Annielytics Dashboard Course Comes to SMBs

Annielytics Dashboard Course for SMBs

As many of you know I recently published a DIY, self-guided audit template. Although I know I could have easily charged over $1,000 for this 140-page checklist and template — replete with boilerplate text and 90+ explainer images — I decided to offer it at a rock-bottom price of $195. Some colleagues thought I was crazy, but I decided when I produced it that I wanted to get this into the hands of small- to mid-size business owners and startups, who would never be afford a site audit that generally costs between $5 – $20k.

Robin Hood

Affordable Dashboard Course Options for SMBs

That experience triggered a bit of a Robin Hood reaction in me, and I started to think about how I could do the same thing with my dashboard course. You walk a fine line when you reduce the price on a product people have already bought for full price, so I thought though if there was any way I could trim the course down to the most popular features to justify slashing the price.

New Lite Course: $295

And that’s exactly what I did. I removed the weekly office hours but kept everything else. So you still get access to all of the videos, the workbook, the Excel practice file, the Analytics Canvas files, and all three dashboards that you can easily apply to your data. That allowed me to offer an overhauled lite version for $295.

You can still buy the basic course and get 40 weeks of access to me for one hour every week. Office hours are offered Sundays at 3pm Eastern Time. This is because I have customers all over the world, and the feedback I received early on was people couldn’t attend office hours during their workday. Since a one-hour hangout with me is $200, this is an $8,000 value. (I’ve yet to have more than two attendees at a time, and they have been able to ask me anything; there are no restrictions on the topics of these office hours.)

By the end of the course you will be able to build dynamic dashboards that update with a single click of a button and look like the ones below:

Mini Courses: $95

For those who just want to learn Google Analytics or just Excel for marketers, you can also purchase a mini course at $95 each. For the Google Analytics mini course, you’ll have access to that part of the workbook, as well as 6+ hours of Google Analytics videos. And for the Excel course, you’ll have access to the Excel portions of the workbook, the charting practice file we went through, and 6+ hours of Excel videos.

Guided Course: $995

Since the Guided Course has been a popular option because of the four hours of personalized instruction, I didn’t want to do away with it. But I did reduce the price by removing the office hours option, which allowed me to reduce the price by $1,000.

Learn More

I’m not going to make this a sales page. You can learn all of the details about the updated course options on the updated pricing page.


Hack To Get Organic Landing Pages Data In GA Without Sampling [VIDEO]

Google Analytics workaround
We are going AROUND the lea— Google Analytics standard report that is sampled but totally shouldn’t be!

I hate sampling and try to avoid it at all costs. I recently discovered, after Google Analytics’ Acquisition reports got shuffled around, that the Organic Landing Pages report (which I use almost daily) is subject to sampling. Not sure if this is new or something I just haven’t noticed before. It’s a standard report and shouldn’t get sampled. But I figured out a hack to get around that for larger sites.

A What Report?

First things first, the Organic Landing Pages report tells you what pages people are finding your site most when they search Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, etc. Ever since Google took our keywords and went home, SEO practitioners are more dependent on the data we can get from landing pages to measure the effectiveness of our search efforts.

And since Landing Page is a session-based dimension — meaning it’s a characteristic of an entire visit to a site, not just a single page, like the Page dimension — it can provide you with insights from session-based metrics, such as pages/session, goal conversion rates, avg session duration, etc. You can’t get these types of insights from the Page dimension (which you see in reports like the All Pages report, under Behavior > Site Content).


You can check out this video where I demonstrate three ways to get your organic landing pages data and explain the drawbacks of two of them, for larger sites at least.

The Hack

How a Normal Marketer Would Get This Report

Google moved its Organic reports to Campaigns > Organic Keywords. Then you need to change the primary dimension from the completely useless Keyword dimension to Landing Page.

Organic Landing Pages

This seems to be the most straightforward method. However, it’s not what I use because Google Analytics applies sampling as soon as you change the primary dimension from Keyword to Landing Page. That is, if the report you’re looking exceeds 500,000 sessions (FKA visits).

