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Benchmarking Performance: Your Options, Dos, Don’ts and To-Die-Fors!

We are all blessed with more data than we know what to do with, and all for the price of a few lines of JavaScript added to your website. In this type of an environment, I’ve frequently stressed the value of identifying targets for your key performance indicators.

[See step four in the process for creating your Digital Marketing and Measurement Model.]

If you have set the targets for your KPIs up front (Unique Visitors for Sept. should be 1,356,000), you’ve set a clear line in the sand as to what performance will be declared a success or a failure at the end of the measurement time period. In turn, that will help you figure out where and how much to dig to understand performance.

Make sure you don’t have anything on your strategic dashboards that does not have a pre-identified target.

Let me admit right away that setting targets is a complex art and science. Yes, and I’ve said this frequently, if all else fails just set your target for a 10% improvement. Anything, absolutely anything, can be improved by 10% with just a small amount of effort. But, you likely want to do something more complicated, and more sound, over time.

One of the key elements in the process of setting targets for your own performance it to collect benchmarks from others (competitors, industry-level, etc.) related to their performance. And, if you’ve met any boss, at any company, in any country, then you’ll never go a few days without them asking for benchmarks (turns out they are also very interested in knowing if the performance they are seeing is good or bad).

So, in this post let’s look at the options at our disposal in getting benchmarks we can use to set targets. I’m planning to cover the four different strategies at your disposal to collect benchmarks. Yes, four!

1. Own data benchmarks

2. Industry analyst data benchmarks

3. Competitor data benchmarks

4. Vendor data benchmarks

In each case you’ll learn how to use each source, the pros and cons of each, and by the end of this post you’ll never have an excuse not to have rock solid (or, ok, just a tiny bit squishy) targets for your company’s digital performance.

1. Own data benchmarks.

There is a tendency to believe that if we need benchmarks we need to go outside. Yes, there are benchmarks outside, we will cover them in this post. But it is often a million times simpler to create your first set of benchmarks using your own data/performance. If you’ve read my first book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, you know that I’ve advocated this strategy since 2008! See Page 269. 🙂

This recommendation also valuable for companies that have very unique business models, or face other unusual circumstances (geographic, size, amount of innovation, and many others).

So how can you use your own data?

Here’s a simple trend that shows visits to your website, in this case for one year through September…

analytics partial year trend1

You now want to create a target for the number of visits (/sessions) to your site through the end of the year, a simple goal.

The most straightforward thing to do is to look at the trend for last year, and look for insights. Here’s the complete year 2013…

analytics full year trend1

While the numbers for individual month are different, you can see that October spiked and then things came down to below Sept performance by December.

There, some primitive benchmarking information you can use. Export the data into Excel, look at month over month trends for each year, look at month over month trends across years, and you have a fat set of numbers that can serve as benchmarks…

monthly trends1

Exactly which cell’s you’ll end up using to lay out expectations for Oct, Nov, and Dec 2014 will depend on a number of factors and your insider knowledge and your forecasting savvy. But remember, even if you just sayI expect this year to be roughly like last year, you are not going to go terribly wrong if company is not running a terrible business. If you don’t stink completely, things on the the web always go up and to the right over time – the argument is simply about the slope of the line and short term fluctuations.

If you want to learn about how to do simple forecasting and trend analysis, please see the official forecast function in Excel post on the Microsoft website, and this handy tutorial on trend lines and forecasting in excel.

In an ideal world as you do the above exercise, you’ll take into account:

1. Any big changes in your marketing/customer acquisition strategy over the last time period (more money doing Search, less money in Email, elimination Facebook as it does not work, etc., etc.).

2. Any big shifts in investment (marketing, customer experience, team sizes, tools).

3. Outcomes of the conversations with your Finance team and Sr. Leaders (company is leaving China, our IPO is next week, 1,800 new stores are being opened in 180 days, our new IRR is 8%).

And other such things. They will give you context you need to add to the numbers above to ensure the art part is also taken care of when you do the science part.

My advice to you above is perhaps a bit primitive. But, please be assured that you’ll be surprised how much value it will bring as you get going on this journey. Give it a fair shot, before you go on a long quest to find the best benchmarks in Babylon.

Couple of other examples of going to your own data to identify your benchmarks.

Conversion rate is one of those metrics that I strongly encourage you only create benchmarks for from your own data. None of the four other methods are advisable. Even if they give you conversion rate benchmarks.

There are four reasons, again from Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, from 2008 (!):

1. Clean measures of conversion rates require a clean and standard implementation of the ecommerce tags. This has never been true – not even for people who use the same analytics tool.

2. Conversion rates reported by asking a group of companies what they are for their company, are hugely suspect.

3. Competitive intelligence tools have a very poor capabilities to measure conversion rate accurately.

4. Even exactly similar companies (think KMart – Wal-Mart, Expedia – Orbitz, American Express Credit Cards – Chase Credit Cards, Red Cross – ALS Association) have a profoundly different digital strategy. So the fact that Expedia has 5% conversion rate and Orbitz has 102% is like comparing apples and monkeys. Don’t do it.

Hence, if outside providers give you Conversion Rate Benchmarks, avoid them like you would avoid cocaine. Addictive, not good for your health and will lead you astray.

But, you have your own data! Use that because you know your strategy and your implementation.

Look at the overall conversion rate over a long period of time (a couple of years minimum if you can)…

goal conversion rate 11

And you can go through the exercise above to come up with your benchmarks.

In the case of Conversion Rates, I would encourage you to create benchmarks for the overall conversion rate, rather set it for your most important acquisition strategies. In my case I’m looking at Social Media (boss LOVES social!), Direct Traffic (I get a lot of it!) and Organic Search Traffic (can’t ever have enough of that!)…

goal conversion rate segmented 11

You can see the wisdom of not just setting a 20% aggregate conversion rate, based on the above benchmarking data. For Social you’ll fail miserably (the hill is too high to climb!) and the target for Organic Traffic might be be too low!

Another reason to identify separate ones for each of your major marketing strategy is that this will also provide you very specific and clean guidance when you do advanced segmentation to understand performance. What’s good an what’s bad will jump out at your significantly faster.

As you can see above you can leverage benchmarking even if you are not an ecommerce website (above data is for non-ecommerce site), or indeed you have any type of business.

