Using Intelligence reports in Google Analytics

It’s always a pleasure to use a product that keeps evolving. The possibility of discovering a new feature that’s been recently launched, and the happiness of seeing the applications of that new feature is what keeps me coming back to the product. Google Analytics is one such product for me. Slowly and steadily, they have evolved the product so as to give the free tier users a taste of what Google Analytics Premium (GAP) offers.

Intelligence reports have been around for quite some time now. However, what GA has done in the recent times, is give the user the ability to articulate their question in natural language, and use natural language parsing to understand the question and present meaningful answers back to the user.

Smart and Intelligent reports

Here’s an example of how these intelligent reports work. Suppose, I see a spike in traffic yesterday, and I want to know the reason why.

Normally, I would go to the Source/Medium report in the Acquisition section and see which of the sources have had an increase in traffic since yesterday. However, what intelligent reports does is this –

Intelligence Reports in Google Analytics

So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is this. If you are not comfortable with the analytics interface or are not savvy with using the right set of reports for fetching your data, then the intelligent reports are a rather user friendly way for getting access to perhaps the right data.

Notice, in my example, the segments that intelligent reports ended up reporting was a rather advanced segment (Organic traffic, Country-wise).

To reach there, I’d have to go through atleast two separate iterations. This was given to me rather quickly.

Cool, are there any disadvantages?

There is one huge disadvantage. The data given is prescriptive in nature.

You are relying on Google Analytics to give you the right data.

While, for most use cases, the data may not be that important, but for someone whose living runs on getting the right numbers, this may not be enough. It’s good enough to get you started in the right direction though.

Why do I still like it?

The nature of querying is also pretty great. Now, business teams can directly dive into Google Analytics instead of having to wait for an agency or an analyst to make sense of this data. That’s power to the people!

This means, a lot more people can now engage with analytics and take the right data driven steps for improvement.

Tying up loose ends

I consider most phases of my life (and of my career) as specific projects. Projects which have a certain outcome tied to them. Projects which need metrics to track and project closures which have targets to reach.

In this obsession to be objective about things, I got involved in a couple of projects which were of subjective nature.

What are subjective projects?

Subjective projects are those where the progress of that project is dependant on individual opinions and feelings. An example of such a topic could be Career.

Career fulfillment is a subjective thing. For some people a fulfilling career might be a one which involves loads of payment, for some it might involves getting respect from peers, others might look at impact. You get the drift?

It’s not even about individual feelings as well. As a person supporting a family, the subjectivity is made more complex by not only your belief of a fulfilling career, but also your immediate family’s.

Suddenly, that one question – What does your son do for a living? becomes real.

As a parent, I would love some bragging rights about my children’s achievements. That may or may not be aligned with what my children want to do. So, the moot question was how to go about objectively defining success for a subjective topic.

Numbers help

Some key measures of success do help. Let’s stick with the Career example –

  • My son makes a lakh a month
  • I manage a team of 6
  • My daughter has been working with GDFC Bank for over a decade
  • She got an 20% salary hike this year
  • My son runs his own company that employs 100 individuals
  • I wan’t to be able to take atleast 10 days off in a year to interesting destinations around the world

What’s the problem with this subjectivity?

And here’s my problem with this subjectivity thing. It freaking keeps changing the measure of success!

Sometimes it’s years of experience, sometimes it’s people employed, sometimes it’s cash in hand … and there is no clear metric you optimize things for.

The problem in this world, is where the team which decides the success of this subjectivity has not taken the pains of articulating What is Success.

When this is not articulated enough, you tend to optimize Career (in this example) on some parameters which might be an implicit rubric for you, but may not be understood by everyone else. Hence, the need to articulate.

Another example

Here’s one more example which works for most people.

What’s a good life mean for you?

Can you put down metrics on which if you measure your life, you will be able to answer this question?

If yes (and I haven’t done this yet), then are you doing anything which helps you increase those measues?

In life, or in our Career (my last example), we have these tiny niggling doubts at the back of our mind. These are the loose ends I am talking about.

Can we use metrics and measures to answer and squash these doubts. I think so, but to get there, we need to have a definition of what are our measures of success. I used to post my yearly resolutions for a couple of years on this blog, and then I stopped. Primarily, because of this subjective struggle. No one cared how many posts did I put up on the blog (not even me!), so how did it matter that I post one a week or more.

Measure for closure

So, what are good measures of success for the year 2017 for me? And what would the year 2018 be measured against. Well, that’s what I have a month to figure out!

PS – This is a thought experiment I am doing to see if I can indeed wield measurements and analytics for improvement. It’s a belief that I have long held close to my heart, now I am putting it to the test. Those who know me would know that I am fundamentally lazy and putting in these measurements as a life practice involves a certain discipline. That is my personal challenge.

