Passing the Google Analytics Individual Qualification

Last week I finally got around to taking the Google Analytics Individual Qualification and passed with 94%.  See my test records and certificate.

I reckon the test should be reasonably straightforward for anyone who uses Google Analytics regularly. The trickiest part for me were the multiple choice questions where you need to select “all that apply” and aren’t sure how many you have to tick. I think these were probably where I lost my 6%. :(

Tips for passing are:

  • Make sure you carefully watch the video lessons in Google’s Conversion University. Nearly all the questions I was asked could have been answered from the information there.
  • Pay especial attention to the sections on e-commerce tracking and AdWords integration if you don’t use these features yourself, as you’ll definitely be asked questions about them.
  • Also read an up-to-date Google Analytics book, as there were a few questions I wouldn’t have known the answers to just from the Conversion University videos. I read Justin Cutroni’s Google Analytics from O’Reilly during the week before the exam. This was only published in August, so doesn’t contain outdated information, and packs a lot of content in a concise form. (O’Reilly books also have an advantage at the moment of being available really cheaply in the iPhone App Store – if you can bear the finger-strain of all the page swiping.) Alternatively, you could try the second edition of Brian Clifton’s Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics. (See this review of the previous edition which I wrote a couple of years ago.)  The Google Analytics Channel videos and anything written by Avinash Kaushik are also very worthwhile for additional background study.

Below are a few links to “exam tips” posts in other blogs which I found helpful when preparing for the test:

Website satisfaction surveys

When you start planning a website feedback survey you’re likely to have a lot of questions in mind about the most effective way to go about it.  How long should your survey be? What are the best questions to ask? When is the best time to promote a survey during a user visit to your site? How frequently to survey? What are the benefits of surveys compared to web stats analysis or usability testing?

The following resources provide some answers (and will probably also raise some more questions…)

Paul Boag provides some useful advice on website surveys on his Boagworld site. Creating a better survey summarises twelve ways you can make your surveys more effective, including avoiding distracting your users by the way you promote your survey and remembering to consider best practice for form design.  Improving your site with user feedback is also interesting. It looks at the role of questionnaires and surveys within a range of options for getting feedback, including face to face, web stats, search queries and third party applications. Importantly, it also discusses how to assess feedback once you’ve collected it so that you can decide which suggestions to implement.

Analytics Basics: Visitor Surveys and Mazimize Surveys’ Effectiveness are two pieces by Neil Mason on ClickZ. Advice here includes to be clear about your survey’s purpose and to keep it short and simple. Remember the need to test surveys before going live and make sure the survey complements your brand as “poorly executed online surveys can damage the brand whether they live on the site or are sent via e-mail”.

The Three Greatest Survey Questions Ever is a nice blog post by Avinash Kaushik advocating a simple approach to survey implementation. The “three greatest questions” are:

  • What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?
  • Were you able to complete your task today?
  • If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

From the same blog, see also Got Surveys? Recommendations from the Trenches which includes discussions of  benchmarking for surveys, the usefulness of open-ended questions, targeting survey participants, integrating your survey analysis with clickstream data and the benefits of using surveys as a continuous and ongoing measurement system.

User satisfaction provides advice on website surveys from the UK guidance for government websites on Measuring Website Quality, including suggested core questions for surveys.

How to make an online survey work is an article from Webmaster-Now by Phil Blasco which provides general advice and some suggested questions.

How to build response rates for online surveys is one of several useful articles on the Demographix site. It considers a key issue with online surveys – how to increase response rates. Suggestions include using incentives if appropriate, thinking carefully about the wording of the survey invitation and best practice for promoting a survey on your web site.

10 Tips to Improve your Surveys is an article on the Zoomerang site. Among other suggestions, it emphasises keeping questions simple and rating scales consistent through your surveys. It also suggests sending reminders to people who have not completed the survey to boost your completion rate.

Once you’re ready to create your feedback survey, there are now plenty of online survey solutions available to choose from. If you want to trial one before you commit to spending money, then  SurveyMonkey, PollDaddy, Zoomerang and SurveyGizmo all have free basic services with paid-for professional versions

Review: Click – What We Do Online and Why It Matters

In Click – What We Do Online and Why It Matters, Bill Tancer uses data on internet use to demonstrate that people reveal plenty of things via their everyday web browsing which they’d never admit to in a formal survey.

