Omniture & New Google Referrer String: Position Report, New Patch

The past couple of weeks have seen some announcements from Omniture Industry Insights blog that are of interest and importance to SiteCatalyst users.  These items relate to the new referrer string that Google is rolling out, which carries richer information about the search conducted.  The announcement back in April on the Google Analytics Blog of the upcoming change showed the following example of the new referrer string:

Google-referrer

Two things to note:

1. Introduction of a new parameter, ‘cd=7‘, in this case identifying that the site was in the 7th position on the page for the search term ‘flowers’.

2. Due to the extra detail in the query string, the ‘q=flowers’ that identifies the search term appears much later in the referrer string than in the past.

Correspondingly, there are 2 implications for SiteCatalyst:

1. On May 8, Jordan LeBaron explained how users can take advantage of SiteCatalyst’s new ability to track organic keyword rankings in Google for your site.  He provides a screenshot of the report, although this is an early iteration and Omniture is “actively testing new advanced solutions to make this data more actionable…”  There is no extra cost for this reporting, but you will need to talk to your account manager to get it set up.

2. On a separate but related topic, Ben Gaines blogged on May 15 about a patch that Omniture is recommending SiteCatalyst users apply to their Javascript code file in order to avoid potential loss of the search query term caused by the new Google referrer string.  Due to the length of the new referrer string, sites with long URLs may find that the query term in the referrer string ends up past SiteCatalyst’s 255 character limit, thus preventing SiteCatalyst from identifying the search term that visitor has used.  Result: search term won’t show up in the Search Terms – Natural report under Traffic Sources.  The patch ensures that the search term is captured from the query string.  There are a few steps involved, but Ben provides what looks like thorough instructions.

As Ben points out, there is no need for SiteCatalyst users to panic, as this new referrer string is being introduced gradually by Google (currently being used on an estimated 10% of searches) and in any case most sites shouldn’t have a problem even without the patch.  Also, sites that employ a version of the SiteCatalyst code that is H.20.2 or later won’t need the patch, as this functionality to deal with the new Google referrer is built in.  Good excuse to upgrade your SiteCatalyst code!

New Google AdWords Interface: Countdown is On

Not quite ready to switch over completely to the new Google AdWords interface? Better get ready, because Google is advising advertisers that in 30 days (give or take) the old interface will be gone for good.

Google has been rolling out the new user interface for AdWords over the past 6-8 months, offering advertisers the opportunity to switch back and forth between the traditional interface and the beta version of the new interface.  The new interface has some attractive features and makes it much easier to move around from campaign to campaign, ad group to ad group, for example.  Some users prefer it to the traditional interface, some not so much. But whatever your preference, the old interface is on it’s way out.  Google is sending out emails to account holders advising them of the upcoming upgrade but stating that “you’ll have at least 30 days from the date of this email before you’ll be required to use the new interface.”

Old AdWords Interface

Old AdWords Interface

New AdWords Interface

New AdWords Interface

Google has also provided some helpful resources to assist users in making the switch, these suggestions mentioned in the email:

* Review the new interface microsite to get a quick overview of the changes and watch videos demonstrating the improvements: http://www.google.com/adwords/newinterface/

* Our “Getting Started Guide” will give you an overview of major new features and their benefits. You can download a PDF at: http://www.google.com/adwords/newinterface/new_interface_guide.pdf

* Wondering how to complete common AdWords tasks in the new interface? Visit our “How to” guide at: http://www.google.com/adwords/newinterface/standard/ads-and-keywords.html

* Search a full set of frequently asked questions in the Help Center for the new interface: https://adwords.google.com/support/aw/

Despite some dissatisfaction, on balance this can be seen as an improvement that enables advertisers to more easily manage campaigns.  If you have any particular complaints or tips to offer, please let us know!

