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Track any client side event with google analytics

By: Bob Tantlinger

I’ve recently been doing some work integrating social media events, such as facebook likes, with google anayltics and was pleased to find that Google gives you a deep level of control over what you can track. It occurred to me that since a social media “event” is not really much different than any other client side event, why not use google analytics to keep tabs on any event the visitor might trigger.

With just a few lines of code, you can take your analytics a step further and get some fine grained details about not only your visitors, but their interaction with your web site. Using the techniques I show below you can answer questions such as:

  • Did the user scroll a section of your page into view?
  • Did the user start filling out a form?
  • Did the user encounter an error while interacting with your site?
  • Did the visitor move their mouse over a particular page element?

These are just few examples off the top of my head for how this could be useful, but you get the point. The sky is virtually the limit on what you can track.

Get Tracking with _trackEvent

So, let’s dig in with a quick and dirty example that shows how to detect if a user mouses over a a specific image on your page. To get started, you’ll need:

  • A google anyltics account (Obviously)
  • The google tracking code installed in your sites head
  • JQuery included in your page

When you include google’s tracking code in your html, it brings in a global variable named _gat (Google analytics tracker) . Using this variable, we have a handle by which we can get all trackers that have been included on the page. Using the tracker objects, we can push arbitrary events onto the _gaq (google anyltics queue) to be tracked. They can be anything. Their meaning is entirely up to you.

After an event has been pushed onto the queue as an event, you can monitor them under the “Events” section in your google analytics account. (If you’re the pointy hair type, it’s probably neat idea to set up goals for your events!)

So, the steps thus far are:

  • Decide what arbitrary events you want to track
  • Get a handle on all trackers included on the current page with _gat
  • Use the tracker to send an event to GA.

In our example, we will present the user with some images of food and ask which is their favorite. We want to know when a user mouses over an image, what type of image it was, and which food they select. With this in mind we might write with some code such as this (Take note of comments)
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Baidu, a “local Chinese Google”, who leads the search engine market with over 75% share (Google only has 19 percent), is also one of the biggest and popular websites in the world. Alexa currently ranks it as the 6th popular in the world, just above Wikipedia and below Live. As do most big players in the SE industry, Baidu offers various services – such as video and image storage, website building platform, online encyclopedia, discussion forums, and more.

However, in today’s dynamic world, standing still and cherishing your achievements will very quickly lead to dethronement, at the very least. That’s why Baidu is looking to expand even further, especially when the number two Chinese website, Tencent, is also gaining ground, entering Alexa’s “world’s top 10” this month, after surpassing Twitter.

Tencent is largest internet company in China, and, with Facebook being unavailable to users, it is trying to utilize the social networking niche to compete with Baidu. The “satellite” services that are being offered by Tencent are very similar to the stated above Baidu products, making the clash between the two a “hot” battle for dominance. Baidu’s response, according to Robin Li, the CEO of the company, lies within expanding its own network of users and making it more “social”. In addition of fighting Tencent, this should also serve as additional income channel for the Chinese market leader.

Have you ever heard about KidRocket, Konqueror or Amaya? I bet you didn’t. What about Safari and Opera? Sounds more familiar, right? And Google Chrome? Is there anybody who did NOT hear about Google’s web browser? Probably not.

Launched slightly over two(!) years ago – compare that to 14-yeard old Internet Explorer and 7-year old Mozilla Firefox – Google Chrome is gaining ground rapidly, at the rate of about 5% a year. Reportedly it is now the choice of over 15% of internet users. And the good news for the browser is that it is not only attracts IE users (the world most popular web browser is constantly losing popularity as new search engines are emerging  all the time, and users do tend to “try something new”), but FF followers as well. During 2010, the Mozilla browser lost about 4% of US market share – mostly to Google Chrome.

