Podcast 14 – The New Google Analytics Interface

Show Notes:

The new Google Analytics interface has some incredible new functionality to help you make better marketing decisions.

And who better to discuss these recent changes with than founder of the Google Analytics User Conference (GAUGE Con) in the US, published author, and Google Analytics Certified Partner, Caleb Whitmore. 

Listen in as we talk flow visualisation, multi-channel funnels, user interface changes, custom reports, dashboards and a whole lot more.

I know you will like what you hear, so be sure to read more about his company Analytics Pros, follow him on Twitter @analyticspros, and if you want to learn more, buy his book, we did, and it’s damn good!

Here is the transcribed version:

Philip: Welcome to another episode of the online marketing secrets podcast where we interview only the world’s best experts in online marketing.  Today I have an awesome guest.  He is Caleb Whitmore.  He is the founder of the Google Analytics User Conference in the US.  I had the good fortune of meeting him last year in New York.  He gave a fantastic, well, many fantastic sessions actually.  And, as the organizers of the conference and an Analytics guru, I’m very excited to have you on the show.  So welcome.

Caleb:  Thanks for having me.

Philip:  Can you give us a little bit more about your background and how you led up to founding an Analytics conference?

Caleb: Yeah, so, I’ve been working with the internet since about 1999 and in 2004, started working with an agency in Seattle and prior to that had a web design and development company that actually started when I was in high school.

And started working with this company in Seattle called Pop and my job there was to help them do, figure out and integrate in search marketing and web analytics into their agency.  And that got me involved in the industry at a very interesting time.

In 2005, Google bought Urchin and made Google Analytics and released it.  So at Pop we were able to be one of the first certified partners for Google Analytics and as a result I got to get to meet the folks at Google behind the product and get trained by them and it’s been kind of a roller coaster from there forward digging in deeper and deeper with GA.

And so the conference has been something literally I had dreamed about for many years wanting to create an opportunity to get people that love and use Google Analytics together to share what they know and then also kind of an intense, I don’t know, hatred is too strong of a word but I don’t really like a lot of conferences because they tend to have a lot of theory and very little practicality and that’s something I wanted to make different.

With GAUGE, the Google Analytics Conference, we make it very practical because we’re talking about Google Analytics.  Everybody that’s there for the most part uses it or wants to use it and so we can not only talk about nice ideas and things you could do but we can show you how to go do it.  And so, that’s what kind of brought the idea together and it has become a reality.

Philip:  Well I think you succeeded because that’s the one thing I took away from it was all the sessions were extremely practical as well as the high caliber speakers which I guess you can find at various conferences but it was exceptionally practical.

Caleb:  That’s great to hear.

Philip:  Do you think, listening to your background, do you think that a lot of or most good Analytics experts come up through a specialized area like search or SEO or SEM or even web design?

Caleb: Yeah, I think so.  The academic system really is not geared even still it’s starting to see some changes but the academic system moves so slowly that an industry, a specialty like web analytics is really too recent for the academic world to just churn out good web analysts.

And web analysts are – it really is a challenging field.  You have to be a technologist to a large degree.  You have to be a business strategist and you have to be very savvy with the internet in particular.  And it’s kind of the convergence of those skill sets and then specialty learning around web analytics in particular that I think are the key ingredients to being successful in the web analytics space.

Not to say somebody couldn’t jump in but I definitely do see a lot of people come from search as a background, search engine optimization and marketing, web development design and/or some kind of marketing technology business background as well.

Philip: Yeah, I think even the name web analyst devalues it slightly because you’re actually sitting quite high up above a lot of different specialist areas or you need a really good understanding of a lot of different areas and I think that the analyst term may devalue it somewhat just thinking about it now.

Caleb: I think web analyst, it almost kind of goes back to the days of web stat software.  Every time I hear web analyst people that aren’t in the web analytics field don’t really know what that means.  And I think, what do we do?  We analyze the web?

Philip:  I don’t think it makes sense.  Maybe marketing – I was thinking reading a blog post yesterday actually, marketing optimization is maybe more relevant.

Caleb: Yeah it really is, and it’s – honestly it’s not even about just the web.  The e-metrics conference, Jim Stroan’s conference has done a good thing in kind of terming it marketing optimization conference, it’s not just about web analytics whatever that is to people that aren’t on the inside of the field.

Because when I’m working with a client, I’m not just talking about what’s happening on their website.  It encompasses their business as a whole and marketing whether it’s online or offline relates to their business.  It’s just that we’re using the website as kind of a centre point and collecting data about it to understand more about both the website but the customer and the business on and off line.

Philip:  Interesting.  Excellent, well let’s get into the topic for today.  We’re going to talk about the new interface that’s not so new at the moment I guess depending -some of us may have just started using it, some may have been using it for a while but yeah, let’s call it the new interface and you’re very passionate about it, I’ve heard you speak about it a couple of times on what your thoughts are.