A couple more tips on benchmarking using your own web analytics data, this time the performance of your content on your site – mobile or desktop, site or app.

One of the easiest ways to improve outcomes on your website, it is great to make sure that people don’t say this via your bounce rate metric: I came, I puked, I left.

Get the big trend over a large period of time for a specific page. This graph is for the home page of a website…

bounce rate trended1

You can use the above data for benchmarking, following a strategy similar to the one described above. (On that note a question that might have jumped out at you is why is the Sept. bounce rate going up, when for the entire last 12 months, the rates have going down steadily!)

Since this is such an important page (home pages, FTW!), we will follow the strategy we’ve learned from conversion rate analysis: segment the data by your most important segments coming to your home page.

bounce rate trended segmented

For my business Direct Visits are very important, a much higher % of people see the home page of the site, as are mobile and tablet combined have a very desirable audience. I also love Canada because of the traffic, and I want to know if I can expect high conversions. And who does not love Organic?

The above graph shows you the dangers of setting targets on aggregated benchmarking analysis. The best way is to segment these metrics and then set individual targets for your most important segments.

One more metric I love and adore highlighting to the senior leaders in companies is the KPI Page Value in Google Analytics. I can’t think of a better way to identify which content we create (pages, videos, interactive quizzes, comparison charts, op ed articles, flash magic thingies) is adding the most value…

segmented page value

Again, same strategy. Get to pages/content you’ve invest the most money in, identify the segments that will high a light on your victor or failure.

Finally, one small bonus, if you are amongst the absolutely most sophisticated Analysts/Marketers in the world, you’ll create desired targets for your Assisted Conversion performance…

assisted conversions google analytics

Most companies continue to use the awful last-click attribution model (see more: Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models). Focusing on Assisted Conversions, will first help your company move away from last-click but in the long run empower your teams to solve for getting an immediate conversion, but also valuing the longer-conversion cycle.

I hope you are convinced that our first source to benchmark ourselves, because it is within reach and you can teach the entire company a new habit pretty quickly.

2. Industry Analyst Data Benchmarks.

The place where we traditionally turned for benchmarks were industry analysts, associations, groups of people talking to top people at companies. This would include lovely organizations like Gartner or Forrester, Consumer Electronics Association, eMarketer/eAnythingelse, lone cowboys and cowgirls sending out surveys seeking input on various questions (in our case including “What is the current conversion rate for your website?”).

The result would be a note you might get whetting your appetite like this one… usually offering you a full report in exchange for a reasonable amount of your funds or signing up for consulting services or purchasing software of one kind or other other…

self reported benchmarking

In the past when we had little choice such reports, collections of benchmarks, held an incredible amount of value and sway in the industry. We have a lot more access to a lot more information, including our industries and performance. Hence, over time, though the costs were reasonable, I’ve become shy about these resources as a source of value/quality.

The sources providing this information continue to be insightful in many services they offer, and you should definitely hire them if you need those services. Just skip the we can give you data and benchmarks on performance bits.

If you do use them, please consider the data collection methodology.

A common source of such benchmarks (be it digital marketing or SEO or Landing Pages or anything really) is extensive surveys an organization might send out to a hand selected group or tweeted to the masses via social media. This creates a sample, sampling and self-reported biases.

survey based benchmarks

Please make not mistake, the organizations producing this data do a lot of math work, they apply great models, the amount of effort is wonderful. But, input influences output more than the processing of the input. So, be aware of those three biases, and do your best to accommodate for them if you do use this data for anything.

Sometimes the data you see is omg so tempting (!), dig deeper into the source of the data, the methodology used to collect the data and the assumptions that were applied when processing it and the limitations that are mentioned in small font size in footnotes.

facebook ads benchmarks

Net, net. These were more important in the past. You have too many other more valuable alternatives today. Exhaust those first.

3. Competitor Data Benchmarks.

After exhausting the value of strategy one, own data benchmarks, my next go to place is industry and individual company/website performance data collected by competitive intelligence vendors.

CI vendors have lots of interesting ways in which they collect data. (The Definitive Guide To (8) Competitive Intelligence Data Sources!) The processing is very apples to apples for any site (or if you prefer, rotten apples to rotten apples). They have extremely large datasets to play with, or provide to use for analyzing performance.

The only caveat to internalize is that the larger the size of your website, or your competitor’s, the better the data you’ll see in CI tools. For any site that receives less then 50k Unique Visitors a month, you are looking just looking at noise, any resemblance in numbers to reality is purely coincidental. Above 100k Unique Visitors a month, you are looking at good noise, kind of useful data, use it with just a little caution. Above a few hundred thousand UV per month, things start to get really interesting.

If your direct competitor, or you, have under 100k Unique Visitors, look at overall industry level data or a competitor that is much bigger than that. You can still learn from both.

With that, let’s look at the first rich source of benchmarking data in CI tools, the industry and sub-vertical reports.

This is a report for Beauty and Fitness industry websites in the UK from the paid version of SimilarWeb (how they collect data pdf)…. and notice it includes the confidence building number – how many sites they have in the dataset…

similarweb industry benchmarks

If you are the Marketer/Analyst for or or, you have very good context frame your own performance. You have the standard metrics like Time on Site, Pages/Visit and Bounce Rate. And you also have, perhaps more useful, the industry wide acquisition strategy distribution.

Now you can ask yourself the question, how come we only get 12% search traffic and 70% display ad traffic? That could be the secret to your rousing success! But even then, I think it gives you context for the opportunity you are leaving on the table.

So three valuable metrics, and two distributions ppc/organic (though I have to admit this is weakest element in SimilarWeb) and traffic sources.

Since SimilarWeb has international data, you can run these reports for any country and for extremely specific or broad industries and sub-verticals.

As an example, here’s the report for the Real Estate sub-vertical in Canada, the same set of actual performance that we can use to create our benchmarks…

similarweb real estate canada

My favorite strategy for creating benchmarks is to take the above actual performance as layer one of context I need, and then I look for my big competitors as layer two.

For example, I’ve been working hard to crush Remax in Quebec. I want to crush, crush, crush them, and take over their business!

So after downloading the above data, I can also type in their URL into SimilarWeb and get their individual performance report (the link takes you to a free report, the one below is for six months from the Pro version).