Booo to sampling

I don’t know why this is the case. If you change the primary dimension in other standard reports, sampling isn’t applied. So I’m not sure why we get it with this method. But it’s a huge bummer for larger sites.

The Tricky Backdoor Method

Go to Channels > click on Organic Search > change primary dimension to Landing Page.

Step 3 is actually choosing Organic Search from the Channels report, but it's off the screen.
Click for larger image.

Note: For Step 3, you actually choose Organic Search from the Channels report, but it was off the screen.

This method allows you to get the same exact data without sampling.

happy elephant
Let the data rain down on you!

Least Preferable Option

Go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and then use the Organic Traffic advanced segment. (You can close out of the All Sessions default segment to just see organic traffic.)

Google Analytics organic traffic report

The nice thing about this approach is you can filter every report in Google Analytics by organic traffic by applying this segment. So if I pulled up the Device Category report (Audience > Mobile > Overview), I’d be seeing what percentage of my traffic from organic search is coming from desktop, mobile, or tablet.

But you’re also going to get sampling using this method.

Pro Tip: Remember to turn off this segment when you’re finished with it, or you will unwittingly analyze your data looking only at organic traffic. I’ve done this before. It is an express train to WTFville for marketers. To turn it off, click the down-facing arrow in the upper-left corner of the Organic Traffic segment and choose Remove.


remove advanced segment in Google Analytics
Click for larger image.


Announcing Annielytics Dashboard Course Office Hours

Google Analytics confusion and frustration


I talk a lot about actionable analytics. When you know where to look in your data for the story, you can gain valuable insights about your customers and what delights them.

What I can tell from the analytics from my dashboard course, as well as the types of questions I get from current members, is that subscribers seem to be getting stuck when the course navigates to the deeper waters. I suspect this is mostly due to intimidation with the material. Understandably so. You’re learning to marry Google Analytics and Excel, and that’s no small task.

So to hopefully allay the anxiety associated with learning a new skill, I’m introducing Annielytics Dashboard Course Office Hours. This will be an opportunity for subscribers to get answers to questions from the course material.

To kick this off, the first meeting will cover how to link your Google Analytics account to the current dashboards included in the course:

This meeting will be held at Mon, Nov 3, at 2pm EST and will include Q&A after the demo. I highly encourage members to follow along. I will also be recording these meetings with a breakdown of the questions asked and their corresponding times in the videos for those who can’t make a particular meeting.


Dates & Times

I have published the dates and times, as well as GoToMeeting credentials, on the different portal pages. I will be setting these meetings to different days and times from week to week to accommodate as many schedules and timezones as possible.


These will be weekly office hours, with four weeks off over the course of the year to accommodate holiday seasons, vacations, and travel.

Maximum Attendees

These meetings will be limited to 25 attendees at a time to give as many attendees a chance to get their questions in as possible. If we cannot get to your question in one meeting, you can relax, knowing that you will have a full year of access to me. And if you need further assistance you can always sign up for a hangout.

Length of Benefit

You will be able to join these meetings as long as you are a current subscriber. All who log in will be checked against our current subscriber list. Anyone whose email doesn’t match what we have on the list will be removed from the meeting. You will likely benefit from listening on to others’ questions as much as having your own questions answered. Renewing your annual membership will give you ongoing access to these Q&A.

Why I’m Doing This

Considering what it would cost to have 48 hours of access to me, this benefit alone is valued at $9,000+. So it may seem crazy to offer it as a benefit for a course like this. But it’s a worthwhile investment for me because I gain the greatest sense of satisfaction from hearing about members’ growth in data visualization. The profits are nice, but they simply allow me to dedicate more of my time to training marketers.

In fact, what I’d love to have someday is a gallery of dashboards created by members to showcase their dashboards — and even make their dashboards available for download.

Change to the Personalized and Premium Memberships

Instead of small group Q&As, the personalized and premium memberships will now include four one-on-one Q&As. You could even have others from your company join the meeting. (You will all just need to have email addresses from the same domain.)

All Current Memberships Extended

To give current subscribers the same access to this new benefit as new members, I’m extending all current memberships to Oct 31, 2015.

