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5 Really Little Known Facts About Google Analytics




Earlier this month an article was published on ClickZ entitled "5 Little Known Facts About Google Analytics". I read the article with interest, but frankly I wouldn't call the fact that you can have 20 goals per profile a little known fact. I don't want to get too down on it, but anyone who has setup a goal in GA probably noticed there were 20 slots available. Not exactly a James Bond secret right there. 

So our team got to thinking...could we offer up 5 REALLY little known facts about Google Analytics? Here's our best try!

(Disclaimer: We actually have access to many new beta features of Google Analytics, but as much as we would like to break the news, we're bound by a non-disclosure with Google. The items below are public, or at least semi-public.)

1. Some Google Analytics cookies last for 2 years!

It's true. Google Analytics can identify a returning visitor for 2 years after their initial visit. Now, what are the chances that a visitor uses the same browser on the same computer and doesn't delete their cookies for 2 years? Pretty much zilch. But if it happened, those stale cookies would still be sitting there (I might recommend a glass of milk to soften them up).  

2. Funnel steps can be magically filled!

Well...sorta like magic. This is actually a small bug that I hesitated to make public, but since the new Goal Flow reports are live and super-awesome, it's worth noting some of the drawbacks to the Funnel Visualization report. When a funnel is created and the "first step required" box is checked, strange things can happen. Ever hear a small noise coming from somewhere in your office but you don't know where? Well...that's unrelated, but other strange things can happen, still. 

For instance, let's say you have a 4-step funnel and select "first step required". If a visitor of your site goes to Step 1 and then jumps straight to Step 4, it will appear as if they hit every step even when in fact they didn't. That's right, steps 2 and 3 are magically filled in, or assumed. This is what we affectionately call "back-filling". Cool, huh? No, not really. But it's always been that way. 

3. API requests are limited to 10 at a time

This one really bums out some of our more savvy search analysts...when pinging the Google Analytics API, you are limited to 10 concurrent requests. That's 10 per second, officially. You are also limited to 50,000 API requests per day, so to make use of all that awesomeness you'll want to average just under 2 request per second for all 86,400 seconds in the day.  

4. GA hits can be fired with server-side code instead of JavaScript

What!!?? Yep...there are several libraries out there that can be used instead of the traditional JavaScript code. Here's a PHP library: http://code.google.com/p/php-ga/ 

5. Campaign values can be set with code instead of using URL-based utm variables

This is actually a new "hidden feature" that Google gave us the green light to blog about recently. Instead of using the traditional utm variables in the URL to set campaign values, you can alternatively use a new JavaScript function to accomplish the same thing. This is really helpful if your site already uses URL parameters, but not of the UTM ilk.  For instance, we recently had a client with existing campaign URLs like this:

www.website.com/?p=partnersite&c=campaignname

Instead of appending additional variables we can use code to capture these existing values and set them for GA programmatically. Suite! Sweet!

We will do a full blog post on this feature when the official documentation is published from Google, but we are already using it in implementations today. (Shameless plug: little tricks and beta features like this are why working with a Certified Partner like Vertical Nerve is a smart choice.)

So there you go! 5 REALLY little known facts about Google Analytics. 

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