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Thread: Google Analytics Cool Side Effect

  1. #1
    WebProWorld MVP brian.mark's Avatar
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    Google Analytics Cool Side Effect

    I noticed the other day that by looking at all my environment variables when surfing our website, I have some interesting cookies that get set by Google Analytics.

    First off, they set a long cookie. It contains codes that mean nothing to me. But then you get to the good stuff. It includes referring source, if it was a referral, organic search or ppc, and also what the keywords used were. It all has to do with their goal tracking, but here's the real win.

    By simply recording the entire cookie with each order, I can come back later and do analysis. If I see an order that is big or an unusual product, I can look at it closer and see where they came from and what the keywords were. I have also written a quick report that shows me all the keywords that converted to sales, broken down by engine with dollar amounts and number of orders. I've noticed a few that need some help on one engine or another pretty easily this way.

    The real problem with any analytics package is getting the data you want out. If you can simply use someone else's technology to locate the data you should be saving, you can write your own analysis tools pretty easily. It appears that Google Analytics has done just that for us, getting some of the good stuff in an easy to access format.

    All I can say is "Thanks, Google."
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  2. #2
    Senior Member ron angel's Avatar
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    Google Analytics

    only one thing I do not like about Google Analytics is that you have to put a small piece of code on every html page.
    This is a lot of work for a big site. there are many
    free counter & analysing programs of this type.
    A server based program such as traffic facts would be much easier to use & need no adjustment for each page added or removed, although this would need tecnical knowledge to add to server making more difficult to implement.
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  3. #3
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    Google Analytics Getting Better

    I think Google Analytics has recently got better. Prior to this, I used to think DeepMetrix (now MSN's) was the best, but I now have doubts that Google's Urchin has re-set the standards in analytics. It does almost everything for you, comprehensively.

    Ron Angel, I believe that if you adopt a footer in an includes and propagate that throughout your website pages, you would just need to add the javascript code in only ONE place, and that's it!

    I recently implemented this for a client, PressEdge, just look at the source code of any of it's pages, and you will see it there, but it was done in just one file, and it's an ecommerce solution.

    Otherwise, I'm afraid you would need to add the code to each of the page you want to collate analytics for, that goes with any analytics code. I wish you the best :).
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  4. #4

    Google Analytics Cool Side Effect

    Nice tip......You have piqued my interest. Do you have more on the "how to" of the analytical processing you are doing?
    dr
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  5. #5
    WebProWorld MVP brian.mark's Avatar
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    More...

    Well, since I code mostly in Perl, I used the $ENV{'HTTP_COOKIES'} variable, which is similarly named in PHP or ASP. This is the value currently on my PC:

    HTTP_COOKIE __utmz=##########.###########.##.##.utmccn=(organi c)|utmcsr=yahoo|utmctr=skil+parts|utmcmd=organic; __utma=#########.#######.##########.##########.### #######.##;

    I replaced all the meaningless digits with #'s, as they can be used to trace back some other stuff about the session I've discovered.

    Basically, the data you've got here is in two cookies. __utmz has most of the data, while __utma has more session identifying info.

    Within __utmz, there are other subsets to the data.
    utmccn=(organic) tells us that I was a referral from an organic result.
    utmcsr=yahoo tells the engine that I searched on to find the site.
    utmctr=skil+parts tells me the keywords I used to find the site.
    utmcmd=organic says organic again, but I'm not sure what the difference is yet between this and utmccn. I'm still working that out.

    By taking the entire cookie, breaking it at the | symbols (split works well in Perl, very similar commands are available in other languages), I can get the data I want out of it pretty easily. A couple lines of code put all the values into variables that I could then call upon to get the values I really want and store them in fields in our database along with the other order information.

    I will also point out that if you search again, then hit the site from the new search, the old search is forgotten about and the new one takes credit for the visit. That's how most analytics programs seem to work.

    g7submit, you're right on. Using includes is the way to go. The only exception would be if you're doing full commerce tracking and want to associate e-commerce values back to the keywords (a bit more work is required then, but the include still handles much of it), but with this cookie you don't need to send any of that back to Google and wonder what they'll do with it. Sort of takes some of the "Big Brother" powers away from them. I'd also add that the commerce tracking hasn't ever worked real well for us, so this is a nice work-around.

    We still use plenty of other analytics packages along with Google Analytics, but this cookie has made GA the most useful tool in our arsenal at the moment. I can't wait to use my other accounts and set up more sites now.

    Brian.
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  6. #6
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    This is probably the most beneficial thread I've read so far this month, thanks allot Brian for the tip, I will surly implement this on my websites.
    Saves the money from using other expensive programs out there.
    Sohaib Thiab
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  7. #7
    Senior Member timmathews.com's Avatar
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    Veri informative, we really appreciate you breaking it down as you did.
    Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel...
    ;)
    So, here's the signature... Sans bold...

  8. #8
    note how you can create goals for dynamic pages. i found this important information was hidden in the help section.


    http://www.google.com/support/analyt...y?answer=26918
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  9. #9
    WebProWorld MVP brian.mark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cvos
    note how you can create goals for dynamic pages. i found this important information was hidden in the help section.


    http://www.google.com/support/analyt...y?answer=26918
    Sure... you can create them, just don't expect it to track them accurately if you've got more than a few users reach that goal daily. They've never reported more than about 40 for us in any given day, which means well over 90% of our goal conversions are being missed. Not overly useful if you ask me.

    Hopefully they can get it better, but until then we've got the data stored from the cookie they're making on our behalf. :-D

    Brian.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Google Analytics

    Quote Originally Posted by ron angel
    only one thing I do not like about Google Analytics is that you have to put a small piece of code on every html page.
    This is a lot of work for a big site.
    I usually avoid static html-pages for this reason amongst others. If you want to face-lift it, you have tons of pages to change.

    On the other hand, using any open-source CMS you usually only change a single template and are done. I only had to change "theme.tpl" in my case and had the changes all over my site Kiesler phpWebSite Consulting.

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