While only a fraction of internet users actually utilize more than 20% of browser capabilities and features, the competition is mostly about two things – GUI and advertising. Google Chrome is pretty successful in both. The tabbed layout was adopted successfully (later than FF, earlier than IE) and the marketing efforts are enormous. Advertising is done both on and of the internet, with buses carrying the “part of your life – part of your browser” theme in addition to endless promotional banners al over the web.

Whether it is superior to others or not, Google Chrome is definitely making a huge progress. Will Chrome take over and dominate, as did Google? I doubt it. Will it compete and maybe become the most popular web browser in the future? Quite possible.

Beside the big and known Google, Yahoo, Bing, Blekko and Ask.com and the local leaders Baidu and Tandex, there are several other, “little” search engines – such as HotBot and DuckDuckGo. The latter was launched in 2008 and has a very, very limited market share with about 2.5 million searches a month. However, everyone is trying to gain ground these days – and if this is done on expense of Google – it is even better.

DuckDuckGo tries to gain users by emphasizing their pretty unique approach – they do no store search data. Either this is done on purpose or the company simply does not have the necessary resources, the manner is now advertised as being solely correct.

In an aggressive marketing campaign, the company specifically highlights “the Google way” of “invading your privacy”, stating that with little effort, your search history associated with computer IP and, stored at Google servers can be tracked down to you in person. Next goes your personal data, credit history, insurance policy etc.

Although the campaign (as most advertising campaigns) is not entirely correct, purposely exaggerating the “big brother” threat of in its quest of “making the privacy aspects of search engines understandable to the average person” (quoted is DuckDuckGo founder, Gabriel Weinberg), it might have an effect on certain privacy-concerned users. Will they switch to DuckDuckGo or go elsewhere? That is another question, of course…

Ask.com and Bing are very anxious to prove the world they can beat Google. Even in minor things, like Image Search that Bing was enhancing constantly over last several month. Or in a Search Engine Jeopardy contest, managed by Stephen Wolfram. Well, it seems Google competitors still have some work to do, as the Search Industry leader was victorious once again.

The SE Jeopardy consisted of Jeopardy questions randomly selected form a database of around 200000 that were fed into the search queries of various engines. The developers then looked at the number of correct answers that appeared in the search results page and also at the number of correct answers that were included in the page that search engines presented as the top result.

The results were as follows:

Percentage of correct answers appearing somewhere on the first page: Google – 69%; Ask.com – 68%, Bing – 63%, Yandex – 62%, Blekko – 58%, Wikipedia – 23%.

Percentage of correct answers appearing in the top result of the page: Google – 66%; Bing – 65%, Yandex – 58%, Ask.com – 51%, Blekko – 40%, Wikipedia – 29%.

Obviously Wikipedia didn’t stand too much chance, as it was only one website competing against “the whole internet”. Still, it must be noted that only about one-third of Jeopardy answers are already in Wikipedia…

As to Search Engines – Google has beaten the competition, although the margins are not that big. But based on these results, Ask and Blekko have to do a better job of listing the most relevant link at the top (see how their percentage dropped when they looked into the first document. And Bing is “almost there” – but still a fraction behind Google.

Yandex numbers were very impressive, as it is basically a local Russian search engine. If the test has been done in Russian (or at least, based on Russian Jeoprdy Analogue, “Svoya Igra”, which includes fewer questions about American culture and history) Yandex would probably beat Google – exactly as it does in the Russian Search Engine market.

In summary, nobody can beat Google in providing relevant information. Not just yet. So, when you want to know “What is” something – don’t ask and don’t bing. Google it!

With Google being the most popular search engine in the world, and particularly in the US, it is not yet gained enough ground in non-English speaking countries. While in India, the UK and Australia Google is the runaway leader in Search Engine competition, there are still countries in which local search engines are quite successful in opposing the G- giant. Baidu is number one in China (and there is also a new player in the SE field, supported by the government – goso.cn), and most former USSR-countries internet users (Russian speakers) prefer Yandex over Google.

Yet, Google is trying hard to get into the local markets. Recently, it has reported a successful takeover of the number one spot in Czech Republic, surpassing the local leader Seznam.cz in the first week of 2011.

