D is for Direct traffic

D is for Direct traffic. While there are other Ds, like Device or Dashboard, I’ve gone with Direct since it’s so often overlooked or misunderstood.

The stock answer to the question ‘what is Direct traffic’ is that it’s simply visits from people who typed your website into a browser, or went to your site from a browser bookmark. Well, possibly, but not necessarily.

Direct Traffic is any traffic that Google can’t categorise. Google determines traffic source from the Referrer value in the headers exchanged between a browser and a website. If the Referrer is a recognized search engine, Analytics classifies the traffic as Organic; if it’s from a known social source it’ll classify it as Social traffic; if the URL has campaign parameters, Google will use the parameters to override the above. Otherwise it’s a referral. But if it’s none of the above (or if there are no headers), it’s Direct. This is the simplified version, but it points to the essential nature of Direct – it’s simply what Analytics hasn’t been able to classify.

There will be times when Direct peaks dramatically – just after a TV or radio ad, or an offline mention of your business that drives website traffic. That’s great, but like any analytics fiend I’d want to dig deeper and look at how that bonus traffic moved through the website, and take lessons away from this free exposure.

My main point about Direct traffic is that you do need to investigate it. What are the top Landing Pages? Is it New or Returning visits? If it is traffic from people who know you, and have bookmarked you, you would expect the traffic to be Returning visits and the Bounce Rate to be lower than average. And quite often they’re not.

Looking at Direct traffic for this hotel, we see substantial, engaged traffic to the reservations page, entirely what we’d expect. But more direct traffic lands on the home page, a lot of it New users, with an above average BR. Red flags are waving!

Make a shift in your thinking about Direct traffic – it’s probably come from many, many more places than bookmarks or typed-in URLs. It could be from a clicked link in Skype, Messenger, or WhatsApp. Could be from a link in a mobile app or a PDF. And traffic from a secure site to a non-SSL site will definitely appear as Direct traffic.

So take charge; aim to reduce unknown Direct traffic. You can start by tagging any links that you do have control over. For example, where possible add utm parameters to links to force the Source and Medium.

Like anything in Analytics, face value doesn’t cut it. Take control when you can, and drill down constantly, so you can better understand the data that’ll move your business forward.

To get these A-to-Zs in bite-size form, follow me @AnalyticsAtoZ on Twitter. Or sign-up to get notified when a new one is out or when my forthcoming ‘A-to-Z of Google Analytics’ book is published.

C is for Conversion

While Channel or Custom Dimension might be valid candidates, C has got to be for Conversions – the lifeblood of any business.

A conversion is a key action that’s valuable to your business, like an email sign-up or enquiry form submission or better still, a purchase. If you’ve set up e-commerce tracking, you’ll be able to see conversion data on sales; otherwise, they’ll be based on an action (goal) you define. And if you don’t have conversions defined, how will you know the effectiveness of your ad campaigns or marketing channel/spend?

Google makes a distinction between micro and macro conversions, micros being an activity which tend to move a visitor to a macro conversion like a sale. But for the small business, micro are macro.

So what do you do with your juicy Conversion data? Segment it. Let it answer questions like ‘which channel led to the most enquiries or sales?’ or ‘Did mobile devices convert at a better rate than desktop?’

Tips: Loose the woolly conversion goals like ‘spends 5 minutes or more on the site’. Big deal, maybe they fell asleep. Focus on the actions that’ll move your business forward.

And check your conversions after a site migration or redesign – it’s easy to forget URL-based conversions can get broken.

If it’s an oversight to have the wrong goals, or even none at all, it is a criminal offense (punishable by a spell in HMP Styal-sheet) to have none showing in your Adwords. If you need help, I’ve written a step-by step guide to connecting Analytics with Adwords.

Finally, if you want to set the office alight with a rousing sound when an analytics goal is fired, check this blog post!

To get these A-to-Zs in bite-size form, follow me @AnalyticsAtoZ on Twitter. Or sign-up to get notified when a new one is out or when my forthcoming ‘A-to-Z of Google Analytics’ book is published.

Converting the Preached: Adwords, Analytics & Conversions

You know the value of tracking conversions – they’re the lifeblood of your business. And frankly, if you’re seeing big fat zeros in your Conversions column in your Analytics or Adwords, you’re effectively clueless as to the effectiveness of your marketing.

And yet, I’ve seen so many clients who haven’t been tracking conversions. In a way that’s understandable: when you sit down to implement, it’s not so easy: so many elements (like accounts)  need connecting.