We’re just going to go through that and give people a sense of what’s new, what’s good, what’s bad and a couple of tips.  So what’s your high level view? How happy are you with this new interface?

Caleb:  At this point, I’m very happy with it.  It’s been a while coming though.  I was able to use it a bit before it was out publically and thought it was interesting and then it came out and they had made some improvements in it, continued to be improved.

A year ago, they released it at the GAUGE conference last year in San Francisco.  And, at that point, I didn’t use it as the primary interface.  I didn’t start using it primarily until about August of last year, 2011.  So it’s moved along but it’s now at a point where once in a while, I go to the old interface and I feel like I am – like I have mittens on my hands and I can’t really use GA as quickly as I’m now used to having been immersed in the new interface.

So I’ve come to love it but it definitely – if you’re still using the old interface, it’s a learning curve because some things have changed.

Philip:  Yeah absolutely, so let’s talk about a couple of those things.  Yeah, I think I had a similar feeling when I started looking at it.  You just – I guess like anything in life, when you experience change, it’s a little bit of a shift and you may not adjust to it.  Initially it does take a little bit of time.  What are the key things, just give us the very high level – what are the fundamental differences?

Caleb: Well, high level fundamental is almost a challenge because the new version really is almost – paradigm maybe isn’t the right term but platform change is absolutely right.

So this has been a major effort for the team at Google.  Something they talked about when they released the product is that this gives them a platform on which they are able to innovate and build much more with Google Analytics.

Kind of moving it from its roots in the Urchin software to something that really is – it’s current, it’s all Ajax driven and script driven, the UI.  So it takes advantage of advances in technology and on the back end from what I’ve heard them say is it is definitely this platform change.

So, that’s where we started, it really is taking the same thing and seeing data we have but putting this whole new lens on top of it.  And so, releases like real time, I like the flow visualization of the new dashboarding capabilities, the new custom reports.  Those are all I think evidences of their ability now to build on top of this new platform.

And that’s the most exciting thing to me is that we’re going to continue to see a lot of innovation from the books at Google with this product.  There’s been a lot in the last year and I think the next year, I’m guessing it’s going to be really exciting because they have the ability now to keep throwing stuff into it.

Philip:  Excellent.  So we got an exciting future and we also have some new functionality available to us right now.  If people think about the sub menus down the left hand side in Version 4 or the old version, we had dashboard, intelligence, visitors, traffic sources, content and goals.

Essentially when you move to the Version 5 or the new version, we have similar topics, some have changed their wording slightly.  I think conversions has changed, goals has changed from goals to conversions in terms of the terminology.  But most of the sections are still there.  I think we have a brand new section for advertising.  What are your thoughts on that?  So pulling advertising as its own sub menu out from all the traffic source stuff?

Caleb: Yeah I think that is probably a good move for them, because the Adwords report before were buried down a couple of clicks in.  I mean obviously Google’s giving away this product and except for the premium version, they’re not making money on it unless you end up at some point, having a lift to your ad spend.  So elevating access and visibility to advertising I think is good.

And honestly, the number of people that use GA, that don’t go look at their Adwords report is huge.  So, getting this higher and putting it in front of more people I think is a great move for them.  Maybe they’ll do more to integrate other kinds of advertising measurement, I don’t know but, I think that would be interesting and they certainly are now giving it kind of a high priority location.

Philip: I saw somewhere that Google Analytics is Google’s second most profitable product in terms of people who do have it, spend, I don’t know, in fact I can’t remember the number.  You probably know, but spend three to four times as much on their Adwords or their advertising with Google than those who don’t have the tool because they can measure the success of it.  Is that right?

Caleb: Yeah, I don’t know specific numbers but that sounds totally plausible.  The reality is and I think that Google, back when they made the acquisition of Urchin, they were very smart in doing that because if you can measure, you can manage more effectively.  And if you do that, you’re likely to spend more on your advertising.

So, the incremental revenue increase for them, for ad spend, let’s say they had kept Urchin as a paid product and the Urchin On Demand and released Google Analytics at a few hundred bucks a month, the revenue they would make from that would pale in comparison to what I’m sure they’ve gained from improvement and overall customers making their businesses better, which is really what Analytics should be about.

Philip:  Absolutely, excellent.  Alrighty, well, let’s get into some of the new functionalities.  So there’s been a little bit – people have noticed a little bit of change around the layout of the menus.

Essentially, they are fundamentally the same once you get used to where things have moved to but there’s some chunky pieces of functionality that have been added.  So where would you like to start?  What’s your favorite new piece of functionality?

Caleb: There’s a lot to choose from.  The structuring and restructuring, I think has left a few people going where are my reports, and that’s important to recognize but, as you mentioned, the overall categories are pretty much the same.  And for people making the jump to the new version, just go in and explore those menus, open all of them up and click through them once and you’ll see where a lot of those reports are.

