Outdated Google Analytics Tracking Code Could be Costing You Thousands

Do you run an ecommerce site? Do you use Google Analytics code on your pages? Does your site contain secure pages that start with https? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you’ll probably shudder in horror when you read this.

Tom Critchlow of Distilled – a search agency in the UK – has written a guest post for the Google Analytics blog that demonstrates how using outdated Google Analytics tracking code on your secure pages can be costing you THOUSANDS of dollars.

Tom explained how he noticed a glitch on the analytics report of his client’s ecommerce site that involved users of Internet Explorer 8. These users had a significantly lower conversion and revenue rate on the site, in comparison to users of other browsers and IE versions.

Turned out Tom’s client was using the old Urchin version of the Google Analytics tracking code on every page. The old code included a call to a non-secure .js file that triggers a security warning pop-up in the Internet Explorer 8 browser.

Browsers like Chrome and Firefox don’t display a security warning but Internet Explorer 8 produces the following warning when users transition from the non-secure (http) pages to secure (https) pages on a web site.

The error looks like this:

IE 8 warning

Not surprisingly, the error was causing almost all visitors browsing with Internet Explorer 8 to abandon the shopping cart process and this was costing Tom’s client an enormous amount of revenue, estimated to be in excess of USD 150K per month.

A 5 minute fix to the site saved Tom’s client an estimated 1 million dollars per year. What was the fix? Simple. Installing the new version of the Google Analytics tracking code.

The new Analytics tracking code is asynchronous, meaning that it can track a single domain, or more complex sites with multiple subdomains, database driven pages, php pages or just top level domains.

The new tracking snippet offers:

* Faster tracking code load times for your web pages due to improved browser execution
* Enhanced data collection and accuracy
* Elimination of tracking errors from dependencies when the JavaScript hasn’t fully loaded

If you are using older versions of the Analytics tracking code, Google recommends you login to your Analytics dashboard, download the new code and transition your pages over as soon as possible.

Now you have an added incentive to transition – if you run an ecommerce site, the new code might not just save you page load time but thousands of dollars too!

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Zen and the Art of Web Site Analytics

smiling-buddhaSite analytics have always freaked me out a little.

I mean, the sheer amount of data you are presented with about your web site can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for. Or even if you DO know what to look for.

That’s why I’m a big fan of Avinash Kaushik, the Analytics Evangelist for Google and author of the Occam’s Razor blog.

I have been avidly reading Avinash’s book Web Analytics: 2.0 for a couple of weeks now and I’m so impressed by Avinash’s writing style and the knack he has of simplifying concepts.

Take for example his definition of a Single Page Visit:

“I came. I puked. I left”

Exactly. If a visitor to your site doesn’t like or find what they’re looking for the first page they look at, it’s  highly likely they’ll simply take off. So you’d better look carefully at those pages with high bounce rates and work out what the heck is turning people away.

Avinash knows that webmasters and marketers often need to present a SWOT analysis or at least a summary of key site analytics to a range of stakeholders. He explains explicitly how to pull the crucial data out of your site analytics and present it in such a way that even the most non-tech of people can make sense of it.

I was reading his feature article in the latest Search Marketing Standard magazine yesterday and something in particular he said really stood out for me:

“Less is more. Focus on the critical few metrics rather than the insignificant many”

Often, we are so obsessed with understanding ALL the data presented by our analytics program that we forget to take a step back and think about WHY we are studying analytics in the first place. Avinash reminds us that we need to use our time wisely and look at just the few critical metrics that impact our business.

These will be different for everyone, depending on the goals of their web sites. For example, for my business, the key metrics are probably bounce rate, keywords, referrers and exit pages. As long as I review these four metrics regularly, I can be confident that I’m measuring the most important data that is influencing my online business. For a lead-generation based site, the critical metrics might be conversions, entry pages, page views and referrers.

So don’t be afraid of your analytics. Think about the main goals you’ve set for your web site, dive in to your analytics and pull out a few metrics that will help you understand why visitors are meeting/missing those goals. Then you can tweak the site based on what you’ve learned.

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