Tips and Tricks
Written by Taylor Hawes
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
If you aren’t yet familiar with the benefits that Google’s free analytics tracking program offers, it’s time to get with the program!
Google Analytics is a comprehensive web data tracking suite that – once installed – allows you to monitor the number of visitors your site receives, as well as how these users move through your site. Going further in-depth with the data that Analytics provides, you can even use this powerful tool to determine which of your site’s pages are the most popular, how often your articles are being shared on social media websites and even how many of your visitors are converting into buyers.
Over the course of this article, we’ll cover all of the different things you can do with Google Analytics – as well as a number of resources that you can use to get more information on the specific topics that interest you. Be sure to bookmark this page so that you can come back to this ultimate resource again and again as your specific Google Analytics needs change.
Setting Up Your Account
The first step to getting the most out of Google Analytics is – as you might expect – setting up an account.
In general, the process is quite simple. You’ll need to register for a Google Account (if you don’t already have one), identify the site on which you’d like to install Analytics, confirm that you own the website through one of four different verification measures and then install a small snippet of tracking code onto your website.
The following resources will walk you through the process of signing up with Google and installing the necessary tracking code on your site, depending on the specific website platform you’re using:
- “Get Started with Google Analytics” – Google Help
- “How to Set Up Google Analytics” – Sprout Social
- “How to Use Google Analytics for Beginners” – Mahalo
- “Google Analytics Tutorial: Setup” – Portent
- “How to Install Google Analytics in WordPress” – WP Beginner
- “How to Put Google Analytics on a Drupal Website” – Chron.com
- “How to Install Google Analytics on Joomla 2.5” – CMS Teachings
Basic Analytics Monitoring
Once your Google Analytics account is set up correctly, it’ll begin generating data based on the visitors your website receives and their activity on your site. When you first log in to your Google Analytics account, you’ll see the Standard Dashboard, which contains a broad overview of the following traffic metrics:
- Traffic trends – This blue-lined graph is the most noticeable feature of the Standard Dashboard and represents a visual overview of your site’s traffic trends over the last thirty days. To change the period that’s displayed, click on the dates in the upper-right hand corner of the graph and select your own parameters.
- Visitor stats – Below the graph, you’ll see a number of different visitor stats, including your site’s visitor count, number of unique visitors, page views, pages per visit, average visit duration, bounce rate and percent new visits. Each of these metrics provides important information about your site’s performance, so take some time to study up on what each measurement means and what it can tell you about visitor behavior on your site.
- Demographic information – Finally, the last thing you’ll see on the Standard Dashboard is a collection of information on your visitors’ demographics, their languages, the systems they’re using and how they’re accessing your website from their mobile devices. Again, pay attention to these statistics, as they can give you valuable information on how to better target future website updates to your audience’s preferences.
For more information on how to interpret the information generated through basic analytics monitoring, take a look at any of the following resources:
- “Getting to Know Your Google Analytics Dashboard” – WebShare Design
- “Beginners’ Guide to Google Analytics” – Flyte
- “Google Analytics Tutorial: Basic Stats” – Portent
- “Web Analytics Demystified” – Avinash Kaushik
- “The 8 Google Analytics Features Every Site MUST Have Enabled” – KISS Metrics
- “Basic Google Analytics Checklist: Getting Started with Google” – More Visibility
- “What Basic Google Analytics Can Tell a Marketer” – Peg Corwin
- “Understanding Basic Google Analytics Terminology” – Koozai
Google Analytics Tips & Tricks
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the Standard Dashboard and the information contained in this area, you’ll want to start looking for ways to take your interpretation and usage of web data to the next level.
