Why You Need Goals in Google Analytics

With all that is written about Google Analytics on a daily basis, it is hard to imagine the some businesses still question the need for tracking goals in Google Analytics. Yet they do just that. Recently we were asked to justify why a small bed and breakfast should bother setting up goals in Google Analytics. Our cynical side struggles to keep from answering that you don't need them - so long as you don't want to know which sources are sending website visitors who click certain things, visit certain pages, buy certain products, book their stay, or view certain videos. More recently the addition of Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analtyics adds another important consideration - tracking sites that contribute to all of those things - even if they are not the source of the "last click" to them. Why Goals are Useful [caption id="attachment_670" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayneandd/[/caption]What you define as a goal is pretty much up to you. Examples would be completing an online booking, downloading your printable brochure, signing up for your mailing list, watching a video, requesting more information, etc. The steps to set up a goal are in our earlier post on using goals in Google Analytics. Of course, the ultimate goal (especially for Multi-Channel Funnel reports) is an Ecommerce transaction - the visitor has actually booked a room or made a purchase. Multi-Channel Funnels With the addition of Multi-Channel Funnels* (sometimes called MCF), goals have become even more useful. First, some explanations. You can not use Multi-Channel Funnels without having set up at least one goal. We won't repeat our overview of MCF, but a brief explanation of some terminology is appropriate. Marketers use the term "funnel" to refer to the path a visitor takes to reach the goal. Visitors may start at different…

What Does Page Value Mean in Google Analytics?

A few weeks ago Google Analytics announced a new measurement (metric) called Page Value. Actually, it is an old metric, that had disappeared for a while, and was now reappearing, in a new and improved condition, but that really isn't the point. What is Page Value? What does it mean? Does it tell innkeepers anything useful? The Google Analytics blog post on Page Value (linked above) details the history and calculations of Page Value, for those who are interested. For our purposes, let's just say that Page Value is the relationship between (a) the values you set for things that users do on your website, and (b) the number of unique pageviews of a page. First, to be clear, Page Value doesn't consider the total number of pageviews - only unique page views. If a visitor visits page 1, then page 2, then page 1 again, page 1 has 2 total pageviews, but only one unique pageview (one user has viewed the page, even though they may have viewed it more than once). Second, the values include both the value of any Ecommerce transactions (so these only show up if you have ecommerce properly enabled on your site) plus any goal values (which means you must have Goals set up, and you must give them a value). To summarize the set up, then, for Page Value to work, you need to have: Ecommerce set up properly on your website Goals set up properly for your website Value assigned to your Goals If you have that, Page Value will measure the total "value" of a page. That is, it will notice that, on the way to an ecommerce transaction (which we usually call a booking), the visitor also clicked on links that you had defined as goals in your Google Analytics…

Your Webmaster Should Take A Look At This

Yesterday (16 July 2012) Google's Webmaster Central Blog published a post explaining "semantics" (more about that in a moment) of web pages, urging sites to use semantic markup (specific types of HTML), and several "Do's and Don'ts". Could this be a signal of an upcoming algorithm change? A Bit of Background This will be the geeky part, but a bit of background will help understand what may turn out to be significant about the Google Webmaster Central post mentioned above. If you prefer, just skip to the last section for the punch line. The code used to create web pages, generally speaking, is HTML. The actual "tags" used to designate elements (headers, paragraphs, blocks, etc.) is called "markup." There are standards for properly creating pages with HTML, and those standards change and are updated as new browser features and other online capabilities become available. Google (and other browser and search firms) are usually represented in the updating and standards for HTML. The latest version of the HTML standards was HTML5, which was not officially released. One group has gone forward with it, while another has renamed HTML5 as HTML and continues it as a work in progress. We'll refer to both interchangeably as HTML5, for purposes of this post. HTML5, not fully supported by all browsers at this time, replaces some generic markup with "semantic" markup. For example, before HTML5 you might have a section of your HTML markup called a "div" - a generic block that could be used for any purpose. One div might be your navigation links, and another might be a feed from your blog. These could be differentiated by an "id" so a div with an id of "nav" might be your navigation links, and a div with an id of "feed" might be your…

BBOnline – Now We’re Really Worried

Recently we posted about a very significant decline in the amount of referral traffic we had observed coming from BBOnline.com. Several innkeepers posted in the comments, some noticing similar drops. Some, like ours, have been enormous, while others have been "only" 40-50% (during a time when referrals from most other directories have increased!). We have not heard from anyone who has observed anything other than a significant drop in referrals. As we had mentioned, we had written to BBOnline to ask if they were aware of this, and if they were doing anything to rectify it. Since the article appeared we have received a reply, which scares us all the more. [pullquote]To say that the reply from BBOnline is disappointing is an understatement.[/pullquote]To say that the reply from BBOnline is disappointing is an understatement. Since we have no desire to be seen as attacking BBOnline, and we do not intend to embarrass the writer of the email, we'll only share excerpts of the reply. Our original email to them was simply a report of our Analytics, showing the huge dropoff in referrals dating from the time of their website update (December 7, 2011), and asking if they were aware of it, and asking for assurance that they were working on a solution. Disappointingly, the reply was more notable for corporate sales-speak than for content. BBOnline's Response, Point-by-Point 1. We have taken many steps to improve the SEO of the site. BBOnline states that their "brand new features", constant changes of the way listings appear, and tracking of user behavior has improved the SEO. Wow, where do you start? It is true that many articles on SEO best practices will talk about keeping your content fresh, but other than that, where is the genuine SEO work? Are title and meta tags…

10 Reasons Not to Use Google Analytics

At the Google Analytics sessions at the PAII conference in Little Rock this year, as well as in some online discussions on the PAII Forum (and elsewhere), innkeepers have occasionally commented that they feel they "have to" use Google Analytics, but they really don't want to use it. This post reviews some of the complaints and gives (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) thoughts about them. Throughout the post, we'll be looking only at the "New" Google Analytics interface (the one with the orange bar running across the top of the page, below the Google Analtyics logo. Here, in no particular order, are some reasons not to use Google Analytics (GA): 1. The older, simpler tools, give me all I need [pullquote]The question I have to ask is "Why wouldn't you want more reliable information?"[/pullquote]I know I'm dating myself here, but when the web was young(er), people wondered how many visitors their site was getting, so they put "hit counters" - little graphics, usually at the bottom of the page, that recorded every time the page loaded (a "hit"), and displayed a running total. Of course these could be easily gamed, by just reloading a page many times. The inherent inaccuracy of hit counters led to widespread use of statistics programs such as Webalyzer and Awestats, getting their information from the web server's log files, instead of counting each page load. These provided a good deal more information on where people had come to the site from (the referer - spelled incorrectly with only one "r" in the center for historical reasons), the number of visitors from a particular source, etc. While these programs provided much more information, and more useful information, than a hit counter, they were notoriously inaccurate (if you ever tried comparing the results from one such program to another, you'll…

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