If we wanted to jump to what I think is the most exciting and interesting, I’d probably get into the Flow Visualization tool and that is under the Home tab not the standard reporting.  That’s another good to know about the new version is that there’s these three tabs along the top – Home, Standard Reporting and Custom Reporting.

And, I know a lot of people that, they really have kind of overlooked that Home tab where you have your Dashboards, your Flow Visualization, your Intelligence and your Real Time.

Philip:  Do you want to talk a little bit about the flow?

Caleb: Yeah, Yeah, let’s get into that.  So the Flow Visualization tool, this is brilliant.  For a long time, Google Analytics has been really bad at showing how people move sequentially through a process.

The old funnel view and the goal report, lots of technical nuances to it and hard to read.  You set it up, it’s not retro active.  So in the navigation report, if you’ve ever gone to the Navigation Reports under the Contents section, really kind of dry, stale, hard to understand.

Flow Visualization is this beautiful user experience, visually represents how people move.  Under the Home tab you’ve got the Flow Visualization and you have your two primary, your visits flow and your navigation flow under that.  And then there’s this, the third one which is over – it’s actually not under that Flow Visualization link under Home, it’s back over in Conversions under Goals.  And that’s the Goal Flow Visualizer.

The Goal Flow Visualizer is really my favorite tool.  The general visits flow and the navigation flow are interesting but I find those a bit less useful because the problem with any kind of navigational analysis in a flow report, whatever tool you use, GA or other, there’s so much data that it really quickly gets fragmented down to this miniscule level.

Philip: And I find – yeah, I couldn’t agree more.  I find with a lot of the content stuff you’re almost left at the end of this whole flow stuff is well, so what?  What am I going to do?  If you’re looking from the goal perspective, it’s like, what can I do to get more goals or stop losing goals or whatever.  So yeah, I agree.

Caleb: Exactly, and you can define – here’s a big trick with the new version.  So, and with the Flow Visualizer, the goal flow visualization is retro active.

So we could go today to your account.  Let’s say you have four years of data in your account and we set up a brand new goal and a really awesome 10 step funnel, and you can have up to 20 steps now in a goal funnel.  We set that up today and if those matching patterns you put in are valid patterns against quantity you have, you have retro active reporting.

And you didn’t have that before.  Goals before, use what are called pre aggregated numbers. So you set it up and it’s still the same way with goal conversion rate and goal conversions numbers but the flow visualizor is dynamic against all the data you have.

So you don’t have to set it up and go wait two months.  You can set it up and look back at the last year and that I think is really exciting.  So that’s a key trick number one.  And it also gives you the ability to kind of be flexible with it, to maybe change and try looking at different lengths of funnels.

So that’s something I’ll do a lot of times, I’ll set up three or four goals.  One might be my primary purchase process and then I might have some other goals and funnels for user behavior patterns, I want to understand how people do.

So Home page to shopping cart category to product detail to shopping cart.  That’s a great funnel.  Set up a goal and a funnel for that and then look at it in a Flow Viz and you’ll see what does the picture look like of how people kind of go through that flow.

And that makes the data a lot more consumable than under the navigation flow because if you go to navigation flow and you go Home page and then where do people go next.  It’s super granular.  And like you said, that’s where it’s kind of a so what.  So I looked at this, I put 12 steps in and I’m looking at the slice of three people that had this super granular path.  That doesn’t help so much.

Philip:  And so what – can you give an example of what typical action or what could you look at?  So you’re looking at this flow, you’re seeing how people move through, what type of things have you seen?  Okay, so we now need to fix x, y, z.

Caleb: Yeah, so the best one I found so far is to look at a goal in a funnel process particularly for your high value, your purchase funnel, your lead generation funnel, by browser.

And what you’ll see by browser is really a picture of the relationship of how people using different types of devices interact with that funnel.  And in the goal flow, there’s two parts to it.  Some people haven’t noticed this. If you scroll down below the big kind of squiddy looking thing, that’s the flow visualization, there’s a table of data.  And that’s the data table representation of what’s being visualized and that’s super useful.

So if you go and set up a goal flow on your purchase funnel and let’s say you set that to browser and you go down and look at that table, go all the way over to the far right hand side, your last call and that’s your conversion rate.  And it’ll break down the conversion rate by browser type.

And I’ve seen cases where internet explorer is converting at 6% and Safari’s converting at zero or 1%.  And that’s a really big red flag because there’s very little reason why people using one browser versus another should – they should all complete checkout at the same percentage rate unless psychographically, they just are less likely to convert.

