Using the new Google Eventing for SEO Reporting

I'm a huge fan of metrics about activities within a page like scroll depth or form abandonment analyses. Google Analytic's new eventing facilities (almost out of beta it seems!) enable this kinds of data logging and reporting.

Intro to GA Eventing

You get 4 slots of data to log to:
  • Action
  • Category
  • Label
  • Value

The official eventing docs describe an example for a Video action with categories for play/pause/stop and labels of the video name.

Ranking Insights

I've developed a script that enables ranking information to be logged to GA events. I pull the page offset (e.g. the start parameter) from the Google search referral string.

The reporting options are somewhat limited for events -- you can't pivot any report outside of the Event section by this data as of yet. It took a couple iterations to get the logging design to a useful point.

Rankings by Page

Using the Label report, we can see event data by Page with average rank (labeled "average value" in the data grid). The usage tab on this report will let you assess engagement by bounce rate and page views.

If you're logging multiple categories of events, you'll want to drill down to labels through the Google SEO category.

Rankings by Keyword

Using the drop down pivot to select keyword will get your average ranking per keyword, across all page.

Uh, Google...

Why did I have to write code to get this data? Hard to say, webmaster tools gives you some data on ranking position. This, along with accurate reporting of image search referrals should be built into google analytics.

A Word from Our Sponsor

This script is brought to you, in full open source fashion, by StomperNet LLC. The latest offering from StomperNet is Formula 5 -- a training program designed to help you amplify your business success. The program works with multiplicative effects, beyond those demonstrated in my conversion funnel modeler to encompass your entire business. Check it out now.

Get the Script

The script is a dozen or so lines of designed to be placed after your call to GA's pageTracker function. You do have to be running the new ga.js scripts, not the legacy urchin.js.

Copy the SEOposition file to your server and add the following line beneath your call to pageTracker:
<script src="seoposition.js" type="text/javascript" language="javascript"></script>

The script is seoPosition.js and is released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL). The MPL is a friendly open source license allowing any type of use but requiring that enhancemnts to the existing file be contributed back to open source. This work was inspired by a filter hack from -- I didn't want to go through that trouble on every site. Thanks to DaveL @ for calling my attention to this.

Hands on with Google Analytics Motion Charts

I was very excited earlier this week to discover I had access to the new Google Analytics beta features. Custom reports are certainly a useful tool; they allow you to construct both large scale exploratory views as well as concise views in which the viewer doesn't have to ask "which metrics should I look at?"

The big payoff is in the new Motion Chart visualizations which attempts to capture 5 dimensions through the mapping of attributes to x, y, size, color animated over time.

While you could check out the official videos, here's a look at my recent foray into creating an iPhone (web) application.

Pictured are referrals from the Apple web application directory, where iBlipper landed Sept. 10th. On the x-axis are unique searches, or phrases typed into the iBlipper application. The y-axis is a correlated metric, time on site, and size is mapped to % new users.

We can watch as page 1-5 deliver less and less traffic as the app drops off the category independent list and falls down the entertainment app list in the default recency ordering.

Pay close attention to the axis values -- there are some subtle interpretations available from mixing engagement, volume, and loyalty (% new visits in this case).

For instance, iBlipper briefly landed on the top 10 entertainment apps list, url of /webapps/entertainment/index_top.html. These users seemed to spend more time on the site w/o entering their own search phrases, suggesting a less directed choice in visiting iBlipper and more passive usage of the application. This is shown by the green dot highlighted to the right higher in time on site than average for the unique searches compared to most other referral paths.

I'll leave you with some power user tricks for using motion charts:

  • Filters applied in a report view control the data shown in the visualization. In the video case, I've filtered by referrals including '/webapp', a unique signature for the Apple directory
  • There's a subtle option on the x & y axis to code by lin(ear) or log(arithmic). Adjusting both axes to logarithmic can greatly inform on the underlying mechanisms.

The Net Effect: Eyes That Buy

At StomperNet, where I serve as staff and faculty, we're giving away Stomping the Search Engines 2, a rewrite of the original empire launching STSE from Brad Fallon and Andy Jenkins.

Shown at right is Page 2 of Eyes That Buy from The Net EffectVolume 1, Issue 1

Check out the video for some of StomperNet's success stories -- it's amazing. These guys launched their internet business training program after creating successful online e-commerce sites, and have become a juggernaut of internet business success -- see the StomperNet Universe of freely available content.

So you can get an 8 hour DVD course if you take us up on the ask to you try a subscription to our new print publication, "The Net Effect" (and pay shipping & handling).

Here's a snapshot of a moment from the video where my article in the first issue of the Net Effect is featured:

The first page is full of an explanation of how humans interact through vision with web pages, while page 2 focuses on take-aways. You see 3 of about 7 tips here.

