analytics

Be sure to check out Steve Souders's latest blog post. In it, he stresses the importance of deferring JavaScript until after a pages have rendered and all the work that still needs to be done when it comes to high performance JavaScript.

Google made "asynchronous" the new marketing industry BUZZ word for 2010 when they rolled out an asynchronous version of Google Analytics. Asynchronous scripts are still just scripts after all and not bulletproof. Asynchronous Google Analytics isn't an open license to do as you please. Over the past year, I've noticed a major increase in the number of "mavericky" asynchronous Google Analytics implementations. When implemented properly Google Analytics is a great tool but implementation is critical.

Simply adding ASYNC attributes doesn't "make" scripts asynchronous. "_gaq" is actually what makes Google Analytics ASYNC syntax possible. Unfortunately, few browsers support the ASYNC attribute. Either way, ASYNC scripts are executed upon response arrival and not deferred which can result in blocking. DEFER attributes on the other hand, can block the onload event and also decrease PageSpeed. Another point to consider when trying to get content in front of users more quickly is, "If asynchronous scripts arrive while the page is loading, the browser has to stop rendering in order to parse and execute those scripts."

Bottom line, "mavericky" implementations can actually have a negative impact on user experience. Even worse, this data can be missing from both analytics and the Google Webmaster Tools site performance tab depending on how onload event firing is impacted. Oh yeah, and don't forget rankings! Matt Cutts said, Google Analytics doesn't impact rankings because when properly implemented it waits to load scripts until after the onload event but, that may not be the case if improperly implemented. Maile Ohye has confirmed that one of the ways Google calculates performance is via the onload event. According to Google, "To ensure the most streamlined operation of the asynchronous snippet with respect to other scripts," the asynchronous snippet should either be placed just before the close of the HEAD tag or just before the close of the BODY tag in your (X)HTML document. I'd suggest not taking any chances this Holiday season because this year speed is more important than ever before and testing.

Google SSL search launched last week and provides users with an encrypted and secure connection when searching online via https://www.google.com. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), is the same protocol used for securing a wide variety of Internet services. Like secure shopping carts, this new feature is designed to prevent information from being intercepted either in transit or by third parties. Security is achieved in part due to the fact that SSL turns off the user's browser referrer data. Without referrer data, web analytics can't accurately track user interactions.

Just because you don't see traffic from Google SSL doesn't mean it isn't there...

It's becoming more and more clear that ranking reports are no longer reliable. Users are noticing personalized SERPs more and more and they're catching on to obvious inaccuracies generated by traditional ranking report software. These inaccuracies are caused by differences in query IP, query data, account status, web history, personalized settings, social graph and/or other. As a result, there is a growing shift away from rank report software to analytics for accurate SEO measurement.

Prior to personalized search results, SEO relied heavily on ranking reports in order to measure SEO campaign performance. SEOs create "ranking reports" with software that submits automated queries directly to search engines, a.k.a. "scrapes search engine results." Despite the fact that automated queries are against Google Webmaster Guidelines, waste energy and cost Google millions of dollars each year to process, scraping search engine results is still a popular practice. Obviously it’s in the engines best interest to take steps to prevent these queries.

Analytics software on the other hand is different, it works independently of search engines. Analytics relies heavily on code embedded within pages as well as human interpretation of data. Until recently, analytics software has been used only to “tell a story,” but not for the precise measurement SEO requires. Site analysis focuses on trending and establishing a “comfort level” with data determined to be "good enough" by the analytics specialist. Analytics platforms are designed for anyone to use, specialist and non-specialist alike. In many cases, analytics specialist themselves have little analytics experience, expertise, knowledge about how search engines work or an understanding of searcher intent. How can we expect anything different, when WAA itself still doesn’t teach things like transactional queries?

"To optimize scent trails, make sure that when the intent is transparent, the scent trail on any chosen term matches that intent. It doesn't matter if the trail starts with PPC (pay-per-click) or organic search. Prospects usually hope to find one of two things: the answer they seek or a link that takes them to the answer."

- The Web Analytics Association "Knowledge Required for Certification" (also available in non-www version)

Analytics tracking code is usually implemented by URL without consideration for user path, intent, source or origination. In most cases the implementation is performed by someone other than the analytics specialist interpreting the data. According to some estimates as many as 45% of pages implemented with Google Analytics contain errors. Conversions from organic SERPs are the most difficult to track back to the original referrer. To compound that problem, site issues often prevent even flawless analytics implementations from reporting. Analytics failures are costly, often go unnoticed and undetected because NOTHING is in place to report when analytics doesn't report.

Quick examples & thoughts:
- Even if Avinash himself, implements Omniture and Google Analytics tracking code on every page of your site, users entering from SERPs via 301 or 302 redirect won’t be attributed as “Organic.” According to Google, "If your site uses redirects, the redirecting page becomes the landing page's referrer. For example, if a user searches for a specific keyword, such as 'used books' on Google, there will not be any referring data showing that this keyword was searched on Google. Instead, the referral will be shown as the redirecting page."

- High traffic major converters or blank pages that send users to a competitor? Either way, nobody will ever know because these pages lack analytics tracking code. URL naming conventions for most sites follow a specific pattern. Use the site operator to quickly spot check for URLs that seem out of the ordinary to be certain they include analytics tracking code implementation and aren't redirected. It's pretty common to find legacy pages from older versions of sites indexed.

SEO Analytics

- If these folks are quick evaluators, analytics tracking code might not execute before a new page loads and this SEO conversion might be credited somewhere else. Analytics won't measure landing page load time even though it's a highly important metric for users. Flash or otherwise, pages like these always have issues when it comes to tracking organic conversions.

SEO Analytics

- If your site goes down chances are you'll never know because analytics reporting goes down as well. Using a website monitoring service is always a good idea, just to be sure that conversions really are down and not your entire site.

Takeaways, until SEO expectations are more clear to the analytics community, SEOs should insist on performing SEO analytics audits as usual. When hiring analytics specialists, look for applicants who are willing to address websites from the user perspective and outside of analytics. Folks willing to question data accuracy and those able to identify analytics obstacles are highly desired. Key being, SEO is as concerned with what analytics is tracking as it is about what analytics should be tracking.