I get the standard three metrics, and a trend for Monthly Visits. It delights me that my crushing seems to be working, their trend is down!

similarweb remax quebec

Ok, so my Quebec real-estate website is just getting 500k visits a month so it is unlikely that I’m causing the above. 🙂

Additionally, I also get the all important distribution of traffic to help me get context for my acquisition strategy/benchmarks.

similarweb remax quebec traffic

There is a lot more information available to me (psychographic, geographic distribution, keywords, referring sites, and on and on). But I’ll only look at that information when formulating how to meet or exceed the benchmarks I’ve created for my company.

For the benchmarks, I just need the highest level of info that you see above.

Use the data in the industry report and the individual reports of a few competitors (not just one!) to create benchmarks based on observed performance (rather than self-reported survey performance as in strategy two).

You’ll be amazed at how much more focused your digital execution is.

Compete is another source of competitive intelligence data that you can use for the exact same purposes. (How they collect data.)

The limitation of Compete is that it only has data sourced from US audiences (so if you type, you are seeing the data only from American visitors).

I can run industry specific reports (Pro version) that will share the overall Unique Visitor trend for the industry (gives you a sense for the overall size of the pie – excellent context), along with the four key metrics (though not bounce rate, that’s ok)… like this one for the Jewelry industry…

compete jewelry benchmarks

In the industry view you can click on the Traffic Dashboard tab, to get the traffic sources presented as one of my favorite visualizations, the treemap…

compete jewelry benchmarks traffic sources

You can click on any one of the the cluster’s you are interested in, say, Miscellaneous, and drill down into the source that form that bucket….

compete jewelry benchmarks traffic sources details

You get extremely detailed data. You will likely use the above level of detail in your execution strategy, it is nice that it is right there waiting for you.

As mentioned above, I’ll use the above information as layer one of context. I’ll focus on my big competitors and their specific performance for layer two of context.

Here’s that report for, and….

compete website analysis

Clearly Kay is killing it. It is pretty interesting that while bluenile kissed kay in Sept 2013, it never comes close to Kay, who is pulling way in 2014. (Nice set of benchmarks for people at bluenile to shoot for, no?)

For my search benchmarks (total, just organic or just paid), I can drill down into search referrals report.

compete search analysis

Lots of good data. Lots of good benchmarks. From observed performance and not self-reported performance based on a survey or via other such methods.

There is a lot more you can clearly do with competitive intelligence data, it will help you focus in on strategies you need to execute to meet the new benchmarks you’ve set for yourself. Use it for that as well!

(In case you skipped ahead to this part of the post, please try not to get or use Conversion Rate numbers you might get from CI sources. Scroll back to the own data benchmarks section and see the four reasons for why not. Thank you.)

4. Vendor Data Benchmarks.

Perhaps my favorite source of data for benchmarks, data from our web analytics vendors!

It is better than the observed data from CI vendors because this data comes from the same tags as you are using on your own website from the vendor you use. And rather than someone observing it from the outside, CI tools again, you have volunteered to share this data with other users of the tool. Hence it is the best possible source of data.

You are in the data, and your competitors are if they are using it too! As close to apple to apple as you can get.

So log into your lovely digital analytics tool and if you see this, rejoice!

ibm conversion rate benchmarks

With the lovely IBM tool you can get abandonment rate and conversion rate (see caveat above) type metrics. You can also get session metrics and other behavior metrics. There are other things like browser types etc. which might be useful to our IT friends only.

Use the data to create your own benchmarks.

Benchmarks are not only available from web analytics vendors, any one who is the primary source of data collection can provide them. Some of these include MailChimp, for Email Marketing Benchmarks, and iPerceptions, for Customer Satisfaction Benchmarks.

I am also quite fond of the newly revamped v2.0 of the benchmarking reports in Google Analytics. The team has learned lots of valuable lessons from v1.0 and have come back with a bang with data that is even more insightful.

You’ll currently find the reports in the Audience folder and the Benchmarking sub-folder.

Clicking on Channels shows you the first report.

Google Analytics will auto-detect the type of website you are based on an advanced algorithm that analyzes content and business type. In this case it, rightly detects that my site is a shopping website.

google analytics benchmarking ecommerce

The second thing it does is create a benchmark for you based on its understanding of your size, and only compares you to websites that are similarly sized. You can see that I’m around 25k – 50k Visits a month, it compares me to other sites, 2,623 other sites to be specific, that are in the 10,000 – 100,000 daily visits range.

As in the case of SimilarWeb above, I love knowing how many other websites are contributing to the benchmark. Very confidence building.

For this blog, Benchmarking classifies me into Internet & Telecom vertical. I can see that I’m totally crushing it (again after crushing remax! :)).

google analytics benchmarking telecom

Until I notice that the benchmark daily session size GA has chosen for me is 1,000 – 5,000 daily visits. I switch to the next level up. I’m not crushing as much. Boo! But no worries, what does not kill you makes you stronger. Watch out 100,000 daily visits people, I’m coming after you!

Google Analytics allows you to change your industry vertical by clicking on the first box. There are 1,600 different verticals, sub-verticals, sub-sub-verticals and sub-sub-sub verticals included. You can get pretty darn specific in terms of getting benchmarking data now.

analytics benchmarking options

As you can see above, you can also limit the data to a specific country. Guyana, anyone?

And you can choose from the seven traffic size categories (with the one GA has chosen for you by default clearly labeled).

Unlike the competitive intelligence tools, you can be pretty small and Google Analytics will still give you benchmarking data. Sweet.

Here’s how the power of leveraging various controls works… Here’s my ecommerce website as I see when I look at the standard benchmarking report…

google analytics benchmarking shopping

I’ve made a major push in my acquisition strategy in the United Kingdom, so I can switch Geo to the UK and after a few seconds of waiting with a bated breath, I get my current performance benchmarked….

google analytics benchmarking shopping uk

Not as cute as I would like it to be. But, I now know where I stand, and where I need to get to for other sites in my industry vertical who also get traffic from the UK. Given something magical we did in mid-Sept (remember that is your real actual data), I need to repeat that or learn lessons and hustle.