  1. Use color smartly. A single item varying in color is processed by hardware early in the processing flow, or pre-attentively, and creates visual popout, drawing the eye.
  2. Chunk with implied boundaries: Forget horizontal rule (HR) tags, they're useless to the peripheral vision. Use implied borders and Gestalt principles visual completion.
  3. Break the Grid: Symmetry is pleasing to humans, and a well balanced page communicates ease of use to the user, but you can break this symmetry very strategically to call attention to a location.

So, you can get the first issue and a full course on SEO from some of the best over on this salesletter. (Yes, somehow the sales letter genre manages to break many of the rules of web design, but it is chunked!)

Product Video Boosts Conversion Dramatically at

Internet Retailer is running a story based upon a case study from our video hosting & creation vendor SilverDock.

This result is actually several months old and was included in Marketing "Sherpa's 2008 Wisdom Report":

We tested product videos on our top 10 revenue generating products. After several rounds of iteration improving the load experience, we settled on a 3 level test: no video, autoplay, and click to play.

Both video conditions resulted in conversion gains, but the click to play was dramatically superior. In addition to a 35% increase in conversion for the products with videos, the transaction funnel became much straighter. In other words, users who chose to click to play a video and then added it to cart were much more likely to complete the checkout.

Wedding related shopping is kind of a bellwether for purchasing processes that have to be perfect and are conducted socially. Product videos enhanced the sales of our best product spectacularly, reducing the chance of erroneous add to carts and increasing buyer motivation.

Time to go put some video on your site!

UI Anti-Pattern: Non-Clickable Borders

Summer time is here and blogging time is at a minimum. The arrival of grand theft auto 4 at my house hasn't helped.

There's a cybercafe in the game and a mockup computer interface. It suffers from extreme usability issues. Here's an anti-pattern: The non-clickable border...

This is especially common in pagination hyperlinks, where a box is often implied but may not be hot. You want to make sure that the area surrounding the text in your buttons or pagination is also clickable.

Term Frequency, Inverse Document Frequency (TFIDF): Exploring is a impressive little web hack with a nice global and enthusiast artisan. The application attempts to identify the rarest words on the page.

Why would you care? First, understanding where you veer from the mainstream is quite interesting. It's a great way to find mis-spellings, people's names, and other less pedestrian rareties.

An Aside: Language is thought to be infinitely generative. Perhaps ever human utters a huge number of completely unique statements, ignoring person and location names to give the computation a fighting chance. Hard to say... likely a typical long tail situation, maybe with a little more tail.
Secondly, word usage scarcity is a rich source of information in a language which overpopulates words with different meanings and requires surrounding sequences to constrain meaning. Information retrieval (IR) mechanisms have a hard time really capitalizing on word sequence and co-occurence proximity at full web scale, if anywhere. Statistical word counts tend to win out in evaluation.

The buzzword in IR is TFIDF, or term frequency inverse document frequency. This is a method for giving more importance to the less common words in a document that match the query. Mid-range frequency words get discounted, but they're likely key terms, if the page is truly relevant, and often repeated.

Rarest Words at AlwaysBeTesting

Moving beyond term frequencies gets you to n-grams and the requirement to recognize frequencies of multi-word segments. Here, basic part of speech tagging and related tech can really help reduce the problem set -- or you can go the hard way and simply embody part of speech tagging by crunching huge quantities of a language's text. Google has published a database of n-grams, 1,024,908,267,229 of them in fact spanning 13,588,391 unique words with frequencies over 200. They don't report how big of a web crawl generated this database.

In fact, TFIDF is hard to do at scale, per long time hacker buddy Vi.c. At play dataset size, it's grad school work -- given a really sharp Prof.

Think about "jade apple tree". Jade is going to be truly rare. If you do n-grams, you can detect that "apple tree" is a common two word pattern and give credit for the co-occurrences' infrequency. I'll return to the impact of the degree of common use of a word in search at the end.

The tool exposes your most unique word uses and your uses of very common words that don't quite approach the stop word list level.

TechCrunch brought the rarest to my attention. I ran it on my analytics & e-commerce focused blog, It returned an interesting set of related blog suggestions based upon rarest words. The author is quite humble on the feature, but it's an interesting hack!

Some of the other suggestions were a bit more offkilter. Perhaps due to a bit of a word fetish, I turned up a few oddball matches. Rare words on my site include deliberative, sxsw, subjective, onerous, and quantifying. Some of the common words are lack, cool, level, solution, opinion, and quick.

A categorization feature produces somethings that don't quite look like categories, but are sensical none the less: Use Cases,Web Designing, Understanding, Designer, Internet Business, Toolbox, Marketing Strategies, Tasks, Evaluate, Recommend, Tool Box, and Requirements.

Hat's off to the craft Russian coder on a hobby project!

