Category Archives: Analytics


The 5 Big Data insights from Coke, G-P and Google from AMA panel

big-data-pipeThe American Marketing Association – Atlanta chapter held a special panel on Big Data yesterday. Big Data is a hot, albeit overused, term at the moment. The panelists, which represented big data leaders (they didn’t want to be called experts!) from well-known brands such as The Coca-Cola Company, Georgia-Pacific, and Google, and Definition6 (a local, independent ad agency) were tasked with defining Big Data and explaining how it can be used in today’s marketing organization and how it will shape future marketing efforts. The speakers at the event included:

  • Julie Bowerman – VP eCommerce, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Tom Lowry – Director, Google
  • Douwe Bergsma – CMO, Georgia-Pacific
  • Michael Kogon, CEO, Definition 6

Here are the key highlights from the event:

  • Big data is the insights obtained from the analysis of disparate sources of data — a sea of data!
  • Big Data is still in the infancy stages. Marketers should abandon their belief that it will drastically change their business in the near term.
  • Marketers shouldn’t expect to uncover big insights without first crafting a strategy. As part of their strategy, they will want to define assumptions that they want test via data — data will either support or disprove their assumption (this was a key takeaway that I previously discussed).
  • To get started with big data, you need to prioritize which data sources you’re going to look at first. You’re also going to need a marketing technologist — part scientist, part General and part storyteller — to inform the next big marketing initiative!
  • The brand, not a third party, should always own the data!

Ken Bernhardt did a great job moderating the event and I’m looking forward to seeing how this conversation changes in the next 12 months.

What insights have you come across with Big Data?

Sudden traffic drop? Strategic diagnosis with 3 simple questions!

dont-panic-buttonThis week I received an email from a client that discovered their website traffic suddenly plunged. Their Google Analytics visitors dropped by more than 50% in August and the situation never self-corrected. My first response was: DON’T PANIC! Since the issue was only 60 days old, I knew that we could identify the problem and suggest an appropriate solution.

I used a simple strategy (3 questions) to diagnose the situation:

  1. Has anyone changed/modified the Google Analytics tracking code? These kind of sudden changes are typically due to a configuration change. The client reported that their developers inadvertently reused the tracker code from the blog on their corporate website. Since this error was corrected in the end of August, I first investigated this potential cause. I applied a custom advanced segment to exclude visits from blog pages but the sudden downward shift was still present. This meant that the problem was unrelated to a tracking code change.
  2. Looking 60 days prior to and after the change, what sources referred traffic to the site? Oftentimes, traffic will fade away when an ad campaign ends so I looked at the Acquisition > All Referrals section of Google Analytics. The report showed that the majority of traffic was direct, yet the remaining referral sources didn’t dramatically shift from one source or site to another. This meant that I was potentially getting closer!
  3. Looking 60 days prior to and after the change, what content received the most traffic on the site? An alternate reason for a shift is that an important page is removed or modified. I looked at the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report and discovered that a careers page dropped from the top 3 position to the bottom 20 position. This change occurred right around the time of the sudden traffic drop. Since a careers section typically draws 30%+ of the visitors to a corporate site, I contacted the client about this change and they explained that their recruiter recently left the company. They added that she was instrumental in referring potential candidates to the site. BINGO!


Key Takeaway:

  • When it comes to analytics, there’s no substitute for formulating a strategy and then digging into the data. Insights are rarely immediately apparent!
  • The best approach to this kind of analysis is the scientific method: develop an assumption, analyze the data, and determine if the data supports or disproves your thinking.
  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong. You may not get the answer that you were hoping for the first time!

What other factors could contribute to a traffic drop? What reports do you review to understand the cause of a traffic drop?

Resolving Google Analytics reporting issues

head-against-brick-wallThere’s been an increase in issues with Google Analytics reporting ever since the Display Advertiser support feature was introduced. The first place that I look when Google Analytics reporting stops working is the tracker code. Debugging tools are commonly used to identify and solve these tracker code errors but since the solution is dependent on the mechanics of Google Analytics, I wanted to first discuss how the Google Analytics tracker works.

How does Google Analytics work?

The Google Analytics tracking code is composed of a JavaScript file, which is embedded into a page. Once embedded, this JavaScript file (aka, the ga.js or dc.js file) is executed when the visitor browser requests the page. As part of the execution, the JavaScript file requests a single-pixel image file called the __utm.gif, which is responsible for transmitting key parameters to Google Analytics, like the browser size, image depth, etc. Additionally, information on the visitor session and ad campaign is stored in a cookie and transmitted via the image file whenever it is available. Google Analytics processed the parameter data and displays it within 24 hours of being collected.

So why is my Google Analytics reporting not working?

In most cases, reporting is not working because of a malfunctioning tracker. There are several debugging tools that can be used to investigate this issue but my favorite is Tracking Code Debugger, an extension by Google for the Chrome browser.

Assuming that Google Analytics is already reporting some activity (if not, then read how to verify your web tracker setup), the next step is to install the debugger tool. Once installed, you’ll need to follow these two steps:

1. Click on the debugger icon to turn it on (the red “ON” will be displayed).


2. Next, select View > Developer > JavaScript Console (or Open Apple + Option + J).


NOTE: Make sure that the console filters are set to ALL.

If everything is working correctly, then you’ll see the following for your site (below is the output for my blog):


From the above, the tool is reporting that I’ve got a single tracker running on my site. Also, the campaign source is currently set to Facebook. The most common situation is one where there’s more than one tracker on the page. If that was happening, the above information would repeat. In that event, you’ll need to remove one of the trackers.

What techniques/tools have you used to resolve reporting issues?