Customer Reviews: Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics
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on April 22, 2008
Brian Clifton's Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics should, for all intents and purposes, have the term "Advanced" in bold, possibly in a gigantic type font with fun colours and exclamation marks.

The first 3-5 chapters start innocently enough, and if you have been involved in web analytics or read any other material on the topic you will find it largely rehashes what you already know with a few nuggets of gold throughout. For instance, Brian's discussion as it pertains to Google's tracking of data and its privacy implications offers a wonderful metaphor relating to personal identifiable information, though his emphasis curiously seems to be trying to convince the reader, rather than positioning it as a tool that one can use to assuage stakeholders or individuals who are not sold on analytics.

Chapter 4, which aforementioned is innocent enough, gives one a glimpse of what is to come when Brian delves into a discussion on regular expressions (in order to filter data via GA's inline filter). If you are unfamiliar with a command line interface, advanced search expressions or anything of the sort, good luck. Even if you are, this section comes WAY out of left field and perhaps could have been saved for later, but the information itself is useful and I've been utilizing a number of the expressions ever since.

Chapter 7 is where this book really begins, and Brian starts it off by giving an in depth explanation of how Google tracks pages and summarily applies that logic to show how one can track things like dynamic URL's (rewriting them along the way), tracking file downloads, partially completed forms (cool stuff), and E-Commerce settings (with some neat tricks and workarounds for frequent issues and problems), Flash, and a whole host of things. All of this is done very clearly, but if you don't have some technical aptitude/background, you're going to struggle.

After the largely technical Chapter 7, Brian shifts back into a less technically focused discussion on best practices, including a fantastic write up on goals and funnels (including excellent examples for both). His knowledge and ability to write in a clear form is particularly visible when he discusses segmentation, which, while other authors have done a good job championing, Brian, at least to me, easily blows them out of the water. If you're not technically inclined, this is a great section, though you may still be a bit perturbed by the depth of the filter settings.

Chapter 9 is worth the purchase of this book alone, IF you can follow it. For reference, it's prefaced with the words "In this chapter I assume you have a strong understanding of JavaScript" and it holds true. In this chapter you learn a whole whack of cool things, and I literally have a pile of notes sitting on my desk as a result. Brian goes into everything from adding custom search engines to your GA results, tracking error pages and broken links and tracking referral url's from pay-per-click networks to differentiating links to the same page via site overlay. There's just tons of great tricks and tips in this section, and it's clear to anyone with a clue that not only does the author of this section have an understanding of Google that vastly exceeds your own, but that he can write about it in a clear, easy to understand (given the nature of the topic) way.

Chapter's 10 and 11 are also excellent, and one does not need to be overly technical to understand them. The former discusses KPI's in an extremely clear, helpful manner and even discusses creating reports based on specific job roles. In the process, Brian reveals a bunch of custom KPI's that he has created that are fantastic--which is to say, if you are reading this section do not skip a job role just because it's not applicable, there's lots of gold to be mined.

Chapter 11 focuses on real world tasks, such as diagnosing problem pages, delves deeper into funnels and how to use Google optimizer and is a great read that, no matter who you are, I promise you will learn something from.

In summary, if you are technically inclined and can follow some of the more esoteric topics, this book is an absolute must have--buy it right now. If you are not so technically inclined, there is still lots of value in chapters, 8, 10 and 11 which in my opinion still would merit a purchase, but of course, you are not getting the same value. So, as I said to begin this admittedly long review, this book is phenomenal, but there is one big caveat. You need to have some technical knowledge to truly appreciate how much valuable information it provides.
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on May 18, 2008
I've been running Google Analytics on a number of web sites since it was first released in 2005. I've got a lot of good information out of it, but I've always suspected that I'm not using it to its full potential. Having read this book I now have a much better idea of what I'm missing and, more importantly, how I can put that right.

Brian Clifton has written a really useful guide to getting the most benefit out of Google's free web analytics system. He is, of course, well-placed to do that as he leads the Google Analytics team for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Part one is a good overview of web analytics is. Chapter one explains what web analytics is and what you can get out of it. Chapter two goes into more detail about the method that people use to analyse their web site traffic and chapter three introduces Google Analytics and explains where it fits into the web analytics landscape.

Part two gives an introduction to using Google Analytics. Chapter four looks at the interface to Google Analytics. This chapter gives the reader a good free for the interactivity of the Google Analytics interface. It's this interactivity that makes Google Analytics far easier to use than many of its competitors. Chapter five looks in more depth at ten of the reports that the system generates. By the end of this chapter I was already learning new little tips about the system.