But traffic is not the only thing you get in the new, improved and better smelling Google Analytics benchmarking reports. You also get lovely stuff in a super cute heatmappy table!

google analytics benchmarking detailed report

Remember how enamored I was with strategy three of CI tools with traffic sources to improve acquisition/marketing/advertising? Boom! You have it here, with actual self-reported data.

The Default Channel Grouping the same as in your Acquisition > Channels report. You get two six metrics: Sessions (visits), New Sessions, New Users, Pages/Session, Average Session Duration (time on site), and Bounce Rate.

You get your overall performance against the benchmark in the first row of data (gray boxes), and then individual segmented performance.

The cool part about having this built into your analytics tool (GA or IBM or whatever enterprise tool you are using) is that all the computations are done for you already. Look at the green, white and red cell colors to focus on certain zones and get a sense for your performance.

(In case you are curious, like I was, as to why the arrows are there, they are there for our color blind peers. Clever addition.)

We are doing better at Search and Social, getting lots of new visitors, but at a much higher bounce rate and lower site engagement. So we are better at acquiring irrelevant traffic. Oops!

Without the benchmark, you would not know. At least now you know, even if you are crying. Remember, you are just the analyst. Someone else is going to pay for this. 🙂

There are two buttons at the top left of the table in your benchmarking reports. The first button is pretty nice, it gives you the precise numbers. For example, showing me that I had 243,985 visits vs. the benchmark of 100,725 visits.

google analytics detailed benchmarking data

I find this to be distracting, the report has too many numbers by default and it looks like one big data puke. Hence I take advantage of that first button and turn the numbers off.

The second button, next to my mouse cursor above, turns off the heat-map on and off. When it is pressed off you get a nice clean table with just the arrows.

When you choose to geographically focus your benchmarks, you also the detailed data along with the overall session performance.

For the above website, I’ve chosen to zero in on Canada and you see all my numbers, and indexed performance, changes dynamically…

google analytics benchmarking detailed canada

If I choose to obsess about my Canadian strategy (and I do obsess about it!), I can do so with a unique set of benchmarks to inform targets I’m going to shoot for in my Digital Marketing and Measurement Model.

Channels is the first benchmarking report in Google Analytics. The second report is Location. It shows my performance segmented by countries. The same six metrics (I’ve excerpted only four below for the sake of image clarity). The same feature-set (including the ability to drill-down by industry vertical, size, etc.).

google analytics geo location benchmarking

The above is my standard view of the benchmarking report. I’ve turned off the precise numbers comparison and the heat-map (though I love the latter, I think the arrows suffice).

The third and final benchmarking report in Google Analytics won’t surprise you. Given all the, deserved, hoopla around mobile, the third report shows device benchmarking information.

And…. I’m getting crushed. Really crushed!

benchmarking analytics device type shopping

Just look at all that red. Blood everywhere. Sure, of the low number of visits I have, many are new sessions, but how is that any solace.

Particularly crushing is the mobile battle. By end of Dec 2014, for most major websites mobile traffic will be greater than desktop permanently. So the fact that I’m -59% and -62% respectively for mobile and tablet should light a fire under our collective rear-ends at the company.

And yes, sometimes we all know that mobile is important. It takes this type of very specific mobile data for the message to be heard.

In order to make it more meaningful, and hoping less painful, I drill-down to the Women’s Clothing industry vertical (my website’s niche).


benchmarking analytics device type shopping apparel

Our benchmarked performance on mobile becomes worse, tablets a little better, and we stink a lot less at desktop (-23% to -44%). So some benefit from being able to be specific about the benchmarks.

Finally, just to bring this whole thing home properly… I focus on the country of Iceland because… well, why not… and in a few seconds I have my report….

benchmarking analytics device type shopping iceland

We are crushing it in Iceland! All three people. : ) Ok, not three, 1,353, but crushing is crushing.

I hope you see the power of having access to this data, and being able to focus very quickly on how we are doing as a company on the web. I hope you see, regardless of which strategy you use (one, two, three or four), that you can make your dashboards that much more meaningful, get your leaders and your peers to take action faster, and be smarter about getting relevant customers to engage with you and by delivering relevance and satisfaction, create higher business profits.

Benchmarks help create meaningful targets. Meaningful targets help with clearer understand of success, or failure. And that… is awesome.

Go, win smarter!

As always, it is your turn now.

Does your analytics practice include setting targets for your critical few KPIs? If you use benchmarks, which of the four strategies do you currently leverage? Which one has given you the most trouble? Of the strategies outlined above, which one do you dis-trust the most / find least valuable? Which one is your favorite? If you were to give advice to your web analytics vendor, which metric would you love benchmarking data for next?

This post was written by Avinash Kaushik and the original post can be found at Occam’s Razor.


Magnificent Mobile Website And App Analytics: Reports, Metrics, How-to!

Nothing I can tell you about the importance of having an incredible mobile strategy will surprise you. Mobile devices (phones, tablets, wearables) are transforming how we behave, how we buy, how we consume content, and dare I say how we become happy or we become sad.

You after all have all of the aforementioned devices, and it is likely that at some level you are looking at traffic to your company’s digital existence.

Still, let me try to surprise you.

Here’s a graph that shows how US adults consume media, it shows time in hours. In blue is how much time we spent in 2010 and in red the time spent in 2014.

mobile content consumption trend 2010 2014

Surely you are not surprised that digital finally beats TV. (Yea!!!) I was not surprised, we could see that coming quite clearly.

What was surprising, even to me (!), was the dramatic shift between 2010 to 2014 to mobile content consumption. The light gray line is desktops plus laptops, the dark gray line is mobile devices.

The only reason good old digital is beating TV is mobile.

Amazing, right? And we see this trend all around the world.

Yet, if you look at the mobile experiences of the Fortune 1000, you will feel sad. If you look at the mobile marketing strategies, you will see they don’t reflect this shift to mobile. A majority of YouTube consumption is on mobile, yet if there is an advertising or content strategy inside a company for YouTube it rarely accommodates for this reality.


Many reasons. CEOs still don’t get it. CMOs don’t grasp the implication of this shift in consumer behavior. Company UX leaders are happy to stink less by taking the sub-optimal path of responsive design, rather than create a mobile-unique experience (your customers tend to do different things on your desktop site than your mobile site!).