So I have a client that sells yarn and Safari users buy less yarn which maybe makes some sense, the typical Mac user isn’t really into knitting as much versus somebody using a PC with internet explorer that’s maybe a little outdated.  Not to be stereotypical but that fits a bit more the profile of somebody who might do a lot of knitting.

So that could be an explanation but more likely is that it’s a technical usability problem that’s browser specific.  So you can take that a go, wow, we didn’t notice that.  Go get Safari, look your site, find out it’s really hard to check out if you’re using Safari because the button doesn’t work or whatever that issue is and then take that to the development team and you can make changes.

I had a client where they had – this was a case of iPad.  We looked at that Flow Viz and iPad was showing up there, 0% conversion rate and we did the math, they should have, based on all the people that got all the way up to the give-us-your-credit-card page, iPad had 0% of the people that got their gift through and they should have had about a thousand people get through.

And this is on a pretty high value purchase item and the number for them, this is like a multi million dollar problem that nobody had noticed that was a usability problem, the page didn’t work on an iPad.  You couldn’t put your money in because it functionally didn’t work.

And maybe those people ended up coming back on a computer, maybe they called and purchased, we don’t know.  But what we do know is statistically we should have had a thousand of them finish the booking process and put their credit card in and give us money.  And they didn’t and that was costing millions of dollars in revenue.

So this kind of flow visualization against something like browser or you can do it for geography, you can do it for traffic sources, you can do it for a landing page, gives you this really keen ability to visually see and interact with that data and then also that data table, get a precise number and pin point a problem.

Philip: Nice.  Yes, I think it’s pretty awesome.  Is this similar to, in your mind, to Kissmetrics, getting a little bit closer to what they’re doing?

Caleb: A bit, I think it makes Analytics a little bit easier than what it has been.  So Google Analytics, the visual aspect getting easier.  Kissmetrics and other tools similar to that are really good for, I think, a more specific task which is understanding customer and movement through a defined process and a really simple number on conversion.

But, they’re not full blown web analytics tools.  And that’s where – if you come to Google Analytics and you say I have a question, maybe a better example is the in-page analytics reporting in Google Analytics is terrible in my opinion.  I hate it…

Philip:  It always has been, yeah.

Caleb: Yeah, it’s just – it’s always been lacking.  So I’ll have customers that will say I want to see where people are clicking on my page visually and I say, you know what, GA is not a good tool for that.

Let’s go use Crazy Egg.  That’s my favorite tool for that kind of heat map page level analysis.  Crazy Egg is not a replacement for Google Analytics but it’s really, really good at answering specific questions about a specific page.  Where do people click on this page?

And so that’s where there are other tools that might be better aspects of certain questions you could try to answer with GA, but, generally what I’ve seen is there are other tools that are really good at one slice of the pie, they don’t replace the whole pie.  They’re not a full web analytics application.

Philip: Great, excellent.  Right, let’s move on to another piece of functionality.  What’s your next favorite?

Caleb: So after the Flow Visualization, the Multi Channel Funnel tool is another kind of mind bending new way to think about your data tool and that’s in the new version as well.  And this tool is, I think, just a fantastic step forward for Google Analytics. It’s much long needed and it really is designed to answer the question of okay, so I see a conversion from Adwords.  What about all the traffic that didn’t convert from Adwords?  We paid for it, what happened?

And the reality is – I don’t know about you but I very rarely go to a website and do the conversion action on my initial visit.  If I’m trying to book travel, unless it’s the airline I normally fly on, even that I usually take two or three visits to check prices and itineraries and such.  Booking hotel, buying something, navigating a website and finding an interesting new product or tool, I very rarely click/browse/convert.

And that’s a problem, because Google Analytics has always been this last click attribution model meaning the conversion is awarded to the most recent traffic source it came from.  So if you have a business where Adwords serves a function to get people who are maybe early in the buying process.  Say you’re a hotel, people are looking for a New York hotel.  They click your link, they browse around your site, maybe they even look at availability and pricing and they leave.

So Adwords isn’t going to get rewarded with a conversion, that session didn’t convert.  And they go off and they look at Expedia or maybe they just ran out of time and they had to go home or went to lunch or who knows what.  And then they come back but maybe they come back by typing in your hotel name.  Your really awesome hotel in New York into Google and they click through organically and they’re ready to book now and they book.

So Google Analytics traffic source reports are going to say conversion came from that organic keyword and your Adword that you paid for was bad, didn’t convert so maybe you shouldn’t buy that anymore.  And you go off and you give a raise and a bonus to the SEO people because they brought you somebody that converted and you go fire the Pay Per Click people because they didn’t get you a conversion.

And then you get no conversions because Adwords was bringing you traffic that created awareness and then conversion came through organic.  And, it could be through email, it could be through direct, that scenario is the issue.  So this single click, last click model is a problem because it doesn’t actually do a good job of representing user behavior.

