Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Learning to Use Google Analytics, Part 2

by Dennis D. McDonald

In looking over the recent usage data for this site I decided again to look at individual page counts. Google Analytics offers several types, including “visits,” “page views,” average time spent on each page, percent of times visitors exited the site from this page (as opposed to going somewhere else in the site), and something called “$ Index” which refers to the accomplishment of a specific type of transaction.

I selected one week of data from Google Analytics; selecting a date range with start and end dates is very easy to do. Google then displayed a row of data for each page or image visited along with the above statistics. Google-supplied bar and pie charts are Flash-displayed; you may have to disable your ad- or Flash-blocker to see the data.

The report I examined was under the hierarchy ALL REPORTS/CONTENT OPTIMIZATION/CONTENT PERFORMANCE/TOP CONTENT,  which should give you an idea of the vast array of data and displays available here.

There are, it turns out, some issues with using these “raw data.” Chief is that the same page may appear on different rows in the source data and/or with slightly different name variations. For example, I changed one page’s name last week and, given that my site vendor auto-generates URL’s from page names, that page showed up multiple times in the rows of source data. Google Analytics didn’t know I wanted data from the two pages combined.

Some other pages on my site, though, also generate multiple rows of data and are treated as separate pages, and it is not immediately clear to me, without further research, why they are not being combined in the Google Analytics data.

Therefore, to combine data across records before analyzing, I exported the data to an external spreadsheet, cleaned it up, created categories. sorted the data, and summed across categories of pages. Below is one display I generated:



Note that the above is based on a count of “visits.” What is a “visit”?

The term “visits” is not defined explicitly in the Google Analytics Glossary. This is from the Glossary’s entry defining the term “session”:

IP-based Visitor Tracking: A Session is a series of hits from one visitor (as defined by the visitor’s IP address) wherein no two hits are separated by more than 30 minutes. If there is a gap of 30 minutes or more from this visitor, an additional Session is counted.

In addition, the Glossary say this about “Visitors Total”:

Visitors Total - Visitors is the number of Total Unique Visitors plus the number of Untrackable IP-based Visitors, which represents all individual visitors to your website over the course of a specified time period.

I glean from this that the count of “visits” is IP-based and is intended to reflect the number of individual visitors coming to a particular page or page category.  I also glean that a single “visit” may account for multiple “pageviews” which are tracked separately. (In fact, in ALL KIND FOOD the ratio of “pageviews” to “visits” is 2.21 to 1 for the time period under consideration which, translated, means that each visitor, on the average, looks at 2 or more pages.

And what pages do the visitors look at? Returning to the above pie chart, we see the following for the time period under consideration about half (51%) of visitors visited either one of the Managing Technology pages (26%) or the site’s front page, which is called Recent Postings (25%).

There are three types of pages included in the counts for Managing Technology:
  1. The Managing Technology front page displays linked summaries of articles, a link to the “About Me” page, and a link to the Managing Technology RSS feed.) This same structural model is followed for three other sections: Living With Technology, Reading Matters, and Movie Matters.
  2. The Managing Technology Index page provides a list of article categories (or tags) as well as a list of linked article titles.
  3. The individual Managing Technology articles. One article in particular provided a substantial portion of the week’s hits, Business and I.T. Must Work Together to Manage New “Web 2.0” Tools.

Recent Postings, the site’s “front page,” is a single page. It is the site’s master page and links to all sections within the site, not just Managing Technology. This page is reached through several variations of the referring link and at least three separate Google Analytics raw data rows account for hits on this page. I had to collapse data for these manually into a single entry for this analysis. As I study Google Analytics more I’ll see if this collapsing of data can be accomplished automatically.

As with many web sites, visitors can link to this Recent Postings “front page” or they can link directly to  an individual page within the site. Google Analytics provides a significant level of information about entry and exist points that I intend to discuss in future articles in this series. I’ll also be looking at the different feed-related data since each of the four main sections in my site (Managing Technology, Living With Technology, Reading Matters, and Movie Matters) can be subscribed to separately.

So far, I’m pleased that such a significant portion of visitors are coming to the Managing Technology pages; this reflects my professional and consulting interests, and this is where I put the bulk of my thought and time.

Still, I am surprised at the large proportion — 12% — of visitors that come to the Movie Matters review pages. As with Managing Technology, there are three types of pages in this category — the Movie Matters front page, the Movie Matters index, and the movie reviews themselves. A separate Movie Matters RSS feed can be subscribed to. Again I notice when looking at the data describing the source of referrals that subscriber feeds and search engine queries are the primary sources of links to the movie reviews, whereas search engine queries play a significantly less important role in generating traffic to the Managing Technology pages. I’ll be looking at this difference in sources in more detail in future articles in this series.


Entries in this series:


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