Mike Pantoliano will be speaking about “Advanced Analytics” at SearchFest 2012, which will be held February 24, 2012 at The Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. For more information or to purchase tickets, please click here.

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

My name is Mike Pantoliano and I’m a lead SEO consultant at Distilled in Seattle. I’ve been in search for 5-6 years at this point, and I definitely lean more towards the technical/analytical side, but do my fair share of link building, as well. Essentially, I love diving through data and making things work. It’s why I love analyzing and building strategies with data from Google Analytics (and other web analytics platforms) and I have a grand old time with custom implementations of GA. Even when link building, I tend to gravitate toward linkbait ideas that make use of data and data visualization. It’s all about distilling things down to their essence, whether that’s for a client in the form of a search strategy, or for the folks on the internet in the form of a tool or data presentation that informs and empowers.

Specifically, I spend my time at Distilled working with large and medium-sized companies on an ongoing link building basis, but also have spent some time doing one-off strategic projects like Panda recovery, international roll-out, custom Google Analytics installations, and a whole bunch more.

Earlier this year I wrote up an Excel guide for web marketers, though I’ve had folks outside of our industry tell me they’ve gotten great use out of it, too. I felt like there just wasn’t a comprehensive guide to making use of the mountains of data available to web marketers. It’s really exciting to have the ability to track the effectiveness of campaigns as granularly as we do (I can’t imagine working in TV or traditional display advertising), and if a web marketer doesn’t have Excel know-how in their skill set, I think they’re really missing out.

2)      How does an Analytics Expert deal with <not provided>?

That’s a tough one, because I don’t think the pain of <not provided> is fully realized, yet. The secure search switch for logged in users has not yet happened (at least at the time of this email), so I would expect the numbers to increase substantially when it does. Right now I’m seeing somewhere around 2% of all queries thrown into the <not provided> bucket, which is what I would guess the amount of users that utilize Google’s secure search by default plus whatever portion of the roll-out has taken place. I’m guessing when the change rolls out the number will jump up toward 12-15% of all keywords.

Google claims it will be a minority of users, but with them pushing Google+ and Gmail down everyone’s throats, the percentage of logged in users will only increase. I’m unhappy about it all, and think the change is monopolistic and hypocritical (two great write ups there from Jonah Stein and Danny Sullivan), but we’ll just have to adapt.   

So how do we adapt? Well… um… We’ll have to make do with what we have, really, so I guess it’s not really adapting. Of course, we could go and buy AdWords ads for all the keyword data we could want!

Addendum: I wrote my original email response just prior to Google making a bigger push on sending logged in users through their secure web search. The number of (not provided) results has jumped from ~2% up to ~15-20%.

3)      How has Google Webmaster Tools integration enhanced the Google Analytics experience?

Truthfully, not very much at all. The GWT query data is pretty wildly inaccurate (old post, but still true), so just dropping it into Analytics really only exposes that truth further. I think there’s definitely potential, and the GWT team have been adding features and making improvements more frequently, so it could become useful. Overall, I just don’t see why I would work off of the "Queries", "Landing Pages", and "Geographical Summary" reports when we’ve got more precise data in the ‘organic keywords’, ‘top content -> landing pages’, and ‘demographics -> location’ reports.

I don’t want to be a downer about Google Analytics though! The multi-channel conversion funnel reports, real-time data and flow visualization tool are absolutely amazing advancements for the platform, and I’ll be covering some of them in my talk in February!

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