Very few sites are actually going to have naturally a click/browse/convert process.  So how do we solve that?  We have to look between the session and we have to look at multiple different sessions within a visit and that’s what the Multi Channel tool does.

It’s not visitor analytics, it’s traffic source touch points.  So it let’s us see a picture of when Adwords was involved, how many conversions involved Adwords either as the last click or as the first or anywhere in between.  So now, using this tool, we can appropriately attribute and reward our marketing investments given their contribution to conversion.

Last click is important but the whole picture should be considered because you don’t want to go stop buying the keyword that actually brings the guy that becomes aware who then comes back later and buys.  You don’t get them in the door the first time, they’re never going to come back.

Philip: Yeah, this is an awesome report.  I remember looking at these multi channel funnels for a eCommerce client of ours and using the assisted conversions report which is, if you go to conversions, click multi channel funnels and click assisted conversions, you can then see how many conversions you’ve actually essentially been under reporting or where your Adwords has been involved in assisting a conversion and it should get some sort of credit.

And there was essentially 30% additional conversions that Adwords was actually influencing that we hadn’t been reporting on because we didn’t have the functionality and as you said, you don’t want to make your decision on just the last touch because Adwords is having a big impact on actually resulting in conversions that are reported in other channels.

I was explaining it to the client that I like to think of online marketing as a team sport.  So in the same way you get an assist if you set up the tri scorer or the person who scores the basket, you wouldn’t just get rid of all the team members that weren’t involved in the actual final score.  You need to take into account all the players that helped to contribute.

Caleb: Yeah, that’s a great – that’s an absolutely great analogy for it.

Philip: Yeah, it’s an awesome report.  I think for users, some businesses, depending on your business where you may not have a lot of assisted conversions, so just go to that report, look at that number.  If you do have a big number on assisted conversions, then there’s a lot more you can do. Just Google multi channel funnels and you’ll be able to see a lot more advance stuff that you can do.  Alrighty, what’s next?

Caleb: So beyond the Multi Channel here – the next thing I think I like the most about the new version is it’s just a fluid user interface and user experience.

Now, in the old version, let’s say you clicked into the traffic sources report and drove down to keyword and you then segmented by landing page and added a secondary dimension segment of city.  And you go wow, this is amazing, great data.  And then you hit the back button.

There’s no back button, you lost everything and you can’t just go forward back to that.  The old version didn’t allow true kind of web navigation.  The new version does.  So I find myself – I’m constantly clicking in, drilling down, chasing down rabbit trails, ideas of data, things that I notice and then I can hit the back button and go back, go back, and then go in another direction.

And that’s because every link, every screen you see in the new version, the address bar is a permalink.  You can actually copy that link and email it to a colleague or somebody else who might want to look at that data, say check out this report.  And you copy the link and you send that to them and they will log in and they see exactly what you were seeing.

So it makes it really easy to share.  Often I’ll take that link and I’ll stick it into a URL shortener and send that shortened URL because it’s kind of a big, ugly link if you copy it as is.  But you can take and make that a nice short link using a URL shortener, put it into a report, put it into an email, send it in chat to somebody to look at, something you found that was interesting, or just even save it for yourself.

So that navigation is really great and that goes hand in hand with – you open that orange bar in the top left where you and click and jump between profiles, if you work with multiple different profiles or like me, you’re working with different clients, you might want to jump quickly between clients or different web properties you’re analyzing.  And you can be drilled into report, go and jump to another profile and it keeps the same report in focus and that’s just a native part of the new version and I really like that.

Philip: That’s great and I think these user experience improvements are quite hard to pick up on.  I think it’s great hearing you talk about them because often you don’t know what you don’t know.  You look at the obvious stuff like Multi Channel Funnels which is pretty obvious.  It’s jumping off the page but it’s these little things that you don’t notice.

Caleb: Yeah.  It also ties with, and this is a trick that I’ve learned and this is browser specific.

So maybe it’s in Firefox or Chrome or Safari but I use Chrome as my primary browser and Chrome has this really nifty feature called Duplicate Tab.  If you write click on any tab, it opens up a menu.

The title of the tab there and it opens up a menu and click Duplicate and it will duplicate what you have on that tab and preserve everything that’s there and in GA this is quite useful because you can drill all the way down, you’re looking at a report and I often, as I’m doing that, and good analytics and analysis is about asking questions.  And so as I’m looking at data, I’m constantly asking questions.

If I see something that’s interesting, I want to be curious about it and investigate more.  And it’s kind of a very little box to be in if you only have one window.  So I use this duplicate tab.  I’ll chase down some data, I’ll come up with a new question, I’ll duplicate my tab and what it does, is it copies everything that’s there into a new tab.  You’ve got your full back button history and everything.

And then I’ll open up that new tab and then I’ll chase my new trail and then if I want I can jump back to my previous tab and there was everything I had.  And then I get two tabs going and now I can cross compare really easily, I can get two sets of similar data and look at them side by side.

