Google Analytics

Image credit: Courtesy of Google Analytics+

Fewer areas of working in the digital space produce as many questions as analytics. Everyone wants to see metrics, to be able to quantify a campaign’s success using the traffic generated on their website – or via their social media properties. The problem, as any digital marketer will tell you, is that the people who want the numbers, more times than not, do not know how to interpret them.

One of the things I love the most about working in the digital space is the quick pace at which things change – and how quickly things can be measured. Gone are the days of waiting for a report from your agency to see how your print ads performed. You can now send out a tweet with a campaign-tracked URL and measure the reach and impact of that tweet in real-time.

The rapid pace can prove challenging for those of us who are tasked with measuring the outcomes of web and social activity. Clients, internal stakeholders, senior management and others we work with in our 9 to 5’s want metrics but more importantly, need analysis of what those numbers mean. Ideally, we’d like to create report dashboards and send those off and call it a day. I spend more time explaining a report than I do putting it together. “What’s the difference between a visit and a page view?”  “What’s more important, bounce or exit rates?” And on it goes.

I love working with metrics, but it can be a little daunting being seen as the metrics ‘specialist’ when how things are measured are constantly changing. Take, for example, the change this week in Google Analytics where the terminology used for “visits” and “unique visitors” was changed. Visits is now named “sessions” and unique visitors is named “users.”

The changes were first spotted on Google+ on Wednesday night and then confirmed yesterday by Google. According to Google’s post:

The Visitors web metric and Active Users app metric are now unified under the same name, Users. And, Visits are now called Sessions everywhere in all of Google Analytics. We’ll be making these changes starting today, and rolling them out incrementally over the next week.

If you collect and send both web and app hits to one property in your Google Analytics account, all your hits will appear in all your reporting views starting today. If you want to keep your web and app data separate, you need to add a filter to your reporting views.

Admittedly, I was a bit irritated when I first read about the changes. I felt like I was still dealing with the fallout from the loss of keywords in reports and now here was another change being rolled out without much notice. The more I’ve read about the changes, the more I see that it will lead to a clearer, more unified analysis of how to measure digital and social initiatives.

I will be spending some time this weekend updating my glossary of Google Analytics terms for clients and more time in the GA learning centre. It’s a pretty geeky way to spend a long weekend and that’s okay by me.