SEM SEO Expert by Nima Asrar Haghighi: September 2009 - Toronto SEO, SEM, SMO, Web Analytics Consultant .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

SEM SEO Expert by Nima Asrar Haghighi

SEM SEO Expert” is a blog written by Nima Asrar Haghighi. Nima is an Internet Marketing Specialist with expertise in SEM (PPC Advertising), Organic SEO, RSS, Social Media and Web Analytics (Google Analytics IQ Certified). Nima holds an MBA in marketing, B.Eng. in Electrical Engineering, Project Management Certification, and CIW (Certified Internet Webmaster) in E-commerce. Contact: nima @ sem seo expert.com.

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Welcome to Nima Asrar Haghighi's blog covering Internet marketing topics such as search engine optimization, search engine marketing, Web Analytics, RSS and online marketing industry as a whole.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Google Analytics Tracking Cookies

Cookies are small text data given to a web browser by a web server. The data is stored on a website visitors’ hard drive and is returned to the specific web server each time the browser requests a page from that server.

Cookies are used by web servers to remember information from page to page and visit to visit, and can contain information such as user preferences, shopping cart contents, the identifier for session Ids, and can know whether users have logged in and do not need to authenticate again as they navigate through the site.

Google Analytics uses cookies to differentiate one user from another and to pass information from page to page during a single user's web session. The cookies help GA collect data about a given browser, along with the information requested and sent by the visitor. Cookies do not identify people, but rather they are defined themselves by a combination of a computer, a user account, and a browser.

Google Analytics Tracking Cookies

Google Analytics uses only first-party cookies as opposed to third-party cookies. This means that all cookies set by Google Analytics for your website domain send data only to your server. This means that the data cannot be altered or retrieved by any third party server.
Google Analytics uses cookies to obtain the following data in order to generate reports on your website traffic.

• Determining Visitor Session
• Identifying Unique Visitors
• Tracking Traffic Sources
• Customizing Tracking
• Utilizing Google Website Optimizer

Google Analytics' JavaScript code is compatible with your website's existing cookie usage. All Google Analytics cookie names begin with _utm to prevent any naming conflicts between their cookies and your web server’s. Google Analytics sets a combination of persistent and temporary (__utmc) cookies on visitors’ machines.

__utma, This cookie lasts for 2 years from setup/update and is typically written to the browser upon the first visit to your site from that web browser. The purpose of this cookie is to determine unique visitors to your site and it is updated with each page view.

__utmb, This cookie lasts for 30 minutes from setup/update and is used to establish and continue a user session with your site.

__utmc, This cookie operates in conjunction with the __utmb cookie to determine whether to establish a new session for the user or not. This cookie does not have an expiration date. It expires as soon as the user exits the browser.

__utmz, This cookie lasts 180 days from setup/update and stores the type of referral used by the visitor to reach your website. This cookie is used to identify whether the visitor has reached the site via a direct method, a referring site, a search engine, or a campaign such as a text ad, banner ad or an email campaign. A __utmz cookie contains domain hash, timestamp, session number, campaign numbercould look like: utmz=181178431.1117767825.1.2.

, This cookie lasts for 2 years from setup/update and is used to create a custom user segment (e.g., paid vs. non-paid visitors). This cookie is optional and will be set only if the setVar method is called.

, This cookie lasts for 2 years from setup/update and is used by Website Optimizer and only set when the Google Website Optimizer (GWO) tracking code is installed.

Understanding how Google Analytics uses cookies helps with setting up more customized and advanced settings.

Related Articles: Are cookies treated fairly?


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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Google Analytics – a Consultant Needed?

I have previously written some articles on Web Analytics on topics such as Web Analytics & Cookies, Introduction of Google Analytics, improvement of website usability utilizing Web Analytics, SEO KPIs, Branding KPIs, and benefits of Web Analytics.

Given the growing importance of web measurement and the fact that the aforementioned articles seem to be some of the most popular posts on my blog, I decided to focus on writing some more tactical posts on setting up and implementing Google Analytics.

If you have a small and static website, setting up Google Analytics can be very easy and straight forward and you may not need a Web Analytics consultant especially if you are relatively tech savvy. A little bit of training on GA and you are good to go. However, if your site is complex, dynamic, offers e-commerce transactions or you need to measure traffic across multiple domains, sub-domains or third party shopping carts, you might need the help from a Google Analytics consultant.

Setting up Google Analytics - GA Consultant Toronto

Before you choose Google Analytics as your Web Analytics application of choice, you may consider some of the features GA has to offer:

Language – Google Analytics interface currently supports over 24 languages.

Scalability – Google Analytics can support both small and large sites. However, there are some limitations in terms of number of goals you can set (currently limited to 4 goals per profile). In addition, in cases of high traffic websites, some of GA stats are shown based on data sampling.

Even though Google Analytics has made web analytics affordable for small businesses, GA also offers some sophisticated features helpful to enterprise level websites.

Integration with Google AdWords – in just few steps you can easily integrate your Google AdWords PPC campaign with your Google Analytics and start measuring your AdWords pay-per-click campaign performance without the need to tag every single keyword, ad copy, ad group an campaign.

Campaign Reporting – whether you would like to measure your Google AdWords performance, your PPC campaign on Yahoo or MSN adCenter, e-mail marketing, web advertising, your social media initiative or offline marketing campaigns, Google Analytics can.

Funnel Visualization – if your audience need to path a funnel to become a lead or customer, you need to monitor and optimize your funnel on an ongoing basis to increase your conversion rate. GA’s funnel visualization report just does that.

Customizable Dashboard – if you need a quick overview of some of the most important key performance indicators, you can set your dashboard up so that you can have a bird’s eye view of your site performance in a glance.

Cross-Segmentation – Google Analytics allows you segment your traffic by different criteria and compare the performance of different segments.

Measuring PDFs and Virtual Page Views – Google Analytics allows you to measure how many times your PDF files are being downloaded by creating virtual pageview and track back the downloads to the contributing campaigns.

Event Tracking – In some cases, you may need to track certain events and actions to see how your audience interact with your interactive elements of your site such as videos and flash files. GA makes this easy for you through its event tracking feature.

Internal Site Search Reporting – this is one of the most useful yet least utilized feature of Google Analytics. Internal site search reports give you insight into the mind of your audience and can help you optimize your website usability and product offerings.

Automated Reporting – Too busy to remember to login and check your website performance? Set up, schedule and share reports automatically.

I will try to cover some of these features as well as some more advanced Google Analytics set up techniques in the feature posts.

Nima Asrar Haghighi – Google Analytics Consultant, Toronto


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