If you start tracking conversions in Adwords, you’ll be given a block of code that you’ll need to put in a page, or on a button. If you need to edit your ‘thank you’ page and insert the code., it’s not simple if your site is WordPress – there are plugins, but the one I saw didn’t let you specify which page the conversion code went in. So maybe you’ll have to create a template just for the thanks page and put it there… While it can be simple, depending to your site architecture,  it often isn’t.

There is an alternative way, and that’s to connect and import goals from Google Analytics. True, Adwords code-driven conversions have a laser focus, but I’d argue that Analytics must be the starting point for your data-driven marketing decisions. Understanding your website traffic is the building block for business success.

So, and if you haven’t already, begin by deciding on and setting-up your primary goal in Analytics. Keep it focused on actions critical to the business rather than a woolly goal like ‘spends more than 5 mines on the site’- here we’ve set up a post-form-submission thanks page as a goal:

Then in Adwords, link your Analytics to your Adwords, and import your Goals.

In Settings–> Linked Accounts, select Google Analytics then click the ‘Set-up link’ button. you ought to Enable Google Optimize while you’re at it – you do plan to do some A/b testing on the new site, don’t you?







Next, specify the Property view you want to focus on:

Select which View you want to connect with; do you have multiple views don’t you, to filter out in-house clicks etc.

While you’re there, link Google Search Console with Adwords so you can see organic search data and compare with paid performance.

Finally, don’t forget to Import the Goals:

Congratulations, you’ve set up conversion tracking in Adwords based on Analytics and taken a big step to quantifying and understanding your business.


Sometimes, it really is simple

After migrating my site to a new hosting service, I was getting a perplexing error, namely:

“Warning: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, no array or string given… in class-wp-hook.php”

Searching, there were lots of discussion about hooks and functions and arrays, but nothing definite.

At the same time, I also noticed that my ‘glyphs’ or symbols were messed up – for example, > was showing as 5, the search icon showed as a U.

Clearly, it was all related to the migration. Was I missing some files?

A good starting point when looking for WordPress problems is the browser Console – I used the Inspect tool in Chrome to view the console, and immediately saw what could have been the issue – certainly, the Glyphs weren’t showing because there was a cross-domain font issue: I had transgressed the “Cross-Origin Resource Sharing policy”!

In other words, I had a typo in my WordPress domain name. A fat-fingered extra full-stop in my domain name had caused both the font issue and the WordPress error…

B is for Bounce Rate

B is for Bounce Rate, one of the key indicators of your site’s engagement. A bounce is a single page, non-interaction visit. In other words, it measures visitors that comes to your site without seemingly doing anything.

But how little did they read? How much did they scroll? How much of the page video did they watch? How long did they stay? All we really know from a Bounce is that they didn’t click on to another page, or otherwise ‘interact’. They might have been happy with what they saw; they might have avidly digested the whole 2000-word article, or watched the entire 20 minute video. Or maybe they called the phone number they were looking for. In other words, unless you can measure other aspects of single-page engagement, you’re not getting the whole picture.

So capture any interaction. Track video views, phone number click-to-call clicks, even page scrolls, as Events. An event is an interaction, and once an event is fired, the visit is no longer a bounce. It’s still only a single page visit, but you’ve got far more insight into the user’s behaviour. And of course, entice them interact with a clear Call-To-Action (that is of course tracked as an Event).

And yet, at the highest level, Bounce Rate should be take with a grain of salt. It’s when you Segment it that you get far better and actionable insights. To get meaningful insights into Bounce Rate, drill-down to something more specific. For example, look at the Bounce Rate for Mobile vs Desktop traffic; it’s always going to be different, that’s the nature of the beast, but if there’s a massive difference, make it a priority to do something about it. Likewise, if your PPC traffic has a ridiculous BR, examine page relevancy and Quality Score.

Equally, if your site Bounce Rate is low (and we’re talking about <10%) the chances are you’ve got a Analytics code mis-configuration problem. I’m shocked at the number of WordPress sites I’ve seen with multiple Analytics code blocks. This deflates BR, so if you see single-digit BR you’ve either got the most sticky site there is (well done!) or something is wrong.

And don’t forget, we know Bounce Rate is an SEO ranking factor so a focus on reducing it will help both your audience and your rankings!

In this example, there’s one page that stands out with a massive Bounce Rate. This page is losing nearly 90% of those who land on it (good job it’s low traffic). Looking at the page, all the links are off site. Think about how you could better retain this traffic, with more in-site links and CTAs.

To get these A-to-Zs in bite-size form, follow me @AnalyticsAtoZ on Twitter. Or sign-up to get notified when a new one is out or when my forthcoming ‘A-to-Z of Google Analytics’ book is published.