And so that’s just – this goes all in hand and this usability is so much better in the new version because you can quickly analyze data back and forth, copy URLs, get multiple tabs going and get screenfuls of useful data up and in front of you all at once.

Philip:  Cool, cool.  So I guess most people think that within analytics there’s more data than you can poke a stick at.  There’s a lot of things they don’t look at and there’s a huge amount of information yet – Custom Reporting, I know you’re a big fan of custom reporting side of things.

Can you tell us a little bit about that, when would you need to start looking at custom reporting.  Why do you want to do that if there’s so many reports already?  Can you give us some good examples on why you like it?

Caleb: Yeah, great example.  I just made a custom report earlier today for a client who had a question about – they were looking at paid search traffic that had low time on site.  So not necessarily bounced, just low time on site.

And so they said, I want to know more about paid search traffic with low time on site.  How can I look at that and look at what the landing pages are to see the relationship between landing page, when I come from paid search and I spend less than a certain amount of time on a site.

That’s a really good question.  So the challenge comes up of how do I give that person that view of data.  And that’s where custom reports, think, are one of the most useful.  So, the old version had custom reports, the new version has custom reports.  But they’ve changed in the new version.

One of the best things about custom reports in the new version is that you can apply a filter to a custom report and this filter acts essentially as an advanced segment.  So in the old version, I might be able to go to a certain report or even make a custom report that was dependent upon an advance segment being applied.  And that made a very difficult analysis scenario because I can’t just say, hey client, click this link to access this custom report and there’s your data.

It would be, click this link to access this custom report and save it and then go create this advance segment and then every time you want to see your data, go to the custom report and go apply this advance segment.

Now that’s a lot of steps.  For somebody who’s a professional analyst or maybe a professional marketer and uses GA a lot, that’s okay, but for people who don’t use GA every day, that’s too much to ask.

So with this new version of custom reports, you can create a report, you can put the metrics in and the dimensions you want on there and then let’s say like this example, I want to confine it to paid search.  So I go down to the bottom and there’s this filter and I can say include only those visits where the medium exactly matches CPC, save.  And now I have the equivalent of a custom report plus an advance segment.  But I can take that report and give it to somebody and it’s just the data that they need.

And that’s really, really useful.  If you are delivering reports to stakeholders within your company, to colleagues or to peers or to your boss or manager, it’s really great to be able to create a report that they can then set up inside their analytics, give them the share link and it’s just what they need.  They don’t have to go through ten other steps and do a back flip in order to get the data they want.

Philip:  So what are the best ways of sharing these custom reports?  Is it just using that link you were talking about earlier?

Caleb: Yeah, the share link is the best option which is still clunky.  The folks at Google need to get this figured out.  The biggest issue is if I were to – this report I made earlier which I think is quite a cool report.

If I was to send you this share link and you open it up it’s going to default to saving that report under the very first profile under the very first account which is in your list.  If you are like me, that’s really annoying.  I’ve got 800 profiles under 200 various accounts in my login, my main login.

So if I want to send this to somebody for a particular profile and they have multiple accounts, it gets confusing.  But to share a report, you’ve only got the share link.

The other option is to create a dedicated Google account just for reporting.  And so sometimes we’ll do that.  We’ll set up a report, a Gmail address or a branded email on a client domain like reporting@client.com and then go set that up as a Google account so you can use it as a log in and then multiple people can share that using your email password and login under it and we can configure stuff there and then say, hey, just go log in, this is your email password and you’ll see the report.

And that’s okay but it still isn’t great because, say you have six people signing in and one person decides they want to delete something, it’s gone for everybody.  So that scenario is where I think GA is still a little weak and hopefully they will resolve that sooner than later.

It’s kind of been like this since the beginning so six years, seven years in, I’m hoping that they’re going to come out with a feature that will improve that kind of access on management and sharing in a way where – I’d love to be able to create a custom report and then assign it to you for your account and profile.  And then you log in under your login and there’s my report that I made for you.

Philip:  What about the scheduling of reports?

Caleb: Yeah so, the much loved scheduled reports and PDF email reports – those are gone in the new version.  They’re still gone but Google did post, I think it was back in December maybe, that they promising to bring those features back.  And that frankly is really good reason still to be stuck in the old version because those are pretty key features I know for a lot of people to not have that automated reporting.

So I don’t remember the exact details from that post but they did say that they’re going to bring those features back, they’re working on it and that will be great when they do because it’s very useful to be able to set up the report and now, particularly with the custom report.

If I can create a custom report that’s filtered to a particular set of data, that’s exactly what a stakeholder needs to see and then I can just click a button and say, send every Monday morning, that’s brilliant and it saves me time.  The person gets the data that they want and everybody’s happy.  So, a really critical feature, hope it comes back soon.

