Online Marketing and Website Optimization Blog

Setting up shop online for beginners

A case study on selecting, configuring and launching an e-commerce store with fulfillment from scrat

Slides of the accompanying presentation are available on slideshare and a video of the presentation is available on youtube.


I have a hobby business,, and we have over 100,000 members around the world who use the site to find or create running routes. We recently purchased 200 tech tee-shirts to sell to our members but had no existing store of fulfillment process. We'd worked with PayPal for some subscription capture but nothing you could call an e-commerce platform.

What we tried

As I mentioned, we had already experienced PayPal and I looked into Google Checkout too but they both only really excel at the payment part. Anything other than a flat fee shippping setup meant considerable complication. The buyer still leaves your site to go through their checkout process so that meant an analytical black hole for us too - as an analyst the idea of leaving the conversion rate of our customers in Google or PayPal's hands was scary!

Next we looked into Amazon Fulfillment. It handles both shipping and order capture and has the added benefit of product marketing on However, for our t-shirts we'd fall into the approval required category and they have stringent requirements about the use of UPC codes. I'm still waiting to hear back after 2 weeks on whether they want our business...

What we picked

We went with a great e-commerce platform called Shopify instead. We picked the $99 per month plan because it includes carrier calculated shipping rates meaning fewer surprises at the post office but they offer a 30 day free trial and a basic $29 per month plan if you don't care about the shipping integration (but honestly, you should consider it).

It was very quick to setup, add products of varying sizes and genders and most importantly we were looking at a password protected preview of our store within the first hour of setup. The site is designed to make your products optimized for organic google search and with a few simple steps you're able to publish products to Google Shopping too. Being based in Illinois we have to collect sales tax on orders received in-state but the setup is just a few simple steps, all well explained by the tool.

Beyond the basics I had to sign up for and include our USPS API account details. This allows customers to see shipping options as they checkout from your providers. Full instructions were provided by the tool at every step.

We signed up for PayPal's Website Payments Pro tool at $30 per month which allows users to checkout on your site instead of leaving to go elsewhere. We could have stuck with PayPal's express solution but, as stated above, we didn't want to send our customers off somewhere else and prefer a tighter integration. Once we signed up we came back to shopify and had to configure our payment gateway, again with excellent step by step instructions.

We setup a sub-domain to point at our store by following the step by step guide at shopify.

The platform offers a series of free and paid apps you can add to your store to extend the features of the platform as needed. I added the OrderCup Shopify Plugin for $10 to allow us in a few clicks to print and pay for USPS postage (and other providers) all around the world. The second plugin was Jilt at $9 per month to auto-email abandoned customers 24 hours after they leave the cart to make sure nothing went wrong or simply remind them in case they just got distracted. We've already recouped the cost of the monthly fee and had some great feedback about the store through this.

As a side note if you're shipping t-shirts we went with Value Mailer Polybags 10x13 we found on Amazon at $19.38 for 200. These bags are strong, easy to seal and hold up to 5 t-shirts.

You may also want to order Printexx Laserjet shipping labels, again from Amazon at $7.89 for 200. Far better than trimming and sticking 200 shipping labels with scotch tape!

What we got

We wound up with a great shipping and fulfillment platform we could scale significantly if we needed to. At just one day of setup start to finish we were able to receive payments, pick, pack and ship 91 t-shirt orders in 2 days including international orders without the headaches of trying to mail-merge labels and waiting at the post office for hours to figure out the cost of each.

We've had great feedback from our members about how simple the e-commerce store was to use and at $148 per month (plus shipping and transaction fees) we're looking at less than $2 overhead per shirt to be on the platform excluding labor to pick, pack and ship orders. Overall, an outstanding result and the best part is that it's 100% Google Analytics tracked start to finish so we can source the marketing tools that generate our sales.

If you're interested in having Adam Howitt Consulting help you with an e-commerce project please contact us. We can help configure and integrate Google Analytics e-commerce tracking or help you optimize the existing process. We're new to Shopify of course but would be offer what we do know if you need help.

How to Create a Facebook Ad

A step-by-step guide on how to create Facebook ads.

Are you advertising on Facebook yet? Facebook advertising is a great way to market to your audience. Already have a Facebook business page? Create some ads to draw people to your page that you've worked hard on to create.  