But why blame others, in this post let’s focus on one important reason whose responsibility can be squarely put on your shoulders and mine: Measurement. Let’s get the information we need to get our CEOs, CMOs and CUXOs to unleash a tsunami of creativity and awesomeness when it comes to mobile.

Framing the Opportunity.

There are two types of experiences we need to worry about.

Our mobile websites. Our mobile applications.

They are two completely different beasts.

Consider their purpose. Mobile websites have to do many jobs, because people with many different purposes will come there. You have to solve for all of them. Mobile apps are much more focused (or they stink), and people use them for specific purposes. They use different technologies of course, and different distribution mechanisms.

To use my See-Think-Do-Care framework , mobile websites have to solve for See, Think and Do while mobile apps usually have to solve for Care.

united site app

Create a distinct mobile website and mobile app measurement strategies. They will need two different implementations, it is quite likely that you will end up with two sets of metrics (more people focused for mobile apps, more visit focused for sites).

Remember, when someone says mobile analytics, first ask the clarifying question: Do you mean mobile application or mobile website? Then approach each separately (even though there are tools like Google Analytics that will do both). It will save you hours and hours of time, effort and focus.

In this post we will look mobile sites first, both data collection and analysis, and then mobile applications.

The post is written in these six steps:

Step 1: Tag every shared link with campaign tracking parameters.

Step 2. Tag your mobile website. GTM FTW!

Step 3. Dive into Mobile Reporting and Analysis.

Step 4. Dive into Mobile Reporting and Analysis.

Step 5. Implement Cross-Device Tracking.

Step 32. Media-Mix Modeling/Experimentation.

Taking inspiration from my favorite quote, it’s not the ink, it’s the think, in each section I’ll share the think and then the ink, which includes screenshots and specific guidance on what you should do.


Step 1: Tag every shared link with campaign tracking parameters.

This might seem slightly bizarre, but before you do anything email every person you know in your company, take your agency out for an expensive lunch, massage the right egos in your IT team, do whatever it takes to get every link shared by your company digitally to use campaign tracking parameters.

The reason for my recommendation is that mobile browsers are almost there in terms of their behavior when compared to desktop browsers, but they do sometimes exhibit weirdness when it comes to passing referrers. For mobile apps, there are no referrers (everything’s Direct, hurray!). When you tag your email, paid search, display, organic and paid socially shared urls, you are going to ensure that your analytics solution will capture the source accurately (even in all those cases where there is no referrer).

So, be a dear. Always, always, tag every link (owned, earned or paid). It will have a material impact on the quality of your mobile analysis.

campaign tracking google play store

In Google Analytics there are five parameters: Source, Medium, Campaign, Term and Content. You should always use the first three, the last two are bonus. Check with the web analytics tool you use, every single tool allows you to do this, though each has a nuance you have to absorb.

Campaign tracking links have some differences depending on if they are going to your mobile website or your mobile app. Please see the detailed campaign tracking page for more info for websites, Android and iOS. Check out the helpful GA site URL builder and the Google Play URL builder.

When you analyze the data in Google Analytics (or Adobe or WebTrends or Webtrekk), this data will be in your Campaigns folder waiting for you to some pretty magnificent analysis.

Remember. Tag. Everything.

Step 2. Tag your mobile website. GTM FTW!

If anyone tells you that mobile analytics is hard, browsers are terrible, cookies are crumbling, phones use WAP (remember that?) etc., look at that person, give them a hug, then mark them in your book as enemy using red ink.

I kid a little of course. Use blue ink. : )

You can track mobile websites just fine with your standard web analytics tool.

According to Pew, while cell phones are nearly ubiquitous around the world (95% China, 91% Chile, 82% Kenya), penetration of smartphones are still getting there (37% China, 39% Chile, 19% Kenya). In the US, depending on who you ask, smartphones form around 65% of the cell phones.

It is important to realize that almost all monetizable behavior on mobile devices is on smartphones (everywhere in the world). So if with a few minutes of work you can track that, you have captured what’s most important to your business. If you are in a feature phone majority market, and that market has most of the monetizable behavior, please invest in unique tracking there. If you are not… KISS.

Let me modify my earlier sentence: You can track smartphone usage of your mobile websites just fine with your standard analytics tool.

If you are starting new, or going to touch the code on your website for any reason, please, in the name of Thor, Superman and Dilbert, use a tag management solution. Enterprise tag management solutions are extremely feature rich now (they can even make you coffee), and hold the incredible promise of just having to touch your mobile site/app once and then being able to add more data capture sexiness remotely via the cloud.

Google Tag Manager is one such solution. It is free. And you don’t even have to use Google Analytics to use it. It supports GA of course, along with AdWords, DoubleClick, GDN and many other Google tags. What is cool is that it is also pre-integrated with comScore, Turn, Media6 and other measurement and tracking solutions.

google tag manager

Sign up for your free account, set up a container tag, add that to a global element on your site and as soon as you add your GA Web Property ID, you are in business.

This will just give you the standard tagging. You would get the cool and sexy events, timers, rules and triggers, cross-domain tracking and all that. But for day one, standard will do.

One last request for you. Once you start collecting the data, please take half a day to identify all the micro-outcomes on your mobile website (remember this step for apps too), and ensure you configure them as Goals in your Google Analytics account’s admin interface.

Mobile experiences are unique, to understand that one key strategy for us will be understanding the micro-outcomes.

So, use GTM, implement one container tag, turn on the standard GA tag, configure goals in GA admin, you are ready for a lot of mobile data analysis!

Step 3. Dive into Mobile Reporting and Analysis.

Analytics > Mobile > Overview > Devices.

That is all it takes for you to get a real solid feel for mobile’s impact on your business. The very first thing you’ll see will be the distribution between desktop, mobile (smartphones) and tablets. The team at Google has done a great job of having the end-to-end view there across Acquisition, Behavior and Outcomes.

google analytics mobile traffic

What do you learn from this report? Mobile content consumption, behavior along key metrics (time, bounces etc.) and a sense for how much value you are getting from your mobile traffic. It will likely answer all the top level questions your boss has relating to mobile.