Is TheRarestWords an SEO Tool?

If you're truly advanced in targeting content to user needs and variations in expression in a way to maximize your coverage of the query tail, then this type of analysis is quite productive for SEO. For most folks aiming at SEO, the fact that less frequent words are less frequent means that you don't really care. You'll likely be amazed at the mid-frequency queries you match at just by occupying your niche and doing the basic practices well.

I've even considered a similar app but the ROI for most site owners is in good, accessible markup and solid off-site promotion strategies. As it happens, we at StomperNet just released a SEO evaluation tool along the lines of existing predecessors but free (with email subscription) and including numerous instruction videos on corrective actions. Check out Stomper Site Seer if you're really aiming for traffic.

Taking Open Office 3.0 Through the (Web Analyst) Paces

The beta of Open Office 3 is a big step for Mac users, removing the need for X11 or the aging NeoOffice port. I tried out the spreadsheet app for some basic data crunching tasks.

I was pleased with the design of the charting workflow. Click through to Flickr for the 4 image sequence. On casual inspection, it seemed a bit easier to work with than the multi-path 2003 Excel or the new 07 Excel.

There are also new charting features for regression plotting and custom error bars.

Check out a quick Jing screencast of running a "data pilot" (akin to pivot tables) on some recent eyetracking data. Alternatively, check out this howto blog post on the Open Office blog.

While I had to read docs to figure out how to do a pivot table, check out this neat menu explorer help function!

While I opened a simple .xlsx file succesfully, Infoworld tried more complex files and found support in need of more work. I did notice that OO won't save to .xslx, though it opened several simple files fine.

Will OO v3 be a credible alternative to MS Office? Depends on the task -- but it looks to do a decent job an analyst's basic requirements.

StomperNet: Going Natural 3 - Adwords Triangulation Method

We launched the Stomper Scrutinizer within the video series called Going Natural 2 back in December, and now it's time for GN3.

The first video in the series showcases Dan Thies talking about his strategies for AdWords. Most notable is his description of how to do split testing with AdWords for fractions of traffic. In essence, if you want to dedicate 10% of traffic to a new ad, you create 10 variants of which 9 are identical. This also provides an "A-A" test that can help you understand variability in your data. Watch the video.

There's a bonus video, new excerpts from the Going Natural 1 Series, along with a downloadable version of my video on understanding vision and web design called Click Fu.

Tracking UI Level Links: An Open Source Script

One of the challenges with the current complex site designs is that multiple links to the same destination tend to appear on the same page.

This does not allow you to understand how your allocation of real estate is being used without resorting to really fancy analytics packages.

To solve this problem I developed a script that upon every click, walks up the document object model (DOM) looking for a an attribute on an HTML tag of ui.

If it finds one before it hits the BODY tag, then it adds a parameter to the link called ui with the value of that attribute, allowing you to understand which links on a page are being used. Shown below is a report from Google Analytics for this site showing how people arrive at my bio page:

If you visit my bio from the About menu at the top of my blog, it adds ui=nav.

I've licensed the script under the MPL and you're welcome to use it on your site, providing you share any enhancements. Grab it at

All you have to do is include the script on your page and add ui=element_name attributes to key HTML elements that make up your site structure.

Because this happens with Javascript, and only when the user clicks, there's no danger of creating duplicate content for the search engine spiders. Alas, that means it doesn't fix typical analytics overlay views either for duplicate links, but you can typically see the source element in your path reports.

Google Website Optimizer and the iPhone...

What do they have in common? Even with the recent opening of Google Website Optimizer, much like the iPhone, you still have to hack GWO to get maximum value out of your testing. While I am grateful for improved support for factorial analyses and more help content, it would have been so easy to do better.

Here's the problem: Google Website Optimizer restricts your understanding of the effects of your experiment to a single outcome variable, like a conversion.

While getting consensus on a single overall evaluation criteria (OEC) is critical to successful ongoing testing and iteration in a business organization, you also want to use tests to improve the product teams understanding of the customer, products, the website experience, and their interactions.

Without the ability to go deeper to explain why an experimental condition drove the most conversions, you're simply playing roulette with your pixels, not building a better tuned product team.

So, yes, also like the iPhone, this limitation reduces the need for complex skills like statistical significance testing. (Not exposing a command line in the iPhone eliminates the challenge of unix).

There is a solution for those who aren't afraid of the truth... A set of enterprising analyst / coders have reverse engineered the GWO cookie and demonstrated how to port the values back over to Google Analytics. ROI Revolution shows how extract the GWO condition. While he shows integrating it with synthetic page tracker calls, I'd recommend using the "user defined" segmentation values via utmSetVar (old school) or pageTracker._setVar (new school ga.js).

Find more GWO power user tricks in my delicious feed gwo.

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