All of the following articles contain tips and tricks that will help you to get more out of your website’s statistics. Take a look at these resources once you feel confident in your ability to understand and utilize the most basic Google Analytics features:
- “11 Google Analytics Tricks to Use for Your Website” – SEOMoz
- “How to Rock Your Google Analytics: 5 Tricks to Help You Out” – Econsultancy
- “Google Analytics Tips and Tricks” – Dejan SEO
- “Hacking Google Analytics: Ideas, Tips and Tricks” – Six Revisions
- “5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics” – Analytics Results Blog
Using Google Analytics Goals
In particular, one of the more advanced features found within Google Analytics that you’ll want to adopt as quickly as possible is Google’s “Goals” program. Goals allow you to measure instances in which specific actions are completed on your site. There are currently four different types of Goals you can set up, including:
- URL destination goals (for example, a goal event that triggers whenever a new buyer reaches your site’s “thank you” page)
- Visit duration
- Event goals (as in, goals that trigger whenever a specific event – like a PDF download, a shopping cart checkout or a specific video being viewed – occurs)
One of the most powerful ways to use Goals is to determine the number of website visitors from different traffic sources that turn into paying customers, as gathering this information will allow you to make better informed decisions on how you’ll allocate your marketing budget in the future.
For more detailed instructions on how to set up this type of Goal – as well as all of the other types listed above – take a look at the following resources:
- “A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics Goals” – Search Engine Land
- “A Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Goals in Google Analytics” – Search Engine Journal
- “Google Analytics Tutorial: Setting Goals” – Local Search Masters
- “4 Google Analytics Goal Types That Are Critical to Your Business” – KISS Metrics
- “Google Analytics In-Depth Goals and Funnels” – Six Revisions
- “Conversion Tracking versus Google Analytics Goals” – Search Engine Watch
- “How to Track Email Conversions in Google Analytics” – Smart Passive Income
- “5 Goals Every Blogger Should Set Up in Google Analytics” – ProBlogger
Advanced Google Analytics
After you’re comfortable with Analytics’ beginning- and intermediate-level features, take things to the next level with the instructions found in the following advanced articles.
In particular, pay special attention to the resources listed on “advanced segments,” as this allows you to observe the way visitors from different traffic sources interacts with your content. As an example, setting up advanced segments for traffic that arrives on your site from different guest posts will enable you to determine which specific audience is engaging with your content at a higher level – helping to inform your future guest posting decisions.
Complete instructions on this technique and many more can be found at the resources listed below:
- “Advanced Google Analytics” – CIL 2012
- “The Power User’s Guide to Google Analytics Hacks, Tips and Tricks” – Wordstream
- “Advanced Google Analytics Tips and Tricks” – SEOMoz
- “Google Analytics Advanced Segments” – Google Help
- “Top 15 Most Useful Advanced Segments in Google Analytics” – Koozai
- “Advanced Content Tracking with Google Analytics: Part 1” – Analytics Talk
- “Advanced Content Tracking with Google Analytics: Part 2” – Analytics Talk
- “Advanced Google Analytics for Social Sites” – iFinity Software
Google Analytics Reporting
Google’s basic reporting features enable you to easily print off attractive records of your on-site activities, which can then be shared with other members of your team or stored for future reference when observing visitor behavior over time.
In some cases, though, you may find that your reporting needs go beyond the default templates offered by Google Analytics. If you’d like to customize your reports – or even schedule them to be created and delivered automatically – take a look at the following resources on this important topic:
- “7 Time-Saving Google Analytics Custom Reports” – Search Engine Watch
- “How to Use the New Google Analytics Social Reporting Tool” – Social Media Examiner
- “Automate Google Analytics Reporting Using Google Apps Script” – Google Analytics Blog
- “Schedule Your Reporting in the New Google Analytics Blog” – The SEM Blog
- “5 Steps to Calculate Social Media ROI Using Google Analytics” – Search Engine Watch
- “5 Ways to Use Google Analytics to Track Social Media ROI” – Business 2 Community
Google Analytics Integrations
Finally, be aware that Google Analytics isn’t just a standalone program that can be used to measure on-site visitor activity. In fact, the program can be integrated with a number of other Google tools and other third-party products in order to provide a more robust web data and reporting environment.