If you have ecommerce you will see key metrics related to money making. Transactions, Revenue and Ecommerce Conversion Rate.

google anatlyics mobile device ecommerce overview

What do you learn from this report? Mobile has much lower conversions and conversion rate than tablets or desktop. It does not matter if you are a B2B or B2C or A2K, you will always see this. This should give you two thoughts to frame to your boss. 1. Don’t frame the value of Mobile in context of last-click on-device conversion. 2. Leverage Mobile (smartphone and tablets) to inform, assist and form deepen relationships with your visitors. (Remember my stress earlier on measuring micro-outcomes?)

Now that you have done God’s work by making those two points clear, time to dive deeper. After all 50% of the traffic to the above site is on mobile devices, to get 10 times fewer conversions means there is something else of value that can be done.

Your boss will likely ask you which phones and tablets are used to visit your website, or other such value-deficient questions. For the first couple of interactions, give her/him that data. It is easy to find.

google analytics mobile device report

What do you learn from this report? Almost nothing. You will look at it only to please your boss for a couple of days. They will soon see that the values in the dimension (column one) rarely change, they will get bored and move on. Thank your lucky stars and stop reporting this.

(I’ve cropped off some of the not useful metrics in the standard GA report, at the minimum you see above what I think will be most useful in a not really useful report.)

One of the powerful reason for not using a dedicated mobile website analysis tool is that you can use the full suite of reports and analytical features inside your comprehensive digital analytics tool. You don’t need anything special for this.

The best way to take advantage of this opportunity is to leverage the Analytics advanced segmentation feature.

You can choose the built in Mobile and Tablet Traffic segment, and apply it to any standard or custom report you want to analyze inside Google Analytics.

google analytics mobile segment

For example, I’ve invested an enormous amount of my budget in creating See and Think content, which I’ve properly tagged using the lovely event tracking feature in Analytics.

Apply the mobile segment to the event tracking report, and boom!

google analytics mobile events experiences

What do you learn from this report? In my case the interactive elements which are useful are clearly displayed above. In your case these might include videos people watch (See), car configurators people use (Think), handy guides they download (Think/Care), social amplification (Do) or follows (Care), and so on and so forth. This report is most useful in understanding if people are interacting with, usually, your most expensive investment in content and delivering some micro-outcomes.

Speaking of micro-outcomes (or micro-conversion if you insist), apply the same segment to your Goals Overview report in Analytics for some truly deep insights that you boss will love you for.

google analytics mobile conversions

What do you learn from this report? How mobile traffic is adding value to your business. You’ve looked at ecommerce already and noticed some ecommerce is there, but not enough. So what else is going on? The stuff you see above. This report will help you identify where your company should invest in when it comes to mobile content and what kind of people to hire for the mobile awesomization team.

And how hard was it to get to the above? Standard GA tag > Goals in admin interface > Advanced segment. That, really, is all it takes.

You can, and likely should, do a lot more analysis of your mobile performance. Rather than having you jump around the many Analytics reports, I’ve created a destination where you can find pretty much all you need for your mobile report.

Let me walk you through the custom report, and I’ll also share a link below to allow you to download the report directly into your GA account so that you can get jiggy with it right away!

The mobile custom report collects three key areas of analysis. Mobile device performance, search performance, and page performance serve as the three tabs on top of the report. In each case I’ve chosen the best fit metrics for that dimension (Users, Sessions, Bounce Rate, Time and Goal CR for devices) and added a custom set of drilldowns for each tab. This allows you to, for example start exploring performance at an operating system level, drill down to the devices for that operating system and then which landing pages perform best for that mobile device.

custom report mobile device google analytics

Here’s the report for operating system. It shows clearly how you should at least be rooting for Windows Phone even as 40 awful pundits declare the platform a failure. For you, it delivers two percentage point higher conversion rate!

custom report mobile device data google analytics

What do you learn from this tab? This is a better view than the standard report, but this tab is mostly for your boss (with mildly interesting data around engagement) and for your IT/Dev team as they decide which platforms to optimize the experience for or prioritize first.

The next tab is more fun/important, the search performance report. The drilldowns are Keyword, Source (engine) and Mobile Device Branding. You could do Source and then Keyword if you want, but I felt in this case the other way works much better. And again, a custom set of metrics.

search mobile custom report

First, a quick techie lesson. You are seeing (not set) above simply to indicate that 84,894 Users did not come via Search. Good contextual bit of data to have. You are seeing (not provided) above because Google, Yahoo! and others do not provide keyword data for users who do secure searches. [For more: Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options]

What do you learn from this tab? How your search strategy is working for your company and what keywords and search engines you need to focus on in terms of improving your future mobile outcomes.

Finally, our third tab contains deeper insights around content. There are only four key metrics on this tab, and the drilldowns take us from the landing page to which source the traffic came from to aforementioned page and lastly did the type of user (new vs. returning) have an impact on performance.

page performance custom report mobile

What do you learn from this tab? Since mobile sites will have higher than average bounce rate, the landing page view is incredibly helpful in identifying both pages you need to improve (Bounce Rate, Time) and the pages you need to love a lot more (Page Value column). Once you find the most precious (or loser) pages, say #3 above, you can drill down to see which sources are delivering this valuable traffic – and you know what to do then. : )

Three simple tabs, your go to mobile analytics data without having to run around the tool. You can also download this report directly into you GA account: Mobile Performance Analysis Report.

I hope you can see that we don’t have to go very far and wide to do very deep analysis of the smartphone and tablet users of our mobile website (or, eeek (!), desktop website on mobile platforms). Grab the report above, or apply the segment highlighted above and you will be more than on your way to creating a more data driven company.

Step 4. Dive into Mobile Reporting and Analysis.

Even if your business is mostly mobile app related and you barely have a five page mobile website, I recommend doing steps one through three first. There is enough complexity and enough simplicity above in implementation, reporting and segmentation that you will be a lot more familiar with what to do when it comes to ensure glorious glory for your mobile app analytics.

The cool part of app analytics with Google Analytics is that the tracking, reporting and analysis were re-thought from the ground up just for a mobile application environment. The downside is that this awesomeness comes at the cost of having to learn new things on top of my recommendation above. You do get really good stuff back, just look at it…

google analytics mobile app reporting

Real-time! OMG! (Remember, right-time is way more important than real-time.) Deep analysis of actual users, their location, their engagement with your app (how many open your app only once and never again, the answer awaits!), of course devices and crash reports, but more fun events and conversions and in-app purchases, and the pièce de résistance what traffic sources and campaigns actually drive people to your app page in the Play store! (Sorry, no iOS. Purely because of iTunes data sharing policies.)