$300 Off Promotion

I just spoke at SearchLove London and wanted to share a $300-off promotion but decided against it as I was walking up on stage for fear of appearing too self-promotional. So I decided to just open it up to all of my blog readers. You can get the $300 off until Nov 30, 2014, by clicking this link, which will take you to the dashboard landing page. The discount will be applied when you add your selection to the cart. If you run into technical difficulties, feel free to email me at annie(at)


Why Google Analytics’ User Metrics Are BS [For Most Sites]

user metrics in Google Analytics

TL;DR: User/visitor-based KPIs have never reflected actual users. They’ve only ever reflected clients (IOW, the combination of device and browser you visited the site from), making reporting on them a waste of pixels.

Continuing my series on dimensions in Google Analytics, I want to address the most misunderstood of them all: the User Type dimension. This dimension is supposed to measure new vs returning visitors** to your site. But, in reality, this dimension provides your report with a steaming pile of poo. I’ll demonstrate why in this post.

But I’m not just going to look at the User Type dimension. Since the issues that plague the User Type dimension apply to metrics as well, I’m going to broaden the scope of my investigation to all user-based key performance indicators (KPIs). This includes the Users and New Users metrics, which are accessible via custom reports, as well as the Overview reports (under Audience and Acquisition, respectively).

**Google still vacillates between using “user” and “visitor” in its report nomenclature.

Which is it, Google? User or visitor?
Which is it, Google? User or visitor?

Faulty Assumption

Website owners, marketers, and analysts have had a long-standing love affair with these KPIs. But they were ill-conceived from the beginning. They always operated under the assumption that you use only one device and one browser or app on that device to surf the web. Even in the early days of the web that wasn’t true for many who had a computer at home and work or who bounced back and forth between Internet Explorer and Netscape. #flashback

Everyday Analogy

Calling unique clients visitors or users is kind of like saying your social security number (or whatever number your country uses to identify its citizens) is interchangeable with your license plate. A single person may have multiple vehicles s/he uses to get around. But my car != me. Therefore, my girls can borrow my car without risk of being arrested for identity theft.

Likewise, your client is a vehicle you, the user, use to get to a site. It’s not you. The problem with user-based KPIs in Google Analytics is they measure license plates, not social security numbers.

Let’s Do an Experiment

My devices: I have two laptops (one Mac and one PC), a desktop (an iMac), an iPad, and an iPhone.

My browsers: On my laptops and desktop, I have a combination of  four browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

My Chrome habit: To complicate matters, I use multiple instances of Chrome (which I show you how to do in this post) because I have an affinity for Chrome.

My apps: I use a variety of apps between my iPad and iPhone.

My Quest for Redneck Wine Glasses (Phase 1)

Watch what happens when I search for redneck wine glasses in two different instances of Chrome. With the Google Analytics Debugger extension active, I clicked through to the One Hundred Dollars a Month blog, which had a post featuring redneck wine glasses. And then I looked at the data Chrome was capturing about me in the console. Notice that it indicates that it’s my first session (formerly known as a visit) and assigned me a Visitor ID of 712640405. This is accurate. I’ve never been to this site before. Or sipped wine from a redneck wine glass, regrettably. (But it’s on my bucket list.)

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

Note: This site is running the classic version of Google Analytics. If it had been running Universal, you would see clientId instead of Visitor ID, like you do with my site.

clientID using Universal Analytics in Google Analytics
Click for larger image

And why do you think Goog changed the nomenclature from Visitor ID to clientId? You got it! Google Analytics is measuring clients, not visitors. Unfortunately, this shift isn’t reflected in Google Analytics reports, as they still give you the ability (although just an illusion, IMO) to report on users.

Google Analytics does give us the ability to measure actual visitors now with Universal, but there are quite a few hoops you have to jump through to set this up, which we’ll get to.

Rinse and Repeat in a Different Instance of Chrome (Phase 2)

Now let’s see what happens when I go to the site using a different instance of Chrome from my same laptop.

