This post assumes basic knowledge of Google Analytics goals and funnel tracking on the part of the reader. However, even if you are only just getting started in your career as an Analytics ninja, this tips might help you when you come to face some tricky situations. Some client work I have recently done demanded that I be more creative with my approach to their data and with just a few techniques you can get some great results.
Why not see if you have come up against some of these issues?
Tracking Pages that don't Exist in a Funnel
In the course of different conversion funnels, the site visitor might be redirected off site to a third party shopping cart and back, click through different stages of a form on one page, or select dates on a frame that is all on one page. This presents a problem when you are analyzing the funnel, because the visitors go into a black box, and it is difficult to pin point the problem areas where they might have dropped out. Never fear, virtual pageviews are here!
The pageview call is part of every piece of the standard GA tracking tag that you paste onto your site. You can either assign a name for your 'virtual page' within the tag, which is useful for when your visitors reach a page that has different content but a the same URL as the previous page (yes- you can come across this strange piece of programming!) or when there is no 'page' to speak of, but an action like clicking a button.
<a>onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackPageview','/virtual/shopping cart'])";>click here</a>
So, once you have tagged the right button, you will see the pages start to populate in the Top Content reports of Analytics, and can use this virtual pagename as the URL destination for a funnel step or goal destination. You can then visualize the number of people who left the conversion path at the shopping cart, address details, etc.
Remember, virtual pageviews will artificially inflate your pageview count. This is why you should use Event tracking for these situations when you don't need to use them as a goal or funnel step. You should also name the pages in a consistent way to identify them as virtual, as in the examples above. Then you can create a duplicate profile which filters them out, for more accurate data.
Backdate your Data
Maybe you have taken on a client who never had goals set up, or a client who has just realized their funnel steps have been out of date for two months. In Google Analytics, there is no way to look at the data you have "lost", unless you want to manually check the unique page views of each goal pagewhich is labour intensive and open to error.
Enter Paditrack, which is a nifty little Analytics app that plugs into your data and let's you quickly generate funnels that can be backdated as long as your account has been open and the funnel pages have been live. The great thing about this is that is also lets you use custom segments with your data. So you can see whether the PPC traffic really is doing better than the Social Media source.
One Step: Multiple URLs
Let's say you are selling tickets for an Easter play that takes place at different times. It has been coded so that there is a separate page for each time the play shows, with the URL looking like /easter-show-1pm.co.uk and /easter-show-3pm.co.uk. The goal funnel runs from the promotion page > play details with time > shopping basket, where they both go through the same checkout process. To track both of these URLs as the same step, RegEx is your friend.
I don't claim to be a RegEx expert, but there are plenty of web resources out there you can find with Google, or you can rope in your friendly neighbourhood web developer for advice. The pipe symbol is your friend for the above, because it means "match this | or this":
There are way too many variations of RegEx to go into here, but some simple expressions can really give you a hand!
That's that for now. I hope you might find this helpful when you come up against unusual and complicated site setups. I could go into more detail, but I think the post would get too long! If you have any questions or other tips, please feel free to let me know in the comments and maybe we can talk more there.
Analytics, SEO and PPC girl working at OneResult, in the UK. Can often be found cutting up GA data, writing ads and building links...soon to be moving on to new pastures after a wonderful 3 years with the agency. What new challenges are around the corner?