GA Flash Audit – New England Lifestyle
25/07/2011 | Written by | Categories: GA Flash Audit

The New England Lifestyle homepage

This is a Google Analytics Flash Audit performed on the New England Lifestyle website.  It evaluates their implementation of Google Analytics and makes some suggestions as to what can be done to improve the usefulness of the data via the configuration or an improved implementation.

New England Lifestyle appears to have a basic implementation of Google Analytics.  The resultant page names are reasonable in most cases but could definitely be improved to aid in analysis and understanding of performance.  A 3rd party shopping cart is being used which requires some additional work for accurate ecommerce tracking.

The blog is currently not tracked in the main GA account – this should be included using subdomain tracking.  The action for Adding to Cart is also not tracked at present, this is an essential step which needs to be captured in some way.  With a bit of work, New England Lifestyle could have an excellent set-up of Google Analytics allowing them to understand and improve their business performance.

Note that this Flash Audit was performed following a discussion between the website owner and L3 Analytics regarding a comment made on another L3 Analytics post.  If you would like a free Flash Audit performed on your website, please contact Peter on 07843617347 or via peteroneill@l3analytics.com.  A copy of the audit can be downloaded at the end of this post.

Basic Details

Company Name: New England Lifestyle

Website: www.newenglandlifestyle.com

Visits: 17,000 (June 2011)

UK Visits: N/A (June 2011)

Code on Website

New England Lifestyle is using the traditional version of Google Analytics.

They also have code for the Yahoo! Web Analytics web analytics tool on their website.

New England Lifestyle does not have code for any non web analytics tools on their website.

Google Analytics code

Standard Code

There were no pages encountered that did not contain Google Analytics code.

The GA account number wasn’t consistent across all pages.  New England Lifestyle is using one GA account for the main website (UA-1145732-1) and another for the Blog section of the website (UA-1145732-2).  I recommend using the same account number across the entire website with subdomain tracking in place.  This will allow New England Lifestyle to understand if their blog posts are encouraging traffic and purchases on their main website.

They are currently using the line pageTracker._initData(); which is unnecessary.  It can potentially cause problems with subdomain tracking and so should be removed.  Details of the new page tag are provided later in this document.

No pages viewed contained virtual page names (where the page name is overwritten in the code).

Shopping Cart

New England Lifestyle uses a 3rd party Shopping Cart to process online orders.  As such, they cannot track visitor behaviour on these offsite pages.  I did not complete the transaction so cannot comment on the tracking for purchases.  But New England Lifestyle needs to ensure that the visitor returns to a thank you page on their website with transaction details passed through, enabling e-commerce code to be populated.  These visitors need to retain their original traffic source information, typically through adding the utm_nooverride=1 URL query parameter.

Additional Variables

No custom variables were encountered during the exploration of the New England Lifestyle website.

No events were encountered during the exploration of the website.

No virtual pages were encountered during the exploration of the website.

Marketing Campaign parameters

New England Lifestyle has been identified as using a couple of marketing channels.  Some of these are tagged with GA campaign parameters that will enable this marketing to be identified within Google Analytics.  The marketing channels that have been checked are:

  • Paid Search on Google – is auto-tagged with GA campaign parameters
  • RSS – is not tagged with GA campaign parameters (should be automatically set up via Feedburner)
  • Newsletter – a copy has not yet been received so not possible to say if tagged or not as yet (update to this Flash Audit will be made when this information is available)

Potential Configuration of Google Analytics

Internal (Site) Search

New England Lifestyle is partially able to set-up Internal Search reporting.  They need to specify the search URL parameter as search.  However I never managed to perform a search which generated a list of search results, even using category terms such as “Bedroom”.

When specific product search terms were used such as “Fiori Piccolo Glass Vase”, the website takes the visitor directly through to the product page.  This is good usability but it does mean the internal search is not captured as the resultant URL does not contain the required URL query parameter.

New England Lifestyle should use a virtual page name for when this happens, concatenating the normal page name along with the internal search URL Query Parameter.  The resultant page name would be:

/accessories-and-decoration_fiori-piccolo-glass-vase.htm?search=fiori+piccolo+glass+vase

Page Names

To maximise the usefulness of web analytics reporting and analysis, page names should be recognisable as relating to a particular page on the website and follow a hierarchical structure.  If they do not naturally follow a strong naming convention, pages can be renamed as part of the configuration of Google Analytics.  For an ecommerce website, pages are grouped into three sections: ecommerce pages, checkout process (Basket page through to Order Confirmation page) and non-ecommerce pages.

Ecommerce pages

There are some pages in this section which do not follow a strong page naming convention.  The biggest issues are

  • The page type is not captured or immediately obvious
  • Category and product pages do not contain information on which department they belong to

However, Product pages do contain the name of the category they belong to.