Omniture to Report on Organic Search Rankings

Omniture announced last week that SiteCatalyst will soon include the capability to ‘segment reports by organic keyword rankings‘.  (Omniture Supports Expanded Google URL Format from May 6, 2009).  This is big news, as it is the first major analytics program that I know of that will be able report on keyword ranking in SERPs.  The ability to see what position your site is in for different keywords has obvious benefits in terms of measuring search engine optimization efforts, although I know some SEOs who would argue that it’s the volume of quality traffic from keywords, and not rankings, that really counts.  Still, positioning naturally has an effect on click-through rate and people are curious to know where they stand, so this will no doubt be a popular feature.  Hard to know at this stage exactly what form the reports will take: will it be an ‘average position’ metric that is reported alongside other metrics in organic keyword reports?  Also, there was no mention of the timeline for roll-out of this feature, although it will be available to all SiteCatalyst users.

The announcement did mention that this capability is being made possible through an arrangement with Google and that ‘when consumers perform an organic search on Google and click on a result, rank and keyword data is now being passed to Omniture SiteCatalyst‘.  Omniture CTO Brett Error is quoted as saying, “Omniture is taking advantage of Google’s ability to capture and share organic search rankings…”

This all seems to point to the upcoming change in Google referrer strings from the SERPs, as mentioned back in April by Brett Crosby on The Official Google Analytics Blog. Based on that article and some of the comments that followed, it looks like the new Google search referrer string will contain a ‘cd=’ parameter that identifies the position on the search page of the link that the visitor is clicking.

So all this makes me wonder: will Google also be incorporating keyword rankings in Google Analytics?

Making Notes in Google Analytics

Last month I was lucky enough to attend a very full day of  Google Analytics training led by the well-known GA expert Justin Cutroni.  One of the many awesome tips Justin offered to us was the GA notes Firefox extension developed by EpikOne, where he works.  This little plug-in greatly enhances Google Analytics by allowing users to take notes and keep an on-going record of events (whether online or offline) that may impact on web stats, right inside the GA interface.  This ability to keep track of information that can help make sense of the numbers and tie them to real-world events is often lacking or sub-par in analytics programs.

To help solve this problem, the EpikOne plug-in is free and easy to install, and the notes can be shown or hidden at the click of a button.  All you need is Firefox and Justin”s instructions on adding business data to Google Analytics.  What you get is the ability to do this:

ganotes21

Another way to get actionable business intelligence from your web analytics.  For more great advice on maximizing Google Analytics, check out Justin”s Analytics Talk blog.

Checking Your Website Under Different Viewing Conditions

Does your website look like what you think it looks like?  Do visitors with different browsers or screen resolutions see something different than you, such as larger/smaller text, forms shifted into awkward locations, etc?  We encountered a couple of these situations with several recent projects where newly designed landed pages looked very different on my colleague’s monitor compared to mine.  Usually CSS is at the root of these issues and the problem can be fixed once pin-pointed.  The first step is to use your analytics program to identify browsers, screen resolutions, and operating systems that your visitors are using:

Screen resolution data in Google Analytics

Screen resolution data in Google Analytics

Depending on what you find, you may want to delve further to see what you web pages look like under different browsing conditions.  Here are some resources for that:

Screen resolutions:

Browsers:

  • BrowserShots – enter your URL and then screenshots of your page in different browsers will be uploaded for viewing. Takes some time but it’s free (although you can pay to get bumped up in priority).  Oops…I just found out one of my sites apparently doesn’t work in Opera!
  • CrossBrowserTesting.com – select a browser and operating system and then launch any site you want from within that configuration. You can get 5 min free per session, but you have to register (3 fields).

Designm.ag has an article on helpful resources for cross-browser testing and that offers a number of other options, and Long Zheng has a blog article announcing that Microsoft’s Expression Web (the replacement for FrontPage) has a feature called ‘SuperPreview’ that makes cross-browser testing easy.

So a variety of ways to avoid diminished usability due to unexpected renderings of your web pages. And better usability shows up in your analytics reports.

[As promised above, here are screenshots from BrowserShots.org:]

Results of BrowserShots

Results of BrowserShots

BrowserShots closeup: SeaMonkey / Fedora

BrowserShots closeup: SeaMonkey / Fedora

(The page is a little of whack but not bad when viewed with SeaMonkey 1.1.9 browser and Fedora 7 OS.  Imagine my relief!) 😉