Seznam, however, does not agree, stating that the statistics are not conclusive, and presents different figures, such as having almost 70% of Czech internet “population” with about 4 million users. Moreover, Seznam.cz emphasizes the misleading inaccuracy, as Google statement is based on report that takes into account both local and global pages, while Seznam only concentrates on Czech-based domains. They are also accusing Google of “refusing to participate in official measuring”.

Well, whether Google report is accurate or not is not very significant. The important fact is that Google puts an enormous amount of effort to increase the grasp of local, non-English-speaking markets.

It has only been several months since Google had announced and completed the “New Adsense” – a redesign of the familiar GUI, adding several features to impress the users. And here it is – they are already adding more attributes to the popular money-making feature.

According to recent report, there will be now more things you could do in your Google Adsense account, such as creating and editing channels in Adsense for Games and Adsense for Video, blocking specific products by names and view the reports by page, and not only by unit.

There have also been some “renames” – the HTML is now “rich media” and Dynamic Images are called “Animated Images”. All those (as well as text, image and Flash) are included in the performance reports as “Ad types”. In addition, “Ad Requests” is the term that is now used instead of “Unit Impressions”, counting each time the request to show the ad is sent by the website towards Google service.

Google hopes these updates will be beneficial to Adsense users, making the popular “monetize you website” option preferable over Affiliate marketing, specific client banners and other possibilities.now

Google Webmaster Tools are a popular feature, servicing hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of website owners and web analytics over the world. Everybody works with the provided numbers, without questioning the reliability of the data. However, ask a mechanical engineer – and he will tell you that everything in this world has a “tolerance” and no value is absolutely accurate.

The same mechanical engineer will tell you that usual general acceptable tolerance is about 1%, so when certain parts should be 10 inch, it can easily measure 10.1 inch or 9.99 inch – and will still pass the Quality Assurance test.

It seems, Google is not yet ready to go into Product Design. Reportedly, the numbers offered by Google Webmaster Tools are only 90% accurate. According to Google’s Asaph Zemach, who was asked about number of impressions staying constant for three months time: “…when you see 24,900,000 you should really think 25M+/- 2.5M…”

Thus, if you think that your website is ahead of competitors, with 50 million impressions compared to their 48 million, they might be already ahead of you, as your actual figure might be as low as 45 million and theirs – as high as 52 million… As usual, statistics can be deceiving – and Google’s +/-10% just makes it more so…

The marketing has always been about customer’s psychology – learning the specific needs of a potential client and trying to satisfy them. Google has demonstrated once again that targeting certain audience is mandatory. And if you are into SEO, you should be aware of it.

According to one recently published study, Google Search results on a smartphone will vary by over 80% from those produced by a desktop computer query. If you think about it – this is actually quite logical to have a slightly different search algorithm for smartphones. For example, smartphone users like downloading various applications. Thus the mobile Google Search presents many results that include the word “app” or “download”. Brand filters and store filters cannot be applied to mobile Google search and it is even more biased towards “local” domains, with Google places usually appearing higher in the vertical results list.

With the smartphone market growing quickly, it seems as only a matter of time when “SEO for mobile” will become a separate branch in the industry.

We all know Facebook is one of the fastest (if not THE fastest) growing websites around. The popularity of Facebook is amazing and the number of hours spent by the users on their Facebook pages, playing games, posting and tagging photos is increasing every day.

And here is another indication of the website’s growth: unique visitors. This is a statistic that keeps track of websites (really webpages) being accessed by users based on their IP (which is very similar to physical location). Google is leading the way since very-long-time-ago, with an average of about 1 billion hits a month, and Microsoftis is second, about 100 million unique visitors behind.

According to Geek.com, Yahoo! has been pushed down to fourth place in November 2010, by (guess who?) Facebook, of course. The numbers reported (648 million for FB and just over 630 million for Yahoo!) were supplied  by comScore, providing yet another confirmation of Social Media progress towards taking over the internet.