Part three is about implementing Google Analytics on your web site. chapter six shows you how to tag your web pages so they are included in your reports. This is about as far as my Google Analytics knowledge goes. So chapter seven introduces ways to customise the Google Javascript code in order to have more control over what data is recorded, it was all new (and very interesting). For example, the chapter has techniques for measuring page load time and tracking outgoing links. Chapter eight is all about Google Analytics best practices and is full of the kinds of tips that only an expert in using the tool would be able to share with you. Having read this chapter I configured up some of my sites to track search queries and set up more goals on my sites. Chapter nine is called "Google Analytics Hacks" and is a really useful cookbook of tips and techniques for getting even more out of Google Analytics. Top of my list of things to implement from this chapter is to add tracking to all of my error pages.

The sections we've discussed so far have all been about generating as much useful data about your web site traffic as possible. But, of course, huge piles of data don't do you any good at all unless you can make some sense of the data and then act on your findings. This is what part four is about. Chapter ten offers some useful hints on how to make sense of all of the data you have collected. Clifton looks at a web site from a number of points of view (sales, marketing, web content creator and webmaster) and for each of them suggests a number of key performance indicators that will be of interest to them. He then shows how to construct these KPIs out of the data that Google Analytics has captured. Chapter eleven moves on to the next stage and looks a number of real-world examples where data from Google Analytics can be used to identify poor performance from areas of a web site and suggests ways to improve matters.

I'm no web analytics expert and, to be honest, some of the stuff in part four made my eyes glaze over a little. But my company doesn't rely on its web site for income so I've never had to worry about the number of visitors I get or how long they spend on the site. Web analytics has really just been a hobby for me. If I was in a company where those kinds of things were important, then I feel confident that this book would be the right one to turn to in order to learn more. This book certainly goes into more depth when talking about both the technical side of Google Analytics and how to interpret the data than any other book I've read on the subject.

This book has taught me a lot of new and interesting things about Google Analytics and I feel sure that I'll be going back to it in the future when I need to know more. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to get the most out of their Google Analytics installation.
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on March 9, 2010
Advanced Web Metrics is an outstanding book. It covers from shallow to Deep Ocean and gives the necessary tools to navigate through waves, tempests and calm seas. And it shows the reader how to find islands of insights!

Brian Clifton describes techniques that will help you understand and improve your website using Google Analytics. He goes over very important concepts and questions that are usually misunderstood: Why Web Analytics is important & what are the available technologies? How Google Analytics works & how it deals with privacy? Which reports should you use & how to do it? How to ensure that your data is accurate & how to enhance your reports using advanced implementation techniques?

The book is not a theoretical read; it goes into real world tasks and shows the reader what he needs to know in order to succeed using Google Analytics. In addition to showing all there is to be shown on Google Analytics, he also provides some very useful examples on third party applications that use the Google Analytics API and out of the box integrations with other tools or sources of data (CRM, call tracking, Website Optimizer).

But the biggest quality of this book is the way Dr. Clifton approaches the subject. Even readers acquainted with Google Analytics and optimization techniques described in the book will find insights that will help them understand the subject deeper and organize the knowledge in their brains.
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on August 6, 2010
This is one of the essential manuals you should have in your analytics toolkit, along with Avinash Kaushiks Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity 2.0 and Bryan Eisenberg's Always Be Testing: The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer

The title is a little misleading as the book spends a lot of time going through how to set up a basic analytics properly. Well maybe that is advanced for some people, because as Brian clearly and comprehensively illustrates, it's not as easy or simple as many people think.

For this information alone it is worth getting the book.

Other chapters on setting up ecommerce and campaign tracking, I would have thought were standard stuff, but again maybe they are advanced for some users.

Again, the book provides a lot of detail and examples of how to do this properly.

If you can't get your analytics set up properly after reading this book, well, you're not paying attention.

There is some advanced stuff on hacks and custom tagging towards the end.

I'm not complaining, I learned heaps that I didn't know that I didn't know.

As I said, it's a great book and an essential one, I just think the title is misleading.

Perhaps "Analytics: How to Do the Damn Stuff Right" would have been closer to the mark.
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on April 28, 2010
I've already put into action some of the advanced tips in this book even though I haven't quite finished reading it yet which makes it an excellent investment. It covers strategy, implementation and real world usage in clear terms that are easy to follow. It should answer any question you have of Google Analytics, and in my opinion is more palatable than Google's own help section.

The real world examples are excellent, real situations that users will face explained in a manner that takes account of the business need, the roles effected and detailed implementation, report and analysis guides that work like a charm.

This will be one I use again and again
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on May 11, 2008
I stumbled upon the authors' site while trying to learn more about Google Analytics. After reading a few of his posts and learning that he was (until recently) quite high up on the totem pole in the Web Analytics team at google, I decided to purchase his new book, and I'm very glad I did.

