Hard to believe, I know
Don’t get me wrong when I start with such a topic about the long legacy of Google Analytics. But what I am about to highlight is not just limited to Google Analytics, it is a problem with any other current web analytics solutions including Adobe SiteCatalyst or Oracle Web Analytics. These are the basic solutions which form the core of your overall digital strategies. Whether it is a simple tracking of the site visitors or tracking any key business KPI. These tools allow us to understand the performance of our strategies, understanding the ROI of our channel investments and break it by many geographical, demographical and site-related segments.
Then what is it that is missing so big? The answer lies in the fundamental of these tracking tools and how they provide us the data. The core of these technologies is the simple pixel/tag which goes on every page. Whenever a user visits a page, this tag fires and captures the data which eventually generates the complete analytics, also formally known as ClickStream. It takes the user agent, IP address, URL info and a lot more along with a couple of identifiers from a browser on every page load.
It is important to note that the data gets captured only when the page loads and at the start of the load event itself. Are you getting a sense on the issue in hand here? and what could be missing big? It is the simple fact that users spend the most time and do most activities after the page loads, not at the start. Users visiting a page is definitely very important to indicate their interest but it is just the start of their journey. It is what they do next, indicates the true nature of their engagement and interest in your brand. Does Google or Adobe provide complete tracking of these post page load events — the answer is NO? There are workaround solutions like click tags, scroll tags or time tags which can placed every time we need some additional tracking. But this can take us only so far. And we know how manual and time taking it gets.
This is when it becomes important to advance our-self from a page load based tracking to something more complete. Something which captures all the activities by users and paints the complete picture about their needs. I am talking about everything important: right from page load, clicks, scrolls, hovering, tapping, browser status change, engagement & exposure of content and so on.
Implications on our marketing processes
Let me come back to the 51% figure. For the sake of argument, I have taken a global average trend (unofficial). Definitely, this varies from industry to industry and from business to business, however it will paint the picture. Globally, around 50% of traffic leave from the first page itself, our well know Bounce rate metric. 25% traffic leave after reaching page 2, 15% leave after reaching page 3 and only 10% stay till 4 or more. With this very simplistic scenario, globally, out of 1.98 average page views per session, 0.98 pages are not the last page. Hence only for 49%-page loads, where Google analytics has a follow-up page. And where it could fire a beacon again to give us a simple metric like the time spent on the page. For the rest 51%, It doesn’t know the total time spent, let alone knowing anything else. This creates the gap in metrics like Dwell time, making it highly inaccurate. Leaving the last page almost untracked. This has also created the current well-known myth — “Bounces don’t have intent”.
If I simply try to compare by the signal volume, Google analytics captures only 1.2% of the overall signals a user exhibit on the page. I am talking about missing each click, every scroll, speed of mouse movement, engaging with a banner on the home page etc. Imagine what all can be done if we have everything included before we try to understand our users or efficacy of our strategies. But the key question is even if the data is rightly captured, how does it help in our day to day basic process, what can we additionally infer out of it apart from just the data gap.
Precision tracking, advance measurement and machine learning to the rescue
The answer to this problem is simple. We need to get more innovative and more precise. Measurement is the key, no doubt about it — “What gets measures gets managed”. Till now, be it the lack of data for bounced traffic or the lack of post page load activity tracking, what has confined us. A very accurate and ML-driven approach, where each of these signals at a millisecond-level can be analyzed and translated into interpretable & actionable insights is what is needed.
Let’s call this FlowStream, the next generation of ClickStream technology.
Coming to the use cases, for now, I will just focus on optimization as a key objective. We can cover automation in later articles –
- Paint a complete picture: I am talking about simply stitching every action across the pages and across the visits to create a complete picture of our users. Be it an exposure of a banner on one page to the effect in navigation pattern on another page. or understanding change in intent because of change in the keywords used in your ad group.
- Correct page dwells time: Can’t emphasis the importance of this anymore as you already know the importance of every second of your visitor’s time.
- Measure true investment (Active time): This is where it becomes more interesting and one level advanced in precision measurement. A true measure of the total time when user was actually active & engaged with your brand. Excluding any time break in the middle. You might not believe me, but it is more than 50% of the time when on an average you will find your users inactive.
- Bounce to business: Bounces do have intent. In fact, sometimes visitors do spend a similar time on the bounced page as they spend on any of the pages on an average. This is when data about their engagement and intent becomes the first step to optimize bounces and convert them to business. I will talk in detail about it in another article.
- Traffic quality index: all of the signals can truly measure the quality of traffic sources precisely. TQI as a complete measure of the investment and intensity while engaging with your brand online. From a granular single banner display to massive affiliate traffic, the quanta & quality of the engagement & attention as the true measure of overall quality.
- Study the intent: At every step user exhibits intent. It is when someone hovers over content while reading, or when a banner grab attention and the user slows down the browsing. All of these minute signals combined across the journey is what paint the true picture of the interest and intent.
Finally, a lot more is spoken by our visitors as non-verbal cues which need our attention. Capturing these not only solves for some of the fundamental issues in Google Analytics but also opens up unique solutions in overall marketing funnel optimization usecases. I tried to cover some above to give you a glimpse. You can learn more about FlowStream at https://entent.io, or reach customer @ entent.io for some more activated discussion on the topic.
Please feel free to give your views in the comments.