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Analytics in Football Terms

As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, it’s clear that most people have football on the brain. As an Analyst, I have analytics on my mind most of the day, but football is also one of my passions. Because of this, I decided to combine two of my favorite things to help you understand “the game of analytics” in football terms.

Possessions are like Acquisition


How you acquire visitors to your website is equivalent to how you acquire possessions in football. There are different ways to acquire traffic to your website just like there are different ways to acquire the ball.

Direct Traffic is just like possessing the ball via a kickoff. You have little control over how these visitors come to the site in terms of internet marketing. Like the guarantee of a first or second half kickoff some visitors are loyal and are going to visit your site no matter what. This traffic is acquired through your pre-game preparation…Also known as offline marketing.

Referral Traffic is like possessing the ball after the defense has forced the opposing team to punt. Its not the best case scenario like a turnover, but a shutdown defense can get you the ball back just as well as a ball-hawking defense. You can acquire referral traffic by posting links in sources such as Social Media, Forums, News Articles, Email Campaigns, etc. Building links is just like having your defense accumulate sacks, stops in the backfield, and forcing incompletions.

Search Traffic is like acquiring the ball after your defense forces a takeaway (or turnover). Just like a defense in football consists of a defensive front and secondary, so also should your search strategy consist of a good mix of organic and paid search.

Having a great SEO strategy is like having an awesome front seven in football. A disruptive defense up front can force fumbles to setup a short field or even score via a safety or return touchdown. In the same way, an excellent presence in Organic Search can land visitors deeper within your site. With proper SEO, the deeper they land the more likely they’ll be able to find what they are looking for and even convert. This is just like a football team having an easier time reaching the endzone with a shorter field.

In addition, your Paid Search Traffic is like having a ball-hawking secondary. Yes, its is true you have now allowed the opposing offense to get a pass away or run past your defensive front. However, because your secondary is so good they are also capable of intercepting passes or forcing fumbles causing a short field for your offense. The same is true for Paid Search, if you have an excellent PPC strategy then you can land visitors deep within your site and increase the likelihood of conversion. You can test which landing pages lead to a higher conversion rate just like you can line up in different defenses to see which work the best.

Engagement Metrics are like Offensive Stats

Now that you have the football on offense. What are you going to do with it? What is the ultimate goal of your website?

Metrics in Football Terms

Visits as we outlined above are like possessions. How many times did you have the football? This really means nothing unless you can get the visitor to engage or convert. What purpose are they on the site for? What do you want them to accomplish on their visit? 

Pageviews are like plays. Is this really an effective metric to show that visitors are engaging? The answer to that is no. For example, if you orchestrate a 20 play drive in football is it still successful if it does not end with your team scoring? Absolutely not. This is the same as if a visitor looks at 20 pages and leaves without fulfilling the goal of the website. There may be another visitor that views 2 pages and converts right away. Long Drive, Short Drive it does not mean anything unless it ends in a score.

Bounces for the most part are the equivalent to a three-and-out in football. Like I said above its great to have visitors, but if they are not accomplishing anything then your website is failing. A visitor viewing one page and leaving is almost always an indication of this.

Pages Per Visit is like the stat yards per play. Typically the higher your average yards per play is the more successful your offense is, but this is not always the case. If you pick up huge chunks of yardage, but fumble the football away at the goal line what have you accomplished? The same is true for this metric. You typically want visitors to view multiple pages, but if they are viewing a lot of pages on average and not engaging then you are not profiting from their visit.

Average Visit Duration is like time of possession. If you hold the ball for 10 minutes on a drive that does not produce points then you have accomplished nothing. Similarly if your visitors are staying on the site for long periods of time and not converting then your site is failing its intended goal. Just like in football, a team that wins time of possession is not guaranteed to win the game. A visit that lasts 50 seconds and converts is more successful to your site than a visitor who spends 15 minutes on your site not engaging and leaves without returning.

Micro Conversions are like first downs. While these are not the ultimate goal of your website, micro conversions help lead visitors to macro conversions. Just like in football, if a team strings together a drive with several first downs it can go a long way in leading that team to scoring. These micro conversions can come in the form of Newsletter Signups, Contact Form Submissions, etc.

Macro Conversions are like touchdowns. This is the ultimate goal of your website just like the ultimate goal of any drive in football is to reach the endzone. First you need to establish the main goal of your website and then you need to measure that goal in analytics. If you are an E-Commerce website the ultimate goal is to get visitors to purchase. If you are an informational website perhaps the ultimate goal is to have visitors fill out a form in order to receive more information or a quote. Whatever it is you are wanting visitors to accomplish on your site is the touchdown of analytics. Just like in football, nothing is more crushing to your competitors than reaching the macro conversion endzone.