I found it to be very useful and easy to read, despite parts of it being somewhat complex -- as I was hoping for given the title. The use of screen shots was excellent. I often found myself relating pages of the book to my own analytics account and in doing so gaining a better understanding of my own data and a better comprehension of what the book was talking about.

The book also provides some practical solutions to some common (but semi-advanced) issues that are not covered in any official google documentation, however if you have been faced with the specific issues, you would likely have found the answer in analytics blogs online if you searched enough. Having said that, if you had this book, you wouldn't have needed to search in the first place.

At the time I read the book I had been using analytics for about a year. I am very happy with the book -- I only wish I had it earlier when I didn't know quite as much, then I would have gotten even more value from it.
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on April 12, 2010
I am very glad to have bought this book. It is fantastic!
Yesterday I passed the google analytics individual qualification with 88% score thanks to the book of Brian Clifton and Google Analytics course online.
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on June 2, 2010
In teaching Digital Marketing and specialising in Marketing Research I am always at a loss for teaching materials. Textbooks are outdated as quickly as they are published. Web metrics is a moving feast and the task is made harder in this specialist area. However it must be said that Google Analytics has transformed the sector. That being the case then a GA text is essential and this fits the bill perfectly. The quality seal is the publisher who has the confidence to publish an updated version. So yes, onto the RECOMMENDED READING list for Universities and professional qualifications.
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on August 28, 2008
This is the long overdue "how to" guide for Google Analytics. You can get started tracking your web traffic without this book, to be sure. But, this book goes beyond the help section provided on the Google Analytics site. If you're trying to understand the web traffic on your site, try using Google Analytics. It's easy and free. This book will help you along. While the title describes the book as Advanced, it's not really that technical. Even the most technical sections are pretty easy to get through.
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on January 3, 2009
I've used WebTrends for some time. Used a very early version of Urchin circa 2005. Started with Google Analytics in 2008. Google Analytics has come a long way since Urchin. WebTrends is definitely more potent with a lot more features. But well .. you're paying for it. Google Analytics is free. The only shortfall is that it retains data for the last 25 months, so if you want to compare with the last 4-5 years, that will be difficult. You could pull out data to your local system and workaround this or use Urchin which has a more diluted reporting capability.

All that aside. This is a fantastic book. A deserving 5 starrer.

The flow of this book has been well planned. Clifton starts with what reports can be procured from Google Analytics, giving everyone a quick insight into what kind of information gathering is possible. A really good way to tell you how potent this tool can be. The next section deals with the implementation and how pages can be tracked. Discusses in detail some of the implementation issues like:
Using the same analytics account to monitor diff websites
How to create a local copy of the analytics info

Also includes Advanced Implementation how-to's for E-Commerce websites, online campaign tacking, event tracking. There's also a chapter on hacks. These sections are the most relevant and covers the first 211 pages.

The last section of the books starts with KPI's and discusses the topic in detail with examples related to e-commerce sites, Marketer's KPI's webmaster's KPI's and more. The last chapter also discusses Google Website Optimizer and is a good introduction for newbies.

This book is extremely comprehensive and does a very good job of introducing Google Analytics to both new users as well as experienced one. Javasript code shows up at various places and is definitely helpful as a reference for making quick changes to your website tags.

If you have a website that uses Google Analytics, just go ahead and buy the book. If you're using other analytic tools, this book is a good introduction to what Google Analytics has to offer.

A few standout features of Google Analytics:
Two click integration with Google Adwords. (Two reports : Adwords Campaign, Keyword Positions)
Can be used to track paid search, organic search, links from pdf's, videos, email campaigns etc
Site overlay report (something like a heat map. WebTrends calls this the click density report)
Map overlay report (shows which geographies people are coming in from)
Cross referencing (eg how many visitors from california, which keywords folks from california use)
Site search reporting (From which pages do visitors initiate a search. And which page do they go to. This needs some setting up.)
Event tracking of video files and load times, interactions in the file etc ..

(About Google Urchin: Urchin is a down loadable tool. Its a hybrid tool since it tags as well as processes log files. It can provide bandwidth reports, error page/status code reports, visitor history reports.
Can run behind firewall. Useful for intranets.
Data stored in house, so can be used beyond 25 months.
Google Analytics can analyze a max 5 million pageviews a month. Urchin doesn't have this restriction.

The Disadvantages pertain to the hardware and manpower needed to set up a server, maintain and backup.)

Other References
Companion site for the book: [...]
Scripts are at: [...]
Facebook Group: [...]
Support: [...]
Advanced topics and methodologies: [...]
Blog: [...]

If you want to see pics of what some actual Google Analytics Reports look like, you can check them on my website
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