data Is Lying to You.  She agrees the title  is a little dramatic. She says its a uterus thing. Aaaaaand I wish you could have seen Matt McGee’s face when she said it. Priceless.

When you’re dealing with analytics, you’re dealing with a tsunami of data. The average business owner doesn’t care about the minutia. They want to know what they’re doing that’s really awesome and when they’re in deep yogurt.  She works with Fortune 100 and Fortune 50 clients at Blueglass and they usually don’t even have campaign tracking in place.

There was an article on TechCrunch that said LinkedIn was sending them more traffic than Twitter. She knew there was no way that was possible. TechCrunch has 1.8 million followers on Twitter and 2600 followers on Linkedin. She’s not dissing LinkedIn, but she thought it was impossible. She looked at their links and saw they weren’t doing campaign tracking so she called them out on Twitter. They actually changed the title to show she was really right.

See, so it’s not just the little guys don’t get this. TechCrunch didn’t either. It revealed they didn’t understand how campaign tracking works.  If you’re using email, a lot of people are accessing email and Twitter through desktop apps. The problem with that is all the referrer data from any app is flushed. So that all shows up in your reports in your direct traffic instead of showing up in your referral traffic.

There’s some relief on the Twitter front because of Twitter’s new URL shortener –  Annie says it always makes her hungry because it reminds her of tacos.  Now when you look at in your referral reports, you’ll see traffic from, that’s the reason for that.

If you don’t use campaign tracking, your data will be bloated behind all recognition, like a fat man in a speedo on a beach. No, really, she shows a photo of a very large man on a beach to demonstrate this.  You’re welcome for the visual.

For email, so many people use mobile devices and apps than they do email. Trying to find your email in a referrer tracking report can be a mess.  She had 1500 Web mail referrers.

How to check referral data – use it for a lot of things. Turn it on, right click on a page, choose inspect element and then choose console. You’ll see all this Google Analytics stuff. Down toward the middle you’ll see campaign source, medium and term. It allows you to test on the fly to see if the referral data passes.

How to set up campaign info

Develop a tagging framework

  • Source: Where the link lives. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
  • Medium: Marketing channel. social, email, banner, affiliate, ppc, newsletter, etc
  • Name: Marketing campaign. fall+sale, newsletter+oct+2011, welcome+email

She show show to set this up using ROI Builder. You put in the URL, fill in the fields (source, medium, name), name it, and then grab the URL.  If you’re NOT going to use data, then don’t measure it.

If you’re using Hootsuite Pro, this is actually built in. If you click Custom URL Parameters, they have all the GA stuff pre-loaded so you just put in your info.

Analytics Pro has a cool worksheet for people who like things more complicated.

Once you have the data, there are so many ways to slice and dice it.

  • Start with the medium and drill down.
  • Go to your campaign report and switch from campaign name to medium.

And that’s it. OMG, A LOT of great information from everyone.  I’d really encourage you to go check out their slides once they’re on the SMX site.

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