This solution could be resolved through the use of Virtual Page Names, Profile Filters or a combination of the two.  One option is to simply include the department name for Category and Product pages, using the breadcrumb to provide this detail.

Example of the New England Lifestyle breadcrumb

The page name for this page would become

/living-room-furniture/tables_new-england-coffee-table.htm’]);

If this solution was used (most likely if only limited resources are available for creating virtual page names), profile filters could then be applied to rename Department, Category and Product pages as follows:

  • Department Pages
    • Custom Filter -> Advanced
    • Field A -> ^/(living-room-furniture|dining-furniture|bedroom-furniture|mirrors|home-office|home-accessories).htm$
    • Output -> /dept/$A1
  • Category Pages
    • Custom Filter -> Advanced
    • Field A -> URI Request -> ^/(living-room-furniture|dining-furniture|bedroom-furniture|mirrors|home-office|home-accessories)/([a-z-]+).htm$
    • Output -> URI Request -> /category/$A1/$A2
  • Product pages
    • Custom Filter -> Advanced
    • Field A -> URI Request -> ^/( living-room-furniture|dining-furniture|bedroom-furniture|mirrors|home-office|home-accessories)/( a-z-]+)_(.*).htm$
    • Output -> URI Request -> /product/$A1/$A2/$A3

This will lead to a nice clean and hierarchical page naming convention for the ecommerce pages on the website.

Checkout Process pages

There are only two pages in this section that can be viewed without completing the transaction.  The basket page is fine as it is but the Your Details page could be renamed using a profile filter from /order.htm to /checkout/your_details.

Non ecommerce pages

Most of the non ecommerce pages on the New England Lifestyle website are named accordingly to the information on the page with no need for a hierarchy.  However, the Blog pages need to be adjusted when tracking is extended to include this site section.  This can easily be done using a Profile Filter:

  • Custom Filter -> Advanced
  • Field A -> Hostname -> blog.newenglandlifestyle.com
  • Field B -> URI Request -> (.*)
  • Output -> URI Request -> /blog/$B1

Given the page naming convention for blog posts, a second profile filter (ensure it is located below the previous one in the filter order) should be used to identify all blog posts.  This filter would read as:

  • Custom Filter -> Advanced
  • Field A -> URI Request -> ^/blog/[0-9]+/(.*)/
  • Output -> URI Request -> /blog/post/$A1

Another exception lies with the thank you pages for Contact Us and Email a Friend.  Both are usable as they are but don’t follow the best practice structure.  These pages should be renamed as follows:

  • Custom Filter -> Advanced
  • Field A -> URI Request -> /([a-z-]+)_thank-you.htm
  • Output -> URI Request -> /$A1/thank-you.htm

Goals

It is recommended that if not already set-up, Goals are created for the following website actions based on the existing implementation and previously suggested configuration:

  • Place Order
    • With a funnel for the stages of the ecommerce funnel
  • Place Order
    • With a funnel for the stages of the checkout process commencing with the Basket page
  • The thank you page for the Contact Us form
  • The thank you page for emailing product details to a friend
  • For each stage of the ecommerce funnel where possible

Recommendations for an Enhanced Implementation

Customisation of Cookies

As previously described, New England Lifestyle needs to customise their standard page tag to allow the Blog subdomain to be tracked.  Given this update, they should switch to GA Asynchronous code at the same time.  The new page tag will look like:

<script type="text/javascript">
  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-1145732-1']);
  _gaq.push(['_setDomainName', 'newenglandlifestyle.com']);
  _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
  _gaq.push(['_trackPageLoadTime']);
  (function() {
     ...
  })();
</script>

This code should be located at the top of the page just above the </head> line.  It also includes the new GA tag for Page Load times.  This will automatically populate the Page Load reports within Google Analytics for a small sample of pages loaded.

A New England Lifestyle product page

Custom Variables

It is recommended that the following custom variables are tracked:

  • Visitor
    • Customer – this is set when a purchase is made or when a visitor logs in to the website and is recognised as having previously made a purchase
  • Visit
    • Basket created – this is set either when a basket is created or if a visitor returns to the website where a persistent basket is still existing
  • Page View
    • On the Product Details page
      • Discount
      • Range e.g. Manhattan, Newport
    • On the Search Results page
      • Number of search results returned
    • On Blog posts
      • Age of article e.g. this week, this month, 6 months, this year, older

Events

It is recommended that the following actions on the New England Lifestyle website are tracked as events:

  • Ask a question – on product pages
  • Click on email address – as a Mailto link
  • Clicking to view images
  • Clicking to commence checkout – from any page outside of the Basket

Virtual Page Views

It is recommended that the following actions on the New England Lifestyle website are tracked as virtual page views:

Add to Basket

When a visitor currently adds a product to basket, it generates a new page view of the Product page with nothing to indicate that a product has been added to the basket.  This new page that is generated should have a virtual page name used to indicate that it was due to an Add to Basket action.  The page name (assuming other recommendations have been actioned) would be:

/add_to_basket/department/category/product

Payment Details Page

As previously mentioned, the order is completed on a 3rd party shopping cart.  Even though the Payment Details page cannot be tagged, code should be added to the Continue to Payment button on the Your Details page to reflect that the visitor has proceeded to a new page within the checkout process.