Could you possibly want anything else?

Let’s pull this a bit. How do you actually implement Google Analytics mobile app tracking?

Here’s the world’s greatest Mobile App Implementation Guide. Just follow the instructions. There are helpful links to the Android SDK or the iOS SDK along with the specific getting started guides.

When you are ready to grow beyond the default tracking (do that first!), you can implement event tracking in Android or event tracking iOS. Your next stop along the analytics ladder of awesomeness will be enhanced ecommerce tracking in Android or iOS . There is more. But should be enough to kill with smart insights.

If you have a mobile app, I also highly recommend using the Google Tag Manager because of the additional complexity of having to submit all changes to apps to the various stores, getting them to review and the added lag that comes with that love fest.

Once you leverage GTM… life becomes a little more simpler…

mobile application googlt tag manager benefit

…and you have added flexibility in terms of making changes to measurement possibilities and having them propagate faster and bring your insights faster.

How can you get to this glorious stage?

Happy birthday: GTM Setup and Workflow: Mobile Apps

google tag manager mobile ios tracking

As with any analytics tool, your data capture journey can be never ending. Remember to stop at various stages (1. default 2. events 3. ecommerce 4. more 5. more more), and shift to data reporting, enjoy the data, realize you don’t get what to do, shift to the data analysis phase (advanced segmentation, custom reporting).

Most people get stuck in DC, some make it through to DR, the bests spend time in DA because it is the only effort that yields the answer to: So what should we do?

mobile application reporting

There is a lot you can do (proof: details on all mobile app analytics reports). Here’s my cheat sheet for you for initial focus of your mobile app analysis efforts.

1. Understand how many Active Users are interacting with your app. What does the 30-day active number look like?

2. Zero in on how Users discover your app, what sources and campaigns contribute to downloads and installs. Google Play Sources report, Play Referral Flow report.

3. Engagement, or death! Zero into Loyalty and Recency reports. You will see interesting patterns in the Goal Conversion column. Segment these reports as relevant to you.

4. Money, money, money. Dive into the outcomes reports to measure in-app revenue by day or a time period that makes sense. How many people are buying shiny swords and blunt gems?

That should get you going, and keep you with your first six months worth of analysis. Yes, there is a lot more, just scroll up three screenshots. Don’t get lost… DC, DR, DA, money, DC, DR, DA, happiness, DC, DR, DA, glory.

If for any reason you don’t want to use the custom mobile app analytics feature in Google Analytics, you also have other options.

Upsight (nee Kontagent) provides mobile app analytics, with a pinch of advanced segmentation (including sweet cohort analysis) and big data mining thrown in for good measure.

You can also look into Mobile App Tracking – it has a special emphasis on tracking marketing with a little less on detailed app behavior, segmentation and analysis.

Countly‘s claim to fame is that it is open source (a free version is available along with paid ones). You can also play with their mobile app tracking and data using their live dashboard/solution set. (Repeat, click on that link to play with actual data!)

countly mobile app analytics

Like other tools such as Analytics, they track events in great detail.

Here’s an example of their tracking in-app purchases…

countly mobile app analytics events

Their User Retention report is well worth taking a look at.

There are mobile app analytics solutions that also provide built in A/B testing and/or surveying capabilities and/or push notifications to individual users and/or capturing and analysis of personally identifiable information (PII) etc. Analyze your needs carefully, buy for now and the near future rather than for 2017, lest you spend all the time until 2017 on implementation, customization, reporting and re-implementation.

A new entrant worth checking out is Introspex, my friend Ali Hedayati is the Chairman.


It focuses on complete mobile customer experience management, with elements of the platform supporting developers, marketers and your tech/operations folks. The thing you might like the most is the no code instrumentation.

You have many choices. Free or paid. The one thing you don’t have is an excuse to ever release an app into the world without the ability to collect the data you need to understand mobile marketing and consumer behavior.

Bonus: If you fall in the developer category and you would like to learn how to implement Google Analytics in an iOS app, please checkout Scott Sherwood’s wonderful tutorial. Not only does he walk you through all the steps in detail, he also provides a clock app that you and download to practice!

Step 5. Implement Cross-Device Tracking.

Close to the holy grail, the ability to track and understand the behavior of the same person across devices, browsers, mobile and desktop applications and sites.

Holy grail is step five because it requires a great deal of thought – business and technology -, it requires business process re-engineering quite often, and time. If you are using Google Analytics, I encourage you to work with one of the Google Analytics Certified Partners who can help you do this quickly and efficiently in exchange for reasonable sums of money. If you are using a different analytics solution (this is where having the same analytics solution across your mobile, desktop, site, app, is incredibly valuable), please seek out their excellent consultants.

The Google Analytics team has made it easier for you to understand multi-device user behavior in a single view. With Universal Analytics, you can use the fantastic User ID feature to assign web behavior and outcomes to a single user across existences. [Since you are an over achiever, you are using Google Tag Manager for all this, Tracking User ID in GTM!]

The benefits of implementing real cross-device tracking is truly immense. I encourage you to use a consultant to help. If you want to go it alone, get a Red Bull and download this handy-dandy 62 slide Cross Devices Optimization presentation.

Step 32. Media-Mix Modeling/Experimentation.

This is going to be a drive-by (with a promise of a more detailed post in the future).

I’ve covered the value of media-mix modeling (nee. controlled experiments) in the reality check section of my detailed post on multi-channel attribution modeling.

Briefly, we don’t quite understand how to allocate our media dollars optimally because often (if you don’t do step 5 above), we don’t know which people (as in People and not Users) were exposed to which media activity (AdWords, DoubleClick, Email, Facebook, yada, yada, yada). One way to overcome this issue is to use media-mix modeling to run tests and measure incrementality in results and attribute it to the optimal channel.

mmm 1

I love media-mix modeling. For advertisers with huge budgets it absolutely yields incredibly valuable insights.

It also involves insane complexity, huge costs to execute the experiments and a big commitment in time and people. Unless you are a massive site spending massive amounts on marketing and getting massive conversions, is rarely worth the revenue attribution you get.

