Mike will be speaking spoke about Advanced Google Analytics at the June 14th SEMpdx Event. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here. Follow Mike on Twitter. –
See his presentation slides at the bottom of this interview…

1) Please give me your background and tell me what you do for a living.

Sure thing. I grew up in New Jersey and got my undergrad in Baltimore’s Loyola University. I got into online marketing in-house first, then at an agency. I was the 2nd SEO consultant hire (after Ms. @KateMorris) for Distilled when they announced they’d be opening a Seattle office.

At Distilled I’m now a lead SEO, running some really fun projects. I spend my days doing most any tasks that broadlyfits into the SEO realm, including link building, content strategy and development, information architecture, etc. I feel my strengths are in the more technical aspects of SEO, which includes advanced Google Analytics implementation and analysis. In fact, I’ve written up a guide for using Microsoft Excel as an SEO with plenty of pieces on how I use Google Analytics + Excel.

2) As you know, Google Analytics had a major upgrade recently.  Can you highlight some of the improved functionality?

Speed.  That’s the biggest one for me by far. Reports load noticeably quicker and it’s become much quicker to navigate in and out of reports. When you spend as much time as I do in Analytics, this is killer.

Some of the other features that I love:

– Improvements to advanced segments. You can now select 4 segments without being forced to do the ‘All Visits’ segment as well. The creation process is much easier too
– Events as goals. I think a lot of folks are excited about this. Personally, I’ve spent so much time working around the fact that this wasn’t possible in V4 that I’ve yet to utilize it.
–  The new dashboards have potential, but they’re a bit ‘gimpy’ at the moment.

One last thing is the multi-channel funnels. I’ve been playing around with this (it’s in invite beta now), and it’s really, really, really, cool.

3) At what point would a premium analytics solution be a better solution than Google Analytics for a website?

I think one of the biggest reasons some folks have opted for a premium solution has been GA’s rather simplistic funnel and goal attribution. Their multi-channel funnels feature mentioned above is a direct response to this, and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops. When analysts need more information about their visitor’s goal path, they’ve been frustrated by GA only reporting the last-touch.

Expanding upon that, some analysts want more control over the manipulation and customization of the captured data. While GA offers the API and custom variables for this sort of thing, some might find it too restrictive.

There’s also the issue of data ownership. Many large sites are unwilling to send Google all of their data, which is either nonsense paranoia or a legitimate concern, depending on who you talk with. I put myself somewhere in the middle on that.

4) Can you talk about the new custom reporting features and what value folks can get from it?

Sure. So custom reports are nothing new in GA, but they’ve made a few enhancements. In V5, the GA team made including a subset of data a part of the creation process, rather than having to apply segments after the fact.

Their purpose is to create specific quick-access reports based on the KPIs for your business. In larger organizations, custom reports are great as a shortcut to the information that matters most to teams within the company. For example, the exec wants the higher level KPIs like sales or engagement, your team working on partnerships wants a detailed referral traffic report, the marketing team is looking to gauge the success of advertising efforts, etc.

The Google Analytics blog does a nice job of detailing the new features here: https://analytics.blogspot.com/2011/04/custom-reports-in-new-google-analytics.html

5) What are 3 features in Google Analytics that most folks don’t know about that they should know about?

a) Custom Variables.

I don’t think GA’s blog or help section does enough to tout the usefulness. They’ve also always been hidden away in the interface (they’re in the demographics menu in V5). Every business is different, and custom variables are what allows you make GA work for you, rather than the opposite.

Want to compare visitor engagement of logged in vs. logged out users? Custom Variables.

Want to find out which category on your eComm store brings in the most visitors? Custom Variables.

Want to track organic rankings over time? Custom Variables.

I wrote about this here: https://www.seomoz.org/blog/tracking-organic-ranking-in-google-analytics-with-custom-variables

I could go on…

b) The API.

APIs are scary to most people (I’m one of them). I’m looking forward to Thomas’s talk at SEMpdx, as I think that’s what he’ll be focusing on. Not only does the API allow for more data to be exported, but it can used to power your organization’s own reporting dashboards. At Distilled we use the API to generate client reports. One click and we’ve got exactly what we need to show our clients how awesome we are :).

I also love using Excellent Analytics, which is a plugin that taps into the API for exporting your data directly into Excel.

c) The Site Speed call.

Brand new feature, but a killer one. Add another line to your GA snippet and you’ll start to pull in page load speed directly into Analytics. If you’re not convinced site speed is important from a conversion standpoint, take a look at bounce rate vs. site speed once you’ve got some data.

These are the slides from Mikes SEMpdx presentation on July 14th, 2011 –

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