The first part of the book discusses what can we learn about the human condition from internet usage data via a series of snapshots of online behaviour. These look at subjects as diverse as porn, politics, prom dresses, diets, celebrity worship and people’s worst fears. There are lots of interesting snippets to be found in all this – from the problems caused to political pollsters by the increasing tendency to drop landline phones in favour of mobiles to data indicating that Sunday is the least popular day for people to browse porn sites. The chapter on fears focuses on search queries and has a nice potted description of the authoritative status search engines have assumed in a lot of people’s lives - “Search engines, despite their limitations, have for some of us become a teacher, a confidant, a willing listener to our confessions.”

There follows a good chapter on the concepts of Web 2.0, focusing particularly on their potential downsides. The closing part of the book explores what can be done with web data analysis, the continuing power of television programming on what people search for online and  arbitrage opportunities from internet data. The final chapters look particularly at the role of early adopters and “super-connectors” in boosting online trends and how their behaviour can be used to predict the future mainstream.

I don’t think Click delivers any huge revelations but, as you’d expect from a Time magazine columnist, it’s all pleasantly readable. From chapter to chapter the book sometimes feels a bit disconnected – more like a meandering series of articles than a single tightly argued narrative. However the chatty informal style is also part of the book’s charm and helps to make it an enjoyable, if undemanding, read.

The author is particularly successful at conveying his sheer enthusiasm for the work of data analysis. He infuses his discussions of the process of formulating and testing theories with a sense of fun.  The book is at its most interesting where he happily discusses cases where his predictions have been wrong-footed by events, and then goes through the process he went through to find out what went wrong and how similar analyses could be refined in the future.

The book was published in the US last year, but I’ve been reading the recently released UK edition.  A nice feature of this is that the author has gone to the effort of  updating and anglicising the book at bit.

Click: What We Do Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer is published by Harper Collins

Review: Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics

advanced web metricsAdvanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton is a good introduction and excellent long-term reference for anyone who needs to implement Google Analytics on their website.

Google Analytics has become a very popular web metrics tool – not least because it’s free (although there is  a limit of  five million page-views per month if you don’t have an AdWords account).  It has a great feature set – including site and map overlay reports, customizable dashboards, easy cross-segmentation of data and two-click integration with AdWords. It’s also quite easy to set up and use – in terms of basic functionality at least. However, when you need to go beyond the basics you’ll need some guidance and this book certainly provides plenty of help for many of the issues you are likely to face.

Part one provides an introduction to web analytics, including discussions of the pros and cons of using page tags vs log files, the use of cookies and privacy issues.  It concludes with a high level overview of Google Analytics, describing its key features and how it works.

Part two continues this overview with an introduction to using the Google Analytics interface and a discussion of ten important first-level reports to ease the reader into the more detailed coverage of implementation issues in part three. This is the most technical section and includes advice on best practices for configuring Google Analytics for your site and a whole chapter of hacks for dealing with areas not covered by the default reports.

Part four is possibly the most useful part of the book, since it looks at how to use the data you’ve gained via Google Analytics to drive real-world website improvements. This includes helpful advice on how to engage non-technical colleagues in your improvement efforts. I particularly liked the section on monetizing a non e-commerce website, which tells you how to get the most out of Google Analytic’s e-commerce features even if you don’t have an e-commerce site. There’s also a discussion of Google’s Website Optimizer – a tool for undertaking multivariate tests on your site which looks really useful.

The book ends with an appendix of recommended further reading including books, web resources and a long listing of web analytics blogs.

The author certainly gets very technical at some points – particularly when delving into the use of regular expressions and discussing complex modifications to the GATC. However most of the book  should still be comprehensible and useful to a non-techie marketing or management audience.  Indeed, if they persevere they can then use the book to beat their technical staff over the head by quoting the bits where particular implementation details are described as being easy for good webmasters to accomplish.

Admittedly, most of the information you’ll get here is also available online somewhere for free. However, it’s scattered around web analytics blogs and forum posts and many people who could benefit from it are not going to have the time and/or the perseverance to seek it all out. Even if you know all the hacks cited already, the convenience of having them collected in one reference book is still a great benefit. Over and above having a lot of neat tricks, the book presents a coherent approach to the whole business of analytics which makes it worth reading for anyone who needs to undertake web metrics on a professional basis.

Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton is published by Sybex.

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