मराठी भाषेची विस्मृती

हा लेख जेव्हा मी लिहायला बसलो तेव्हा विचार केला होता कि ईंग्रजीमधे लिहीन. पण जसे मी ह्या लेखाबद्दल विचार करायला लागलो तसतसे ठरवले कि इंग्रजी सोडून मराठी भाषेत हा लेख लिहीन. अशी प्रयत्नांची पराकाष्ठा मी पहिल्यांदा करतोय, त्या मुळे जर काही चूकभूल झाली तर माफी असावी असे अस्वीकरण घेऊन तुम्हा लोकांशी माझी हि नम्र विनंती आहे कि चुकांना कसे सुधारू हे लेखाच्या टिपण्यांतून कळवावे.

अजिंक्य परिवारात सद्ध्या दोन मस्तीखोर कार्टी आहेत. मोठीचे नाव आहे अनसूया आणि छोट्याचे नाव आहे मल्हार. दोघेही शाळेत जातात. मी विचार केला की त्यांना माझ्याच शाळेत म्हणजे पार्ले टिळक विद्यालय मध्ये भरती कारेन. देवाचा आशिर्वादानी आणि बरोबर “जॅक ” लावून त्यांची ऍडमिशन झाली. मी इंग्रजी माध्यमात शिकलो आहे, म्हणून विचार केला कि मुलांनाही इंग्रजी माध्यमात टाकावे. ते पण आय से एस सी बोर्ड मध्ये. जेव्हा आम्ही हा निर्णय घेतला तेव्हा मुलांच्या शिक्षणाचा विचार घेऊनच तो केला होता.

भाषा हि एक संपर्काचे माध्यम आहे. जर तुमच्याशी कोणीही त्या भाषेत संपर्क साधणार नाही, तर तुम्ही ती भाषा वापरणार नाही. हळू हळू, तुम्ही ती भाषा विसरायला लागणार.

सकाळी उठल्यापासून रात्री झोपण्यापर्यंत जी भाषा आपण वापरतो तीच आपली मातृभाषा, असे म्हणायला काहीच हरकत नाही. मग तर माझ्या मुलांची भाषा इंग्रजी आहे. त्यांना गप्प करायचे असेल तर मी त्यांना म्हणतो “मुलांनो आता मराठीचा तास!”

घरी आम्ही मराठी फार क्वचित वापरतो. अर्थात संध्याकाळी मराठी टीव्ही चालू असतो, पण तो तर आजी आणि आजोबांसाठी असतो. एक तर घरी भाषेचा वापर कमी, शाळेत पण फक्त मराठीचा तासात भाषेचा वापर होतो. बाकी सगळा वेळ मोबाईल आणि टीव्ही मध्ये जातो. ह्या दोन माध्यमामध्ये इंग्रजीचा वापर जास्त होतो.

मुद्दा हा, कि दिवसात मराठीचा वापर होताच नाही.

कारणीभूत कोण?

खरंतर हि माझीचं चूक आहे.

भाषेचा वापर कसा करावा हे जर दिसले नाही तर मग ती भाषा कशी वापरायची ते कसे कळणार? मान्य आहे कि मी काही मराठीचा पापड नाही. पण, प्रयत्न नाही केला तर आता जसा माकड आहे तसाच माकड राहीन. आणि जेव्हा माझी पोरं मराठी भाषेची चिरफाड करतील तेव्हा मी फक्त “हूप हूप ” करिन!

एक रामबाण उपाय

मराठीत जास्तीत जास्त संचार करून भाषेचा वापर वाढवा.

LinkedIn starts Career Advice and Mentorship services

As far as visiting Social Media sites is concerned, I have slowly veered off Facebook and Twitter and gravitated towards LinkedIn and Medium. One of the interesting features that I noticed LinkedIn launch, is its Career Advice services. I am attaching a screenshot of what I saw, this was a promoted post that I saw in my feed.

LinkedIn Career Advice

Curious to see where this rabbit hole leads to, I signed up for the service. Interestingly enough, the link led me to a place where I had to sign up as a mentor and choose the areas on which I could help others out.

This seems like a me-too of Clarity.fm and similar other services. What LinkedIn definitely has is the wide professional network (and thus the social credibility of the influencers). It’d be interesting to see how Microsoft and the LinkedIn team build this further.

One of the major problems in corporate India is the lack of coaches available in the middle management tiers. Perhaps, if played properly, LinkedIn can address this huge coaching and leadership gap.

Shiny tools don’t make a purpose

Recently, I bought a Fitbit. It’s a fantastic tool. Now, I can rave more about the features and go on and on. However, a friend and a colleague asked me an interesting question.

Has it changed you?
No, it did not.

Before I go on, I have to tell you that I am on the heavier side of the weighing scale. Those of you who know me personally would be surprised at the sudden interest in all things health. Yeah, I roll like that.

It’s not about the Fitbit

Like any other measurement tool, the Fitbit is doing a marvelous job at letting me know certain metrics that I need to care about.

They have even gamified the steps by putting in cute little badges and built in peer support (and also peer pressure) to keep me motivated. All this is good as it should be.