The Ultimate Goal is Scoring (Conversions)

Remember that the ultimate goal of your website should not be to bring in more visits, but to bring in more quality converting visitors. While it is good to see visitors engage by viewing more pages and staying longer, the ultimate goal is to get them to convert. There are many ways to acquire visitors to your site so make sure you take advantage of the mediums you can control through SEO, Link Building, Email Campaigns, etc. to bring in quality visitors. Remember that winning in the stats does not mean that you are winning on the scoreboard just like improving cliche metrics does not always translate into conversions.



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A Solution to Not Provided Channel Data

ga-acquisitionIf you are familiar at all with Google Analytics, you may have noticed the New Acquisitions Reporting and Channels Section that replaced “Traffic Sources” on the left side bar.

While re-learning the location of these features may be a bit like going from riding a tricycle to learning to balance on a bicycle, Google has improved the information being presented in these reports overall.

The Overview Report
This report gives analysts a great visual representation of how visitors are being acquired, how they are behaving, and how they are converting.

The Channels Report
This report is also an improvement from the former Traffic Sources reports. It now takes all the former Channel Reports (Search Traffic, Referring Sites, Direct Traffic, Campaigns, and Social) and merges them into one Overview Report that not only includes basic metrics like before, but goal metrics as well. The finished product is a report that is segmented out by channel showing how each is performing.

This new report is a good tool for quickly reporting on where traffic is coming from and how it is engaging. Here at SiteLogic, we have been using a similar report for years to find this overall data.

Not Provided Data for Channels Report

Have you tried to look at data for the entire year or compare data year-over-year in the Channels Report and failed? That’s because this feature is not available prior to July 25, 2013.




This leads to a large percentage of visits being classified as “Not Set” as you can see below:


This makes it impossible to compare year-to-year data (which is usually the best way to compare data for your business) and impossible to look at trends from a larger time period prior to July 25.

Medium Report and Custom Report Solution

Analysts have been using Custom Reports in Google Analytics for years to be able to find the same data found in the Channels Report. Google Analytics has  basically made the same report within the “Channels” section of the program. If you look under the Primary Dimension options you will see a report called “Medium” which is a quick and easy way to look at the data.


This report is similar to the Channels Report and breaks down the data by medium. It includes all the data your profile tracked prior to July 25 and gives you a good overview of where traffic is coming, how it’s engaging, and if it’s converting.

The only difference in this report is that it does not track Social Media as a separate medium. Social Visitors are all counted as referral traffic in the Medium Report. If you still want to look at Social Visits separately, then you will have to create your own separate segment. Below is an example of a segment to look at Social Visits.


You will want to include all social media websites in the first box under the condition “matches regular expression” except for Twitter and Google+.

  • Separate each social site with “|” (the pipe symbol below backspace/delete key).
  • Then hit the “or” button twice and make segments for Twitter and Google+ that have the condition “start with.”
  • You will need to specifically put “t.co” and “goo.le” for these boxes since that is how Google Analytics reads referrals from these sites. These two must be separate from the rest of the group since they have periods that could interfere with the regular expression.

To see only Referral Traffic use the following segment:






Creating a Custom Report can give you even deeper analysis. Here is a Medium Report that goes even more in-depth:


You can easily set up a new report under the “Customization” tab in GA.
Here you can build your own report to look at the information the way you intend. You can look at additional metrics such as unique visitors, events completed per visit, etc. You can also see what specific sources and landing pages are doing well under the different mediums.

Go beyond the report.
Think about what data would be helpful to you/your clients and create your own custom report. Don’t be limited by the reports Google Analytics provides for you, create your own!




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Interpreting Analytics – Things to Remember & Consider in Your Reports

Finding the most valuable data for your business within Analytics can be tedious work. You may also find yourself navigating in discouraging circles, enduring distractions that cause you to forget what you were analyzing, or completing the same tedious steps to generate the same report every month. Google Analytics has provided several basic tools to help eliminate these scenarios. I will outline these tools using the data for my own Leopard Nation website.

1. Visits Are Not the End All Be All

The first metric everyone wants to see when they open up Google Analytics is Visits. They want to see how many eyeballs are looking at their site. While this is a good thing to know, these visitors could be anybody and the real question we need to ask is “what are they doing when they come to the site?” The graph below shows a 169% increase in visits and a 291% increase in unique visitors. These increases look like a tremendous site improvement. Visits Google Analytics But is it an improvement? Are these visitors the intended audience? Are these visitors engaging in the site? When we take a deeper look at the traffic coming into the site we see that there was far less engagement on the site than during the previous time period. There were 63% less pages viewed per visit and 74% less time spent per visit. Even more devastating was the 76% increase in bounce rate.

