Known to online marketing companies as one of the most essential advertising tools found on the Web, Google Analytics is an extremely powerful platform that allows businesses to see exactly which actions are (or aren’t) working for their company’s online advertising, why those actions are working, and how to optimize a website or campaign for the best possible customer experience through tracking programs in the mobile, content, social media, conversion, and advertising areas.
In the past year Google has made many changes and additions to their program, from an entirely new user experience last May, to a new testing tool that was implemented just a few weeks ago. Since your company has likely become familiar with last year’s updates, I will only be covering their latest installment in this post. If you haven’t opted to switch over to the latest version in the past year, Google will have automatically transferred your account to the latest version as of July 17th. If you need to catch up on those features—which include multi-channel funnels, real-time, social and mobile reports, and content experiments—you can read up on them at Search Engine Land.
This most recent addition to Google Analytics, a program known as Content Experiments, was announced by Google on June 1st. The tool was designed to replace the Website Optimizer, and it essentially allows businesses to further examine and explore the impact of their websites and marketing plans. Here are some of the most impressive and prominent features of Content Experiments:
- A/B/N Testing
More in depth and thorough than its parent A/B testing—which involves comparing a control site to a couple different versions of your website—A/B/N testing involves testing five separate versions of one page by sending them to visitors via different URL addresses.
- Test Results Withheld for First Two Weeks
Eager to be flexible for new and well established companies alike, tests running in Content Experiments will not declare a single site version to be the “winner” until the experiment has been run for a full two weeks, although the tests will certainly display the performance of each site. This feature is in place so that traffic fluctuations and chance occurrences can be factored out of the final decision, which will better allow less-experienced companies their best chance at success.
- Dynamic Traffic Allocation
During the testing period, the platform will automatically begin to divert site traffic away from versions of the site that don’t perform well to versions that are performing very well. Although users cannot choose to use or disengage the function, it has been put in place by Google to protect companies from the damage that poor performing site versions can cause to business.
- Tests Are Limited to Three Months
One of the most sensible functions of the platform, ending the testing after three months, has one ostensible use and benefit to businesses, and one hidden function that aids Google and search users, but hurts specific websites. If a statistical winner cannot be chosen from the site versions in a test within three months, then a winner may never be chosen. Allowing a test to run past three months can result in statistical error, preventing businesses from moving forward with a plan that actually works. Pages that have previously utilized Website Optimizer for cloaking purposes will sustain severe damage from this feature, as they can no longer run their scams indefinitely.
As though it wasn’t enough for Google to create a newer, faster testing platform for Analytics, they announced that they were adding three major updates to the program just three weeks after Content Experiments was implemented. While it is likely that Google will continue to adapt and add to Content Experiments in the months to come, here is a quick rundown of the three newest features:
- Copying Experiments
Despite the fact that it seems like a simple concept, the ability to copy experiments shortens the testing period and allows Analytics users to run more tests and gain more information about how to best optimize a website for a better user experience without affecting other tests or laboriously reinstalling experiment codes.
- New Report Capabilities
When users view their experiment records, they will now have the ability to compare each site version to the others using tools other than the goals established for the experiment. Metrics from Ecommerce, Goal Sets, Adsense, and Site Usage (including % New Visits, Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Pages per Visit) provide businesses with a much more thorough experimentation and website optimization process.
- Relative URLs
Allowing support for similar URL addresses lifts a load off of most companies’ shoulders. Webpage creators no longer have to create entirely separate URLs for each of their test pages, and using relative URLs means that users only need to create a variation that uses a different URL parameter. The update will not contradict parameter propagation, and will serve to greatly aid websites with different domains along with all other businesses that desire to simplify testing.
The changes that have been applied to the new Google Analytics are all designed to perfect the experience of Analytics users and allow companies to create better, more optimized websites. Although the adaptations to the platform are numerous and ongoing, the establishment and updates to Content Experiments bring some of the most important innovations in digital marketing to businesses, regardless of their size or experience.
This article was written by Sarah Schwitters, Chief Marketing Strategist at lodestar marketing group. Although Google is doing its best to simplify and optimize their Analytics tools, the language and know-how can get the best of most people. If you and your company are in that boat, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at lodestar marketing group. For all of your online marketing questions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.