In particular, two popular integrations you’ll want to pay attention to include the ability to combine Google Analytics data with information from Google AdWords and Google AdSense. Pairing up Analytics and AdWords will allow you to monitor the behavior of your PPC visitors, while also enabling you to make better decisions about the keywords you target with your campaigns based on measurable ROI data.
At the same time, integrating Google Analytics and Google AdSense can help you to improve your ad effectiveness by measuring where your paid clicks are occurring and which pages of your website generate the most ad income. If you rely on Google AdSense as a revenue channel, setting up this integration is an absolute must.
For more information on the different integrations that are available with the Google Analytics program, take a look at any of the following resources:
- “Link Google Analytics and AdWords” – Google Help
- “Using Google Analytics to Improve AdWords ROI” – Jake Intel
- “A Primer on Google Adwords Remarketing Using Google Analytics” – Search Engine Land
- “Using Google Analytics with AdSense” – Google Help
- “Using Google Analytics to Track Google Wallet Orders” – Google Help
Hopefully, this guide has given you all of the information and resources needed to help you add Google Analytics to your website or to take your usage of this popular program to the next level. If you have another Google Analytics article or resource that you’ve found to be particularly useful, please share your recommendations in the comments section below so that other beginning and experienced users can benefit as well!
Written by Sean Valant
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
The “Snappy’s ProTips” blog post series is an on-going effort to raise awareness regarding some of the most common support requests that we receive via ticket. By and large, all issues covered in this series can be resolved quickly and easily by utilizing information contained within the HostGator KnowledgeBase. As such, these issues can be addressed and resolved inrealtime, without necessarily needing to wait for a ticket response from a System Administrator. The issues covered in this blog post series account for hundreds of support tickets each week.
We receive many support requests each week regarding PHP, specifically what PHP modules are supported and how to enable specific version of PHP on our shared servers.
Typing “php” into the search field on the KB will result in an auto-suggestion for the article “PHP Modules”: https://support.hostgator.com/articles/hosting-guide/hardware-software/php-modules
The above link is a comprehensive list of every PHP module that is currently installed on our Linux and Windows shared servers. There is a very small number of caveats and exceptions, for example Imagic and Magicwand are currently only available on Linux servers and Oauth is installed, but must be enabled prior to use by adding the following line to the php.ini file: oauth:extension=oauth.so
As a rule, if the module is not on the list, then it is not compatible, or not allowed, on our shared environment. VPS and Dedicated servers are significantly less restrictive when it comes to requesting/applying PHP modules.
The next most common support request involving PHP is how to enable a specific version, usually PHP 5.3, on shared servers. As with every issue we’ll be addressing, full information is contained in the following KB article: https://support.hostgator.com/articles/hosting-guide/hardware-software/php-5-3
In a nutshell, this can be accomplished via a very simple addition to the .htaccess file:
# Use PHP 5.3
AddType application/x-httpd-php53 .php
It is very important to read and understand the associated KB article, because this can cause unexpected results relative to backwards compatibility issues with scripts; older PHP coding may not be compatible with newer versions of PHP.
If you are unfamiliar with the editing of an .htaccess files, the above KB article contains another link explaining that process. I cannot be stressed enough that you should make these modifications with care, and be sure to read the entire KB article before proceeding, in order to gather all the relative information to ensure you are as informed as possible regarding the changes you will be making. As always, you should create a full backup before making any changes of this nature to your account.
When in doubt, do join us in LiveChat so that we may assist you in realtime. If you are ultimately performing an action that will require a support ticket to receive assistance from a System Administrator, then we’ll certainly create that ticket for you via LiveChat.
Please leave us a comment if you have any topic that you would like to be addresses via the on-going “Snappy’s ProTips” blog series.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Thursday, February 21st, 2013
As a webmaster, you know that it isn’t enough for your website to be “pretty” – it needs to be effective as well. Whether you’ve set up your site to sell products, collect leads or simply promote a certain viewpoint, your primary focus as a website owner must be to make sure that your site performs its designated function as efficiently as possible.