Why Advertise on Facebook

Facebook is continually updating its advertising platform to make sure it’s giving advertisers everything they need to create a successful campaign.


Unlike other pay-per-click platforms, Facebook allows you to target people by interests as well as demographics. 


There's 500 million Facebook users and half of them log in every day. Imagine the all the possibilities!


The distinguishing feature of Facebook advertising is the ability to target people by interests. You can target people who like running and expand that by targeting people who like Runner's World. 



Facebook recently revamped their analytics dashboard, which is a great improvement in my book. You can now easily monitor whom your ad is reaching, how much of your target audience is seeing your ad, and see it's effectiveness over time. 


The budget management tools are also relatively easy to use. Facebook gives you a suggested bid within to bid per ad to help it remain competitive. Fall below this and you may see a sharp dip in impressions. 


The new dashboard also allows you to see all of your campaigns' daily budgets in one place and how much each has spent that day and for all time. 


How to Create a Facebook Ad

You can create a Facebook in just three steps. Granted, each step has a bit of detail to it, so here is how to set up your Facebook ad: 


1. Design Your Ad

First, start by selecting where you want to take people once they've clicked on your ad. I'll be describing how to set up an ad when it's directed to an external URL. Select this option if you'd like to take people to your website. Place the destination URL of your webpage into the URL box. If you'd like to track your ads in analytics, append your tracking tags here.  


Next, come up with an exciting title that fits into the 25-character limit. The body has a 135-character limit, in which you can say a lot, surprisingly. Finally, upload your image. 


design facebook ad


2. Targeting

Facebook is interest-based targeting at its core, but you can also narrow your audience by location and connections. 



Select the locations you want to target. Note that the U.S. is selected by default, but you can add more countries. A whopping 70% of Facebook users are located outside the U.S.!


The first part of the demographic targeting is fairly basic. Select the age and sex of the audience you'd like to target. Advanced demographics come later. 

Likes and Interests

Next to the ad image, the likes and interests targeting is the most important part of creating your ad. You don't want too many people to see it and not click, as this will affect your click through rates, and ultimately what you pay per click. 


There's two types of interest targeting- precise and topic. Precise interests target things people have expressed an interest in via their profiles and activities on Facebook. You can get really creative with the precise targeting option.


Facebook very recently added the option of broad category targeting. Your potential reach will be much greater than if you were to use precise targeting. You can only get as specific as saying you want to target people who've expressed an interest in cooking. You can't say to target those who like Julia Childs, for instance. We have yet to see results from this new option, but I'm assuming you'll have to be diligent in monitoring your click through rates and adjusting your ad accordingly. 

           Facebook broad category targeting


In the connections box you can target anyone, or select advanced connection targeting. Select “anyone” to target anyone on Facebook that matches the criteria you’ve input in the previous steps.  Advanced connection targeting can only be used if you are an administrator of a page.

Advanced Demographics

The advanced demographics give you the opportunity to target people on their birthdays, the type of relationship their in, education, and workplace. The image below shows the default settings. 


So how do you know how many people your ad will reach? Each time you enter a targeting criteria, the estimated reach box on the right of your screen will change numbers.

Facebook estimated reach

3. Campaigns, Pricing, Scheduling

After your ad is created, you’ll ad it to a campaign or create a new one. You can choose to have your ad start today or you can choose your own start and end date.


You can pay either per thousand impressions or per click. If you’re aiming to build brand awareness, select CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Select CPC if you want to drive traffic to your site. Facebook provides a suggested bid that tells you how much o bid to ensure your ad remains competitive. Bid at least within this range to ensure impressions.

 Launching Your Facebook Ad

Once you’ve completed all of these steps, hit “review” and double check that everything is correct. Then click “place order” and send your ad into the approval process. Facebook reviews each ad to make sure it’s inline with their policies before sending it live. Your ad will usually be live within a couple hours, depending on their queue. And you're set!

Want to learn more on how to create a Facebook ad? Check out our YouTube video and see the slide deck on SlideShare 

Have you followed all of these steps but still need help? We offer Facebook advertising set up and management services to help you create a successful ad campaign. Contact us today for more information.