Philip:  Yeah for listeners, I’d say if you haven’t created a custom report just give it a go.  Click on the custom reporting tab, follow the instructions.  It’s very intuitive, pull together some metrics, see if you can add any value, have a bit of a play.  I think that’s the best way to do it, get dirty.

Caleb:  Indeed.

Philip:  Excellent, what else – any other piece of new functionality that particularly excite you?

Caleb: Well, the dashboard, let’s talk a bit about dashboards.  Dashboards in the old version, you log in, first thing you see is this dashboard and then you can kind of drag and drop some things around on it but most of it is pretty fixed.  And you can email it in the old version and that was nice.  But really, not a dashboard, just kind of a summary report screen.

So this is an area where GA again, I think, has been really weak.  Honestly, I’ll say, I think they’re still weak but they are working hard and the new version dashboard section under that Home tab really has a good step forward for the product.  So some things I like about the dashboards.

You can set up multiple dashboards, not just one.  I think the number is 10 or 12 under each profile that you can create.  And on that dashboard, you can create up to 12 widgets and there are four or five different types of widgets and you can filter these widgets.

So you could set up a dashboard that would answer specific questions and that’s the beautiful thing about dashboards.  You want to be able to take somebody who says hey, here’s the six things I need to know quickly and easily without having to click ten times.

You can make them a dashboard that have those six things.  You can have a title for total traffic from all traffic channels so like SEO dashboard for example.  I put up a title and I filter the title down to organic visits and then create another one for organic visits from keywords containing a brand name or brand marker.

So now I have total organic visits and then I have organic branded and then I have one that’s inverse.  So, organic, non branded keywords.  Those three numbers give me a quick view into how much my traffic is coming from branded versus non branded keywords.  I mean you can do one of the widgets that does a little spark line trend so you can see how that trend is going.

And that I find is really useful.  The big thing is this ability to add these widgets now and filter the widgets so you can slice down to a subset of data and really create dashboards that are a lot closer to what analysts are typically used to and other clients are reporting to us to be able to create a dashboard or what you might make and excel on a custom dashboard.

Philip: That’s a great example.  I think for people spending money on SEO, you really want to exclude your branded traffic.  Your SEO consultant shouldn’t get the credit for that increase.  Prior to this you’d have to go into your keyword report and do a filter, maybe an advance segment.  Now just to have it really nice and visual very simple on your dashboard is great.

Caleb:  Yeah.

Philip:  And I guess sharing these dashboards as well, any comments?

Caleb: Okay, so sharing dashboards.  Not possible.  So Google went to the trouble to make a really new awesome dashboarding capability and we get this all the time.  Clients says, I want a dashboard, here’s my six questions and I say great, you want to give me your login.  And they say, no, no I really don’t because it’s my gmail or my company mail.  I can’t give you my password.  And I say, okay, well, we can’t set up a dashboard.  You have to set it up yourself.

Dashboards are at this point tied to the login and the profile that they are made under.  So if you want to be able to really – if you want to make your own dashboard, great.  Do that, experiment with that.  If you’re working with clients or other people within your company, then probably what you’re going to have to do is set up a dedicated login.

So kind of that same method I mentioned a minute ago and so you set up that login where it’s a shared account, it’s not to any one individual and then you can both login under that and you log in and set up the dashboard and then they log in and look at it.  At this point, that’s the best solution we found to deal with the fact that they didn’t build a feature yet for sharing these dashboards.

Philip:  And these multiple dashboards are great for different roles within your company.  So if you’re listening to this – the podcast, maybe you’ve got different stakeholders in your business, you can create different dashboards for different individuals which is pretty handy.

Caleb:  Absolutely.

Philip:  Excellent.  So we could talk for ages, what are your thoughts on the weaknesses or what would you like to see Google improve in the next twelve months?  We’ve touched on a couple already.  Anything else that really sort of gets on your nerves or you wish they would fix or maybe even add a new functionality to make your job easier?

Caleb: Well yeah, the dashboarding issue is a really big one.  The PDF and the scheduling is a big one.  The improving sharing around custom reports is a big one.  I think those are kind of bug fixers almost.  They’re just little fine points of the platform that’s – I don’t know why they weren’t there from the start but they aren’t and I’m sure that the good folks at Google are working hard to bring them back for us.

I think there’s a couple of things that stand out to me about the state of Analytics and right now, in Google Analytics being a big part of this, I think 2012 – I’m kind of calling the year of The Analyst whereas 2011 seemed to be much more the year of implementation.  Saw a lot of companies coming out of the recession, getting a little more aggressive, willing to invest some time and resources into getting better data and to now have better data.

So analysis, I think, is going to grow as a thing of importance, not just having something but actually really digging into that data.  And when you start to do that, the web is changing and evolving.  And we’re hitting this wall of social and this wall of really everything going on with cookies and privacy and measuring individual versus session.