To do that, you need split testing – as in, the process of randomly serving up different page variations to viewers in order to conclusively determine which version helps achieve your target metrics. Here’s what you need to know about implementing this critical process on your own site:
Step #1 – Select a target variable
To get started with split testing, you’ll first need to select a variable that will be the focus of your test. This process is best explained with an example…
Suppose you have a page on your site that sells a digital download product. You’ve seen an unfortunately high bounce rate from visitors on this page, so you decide to use split testing to determine what changes can be made to keep visitors on the page longer and increase the resulting number of sales. For this reason, you decide to set up a split test that pits two different headline versions against each other, as this is the first element visitors to the page will encounter.
To conduct this test, you’d create two separate versions of your sales page – each one featuring a different headline. Once set up, your split test would direct visitors to one version or the other randomly, enabling you to determine which headline variant results in the most sales.
This specific example utilizes a type of split testing known as A/B testing, which takes its name from the fact that you’re comparing one page version against another in which a single variable has been changed. If you’d changed multiple variables on your test sales page (for example, your headline, your call-to-action and your “Buy Now” button color), you wouldn’t be able to conclusively determine which single action led to increased conversions.
A more advanced type of split testing – multivariate testing – is available if you’d like to be able to compare multiple variables at once while still generating meaningful data. However, implementing this type of test correctly is more complicated, which makes the process better suited to advanced webmasters, rather than beginning split testers.
Assuming you’re going ahead with the A/B testing protocol, you’ll want to identify your target variable before moving on to set up your test in Step #2. Besides your page’s headline, a few other elements you can test include:
- The placement and selection of images on your site
- The specific wording used in your calls-to-action
- The price of your products
- The location and wording used on your email list opt-in box
- The shape, color and location of your “Add to Cart” buttons
Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing a test variable. For your first test, try to select a variable that stands to make the biggest possible difference in your site’s performance (for example, test your headline text, rather than the font you use in your 3rd paragraph). Then, create the test version of your split test page and move on to the next step in this process.
Step #2 – Use split testing programs to launch your test
By far, the most popular program used to run split tests online today is Google Analytics’ “Content Experiments” (formerly known as the Google “Website Optimizer”). The program is free and incredibly simple to use, making it a great place for beginning marketers to start.
To run an A/B split test using Content Experiments, you’ll need three pieces of information:
- The URL of your original page (for example, sales-page.html)
- The URL of your test variation (sales-page-2.html)
- The Google Analytics goal you’ll use to determine which page variation results in a conversion.
Once you have all three of these items identified and setup, head to the “Content -> Experiments” section of your Google Analytics dashboard and begin by entering the URL of your original page into the prompt. Click “Start Experimenting” and you’ll be prompted to enter a few different pieces of information, including your test URLs, goal selection and a few other testing parameters.
Finally, after this information has been entered and verified, you’ll be provided with a new version of your Google Analytics tracking code that must be installed on all the different pages that will be involved in your test. If you’re technically savvy, you can add this tracking code on your own and then use Google’s built-in tools to verify that it’s been added correctly. If not, Google Analytics provides a helpful set of instructions that can be sent to your site’s web developer.
Step #3 – Identify a winner and launch a new test
After completing the verification process and launching your test, you’ll see data start to flow in to your Google Analytics dashboard as visitors arrive on your site and interact with your pages. Eventually, Google Analytics will report a “winner” for your experiment, based on the confidence threshold you set during the setup process (the default is 95% confidence).
Keep in mind that it’s very important to wait until this measure of statistical significance has been reached, as picking a winner after only a handful of goal completions doesn’t provide you with any meaningful data. If your site is young and not yet receiving many visitors, it can take awhile to reach your requested confidence threshold, but be patient! Making decisions off of incomplete data is no better than failing to split test in the first place.
