Personal Lift custom made for you

King Henry VIII had come into power in the 15th century. Now being a ruler who commands (and demands) respect, he also participated in jousting matches. In one such jousting match he was heavily injured and had almost lost the ability to climb stairs. In order to continue functioning as a ruler, he had a special system of blocks and tackles made, wherein his servants could lift him up and down the stairs. One would wonder why not simply lift him on four shoulders and carry him … to those I say, you need to know how heavy he was … 30 stone, that’s 190 kgs!

The same principle is used in stair lifts these days. A stair lift is a device used to transport wheelchairs and people up and down a flight of stairs. The lift is attached to a rail which either runs along the ground or along the wall, and it is strong enough to bear the weight of one person. Here’s a brief schematic of how it works … simple and yet ingenious. The system involves a chair attached to a rail (which goes along the stair case), in most cases the rail is taking the support of the wall, however it can also be running parallel to the ground. The individual has to sit on the chair, and he is transported along the stairway.

This device shows great promise … especially in nations where the average age is on the other side of 30. A device that can help the disabled, the elderly to easily navigate stairs. Now this is an interesting device. Technology that not only enables, but also aids the needy.

This is not a new technology, there are companies out there like this one for example, who have the capabilities to fully customize a stairlift in your home. Not only will they make a custom design for you, but also deploy it at your home. This device seems to bring joy to so many people.

Kudos to Henry VIII for coming up with this solution, and thanks for modern manufacturing, this device is not just meant for the royalty anymore!

Understanding the __utmz Google Analytics Cookie

Google Analytics does tracking by using the urchin tracking cookies. In case if you do not know what are HTTP Cookies, then you need to start reading some of these articles that I am linking to!! They can give the crunch to your digital marketing initiatives.

Do bear with me through this post, I will get a bit technical. In case if you do understand a bit of PHP, you will enjoy this post. For now, just keep this information with you, it will come to your aid sometime later when you would be talking to your developers!

Some Cookie Basics first

So if you have any kind of server side script running on your server, then you can create your own cookies! You should know that on a PHP server environment, the entire set of cookies is available in the $_COOKIE reserved variable.

Isn’t this awesome? What this means is that with one line of PHP code, you can refer to all the cookies which are now on your site for each of your visitors.

If you take look under the hood, then you will see that there are many cookies used by Google Analytics.

kidakaka utmz cookie

Each of these cookies have a certain purpose. The way GA utilizes these cookies is well documented, and you can find the developer note here.

So why the __utmz Cookie?

The __utmz cookie contains the traffic source information in Urchin tracker format. It contains information about how and when an individual visitor hits your site for the FIRST time. That means whenever the visitor comes back to your site, this value remains unchanged.

Imagine a scenario wherein a visitor first sees a post of yours on Facebook, or on Google … or other traffic sources. The visitor comes to the site, checks out a few pages and goes away (… such a shame!!). After a few days, the same visitor comes back to the site via an ad. This time the visitor leaves his information on one of your contact forms (I do hope you are using these!).

How would you know that the user is a repeat visitor? The form will only contain data which is about the visitor’s current visit.

So, whom would you attribute this event to? Your advertisement (the later) or your social media sharing (the former)? Do you believe in first impressions or do you believe in the recency effect?

Without having information about the user’s previous visit to your site, you will always choose the later. Thus misattributing your visitor acquisition to the wrong medium! And that’s why the __utmz cookie is so important! In effect it represents a unique visitor for your website.

I treat the __utmz cookie as equal to a real person!!

Associated with it is a story, this story which rolls out in a set of visits. Google Analytics can tell you if you are willing to sift through the data that is available to you.

What can we do with this Cookie?

How do we bite into this Cookie? Well, there are more than one method of cutting this cookie!!

  • If you have conversions on your site (Downloads, Sales, Contact Forms, etc), then you can always use the value in this cookie to track the origin of the visitor. This will give you a definite number on which traffic source (and which marketing campaign) is more effective for you when it comes down to conversions.
  • Each __utmz has a unique value set, this unique value can be converted into a Custom Variable and you can then track a unique visitor across your site using this Custom Variable (the free version of Google Analytics allows 5 Custom Variables, so use them sparingly).
  • For the more technically sound platforms, you can use this and the other GA cookies to track the visitor ACROSS multiple visits. However, there are other tools which are far more easier to setup to do this viz., Mixpanel.
  • If you are betting a lot on acquisition of traffic via Search engines, then the __utmz cookie can be mined for keyword data … yes, the data which people are searching for and are coming to your site. However, as of 2013, GA only provides the keyword data of users who have not signed in into their Google Accounts (around 30% of the data is not available).

Hmmm … crunchy delight!! And nutritious as well!!

I would love to hear from you how else can we use this and the other Cookies. In the meantime, do start integrating your Cookies with your CRM for more visitor intelligence!

The Cinderella Visitor

It’s surprising, every time I open Analytics, I learn something new about this product and I learn something new about my site … like the fact that I have to deal with Cinderella Visitors!

Here is a maths problem for you. In fact if you have pored through your Google Analytics account, I am sure even you would also have been stumped by the same problem.

Below is a screenshot of my site’s monthly traffic stats –

Monthly Stats

Now, yes … these are humble beginnings! That is why some of you should visit this site more often!! So if you look at the unique visitors (that’s the total number of visitors coming to the website), then it is 530. This is good, that means through the blog I am getting in touch with at least 530 people a month!! Holy cow!! That’s roughly 18 conversations in the day.

Out of those 530, a huge number are new visitors (511). So does that mean only 19 visitors are returning back to the blog for those 126 visits? Hmmm … that should not be that hard to find. One look at the Returning Visitors Advanced Segment should shed more light on this …

Returning Visitors

Well, this seems to the problem don’t it. Things don’t just add up here! 45 visitors are responsible for those 126 visits, which means that 485 visitors are responsible for those 511 New Visits. How can this be possible? These 485 people have come on the site ONCE ( … sigh!! aee jaanewaale ho sake to laut ke aajaa …), but the number of visits tell me otherwise.

Which should bring us to the real question of what does Google Analytics define as a visit? Here is an insightful article from Google about How Visits are Calculated in Analytics. There we have our answer –

A single visitor can open multiple visits. Those visits can occur on the same day, or over several days, weeks, or months. As soon as one visit ends, there is then an opportunity to start a new visit. There are two methods by which a visit ends:

  • Time-based expiry (including end of day):
    • After 30 minutes of inactivity by the visitor
    • At midnight

Ahhh! So if the visitor comes to the site, sticks around for more than 30 minutes without doing anything and then clicks on any other links, then its considered as ANOTHER visit. This should have been a sufficient reason IF the average visit duration was on the higher side, but since its not the case (and I write reasonable short posts too!), so the other method seems to be in action here!

At least 26 visitors have been around the site around midnight!! A quick check on my GA for hourly visits confirms my suspicions! I had 26 visitors coming to the website around midnight … and as the clock struck twelve, these Cinderella visitors fled (or at least Google Analytics made them fade away) and came back as New Visits!! By the way, in case if you are wondering why have you not heard about this term Cinderella Visitor before, then do not worry … I just coined it!

So where are the glass slippers? The glass slippers are the ubiquitous utmz cookies!!