Google Analytics Engagement Metrics

What can we take from this? Has the increase been a total disaster or has there actually been an increase in quality visits? We know that non-bouncing visitors are going to engage more than bouncing visitors by default. This is because bouncing visitors are all counted as spending 0:00 on the site as well as only viewing 1 page for their visit. The engagement metrics will obviously be higher for non-bouncing visitors.

Non-Bouncing Visitors in Google Analytics

Thus, in most scenarios we can conclude that non-bouncing visitors are higher quality, engaged visitors. Now when we compare non-bouncing visitors we get to see a truer form of quality visitor increase. For this scenario non-bouncing visits increased 7% overall and non-bouncing unique visitors increase 42% overall.

Compare Total Visits to Non-Bouncing Visitors in Google Analytics

Thus the amount of quality visits to the site increased about 7% overall and the amount of quality unique visitors to the site increased 42% overall. These are much lower than the original increase in overall visits.

2. Remember the Long Tail

When looking at your top 10 keywords, referrers, etc. you have to remember that you are only seeing a very small picture of what is happening on your site.

Long Tail Google Analytics Keywords

The Top 10 shown here are just 0.009% of all the different variations of keywords and only 0.1% of all non-branded organic visits. Even when you segment your data, you can’t just look at the top keywords and expect the same performance throughout.

Top Keywords In Google Analytics

For example, in this segment we can see 8 out of the top 10 words had no new visits, but 41% of the entire segment was made up of new visits. In many cases it’s the keywords that only bring in a few visits that will make up a large portion of your segment. The industry name for these words is called the “Long Tail.”

Organic Keywords in Google Analytics

112 out of 137 (82%) of all of the keywords in this segment only had 1 visit. These single visits accounted for 48% of all visits in the segment overall. Most visitors are going to type very specific keywords like these and that is why it is very important to optimize your site to catch as many Long Tail keywords as possible.

3. Have a Measuring Stick

You always want to compare your data to see what progress has been made. This may be done through comparing data in two different time periods, comparing data to the site average, or comparing the data to goals you have set up as a business.

Comparing Analytics Data by Time Period

Google Analytics makes it easy to compare your data to previous time periods. When viewing past data as your comparison there are three rules that you should always keep:

I. Equal Days

Both time periods that you are comparing should have an equal amount of days. While this may seem obvious, this is a common mistake among the analyst community. They will compare two different months with 30 days vs. 31 days or compare different quarters that have a different amount of days.

Comparing Equal Amount of Days in Google Analytics

II. Equal Weekends

Another common mistake by analysts is not comparing equal weekdays and weekend days.

Comparing Equal Weekdays & Weekends in Google Analytics

In the graph above you can see that the spikes in traffic are not lined up with one another and that the orange line representing September traffic had an extra weekend day. In the graph below the days are lined up correctly.

Equal Weekends Vs. Equal Days in Analytics

III. Equal Seasons

If your website is seasonal, make sure you are comparing time periods that have the same ideal type of traffic. You want to have equal sales cycles being measured or equal interest in the time periods being compared. Thus comparing year-over-year may be your best option for these cases.

Comparing the Same Seasonal Traffic in Google Analytics

For example, for my high school sports website there are no sports being played during the Summer, so it would not make sense for me to compare my traffic during Football season (my busiest month) to months in the Summer when there are no sporting events going on like in the graph above. But if I compare football season year-over-year you can see that there was a steady increase of traffic over all in the graph below. At the end of August 2011 I had a video on my site that went viral nationally and thus traffic on my site spiked. But other than that, the comparison is quite fair and the audience is similar.

Comparing Equal Months of Business in Google Analytics

4. Nothing Speaks Better than $$$

While comparing visits and other dashboard metrics can give you a general feel of visitor activity, nothing translates success better than comparing actual dollars and cents. This is why it is so important to create goals or setup E-Commerce in Google Analytics. With goals created and revenue attached, you can look at specific segments to determine which segment is making the most goal revenue or is converting the highest. Per Visit Goal Value is one of the best metrics to use in comparing the success of segments.

Attaching Revenue to Goals in Google Analytics

This way you can put more time and effort into expanding the successful campaigns/segments that have a small amount of visits and also look to make changes to the non-successful campaigns/segments that have a large amount of visits. This can also apply if you are using an E-Commerce site as you will be looking to find out which segments are selling and which segments are not doing so well.