Once a winner has been chosen in your test, make any necessary changes to your live site based on your results and then launch another test immediately. The most effective websites rely on a program of continual split testing to make much-needed improvements. Don’t short-change yourself by running one test and then quitting.
That, in a nutshell, is the A/B split testing process, as well as how it can be used to make your website more effective than ever. If you need further information, check out the Google Analytics “Overview of Content Experiments” help section for more detailed instructions on using this program to improve your website results.
Written by Sean Valant
Friday, February 15th, 2013
We’ve been doing some audits and running some numbers on our ticket queues lately. What we’ve found is that there are a lot of recurring issues that are actually very basic in nature, but that our Customers either aren’t able to find the answers to themselves or they don’t realize that the answers are actually just a quick KnowledgeBase search away.
So, we’re introducing our “Snappy’s ProTips” blog series. The issues we will be discussing herein account for literally hundreds of support requests each week. Our hope is that, via this series, we can raise awareness as to the resolution of common issues and facilitate not only a higher level of learning for our Customers, but also a faster response time on more involved issues by clearing out some of these more basic requests.
We’re always happy to assist with anything, however it stands to reason that for these more basic issues that you’d just assume not have to wait for a response via ticket from us when you can truly (and much more efficiently) handle it yourself in real time.
One of the most fundamental issues that we most often encounter requests for via ticket is how to change the primary domain on a hosting account. For VPS or Dedicated Servers we actually will need to have a ticket generated in order for us to complete this request on your behalf. However, any Shared or Reseller account can have its primary domain changed very easily from within the billing tool.
This process is covered quite thoroughly at the following URL, from our KnowledgeBase:
It cannot be stressed enough that you should always create a full backup before making any changes of this nature, and keep in mind that the full information is in the KB article above; this blog post is not intended to be a definitive guide to this process.
It’s very important to understand that, due to the nature of cPanel, the contents of the public_html folder will always be displayed as the web site of the Primary Domain on the account. Let’s illustrate this point by using the following example:
Your Primary Domain is pirates-are-awesome.com and you have an addon domain called ninjas-are-awesome.com that you would prefer be your Primary Domain. You can easily log into your billing account and follow the directions as stated in the KB page linked above in order to change your Primary Domain to ninjas-are-awesome.com. If you stop there and take no further action, then what will happen is that anyone who browses to ninjas-are-awesome.com will actually see the content of pirates-are-awesome.com, because it’s the content of the pirate site that actually resides in the public_html directory and, as we now know, cPanel will display the contents of public_html as the website of the Primary Domain.
Any time you change your Primary Domain, you must then ensure that the files for the relative sites are also then relocated appropriately.
In keeping with our above example, you would now need to move some files around. First, you would need to add the old Primary Domain as an Addon Domain within cPanel, which would then result in the creation of a subfolder within public_html that would then need to house the files for pirates-are-awesome.com. Conversely, it is also necessary to relocate the contents of the subfolder for ninjas-are-awesome.com (since it was formerly an Addon Domain, there will be a subfolder within public_html that contains the files for that website) directly into public_html. In order to not mix up any files, you will want to perform these moves in the same order we’ve presented them: create the Addon Domain, move the filed from public_html into that folder, then move the contents from the subfolder for the former Addon Domain directly into public_html, thereby causing the files of the Primary Domain be exist directly within public_html while the files for the new Addon Domain are now located within the appropriate subfolder of public_html.
As you see this is a two-part process: change the Primary Domain logically from within the billing account, and then physically move the files of the website to (and/or from) the appropriate folder(s).
It sounds more complicated than it actually is, but keep in mind that there can be extenuating circumstances depending on the complexity or nature of the website in question. When in doubt, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for assistance. In cases where there are no website files to actually move though, this is an incredibly fast and straight-forward process.
If you have any questions about this process, please leave us a comment and we’ll be happy to clarify. Additionally, if you have any basic technical issues that you would like addressed as part of our “Snappy’s ProTips” series, please leave us a comment as well.