Tom Capper's Posts



When is a Session not a Session?

Sessions are pretty arbitrarily defined, all too easily inflated, and far more complex than most realise. It’s possible for apparent step-changes in Google Analytics reports to have little real-world relevance, and common for reports to show numerous mysterious and apparently inexplicable landing pages and traffic sources.

And yet, we put a lot of stock in these concepts - businesses are sold on how many visits their site received in a year. We optimise for conversion rate, a metric calculated using session count. SEOs, ad agencies, consultants and marketing managers can all have targets of a growth in organic sessions. Distilled’s own creative pieces are often judged by clients in terms of how many visits they received. It is therefore essential for Google Analytics users to understand what they’re actually talking about when they reference a “session”, and that’s what this post is all about.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Tracking Offline Interactions in Google Analytics using the Measurement Protocol

The trouble with web analytics is the possibility of it telling you lots about your website but nothing about your business. A browser is not the same thing as a customer, and yet we forget this in the data that we use to optimize our marketing efforts. Using Google Analytics, part of the solution to this problem is User ID, which allows us to track users as they move between multiple browsers, as long as they log in along the way. However, a lot of the most important interactions in a customer’s journey might not take place in a browser at all - instead they’ll take place in a shop, or over the phone, at an event, or in the customer’s inbox. In these cases, it might be that you can draw together these interactions with your existing Google Analytics data using Measurement Protocol.

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Statistical Forecasting for SEO & Analytics (and a Free Tool!)

Statistical forecasting is a powerful tool that’s been used at Distilled for a while, both by consultants when analysing client data and by our in-house monitoring tool that alerts us to problems with client sites. In this post, I’m publicly launching a free forecasting tool that I spoke about last week at BrightonSEO, and explaining how to make best use of it.

Using the tool

You can access the tool at distilled.net/forecaster. It utilises the CausalImpact R package which you can read about in this paper published by Google if you’re so inclined, but don’t worry if you’re not - the precise purpose of the tool is to make these methods accessible.

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Quick Fix for Referral Spam in Google Analytics

There’s been a lot of talk recently about referral spam and how it’s ruining everyone’s analytics data. While this isn’t cause for panic, it is very annoying, and depending on the size of your site it could be having a very meaningful effect on your data.

Most solutions I’ve seen talked about so far involve maintaining a list of spammy domains, which seems impractical at best. In this post I’ll outline two filters which in most cases should exclude the vast majority of referral spam  and require zero maintenance. Lastly, if you want to go the extra mile and filter out those last few spammy sessions, I’ll outline a low-maintanance option for that, too.

Background

Firstly, if all this is news to you, check the referring domains report in your Google Analytics account and see if it contains any of these:

GA referral spam domains

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Omniture for Beginners: 2015 Update

Back in December 2013, I wrote a tutorial post showing how to find basic analytics data in Omniture, and explaining differences in terminology between Omniture and Google Analytics. Both platforms have seen some changes since then, so this refresh restores the guide to its original usefulness.

Before we get stuck in, keep in mind that one of the main important differences between Google Analytics and Omniture is that Omniture setups are always custom. As such, installations can vary in what they show by default and how reports are grouped.

Navigation Basics

Firstly, make sure you’re looking at the correct report suite - report suites are Omniture’s equivalent of Google Analytics’ views:

Omniture report suite selection

Secondly, it’s possible that your client already has what you’re looking for set up as a dashboard.

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