A little more than a month ago, I wrote a post titled, “Top Resources For Google Analytics Training” in which I referenced some resources that I thought were quality training documents and offered the level of detail that was necessary to use Google Analytics effectively. One of the resources that I mentioned was a book titled “Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics” by Brian Clifton. Well in less than 8 hours I received an e-mail in my inbox from Brian regarding my post and that he was publishing a new edition of his book that was due to be released in March of 2010 that was almost a total rewrite of the first edition due to how much has changed in the industry in less than two years. This response from Brian Clifton in such a short period of time makes it clear that he is using Google Alerts or some other form reputation management software to manage his online reputation and he is taking it very seriously. Impressive!
I was given a preview of the intro, Chapter 1, and Chapter 10 of the book and very solid information. Depending on your level of understanding of Google Analytics or any other analytics software, then Chapter 1 will be a refresher on many topics you already know, but a good refresher because often when are so close to topics on a daily basis, some of th basic fundamentals can be taken for granted. The first chapter focuses on why web metrics are important and the reports that are available in Google Analytics. This chapter also highlighted some of the limitations in Google Analytics reporting which has always been a problem for me. Several times throughout the chapter, Brian demonstrates calculations that are valuable to assessing your traffic, but the calculation must be done in Excel because it is not available in GA. That has been my gripe is that most of the reports require some manipulation in Excel in order to format and calculate the data in a way that is most meaningful for your organization. Obviously, Google can not create a custom dashboard with custom metrics for every user and the custom reports that were made available last year have helped a lot, there are still some calculations that would be really valuable in GA that are currently not available. Brian walks you through which calculations may be important and how to perform them.
Brian also sets the tone for preparing different metrics for different levels of your organization as the webmaster should not be concerned with the same metrics as the CEO and vice versa. To get buy-in on investments in your web properties, it is necessary to speak to each level of the organization with the level of detail that will interest them and allow them to make solid, data-driven business decisions. When ideas are supported with verifiable data, then it is much easier to make decisions because results are quantifiable. The value in all analytics is the ability to measure behavior and adjust accordingly and arguably most importantly is the ability to communicate those successes throughout your organization.
Chapter 10 was the other chapter I was provided and it was very helpful for me as it focused on a few aspects that I believe are the keys to valuable analytics information which are visitor segmentation, goal setting, and then the actions that you take based on the data that you have. Not to go into crazy detail because I would not do the book justice and Brian has covered this topic in great detail, but the overall theme is that every visitor is not created equal. Measuring visitors in buckets based on how they arrived at your site, how frequently they visit, and the actions they performed on your site will provide valuable insight into what is working properly on your site from a user experience perspective and what needs to be improved. Segmentation also helps to focus resources so that the most time and money are directed at the segments that offer the most ROI. Brian details how to measure this using goals and key performance indicators(KPI’s). Building on the theme from the first chapter, which I am sure continues throughout the other chapters, is using the data and KPI’s for different parts of your organization which is no easy task. The organizations that can communicate this effectively and gain support from all of the stakeholders in a organization typically make changes and the proper investment in their web properties to be most successful. Those that simply measure all visitors the same, never dive much deeper than pageviews and visitor counts, and refuse to set goals and values on actions that are completed stagnate their growth and lose valuable business from the website every day.
Needless to say, I appreciate Brian Clifton giving me the opportunity to preview his book an I look forward to it’s release in the coming weeks, but don’t buy this book until March 2010 when the new version is released. Brian Clifton is an ex-Google employee that worked closely with Google Analytics during his stint at Google and that experience coupled with his passion for web analytics has helped him produce another great book. For anyone truly interested in how to use Google Analytics effectively and go further under the hood than just viewing the dashboard, I would definitely recommend this book. I would also recommend Brian’s blog , Advanced Web Metrics, be added to you reader for good information as well.