But it is great for consultants, your internal people, and me.

So. If someone comes to delivering nirvana on the back of media-mix modeling (for mobile only or mobile and desktop and tv), take it with a grain of salt. At the very minimum, check that you have completed steps one through five above. If you have, and you are a big advertiser, embrace the consultant/internal person/me, cut a check and wait for glorious results.

I’m sorry for being a bit of a downer on something I love. It is important to be real though.

Ok, back to the happy zone.

Mobile devices – smartphones, tablets, wearables – present an amazing opportunity to engage our consumers at more times during the day, in more interesting contexts, and solve not just for a transient connection (BUY NOW!) but also a persistent connection. You can inform, entertain, and provide utility that delivers relevance, joy and delight. Guess what happens when it is time to monetize. You win first.

In this quest mobile data is your bff, and if you follow the five steps above you’ll be ready to set your company apart from the wannabes.

I wish you all all the very best!

As always, it is your turn now.

At what step is your company’s current mobile analytics effort? Is there one challenge that is most holding your efforts back? Which mobile site analytics tool do you use? How about mobile application analytics tool? Do you have a favorite mobile report – app or site? Have you had success implementing cross-device unique user tracking for your company? Got any tips to share with the rest of us on how we can do it faster?

Please take a moment to share to your delightful comments, insightful suggestions, and valuable examples via the comment form below.

Thank you.

This post was written by Avinash Kaushik and the original post can be found at Occam’s Razor.

P.S: Two additional posts you might find to be of value:

Steve Farnsworth's Old Blog

Marketers should all think about innovation the same way R&D does and the same way Silicon Valley thinks about it. Accepting failure, demonstrating patience, tolerance for risk and unrivaled persistence.

Wikipedia is like a wonderful piece of furniture that comes with a big piece of paper “some assembly required.” You know, the one. It comes with instructions 20 pages long that are written in some strange form of English. To many, Wikipedia is a hostile place. Your Wikis were rejected, the community accused you of things you don’t understand, you don’t appreciate what they’re saying about you.

It’s because you didn’t follow the instructions. Really? Aren’t we lucky the Wikipedia community has created so   many   instructions. Mountains and mountains and mountains of instructions. What? You haven’t read them?

Wikipedia has been rated as the most influential website on the planet, beating out Twitter. Yup, Wikipedia is…

View original post 427 more words

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words” and that stands true in the world of public relations. We are an on-the-go nation that doesn’t have a lot of time to read a text-heavy article. In order to get that coveted spot on page 3A or even repost on another blog, we need to work with our audience, with our audience in mind.

Courtesy of PR Newswire

In recent study by PR Newswire, 100,000 news releases were tracked via views or content. No matter how the audience stumbled across the release, it was found that releases with at least one photo were read 80 percent more. The study went on to find that releases with copy, photo, video and a downloadable file were 9.7 times more likely to be read.

Why you may ask? Shouldn’t they care about my copy? While I’m sure your release has information the new, cutting-edge technology that will revolutionize the world as we know it, but today’s face paced media world consumers are attracted to quick summaries, e.g. pictures or info graphics (Sorry to break it to you!).

This study is pertinent to all practitioners for anyone who disseminates to The New York Times or The Mayfield Messenger. Editors are now often act as paginaters and really care about the presentation of their page as much as the content.

Art in the newspaper design industry is gold. Everyone is looking for something to attract the reader to his or her page. By supplying a photo or info graphic, you ultimately increase your chances of making it all the way to print.

Edelman Asks Companies to Rethink the “Spokesperson”

Edelman publishes a Trust Barometer report that highlights who and what the public is most inclined to trust.

Historically, companies like to keep draconian control of who is allowed to spread the company’s message. However, their report suggests companies need to include their rank and file along side their CEO.

I asked Michael Brito to discuss Edelman’s Trust Barometer in that context.

Michael just published his first book “Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization.” 100% of the book’s royalties go to Not For Sale, an organization that is leading the effort to end human trafficking. You can buy Smart Business, Social Business here.


This post was orginally written by Steve Farnsworth at the @Steveology blog.

Top 20 Facebook Facts

Facebook is experiencing a topsy-turvy year.

The social network has reached nearly 1 billion users worldwide, yet reports have suggested its growth in the U.S. has slowed.

With much fanfare it went public in May, but its stock price has fallen to new lows.

After some brands’ executives questioned the effectiveness of Facebook advertising—chiefly General Motors—the website Digiday pondered this week whether the social network is suffering an image problem.

Despite the setbacks, Facebook remains a behemoth in the social media space, as organizations (and the people they employ) continue to wrestle with finding new ways to engage audiences on the social network.

With that in mind, PR Daily looks at 20 recently updated statistics about Facebook:

There are 955 million monthly active users as of June 2012.

And 552 million daily active users on average in June 2012.

According to one estimate, the average value of one Facebook account is $115.43.

The price of a share of Facebook upon its initial public offering was $38.

The price per share of Facebook at one point on Friday morning was $19.05. 

81 percent of Facebook’s monthly active users live outside the U.S. and Canada.

The average number of friends per user is 229, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. (Another study put it at 245 friends.)

46 percent of Facebook users are older than 45.

The average age of Facebook’s board of directors is 49.

1 woman sits on Facebook’s board of directors.

57 percent of Facebook users are women.

The total annual carbon footprint per monthly active Facebook user is 269 grams, the equivalent of making and consuming a couple glasses of wine, three bananas, or one medium latte.

70 percent of Facebook members use the social network to flirt.

25 percent of those Facebook flirters are married.

694,980 status updates occur every minute.

271,069 people “like” Michael Phelps’ Aug. 5 Facebook post: “‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’ – Dr. Seuss.”

There were 51,997 comments to Chick-fil-A’s July 19 Facebook post, in which it offered a statement about its presidents remarks on traditional marriage. Nearly all of the comments are charged with emotion.

7 percent of online purchases are influenced by Facebook.

The Coca-Cola Facebook page has 48,054,180 “likes,” making it the most “liked” Facebook page among brands.

The Edelman PR Facebook page has 17,916 “likes,” making it the most “liked” public relations firm on Facebook.


This post was originally written by founding editor Michael Sebastion and originally posted on PR Daily.