adCost Bug in Google Analytics API

Recently I’ve been using the Google Analytics API to automate some of the report generation I’m doing.

After some serious hair pulling I finally realized that there is a bug in the API when one of the metrics you request is adCost.

Specifically, when requesting adCost with other specific metrics, the results for adCost are always zero.

After some research I found this post which confirms that Google is aware of the adCost issue.

Unfortunately the post doesn’t really help much in terms of finding out which combinations trigger the bug, so I tried out some of the combinations myself found that using any traffic source dimension with these metrics will trigger the bug:

  • entrances
  • exits
  • exit %

If you are aware of other metrics that trigger this bug, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

I should add that this bug also affects custom reports!

If you’re using any traffic source dimension and adCost together with any of the above metrics in a custom report you’ll get zero for the adCost data.

Hopefully this saves someone else from some major hair pulling.

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Beyond the Page View

I started using web analytics software back in 1996, before it was even called web analytics. At the time we were measuring mostly “hits” and page views.

This is before JavaScript includes became the defacto standard in web tracking. Way before web 2.0. Before JavaScript support was a given. Before Ajax. Before embedded audio and video.

Basically, every web page was a more or less a static page with no on-page interaction.

Now, almost 15 years later, the web is a different place. The “lets measure page views” model for tracking and measuring online activity crumbled a long time ago.

Today a single web page can be a totally interactive experience in itself. We have flash, dynamic HTML with JavaScript, Ajax, embedded videos, etc.

A few years ago Google Analytics added event tracking in order to address the shortcoming of trying to measure everything as a page view.

While this is better than nothing, the problem is that it’s too generic to label everything other than a page view as an event.

Every type of user interaction has it’s own characteristics, and should be measured accordingly.

For example: Forms.
Forms are an entire world in terms of tracking user interaction: Was the form submission successful? What fields were filled out? How long did the user spend on each field? etc.

http://www.ClickTale.com actually does a great job of measuring all of this, but my point is:

We need a new standard dictionary for what elements we can measure and what attributes each element has.

eCommerce transactions are already standard in all web analytics solutions. Most of the higher end analytics solutions are already addressing the overall  issue by adding dedicated event types for video views, downloads, or outbound links.

I’d like to see dedicated events for things like clicks, scrolls, even a “still on the page” event (this is for more accurate time on page measurement)

There will always be always be room for a generic type of event, but in order to reach the next generation of web analytics adoption, we (the industry) really need to expand our horizons beyond page views and events.

Is Above The Fold Still Important?

A couple of weeks ago user experience guru Jacob Neilson wrote an article about user attention above and below the fold.

In a nutshell he says:

… users will scroll below the fold only if the information above it makes them believe the rest of the page will be valuable.

I totally agree.

On the other hand, a few people have pointed out to me a recent article by CX partners in the UK that states the fold isn’t very important anymore. They say:

We see that people are more than comfortable scrolling long, long pages to find what they are looking for. A quick snoop around the web will show you successful brands that are not worrying about the fold either.

I was thinking about the two articles which seem to be contradictory. After digesting all of the data, I have to say that both parties are right – they are just missing a crucial piece of information – the context in which the visitor is viewing the page.

If I’m on Amazon.com viewing a list of products, of course I’ll scroll because I know the information I want is below the fold.

If I just clicked on an ad and have landed on a site or page that I have never viewed before, my first internal question is “am I in the right place” and only after my internal dialog says yes, will I think “do I need to scroll to find what I am looking for”.

In the second scenario, it’s crucial to have above the fold all of the information the visitor needs in order to know they are in the right place.

So, in summary, if we combine the two opinions and add the missing ingredient – context, we get this (my version):

People are more than comfortable scrolling long pages only if the information above the fold, or their existing knowledge, makes them believe the rest of the page has what they are looking for or will be valuable.

On a side note, the CX partners article does indeed address the issue of bad design leading to a user not scrolling due to them not realizing there is more information below the fold, but that’s a different scenario.

Welcome to Analytics Impact

First of all thanks for visiting Analytics Impact. It’s my job to make sure you have a pleasant stay and get some real value from your visit.

If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask.

I’ve been posting online since 1996 (the term blog didn’t exist then) and have been blogging about web analytics, conversion rate optimization, SEO, SEM and other fun stuff since 2005, though I was using my personal blog.

I decided it was time to separate my personal ramblings from my professional insights, hence this blog was born.

Enjoy your visit,
Ophir