So that this page can be used within a Google Analytics funnel, a virtual page view should be used and not an event.  The page name would be /checkout/payment_details.  There should be a check in place first so the virtual page view is only triggered if the visitor is going to pass validation on this form (How did you hear about us? should not be a required field).

Key Ecommerce Investigations

Analyse the Ecommerce Funnel

All stages of the ecommerce funnel can be identified and reported on recommendations are implemented.  Without this, it will not be possible to accurately analyse the performance of the New England Lifestyle website based on the ecommerce funnel.  Details for each stage of the funnel are:

  • Ecommerce Visit
    • Can be identified based on the first element in the page name only if page names are modified
  • Get to Product
    • Can be identified based on the first element in the page name only if page names are modified
  • Create Basket
    • Requires additional tracking on the site to capture this action
  • Commence Checkout
    • Can be tracked using /order.htm (or /checkout/your_details)

Analyse the Checkout Process

Not all pages of the checkout process can be identified and reported on due to the use of a 3rd party shopping cart.  The use of a vertical page view to represent the 3rd Party Shopping Cart will be the best possible step to allow an approximate analysis of this process.

Create a Merchandising Report

It is not possible to create a Merchandising report for New England Lifestyle as not all the required elements are being tracked.  The elements that are not being tracked are:

  • Product Detail pages – are currently not uniquely identified as product pages
  • Add to Basket by Product – no tracking in place to record this

The recommended changes to the set-up of Google Analytics would allow New England Lifestyle to create this report.

Analyse Performance by Entry Point

With the recommended tracking in place for department, category and product pages, it will be possible to create a report comparing % Entries, Bounce Rate and Conversion Rate for different website entry points and different traffic sources.

Download Guide to Google Analytics Flash Audit

Download New England Lifestyle Flash Audit

7 responses to “GA Flash Audit – New England Lifestyle”

  1. Duncan says:

    This is a very good audit Peter, and there is lots that the company can take away, and more importantly APPLY.

    I’m sure I speak for many companies when I say there is certain level of appreciation and perhaps understanding of analytics and conversion optimisation, but perhaps not the skills or experience to know exactly what needs to be done. New England Lifestyle appreciates that this element of marketing and ecommerce will only get more important as competition continues to increase online.

    The issues raised in this audit will really go a long way to making the site healthier and better equipped to handle further developments in on-site optimisation and user monitoring.

    Thanks!

    • Peter O'Neill says:

      @Duncan glad you found interesting and more importantly, identified actions that you can apply. Making the changes recommended will allow New England Lifestyle, and any retail website, to answer their business questions. Both the ones they have now and the ones they will be asking in 6 – 12 months time.

  2. Florian says:

    Thank you Peter for this Flash Audit!

    I love your methodology. I wouldn’t have thought about renaming pages using filters. It’s great idea because it’s so much better to have a clear hierarchy.

    I’ve got just one question about Virtual Page Views. I was wondering if we could use Event tracking instead of Virtual Page Views with the new version of Google Analytics?

    Florian

    • Peter O'Neill says:

      @Florian good to hear you found the flash audit useful. I quite commonly rename pages using filters, it is a workaround for when pages can’t be renamed using virtual page names. The other great use is to group content in a secondary profile.

      I assume you reference the new version of GA with your question as you can set event based goals. Yes you can and it is my preferred approach when a visitor is not really seeing a new page – as is the case for New England Lifestyle when you add a product to basket. But while you can use an event as a goal, you can’t use it within a funnel. By using virtual page views for Add to Basket, you can create a funnel in GA for the ecommerce funnel. There are a couple of other benefits around content grouping and seeing visitors paths as well.

  3. Florian says:

    Thanks Peter for your reply !

    I hadn’t noticed yet that you couldn’t use funnels with event tracking based goals. I’ve just tried and indeed, funnel options disappear with this kind of goals so I’m going to keep using virtual page views 🙂 !

  4. JK says:

    Just catching up on my reading – great post Peter.

  5. donnel white says:

    hey Peter O’Neill thanks for your nice post about flash audit ! This flash audit will really be effective to make betterment of a site’s on page optimization.

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