Google Analytics user metric
Click for larger image

This time I was assigned a Visitor ID of  1140255071. At the risk of stating the obvious 1140255071 != 712640405.

It also recorded it as my first session. Liar. You’re my witness. I just visited this site.

But it actually makes sense if you trade in your Warby Parkers for a pair of taped-up horn rims since, according to my cookie data, I’m a totally different visitor. This poor, unsuspecting site has no idea that I’m the same person who just found the site via a Google search.

It gets worse.

If I came back via Firefox I’d be a third visitor. Safari? Yet another. My iPad? Yep. Another. My iPhone browser? You guessed it. And an app on my iPhone or iPad? Throw in a couple more.

When you consider that I use different instances of Chrome on each of my computers, I could realistically be 10+ different visitors for sites I visit regularly.

For example, I bank from all of my devices, and I use my bank’s app on my phone and tablet. Because I use the same instance of Chrome for my banking, on any given day I could show up as coming from one of five Client IDs: my two laptops, my desktop, my iPhone app, or my iPad app.

Why I’m Calling BS

If I can’t be identified as the same person while using the same browser and device, how is Google Analytics going to associate me as the same user when I actually switch devices? It can’t. So I’m only a returning visitor if I come back to your site using the same instance of the same browser on the same device. And I’m a <air quote> new visitor </air quote> every time I visit your site with a different device, browser (or browser instance), app, or kiosk.

So when you add a KPI like new visitors to your monthly reports, you’re not exclusively celebrating acquiring, you know, new visitors (although I’m sure there are bonafide new visitors in the mix). You’re more realistically celebrating diversity. Some of your visitors want to visit your site using different devices and browsers. Woohoo! Drinks on me!

celebrating new visitors in Google Analytics

Who Can Safely Use User-Based KPIs

You can use user-based KPIs if you satisfy all of the following requirements:

1. Your site has a login option. This is the most critical component. There has to be some way to authenticate your unique visitors. A site like Facebook would have no problem identifying unique users because most people using the site are going to be logged in. So it doesn’t matter what device or browser or app I use, Facebook knows who I am. Going back to our car analogy, they know my social security number, not just my license plate.

2. Visitors actually log in to use it. My site has a login for subscribers to my dashboard course. However, the overwhelming majority of visitor visit the site logged out. My content isn’t behind a subscriber wall, so there’s no reason for visitors to log in just to read my blog posts. So guess how many effs I give about my new vs. returning visitors? My site isn’t a good candidate for these KPIs.

3. You are using Universal Analytics. You have to update to Universal to take advantage of Google Analytics’ new feature that actually enables you to track unique users. (More on that in the next point.)

4. You have modified your Google Analytics tracking code to capture your members’ User ID. You can use customer ID, login ID, member ID … whatever your CRM uses to identify your users. But it can’t identify the user to Google, so names, email addresses, and the like are out. Justin Cutroni wrote a great post about using the User ID feature if you want to come up to speed. But you will still need to read the help files on this one. That’s the only way I was able to really wrap my mind around it.

5. You have set up a view that uses User-ID to determine new/returning visitors instead of clients. After you’ve added the extra code to capture your site’s User ID, you’ll need to create a new view to enable this feature. Google doesn’t reprocess data like tools such as Kissmetrics does, so you start from scratch whenever you enable a feature like this. You can read more about this in the Configuration section of the User ID reference.

This new view will only track the visits of your logged-in visitors. A switch is flipped, and Google Analytics no longer uses the device to determine if a visitor has been to the site before; it now looks at that User ID. Because of this switch Google is able to provide you with new Cross-Device reports not found in views that don’t have User ID enabled.

Better But Still Not Perfect

Sooo if you are doing all of these things and using a User ID-enabled view, your user-based KPIs are infinitely more reliable. Why? Because now you have a way to identify me across different devices and browsers. I’m no longer just a visitor coming from my personal Gmail instance of Chrome on my 15-inch MacBook Pro; I’m Annie Cushing … a real human being with a social security number and proclivities for data, shoes, and lime green and aversions to country music, Brussels sprouts, and the color pink.

