Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Google Analytics - Accurate Data?

Today I did a ton of research reviewing my Google Analytics account. It's connected through my Google AdWords account; just a tab away. Initially I had many "profiles" available to me. As the program became overwhelmingly popular, they've paired most users down to five. And that's okay.

Very recently, within the last two weeks, I re-coded all my pages to include some JavaScript that allows you in a crude way, to create goals in your Google Analytics account of visitors clicking on the ads, be they Google AdSense, or Yahoo Publisher Network. Am sure the code would work with other forms of contextual ads displayed by JavaScript as well.

So, right off the bat, I'm not too certain how accurate the data is I'm looking at. For instance, Google Analytics tells me that my AdWords campaigns are performing lower than organic searches for conversions to Yahoo Publisher Network ad clicks. I find that fascinating! MSN searches are bringing more qualified leads than Google AdWords ads on the Google network.

But before you go and dump Google, there are a few things you must consider.

First, what sort of AdWords ad are you running? And what kind of page is the click taking the visitor to? I've seen contextual ads running that simply capture the search term you type in Google and try to make you believe you've got a good match. In fact, as the advertisement rises in position, because of the mechanics of Google AdWords, it actually can become less relevant - much like organic search results, where sometimes the top result is not the most relevant choice.

Take great care in choosing your keyword for your AdWords ads. Make sure they are words people would actually use when searching for your content. The bottom line is to convert a visitor, but that won't happen if they are taken to a page that is not what they are looking for.

Camera Ad exampleIn this example, the search words I used were "camera reviews". is number one because they are paying more than anyone else, not because they are the best match. This is what happens when you try to go too broad.

Strange resultsWhat's even funnier is the next page; a common "please stand by" page, similar to the ones we're used to at the hotel and airline shopping sites. This one gave me a laugh because it incorporated my search words as if they were tangible.

And finally, the results page. Would you click on any of the links with a word like "reviews" in your search? Neither did I. I click the "back" button and went back to Google. I'm not ready to "shop" if I'm using the word "reviews". I'm researching. Don't be caught in this trap. Think about what your visitor is thinking. They need a solution to their problem. Is your page a solution? If so, there should be a match, and possibly a conversion.

Other factors in the disconnect between the AdWords ad and the conversion at your page may be the countries your ad is showing in. Some countries are real clickers! Some countries click the AdWords ads like crazy, but never convert. These you want to eliminate. You can do this in the AdWords interface under Edit Campaign Settings.

How do you find who is clicking what? Using Google Analytics. The whole process is explained by Shawn Hogan. Once in place, you can get pretty good data on who is converting to an ad click.

I am not totally convinced that the data from Google Analytics is 100% accurate, or even 95%. Plus, there are some features I'd love to see that aren't there. For instance, where do the visitors come from that choose "wine glasses" as a search term? Are they from the USA? I have yet to find a analytical program that compiles that data - although it is readily available.

Here is a typical entry from an Apache web server log file: - - [21/Dec/2005:20:32:30 -0500] "GET
/grenada/index.html HTTP/1.1" 200 23437 "" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)"

As you can see, the visitor is from Canada, (.ca), and their search at was "grenada". So, what is useful with this is that we can see where searches are coming from. It is possible people from Washington State don't care about Grenada, so if I get enough data, I could see that click from Washington State for Grenada don't convert. They were merely browsing. Not a whole lot of interest.

I leave you with the very basics: Write content of value - solve their problem. Make sure your ads lead to those solutions.

And don't make me click the "Back" button. Take care.

No comments: