Should I mobile optimise my website?

Google are really pushing mobile these days (no surprise as Android’s at least the third most popular mobile platform, based on the numbers across all my clients’ Google Analytics accounts, behind iPad and iPhone). So much so that they’ve teamed up with a third party to mobile-optimise your website. But do you need to?

Local business? Stop reading now and go make your site mobile friendly

If you’re a local business, one that people actually look up on their phone when they’re on their way to or want to call to make a reservation or check the menu/price list (I’m looking at you Flash-obsessed restaurant websites) then you absolutely need to have a mobile optimised website, regardless of the percentage of your visitors who are on mobile because they are the hottest prospects you’ve got – they’re headed your way and they just want help finding you.

For everyone else: it depends

Overestimating Mobile

The new interface of Google Analytics has a prominent new option – MOBILE – in the Audience section. There’s just one problem. The iPad, and myriad other copycat tablets, are all included in mobile. They might run ‘mobile’ operating systems but they’re not really that mobile. Most people use them at home, on the couch. Most websites, as long as they don’t make exclusive use of Flash or really bad javascript, will work fine on them and forcing a ‘mobile experience’ that’s optimised for a phone screen is often worse than serving up the full website. Why does this matter? Because when Google include tablets in the numbers for mobile, you’re getting incorrect info. The ‘tablets’ proportion of those mobile visits, across tens of thousands of visits across several of my clients, averages around 60%. That’s how much ‘mobile’ is being overstated by. Beware of numbers touting the huge increases in people ‘shopping on mobile’ – the majority are shopping on tablets, not phones, and as long as the desktop site works fine (no Flash, no rollover-dependent interface elements) there’s no pressing need to change.

So I can just sit tight?

Well no. You need to keep a close eye on the ‘real mobile’ segment and make sure that you’re not serving up an inaccessible website to any devices; phone, tablet or regular computer. Mobile, as a percentage of your audience, is creeping up, whoever you are. If you’ve got an ecommerce site, bear in mind that even if people don’t place orders via a web browser on their phone, they’re checking your prices. You owe it to all your users to serve up appropriate, optimised pages.

Image credit: Original image by Riggzy used under a Creative Commons Remix Licence

Credit where its due

How to attribute credit to your brand building and offline efforts in Google Analytics

logosAn often mocked excuse given by non direct response advertising media and its proponents when charged that such advertising is wasteful is that the money spent on the ads ‘builds brand awareness’ or ‘improves brand recall’.

Did you know it’s actually pretty easy to measure that online? Instead of the credit going to ‘search’, where it’s far too easy to think that the traffic is down to online efforts such as SEO, you can measure the traffic coming from branded searches and direct web address type-ins.

What you need to do is set up an Advanced Segment, called “Brand Traffic” in Google Analytics that matches:

All organic traffic where the keyword is one of your brand terms

This is all the people typing in your brand search terms into Google, Bing et al. This is called a ‘navigational’ search. Don’t forget to include a keyword that matches your domain name, you’d be surprised by how many people get the location bar and the search box confused.


All direct traffic

This is everyone who comes to your website from a bookmark, a link in email from a friend (unless they were using webmail client, then the referrer will be the domain that they were browsing on. If you want to get more specific about separating that traffic out, then add some more lines to your filter) or a link clicked from a twitter client rather than the twitter web site, when the link doesn’t have any utm parameters on it to reclassify the traffic.

There’s no such thing as 100% accuracy

One of the first things to accept about web analytics is that there’s no such thing as 100% accuracy. There will always be cases when things aren’t tracked properly but we’re not really looking for exact numbers, just a trend.

Watch your branded traffic trend

When you’re done with setting up this advanced segment you’ll have an idea of the change in time of your web traffic that is the result of your brand building efforts outside of search. Make sure you use the Annotations feature of Analytics to mark any big offline efforts you’re involved in.


Image credit: All my life’s logos by captcreate via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Google Analytics – handle with care

1669974881_6fd218f179I’ve just experienced a problem with Google Analytics that I think a lot of people can learn from. Here’s are some important things to bear in mind:

  • Google Analytics is free.
  • Google really aren’t so interested in being responsive to Analytics users (understandably, if they were, imagine the potentially enormous workload they’d face)
  • You’re on your own when it comes to customising your access

This is why, when setting up a Google Analytics account for a client website, you should avoid the path of least resistance in terms of setting that account up (which would be creating a site under your own account) and do the following:

  1. Create a NEW Google account, specific to this site.
  2. Note those details somewhere safe, you may need them later but they’re not what you’re going to use much after step 3
  3. Log in to Google Analytics with those account details, add admin users for your client’s normal Google login and your own.

Here’s why this is important:

1) The creator account for a GA site profile is permanent. You can’t switch the main admin role to someone else, you’re stuck with that account as the owner of the profile. That’s why I said create a Google account for the new site NOT the client.

2) In case that wasn’t clear enough: there’s no way to transfer a GA site profile to another user. No way whatsoever. Maybe if you have friends in the GA dept at Google, you might get your wish, otherwise, you’re stuck.

I learnt this lesson the hard and frustrating way: when someone sells a website you can’t ‘hand over’ their GA profile, the historical GA data is lost (and yes, before you GA cheerleaders get on my case, I know you can export reports, but that’s hardly the same as having the actual data there to query against when doing comparisons with historic data, now is it?). Don’t make the same mistake I did, start out with things in the right way and Google Analytics will serve you well.

Photo credit: John Linwood via Flickr

Google Analytics to go Freemium?

abacusThat’s the conclusion I jumped to after seeing this story on Marketing Pilgrim about a piece of Forrester forecasting published today.

Assuming a shrinking use of licensed analytics (installing a copy of analytics software on your own servers) is an obvious one – ever since Google Analytics came out and effectively made one of the most expensive solutions, Urchin, free, and did away the headache of running your own analytics software, how many people have paid that much attention to their own web server logs? Sure, Urchin’s still around but have you actually tried to buy it? You have to go through an Urchin Software Authorized Consultant, and most of them don’t even say much about the product on their sites (they’re big web development/UX consultants mostly).

Predicting a 20% compound annual growth in spend on web analytics is a pretty ballsy move. So I started wondering how that might be – Google Analytics is free and all-conquering, it’s incredibly easy to set up and very powerful. Where are these other paid for hosted solutions anyway?

One thing that you’ll need to spend money on, regardless of what analytics platform you’re using, is web analytics consultants. This is by definition a growth area – there just aren’t that many people out there with the necessary skills right now. People who’ve done a bit more than read Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics an hour a day book and truly get it.

There’s a huge benefit to be gained from enlisting the help of someone who truly ‘gets’ what analytics can do for you – helping implement A/B testing, understanding where your traffic is coming from and how people are navigating your site. They just don’t teach you this stuff on marketing courses and your average marketing director or manager doesn’t have the time or interest to get that good.

OK, so there’s a definite expenditure possibility there, but another $250m a year within 3 years? What if there’s more to it than that? What if Google were to apply a freemium model to Analytics? What would you pay for those stats? A decent SLA (service level agreement) and having your data backed up? I know a large company that lost an entire month’s Analytics data. Of course as a free service Google can just say ‘oh well nevermind’. Some people would pay for the surety of knowing that data won’t just be lost.

I imagine there would be price breaks, ranging from free, through a tiny amount to a fairly sizeable amount for sites with huge amounts of traffic (and as such huge amounts of data). Up to 1,000 unique visitors a day for free – people get to learn all about Analytics and try it out for zero cost. Up to 100,000 and you’re looking at $25 a month. Over that level then it’s $100 a month but there’s no server infrastructure or drains on your resources to worry about. They’ve already gone freemium with Google Apps, why not Analytics too? Maybe you’d get a credit back for spend on Adwords.

How much is Google Analytics worth to you?

Image credit: aussiegall