It’s still not foolproof. I mean, I could go to my bank’s website to research how to send a wire transfer without logging in. Also, if I’m a member of a site and have logged in with my current browser but am not logged in when I visit it, that session will not be routed to this view. Kissmetrics has it all over Google Analytics in its ability to identify unique users even if they’re not logged in. But it’s at least a step in the right direction.

If I had my druthers, Google Analytics would align its report nomenclature to reflect that these are clients, not users. I think it would help marketer assess if it’s worth reporting on.

Bottom Line

If you’re doing analytics for a social networking site, bank, airline, online tool, or any other site where your visitors have incentive to log in — and you’re taking full advantage of Google Analytics’ newer User ID feature — you’re golden. And you should be rocking those user-based KPIs.

For everyone else, I’d shift your focus from Google Analytics’ traditional user/visitor KPIs and put the lion’s share of emphasis on session-based KPIs. There’s plenty of good data in them that’s not based on false assumptions.

Best Tool To Master Dimensions And Metrics In Google Analytics

Kick off Google Analytics series
What I think of any time I hear the term “kick off”

I’m kicking off a new series of posts where I highlight different dimensions in Google Analytics. And I thought of no better way to start than to share my go-to tool any time I’m stuck on which dimension or metric to use.

It’s actually published by Google in their resource for developers. I know what you’re thinking … Stab me repeatedly before sending me to documentation files. Developer documentation for any tool is usually a painful mire of geekery and difficult to digest. But this one is definitely the exception, especially since Google spruced it up a few months back and made it all Ajaxy.

I use it so much I created a bitly for it:

Executive Summary

So here’s a screenshot of the brains of the tool:

Click for a larger image
Click for a larger image

My favorite uses for it are:

  • Find out the API names for different dimensions and metrics. (They’re sometimes very different as you’ll see in the video, e.g., Service Provider is networkLocation.)
  • Filter to see a category of dimensions and metric (e.g., enter social in the filter to just see all social dimensions and metrics).
  • See which dimensions and metrics have been deprecated. (They’re in italics, and there are a ton of them out there.)
  • Find out valid combinations of dimensions and metrics. The list of available dimension and metric options is filtered depending on what you choose, but this isn’t 100%. So you still need to be mindful of your intent.
  • Look to see what default values are for something, e.g., the hasSocialSourceReferral dimension in the API (called Social Source Referral in the web view) returns a boolean of Yes or No.


You can check out a walkthrough I did of the tool in the short video below.

Learning How to Use the API

I wish this tool had been as useful as it is now when I was first learning how to use the API. BTW, the API is good for bringing Google Analytics data right into Excel or a Google Spreadsheet, in case you’ve ever wondered why you hear people talk about the API so much.

There reaches a point in a marketer’s life where it just doesn’t satisfy anymore to have to go into the web interface to find the reports you’re looking for. This means having to export to Excel (or Google Spreadsheets) and do the same repetitive tasks each time. The API allows you to shave off a lot of time hunting for your data.

If you want to learn more about how to use the Google Analytics API, here are some good starting points:

Dipping Your Toe In

How To Make Google Analytics And Excel Talk To Each Other In Plain English: I wrote this post for the Search Engine Land site as an intro to a free API tool called Excellent Analytics. It’s not quite that excellent anymore as it’s quickly becoming the equivalence of Detroit in the marketing tool space. It hasn’t been updated in years and is missing some really key dimensions and metrics. But it has a user-friendly interface.

Google Analytics Magic Script: Google released a cool little utility to help you bring Google Analytics data into Google Spreadsheets. One serious disadvantage for newbies is you don’t have an interface like you do with tools like Excellent Analytics and (my fave) Analytics Canvas. It also doesn’t include Multi-Channel Funnels. Plus, Google Spreadsheets visualizations leave a lot to be desired. But if you just want to set up a simple dashboard and be off to the races, you should check it out.

Deep Dive

The Annielytics Dashboard Course: This is a comprehensive only course that teaches you how to use Google Analytics, the API, and Excel all together to create sexy reporting dashboards.