And those are big challenges that I think Google needs to overcome and the industry as a whole needs to address.  I think that we’re going to continue to see a lot of challenges.  When I’m working with data, understanding the multiple touch points, understanding the notion of visitor rather than just a visit.

Multi channel funnel scratches the surface on that and really helps but it doesn’t go about explaining the entire story of being able to go.  How many of my people that came to the website have done this action, whether it was in their first visit or their fifth visit.  If we can do that kind of visitor level analysis or multiple looking across the session, I think that would be really useful.  And there are other tools that do that today, much better than Google Analytics.

So I think that’s something that Google really needs to address and I hope that they do. It will make our lives as analysts a lot easier and give us better insight, we’ll make our websites better and hey, maybe we’ll even spend some more on advertising.

Philip:  Beautiful.  Maybe we can close on one more tip that you are particularly fond of that you think most people won’t be aware of?

Caleb:  That’s a great question.

Philip:  I know we’ve touched on quite a few already, putting you on the spot.

Caleb: Okay yeah.  Here’s a good one.  For the US listeners here, users out there.  Geographic reporting – let’s talk about that.  Geographic reporting is great but reporting at the region level is a bit too broad and reporting at the city level is a bit too narrow.  And what we really need to report on is the market area level which marketers are used to dealing with markets not just municipalities which is how cities and geo works.

You can actually get market level data in Google Analytics and this is something I’ve talked to people at Google on the Google Analytics team and they say, no you can’t.  And I say yes you can, it’s right here and I show them.

So this is a kind of a trick to be able to do to get market area data.  If you go into your geographic reports and you drill down.  It has to be within the United States.  You have to drill down to a US region or city and you can drill down.

Let’s say down to the US as a whole level and if you drill into the US level as a whole and then activate a secondary dimension like landing page and then you go up and you look at your URL in that permalink, what you’re going to see if you kind of go all the way to the side, you’re going to see this spot where it says at the end, analytics.landing page path.

And if you change that to the landing page path to DMA – I know this is kind of hard to narrate.  But if you change it to DMA, it will show you market areas.

Philip:  I’m doing that right now.  So DMA?

Caleb: To replace the .landing page path with .dma and then you’ll probably want to change it from the map overlay to the explorer view and what you get is – you have to reapply the secondary dimension to do that but what you’ll get is column one is going to be a region, column two your market.  So I can see California, Los Angeles, California, San Francisco, Oakland, San Hose and this is way more useful than city level data because city level is really granular.

If you say how much traffic did we have from the city of Los Angeles, it’s literally based on IP addresses that resulted in the geographic city limits of Los Angeles which is a fairly small slice of the LA metropolitan area.  So it can almost be misleading, you say our LA traffic is this and then you look at the market area and it’s six times that size because that city name is very specific.

Philip: Right, so can you just define then – so the market region is broader than the actual city itself, right?

Caleb: Yeah and it’s in the United States.  I think that there’s notions of this in other countries but in the United States the concept is that you have a market area.  So in Los Angeles there’s the city of Los Angeles, there’s lots of other cities within that region.  Hollywood, West Hollywood, two different cities.

I think the numbers are dozens, maybe even hundreds in that greater geographic area.  So the concept of a market is, let’s say you buy a TV ad and you air it and this is really where it comes from is TV, print and radio, the broadcast signal is going to cover the entire area.  You can’t just buy a TV ad and only be visible to people in Burbank, California which is part of the Los Angeles area, if you’re buying broadcast.

So that’s kind of a market area that goes back to in the US.  And that’s it, that’s a – marketers I think are generally a lot more familiar with that as a geographic identifier than they are with municipality.

Philip:  Right, right.

Caleb: You have market area and you have zip code or postal code.  And GA doesn’t show either by default.

Philip:  I have one question for you Caleb.  How on earth did you find that out to change the URL string?

Caleb: In about 2006, I started kind of poking around with GA and noticed that the URLs, in fact even in the old version, it did change sometimes, and noticed that it would have a common name that reflected kind of the dimension you selected it in so I actually just tried lots of different names and discovered all of these other hidden dimensions.  I made a tool called Dimensionator that gets you access in the old version but it doesn’t work on the new version.

So when the new version came out I thought I got to figure out how to get DMA back.  I figured out how their – when you apply that dimension it shows the change in URL and just replace the name and there you go.

Philip: That’s a pretty Ninja tip and that gives you an insight into Caleb’s skills and understanding of Analytics.  If you want to know more of that stuff I thoroughly recommend you buy his book on Performance Marketing and Caleb thanks very much for your time, you’ve been most generous.

Caleb:  Absolutely, thank you so much for having me.  It’s a pleasure.

By Philip Shaw