How to Create Advanced Segments

Set advanced segments in Google Analytics to analyze your website traffic and visitor behavior.

You've installed Google Analytics on your website. Now what will you do with all of this information? Solution- create advanced segments. Advanced segments will help you track the behaviors of the visitors to your site. They're also very useful for tracking your online marketing and advertising efforts. 

For example, there was a spike in your conversions and you want to know what caused them. Setting an advanced segment will help you focus on which advertising or marketing campaign contributed the increase in sales. 

How to Create an Advanced Segment

An advanced segment lets you focus on one area of visitor type, behaviors, and in this example, traffic source- PPC.

1. Sign in to your Google Analytics account.

2. Go to the upper right of your dashboard and click All Visits.

3. On the left part of the screen, click the blue link Create a new advanced segment.

4. Under the green dimensions tab, click Traffic Sources.

5. From there, select Medium.

6. Click and drag this Medium box into the box 

7. Name your segment. In the example below, I've named it "PPC". Now click Create Segment and you're ready to apply it to your report.

I am now looking at my reports with my PPC segment turned on.  To learn more about the demographics of my PPC visitors, I can go over to the left to the Visitors report. From here, I can see things like browser and connection speed of my PPC visitors.

PPC advanced segment

Advanced Segments for AdWords Traffic

Why set an AdWords advanced segment? AdWords gives you many tools with which you can monitor and optimize your ads' performance. There's ad scheduling, demographic targeting, and managed placements, just to name a few. Using an advanced segment will help you monitor your AdWords advertising efforts more closely. There are a few ways to find the behavior of your AdWords traffic:


1.Set an advanced segment

Using the steps I describe above, set your Source to Google and the Medium to CPC.

2. Day Parts Report

*This is only available if you have destination auto-tagging turned on and your AdWords account is linked to Analytics.

Under Traffic Source, select AdWords. From there, select the Day Parts report. This graph will show you the time of day or day of week your ads were clicked. If you click on a time of day (say, 2:00), you can find the clicks, conversions, bounce rate, etc. for that specific time. Below is the graph by day. 

Day Parts

AdWords Dimensions Tab

The Dimensions tab in AdWords will give you metrics on day parts and conversions, and it will also give you demographic and geographic information on your clicks. 

What to do with Advanced Segment Information

There are many, many things you can do with all the information you gather from advanced segments. These are just a few ways to segment out your traffic to discover how your site and marketing efforts are performing: 


  • Use a day part segment to schedule AdWords ads at certain parts of the day to increase ROI.
  • Segmenting visitors by location to see if national campaigns are working at a local level.
  • Compare engaged vs. nonengaged visitors.
  • Compare campaign sources to decide where to allocate marketing and advertising dollars. 


These are just some of the segments that will give you very valuable information. Look for more blog posts from us with more detail on how to analyze the information you gather. 

In the meantime, if you'd like more help with Google Analytics or AdWords managment, please contact Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc. to learn more about our services. 

Check out this post with a little bit more detail on YouTube and a slide presentation on SlideShare


A Very Inaccurate YouTube Transcription

Watch out for the captions YouTube's machine transcription provides

First, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Briana, an online marketing specialist here at Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc. (that's me on the right). Earlier this week I posted a blog, "Is Twitter Advertising Right for You?" and I posted the video of the presentation to YouTube yesterday. Now, given the title, the blog is clearly about advertising on Facebook and Twitter, but YouTube's transcription service thought otherwise.

Check out the video of the post below. This is what it believes I said on the first slide:


hello angry at african-americans something

and i'm presenting is to advocacy great for




the benefits of twitter advertising for things

that if it's a face pic every citizen

And here is the presentation. What do you think?

Twitter Advertising vs. Facebook Advertising

Weigh the pros and cons of the Twitter advertising platform against the Facebook advertising platfor

If you've been on Twitter in the last eight months, you've probably seen the "Promoted Tweet" badge come through your timeline. For these eight months, Promoted Tweets, Accounts, and Trends were available to select advertisers. Good news for the rest of us- Twitter announced this week that it will soon open its advertising platform to more businesses. Not quite all, but on its way.

How Twitter Advertising Works

There are three types of mediums you can use: Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, and Promoted Trends.

Promoted Trends

Example of a promoted trend on twitter Trending topics are usually keywords with hashtags attached that users Tweet to find other users who are interested in the same topic. Promoted Trends get placed on the top of the trending topics list. When a user clicks on the hashtag to see the conversation related to it, the Promoted Trend will appear at the top of the conversation.

Promoted Tweets

Promoted Tweets "enable you to speak to users that don't currently follow your account." They appear in timelines as opposed to next to the content. Currently, promoted tweets appear in search on Twitter and Hootsuite. The image below occurs when the Promoted Trend is clicked.

Example of a promoted tweet on twitter

Promoted Accounts

These are for companies looking to build a Twitter following and expand their online presence. Promoted Accounts also will appear in Twitter's Who to Follow section on a user's homepage. Twitter "looks at your account and followers to identify similar accounts and similar followers" when deciding to place a Promoted Account on this page.

Twitter Advertising v. Facebook Advertising


Both operate using social targeting, or targeting friends of a brand's existing customers/fans/followers.


  • 175 million users
  • Promoted Tweets appear in users' timelines, so people are more apt to see them
  • Majority age 26-44
  • 7% in high school


  • Target users based on interests
  • Users don't have to be a fan of a business to see its ad
  • 500 million users
  • Majority age 18-34
  • 21% in high school

(source: DigitalTrends)


It's not yet been revealed how much a Promoted Tweet/Account will cost. We do know from our account management experience that an average cost per click on Facebook is about $0.85-$0.95.


  • Promoted Tweets have a cost per engagement (CPE) pricing model. Advertisers pay when their Promoted Tweets get favorited, clicked on, or a user replies to the tweet.
  • Retweet impressions are free


  • Choose from cost per impressions (CPM) or cost per click (CPC) models
  • Competitive bidding
  • CPC from $0.05 (typically about $0.85)

Ad Format

Example of a Facebook Ad


  • Promoted Tweets- appear in users' timelines
  • Promoted Accounts
  • Promoted Trends


  • Text ad with images
  • Appear on right side of content, away from major navigation links



The analytics dashboards of each platform are fairly similar in that they both show impressions and clicks.


  • Monitor your paid and unpaid activity on Twitter
  • Results can be supported by campaign
  • See which tweets caused unfollows, retweets, and most influential users


  • Run reports on conversion time, responder profiles and demographics
  • Results can be sorted by ad or campaign
  • Less sophisticated than Twitter - cannot see who marked ads "uninteresting" or "misleading"

So, which is right for you?

It comes down to finding out where your audience is, your advertising goals and how much time your company has available to interact with consumers. Facebook works fine as a set-it-and-forget-it campaign, while Twitter works best if someone in the company is dedicated to engaging with users. Twitter is good for building a brand presence while Facebook benefits companies that

For more information, check out our Is Twitter Advertising Right For You? video presentation. Still not sure which to platform to use? Contact Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc. to find out which platform will better serve your advertising needs.

What Facebook's Social Endorsements Mean for Advertisers

Learn how you can use social endorsements statistics in Facebook to your advantage.

You see it all the time on Facebook, "Friend X likes this ad". Until last week advertisers had no way of seeing the affects of this "social endorsement." Facebook announced Social Context, a new suite of metrics for advertisers to use to measure the effectiveness of their ads. The purpose of the new metric is to help advertisers "better optimze ads to increase social percentage and thereby improve the performance of [their] Facebook ads."

In the Advertising Performance Report you'll find four new columns:

  • Social Impressions: ad impressions that include social endorsements
  • Social Clicks: clicks on ads that originated from an ad with social endorsements
  • Social Impression %: percentage of total ad impressions with social endorsements
  • Social CTR: social clicks divided by social impressions
  • You'll also see a Social % column in your Ads Manager.

    What does this mean for advertisers?

    Facebook is all about networking, and for advertisers, it's about catching the right audience that will spread your ad via word-of-mouth, a.k.a. "social endorsements." Once a user "likes" an ad it appears in his or her friends' news feeds, effectively expanding the reach of the ad. Using Facebook's other reports, namely Responder Profiles and Responder Demographics, advertisers will be able to target an even more narrow audience. It will be interesting to see the correlation between high social impression percentage and CTR.