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Four Features to Save You Time in Analytics

Finding the most valuable data for your business within Analytics can be tedious work.  You may also find yourself navigating in discouraging circles, enduring distractions that cause you to forget what you were analyzing, or completing the same tedious steps to generate the same report every month. Google Analytics has provided several basic tools to help eliminate these scenarios.  I will outline these tools using the data for my own Leopard Nation website.

1. Segments

It can be very easy to get caught up in the overall data provided on the dashboard or in any standard report. However, the key to fully analyzing the data of your business lies within segmenting out your traffic. One quick way many users segment their data is through the filter within each standard report.  For the purposes of this section I will be segmenting search data for the term “football” as this is the most popular sport for my website.  Below you can see the segmented data:

Search Filter in Google Analytics

At the top you can see the total metrics for the entire segment as well as the top 10 keywords that contain “football” with their own corresponding data.  Even though this is a simple example, let’s say that this segment is one that you use on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis for your reports.  You can easily use this segment at anytime by recreating it under advanced segments.

How to Create a New Custom Segment in Analytics

Click on “Advanced Segments” at the top of analytics and then on “+New Custom Segment” button on the bottom right corner of the drop-down box.  You will then be taken to this page:

Advanced Keyword Segment - Google Analytics

First name your segment in the top form box.  Then choose the type of traffic you want to filter in the green box, which in this case is “Keyword.”  Fill in the rest of the necessary information in order to create your segment and under more options select which profiles you will be using this segment on.  Unless you have several related sites, you will likely want to chose the second option with the website you are working with.  Click “Save Segment” and your segment will be created.

Custom Segments for Google Analytics

Your segment now appears under “Advanced Segments” in the “Custom Segments” section.  You can simply click your segment and hit the “Apply” button and your segmented data will be filtered out throughout all of Google Analytics.

2. Custom Reports

Using Custom Reports is another feature that Google Analytics provides to save you endless amounts of time.  This will particularly help if you are generating reports with the same basic data month-to-month, week-to-week, or even day-to-day data.

Creat New Custom Report Google Analytics

To create a custom report click to go to the “Customization” section of analytics and then click “+New Custom Report.”

Custom Report Options - Google Analytics

After that, you can edit your custom report to include whichever metrics you want to show as well as how you want your data to be drilled down.  For this report, I chose some basic metrics to show which mediums were the most successful in attracting, keeping, and converting visitors on my site.

Sample Custom Report in Google Analytics

From this sample report we can see that referral traffic brought the most visitors to the site and generated the most overall goal revenue.  However, it was organic that converted the best overall.  So if we click on “organic” we can narrow our data down even more:

Custom Report Keywords Goal Revenue - Google Analytics

After sorting by “Goal Value” we can now see which keywords generated the most goal revenue overall.  As expected for this local site, most of these keywords are branded terms.

You can also sort by referrer or other mediums to see which sites are bringing in high converting traffic, the most visits, etc.  All the data will be there in the custom report and you can return to it anytime under the “Customization” tab.

3. History

The way I see it, life can be broken down into the segmented graph below. Looking for Things I Had a Minute Ago GraphLife can be distracting and getting sidetracked in analytics is no different.  Whether a co-worker presents you with something more pressing to take care of or the clock strikes 5:00 signaling the weekend, you can very easily lose your place in analytics.  Luckily for us marketing analysts, Google has created a new tool to help us remember what reports we were previously viewing.

Google Analytics Previous History

In the upper left-hand corner there is a reports search box.  Simply click on the search box in the upper left-hand corner that reads “Find reports & more” and the last five reports that you were working on for that particular website will be displayed.  Click on any of them to simply revert back to which report you were on in analytics.

4. Shortcuts

Similar to the history feature, Google Analytics also allows you to save shortcuts to any report within analytics.  This feature works like saving a bookmark and can be very useful if there is a report that you view on a regular basis.

Google Analytics Content Filtered

As a basic example above, I have filtered out URL’s that contain “soccer” within them.

Shortcut Button in Google Analytics

I can then click on the shortcut button at the top of the page to name and create this shortcut that will take me to this exact filtered out report.

Add Shortcut Name - Google Analytics

The shortcut will then appear on the left sidebar under “Shortcuts” and then I can easily navigate to this “Soccer” report at anytime.

Shortcuts on Sidebar - Google Analytics


Diving into Google Analytics can be stressful and tedious, but it does not have to be.  You can save time and stress if you learn to use the tools and features provided, or just ask an analyst. Leave your analytics comments or questions below.



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