At the core of it, it’s a measurement tool. Just like any of the billion other tools we use in Analytics.

Targets and Measurements

On very similar lines, we as marketers or as businessmen often deploy shiny new tools because we think they will help us do more.

Unfortunately, like me in this case, how many of us forget on defining the purpose?

I implicitly assumed that the Fitbit would automatically by some magic give me the purpose of losing weight and leading a more healthy life. Without this purpose, here’s what would happen —

I will wear it to work, and dutifully report the steps taken and life would go on as usual. Some of the badges would come in as time goes by, and it would not really matter to me if I took 2000 steps a day (which is a walk in the park) or 10000 steps a day (I haven’t achieved this yet).

How would I change, if let’s say I choose to give myself a target of say, 10000 steps a day.

Without Purpose, there’s no Change

I would for one have to make time to walk those 10000 steps. I could try walking in the office or doing a much more rigorous transit than an Uber. However, I would have to commit to making the time for those steps.

Thus, this choice of making a change in my routine should be addressed. At the heart of it, the shiny new tool is not at the center. Yes, you have bought Google Analytics Premium and all of that is great … but that’s not really at the center.

At the center, is the purpose. Has this been defined? Has this been clarified and articulated so that the team knows about this?

A tool doesn’t give us Purpose

It does give us a sense of progress towards our purpose. A Measure of Success, if you will. The shiny new tool that we just acquired is useful, but only as long as we keep the purpose at the center.

As people who know how to use a tool, if we do not understand the purpose, the tool will end up regurgitating meaningless data.

TL;DR — When setting up measures, don’t keep the tool at the center. Keep the purpose at the center. The rest should follow.

18 months down the line, what has Google AMP really achieved

In early 2016, Google launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for publishers who wanted to have their content loaded in a flash on mobile devices at a much faster rate.

At the point of writing this article, 65% of all traffic in Asia (and this is higher for developer countries) is on the mobile. A bulk of these users are on mobile data networks which may not be as fast as a steady broadband connection.

What Google did therefore was to launch a series of initiatives, Weblight and now AMP that would help the search engine load the publisher’s content faster for the user.

Google is focusing on the user

The rationale that Google gave to publishers was that it focused on the user’s experience. If a user is doing a Google search on a choppy data connection, the search results might be presented in the blink of an eye, however, because the publisher’s site was taking too long to load, the user would get a bad experience … or worse, the user would say that Google is too slow!

With Google Weblight, what the organization did was to load the content on an interim site (which was Weblight) and display the content there. This created two problems –

  1. Publishers lost traffic, and Ad Revenues
  2. Publishers lost control on the format of their content and their style guides

Both reasons were strong enough for a lot of publishers to stay away from Weblight.

AMP gets introduced in the mix

To give some control of the content formats back to the user and also to incorporate both analytics and ad scripts into the publisher’s content, Google created another mark-up language. This is AMP.

AMP allows the publisher to present the content on their own site, in a style that’s acceptable to the publisher. It may not have too much flexibility, but at least the publisher is free to design that style instead of the Weblight approach.

This may not be an ideal situation, but atleast it ensures that users are shown the content they are search for the fastest.

Have people embraced AMP?

Well, it’s a bit hazy there. For those of us who were on existing Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla it was much easier to transition. It just meant having to install some plugins and do the configuration.

However, the folks who have made their own web apps and products, they are completely clueless as to how to go about implementing AMP.

The sad part is that a lot of the product developers that I have spoken to, are of the opinion that AMP is just a new thing that “SEO folks” have to do. Add to the mental model of SEO being perceived as a much lower the value chain task – that pretty much means that developers are simply not aware about the benefits of AMP.

What irks me is that people’s individual bias is used to mask their ignorance about how to make their products perform better on search.

So, if you are leading a product team or are working on building products, then definitely head on to the Accelerated Mobile Pages project.

As a publisher who has embraced AMP, how does that impact me?

It surprisingly does not help me much with acquiring more traffic. The website is shown a bit differently in the search engine results, and that perhaps is getting me a bit higher click through rates. However, the numbers are not significantly high enough for me to assess based on the data provided.

One major problem with all new initiatives that Google is doing with Search is their stubbornness on keeping things completely opaque.

Not a single publisher is in the loop when it comes to knowing what was the exact payoff of any of the optimization activities they did. It is left for these teams to dig in and figure it out themselves before they are able to attribute the success of this activity. I believe that’s a major deterrent for a lot of product managers to make this choice of embracing AMP.

All human beings are equal

For the West and East, it is common to have different value systems and beliefs. However, this video by Arnold Schwarzenegger on the recent issues faced by the US just goes to show that there are some universal values that everyone identifies with and stands by. This stance is similar to the one that Swami Vivkenanda took when he addressed the Chicago convention.

Treating everyone as equal instead of bringing in our perceived values and judgement when speaking to different people is one such value.