    All in all, this is good news for advertisers and clients alike. Copywriters now have a new metric to think about while writing, and in doing so, the ads will likely be more effective. Clients will see more detailed reports if they're outsourcing Facebook advertising. Contact Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc. if you'd like to learn more about our Facebook advertising services.

    Facebook and online marketing services from Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc.:

    The Impact of Google Instant on SEO and Google AdWords

    Will Google Instant affect how you need to optimize for keywords?

    Google's been rolling out new features all year (remember Google Caffeine?), but Google Instant takes the cake, so far. As we know from its other products, Google is all about the user experience. It describes Google Instant as "search before you type." So, how will Google Instant affect the future of search?

    How Google Instant works:

    It takes what you have typed already and predicts the most likely completion and streams results in real-time. The predicted results are based on popular searches.

    How will Google Instant affect AdWords?

    For those of you worried about how it will affect your AdWords performance, you can breathe a sigh of releif. Sort of. According to the AdWords blog, Google Instant will not change the way ads are served. However, it does give a new meaning to "impression". It counts impressions by a) the results page is displayed for a minimum of three seconds when the user stops typing b) the user chooses a particular result by clicking Enter or Search, or by selecting one of the predicted results, or c) the user begins to type a query and clicks anywhere on the page-- an ad, spelling correction, a search result, or a related search. This new way of counting impressions will more than likely change the number of impressions your ad pre-Instant would see.

    On the upside, Google says "[Instant] may also improve the quality of your clicks since it helps users type queries that more directly connect them with the answers they need."

    Say I want to search for a running app for my iPhone. Typing "running app" has a predicted search result of "running apparel" (the -arel is in gray font). Until I press Enter or Search the AdWords ads that appear, and of course search listings, are related to buying running apparel. Once I've told Google  by pressing enter that I want a running app and not running apparel, the ads change.

    And the affect of Google Instant on search ranking?

    Time will tell, but straight from Google: "No, [Instant] does not impact the ranking of search results." How is this possible? Well, for one, if your site is already optimized for longtail keywords- keywords consisting of two or more words- you're in good shape. Because Google Instant will give the user the most popular search result, it does not matter how many keywords or letters the user types in.

    Check to see how your current keywords are ranking. If they're not ranking high, it'd be wise to brainstorm a few more keywords to optimize for.

    Big vs. Small Businesses

    Try this: type "s" in the Google search bar. What do you see? The suggested search term is "Sears" The dropdown suggestion box yields Sprint, Skype, and Southwest Airlines (there's no Starbucks).

    Small businesses monitoring their analytics will likely see more clicks on longtail keywords. This will hold true for more than just small businesses. Pretty much everyone who is not a well-known person/business/product will see more longtail keywords.

    So what does Google Instant mean for the future?

    As with all new introductions, there are a lot of questions to be answered. It’s only a day old, so it’ll be interesting to see the impact of Instant on AdWords impressions and click through rates. Will the clicks generate more conversions since the ads are more targeted? Is it the end of SEO? How will small businesses compete? 

    If you're concerned about the impact of Google Instant on your SEO or AdWords, contact Adam to discuss how Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc. can help your improve performance.


    SEO and AdWords resources from Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc,:

    Google AdWords campaign management

    Search Engine Optimization

    Google Website Optimizer

    AdWords Enhanced CPC v. Conversion Optimizer

    Decide if Google's Enhanced CPC or its Conversion Optimizer is best for you.

    Google released Enhanced CPC this week to help AdWords users improve ROI. But is it better than Conversion Optimizer? Let's take a look:

    How Enhanced CPC works:

    Each and every time an ad is eligible to appear, Enhanced CPC will automatically adjust your bid based on the likelihood a click will convert. If the system sees that there's a probability this will occur, it will increase your max bid by up to 30%. If it predicts that an auction has a low probability of resulting in a conversion, it will decrease the bid in order to reduce the cost of a potential click from that auction. There is no limit on how much the system will reduce your maximum cost-per-click bid.

    When first enabled, Enhanced CPC will modify 50% of the auctions your ad is eligible for. Once the system has enough information to analyze its performance against the remaining 50% of the ads, it will adjust bidding. If Enhanced CPC finds that it is not benefiting your campaign, it will automatically reduce its impact but not stop modifying bids. If it has made a positive impact and your campaign has a strong performance, then the system will modify the bids of up to 75% of auctions.

    But how does it know what is likely to convert?

    Among many other variables, the system looks at:

    • user's location
    • user's browser
    • language settings
    • time of day
    • time of week
    • specific words in search query
    • match type
    • historical performance

    Conversion Optimizer

    This free AdWords tool manages your campaign based on your cost-per-acquisition goals. To use, your campaign must have Conversion Tracking enabled. The Conversion Optimizer uses this data to optimize the placement of your ads in each auction based on the probability of a conversion will occur at that time. It uses historical data from Conversion Tracking to learn where and when your ads are most likely to get conversions. 

    How it works:

    The tool analyzes conversion tracking data to decide the likelihood of which type and how often an auction will convert. It then predicts which auction will perform best in the future based on past perfomance. Conversion Optimizer will continually adjust bids and invest in the better performing ads to ensure that your money is spent effectively.

    Conversion Optimzizer weighs the most recent data more heavily than older data. Therefore, it's better to use Conversion Optimizer with an exisiting campaign that has had AdWords Conversion Tracking enabled for a while.

    Similar to Enhaced CPC, Conversion Optimizer looks at: 

    • user's location
    • users' browser
    • language settings
    • matchtype and quality
    • historical performance
    • time
    How it calculates the new automated max cpc: predicted conversion rate mulitplied by the max CPA bid= equivalent max CPC bid. Choose from either Target CPA or Max CPA bidding options and set different CPA bids for each Ad Group.

    On average campaigns using Conversion Optimzer experience a 21% increase in conversions and a 14% decrease in cost-per-conversion. Of course, numbers and results vary by campaign.

     Take away points:

    • The two systems aren't much different, but each has its own benefits. Choose which one is right for you based on how comfortable you are letting Google do the work for you.
    • Both tools are easy to test. If you don't like the results from Conversion Optimizer, turn it off and the campaign will revert to your previous CPC bids.
    • Enhanced CPC is very easy to use. Just check the box to enable it and let Google do its thing.
    • Conversion Optimizer can only be utilized if your campaign received 15 conversions in 30 days. Enhanced CPC does not have a required minimum number of conversions to be used.
    • Both will show your ads more when you are likely to get conversions.

    Even after reading all this are you still apprehensive about handling your AdWords campaigns? Let us help!


    Related resources from Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc.:

    Google AdWords campaign management

    Facebook Advertising services

    Keyword Density Tool



    Facebook Advertising Tips

    Wondering if you should advertise on Facebook? Here are a few reasons why you should:

    • Niche targeting. Compared to other, more traditional advertising mediums- print, TV, radio- you can structure your campaign to target a more niche audience.  For each ad you create, you can choose keywords to target certain interests in the Facebook user’s profile.

      Say you want to advertise a sports water bottle (yes, it’s the first thing I saw on my desk). Enter keywords like playing sports, playing soccer, playing basketball, etc. you can also tap into angles like running, jogging, walking. 
    • Budgets are easily manageable. You can choose pay per click or pay per impressions. Set a daily budget and Facebook will invoice you “once per Facebook billable day,” which is generally daily but not always.  You can also change your budget at any time.

      *Word of advice: Don’t set your daily budget as the maximum of  your credit card's daily limit. Because Facebook doesn’t always bill daily, you might have a couple days’ of charges to pay for. 
    • Campaign management made simple. As with the budget capabilities, managing Facebook campaigns is fairly easy, sometimes too easy! You can edit, pause, or ad new ads and keywords at any time. However, because this is so easy to do, be careful not to over-edit. Give some time for your ads to accrue impressions and clicks to see what is working at what is not. 
    • Reporting.  Run reports to see how your campaign is performing at the account, campaign, or ad level. Filter by impressions, overall performance, or responder demographics. This last filter is quite interesting. You can see which keywords triggered clicks, how old responders are, where they are from, and the percentage of impressions each state (if targeting U.S.) received.

    There you go, Facebook advertising in a nutshell. If you need any help setting up or monitoring your account, contact Adam Howitt Consulting, Inc.. We offer campaign management as one of our services.

    0% Bounce Rate? Really?

    You updated your website and your bounce rate dropped to zero percent or thereabouts - time to celebrate, right? Maybe.

    Understanding Bounce Rates

    Just a quick recap for the uninitiated - bounce rate represents the visitor who came to your site, looked at a single page and left without interacting with your website in any way. The goal of bounce rate is to count visitors who were so unimpressed that they didn't feel the need to find out any more about you or your company.

    Reducing your bounce rate should be a good thing and generally is but be very suspicious of a bounce rate of zero or a drop so substantial to be practically zero if your pages never performed so well before.

    Troubleshooting Bounce Rates

    Note that I only said "be suspicious" and not reject them outright. All you need to do is to understand if there is anything artificially affecting your bounce rate. If you can prove that each page generates a single pageview in Google Analytics you can crack open the champagne and dance in the streets.

    What are some of the factors that can lead to inflated bounce rates?

    • AJAX tracking code. I've seen AJAX and jQuery code extensions that load content and send a trackpageview on document ready. In some cases if someone interacts with a dynamic section of your site, you want that interaction to be recorded as an interaction and not a bounce but if the trackPageview call occurs when the document has finished loading you'll see your average pageviews per visit jump to 2 or close to 2 for this reason. The first "hit" is real - the visitor was tracked with the normal tracking code at the end of your page. The second "hit" happened without the user touching their mouse or keyboard so you should take steps to disable this trackPageview in this instance. By all means track it if the user did something to make the content load though.
    • iFrame content. If your page includes an iFrame showing content from another part of your site that also has the tracking code you will probably see similar symptoms to the AJAX description above of inflated pageviews per visit and decreased time on page to practically zero.
    • Duplicate tracking code. This is probably the most common culprit I've seen. View the source code of one of your 0% bounce rate pages and search for ga.js and urchin.js in the code. Make sure you're viewing the source as displayed in your browser instead of the server side code because you'll be getting the exact picture of what is being sent to google vs. forgetting a file that get's included on the server side. To view the source code right click in some white space on the page you're testing and select view source from the popup. If you have one of each on the page or two of either with the same user account "UA-xxxxxxx-x" string you have a problem. In certain circumstances you might have two user accounts tracking a page but if you're reading this post, my guess is that you aren't at that point in your analytics sophistication!
    • Third party vendor. Technically the same as a duplicate tracking code issue but slightly different. You might have a web page hosted on someone's platform like wordpress or site builder type setups. A common issue here is using built in Google Analytics tracking features provided by the vendor but using a designer's template that includes Google Analytics tracking too.

    Tools of the Trade

    If the tips above weren't enough to get you an answer there are a couple of tools you can use to see what is being sent to Google Analytics when your page loads

    • Packet sniffers. These tools are fairly technical but your developers may be familiar with these kind of tools. They capture the web requests leaving your computer so you can review them and look for any traffic to _utm.gif. Wireshark and Ethereal are the most technical tools to use and not specifically dedicated to browser only traffic
    • HTTP Proxies. Another technical tool you can change your browser settings to use an HTTP proxy that intercepts browser only traffic and will give you less background noise than a packet sniffer. I don't have any examples of these but someone in IT might be able to help
    • Proxy Browser extensions. The tools I use most are browser extensions that listen to the traffic from your browser but don't require an IT degree to install and use. Firefox has LiveHTTPHeaders which works more like a proxy and shows you the traffic it is capturing. For Safari you can turn on the develop menu from the advanced preferences screen and look at the resources panel for your page looking for _utm.gif requests.
    • Analytics Tools. If you are spending a lot of time on Analytics work for multiple clients or multiple internal sites, I recommend buying a copy of WASP, recently acquired by Avinash Kaushik's company (so it can only get better). As it is, it sits in Firefox in the corner and quietly reports the Analytics solutions deployed on your server including tracking mechanisms used by the advertisers if you have banners too. Click Google Analytics when you see it and it shows you the Google Analytics hits described in the most user friendly way to tell you what was sent to Google. It deconstructs the variables in a Google Analytics request to make it easier to read. If you see two tabs in the panel that pops up that both say Google Analytics you'll be able to see what is being sent. Looking at the trackPageview title should give you a clue as to what is being reported.

    Still stuck?

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