Custom Reporting in Google Analytics

Google Analytics rolled out more than 5 years back, and it has been rocking ever since. The first free enterprise class analytics seemed to keep on adding more and more awesome features every year. Especially after the acquisition of the Urchin tracker system, GA has been the de facto analytics system for all websites.

Of course for the more seasoned people out there who cannot get their exact set of data from GA, there are other niche analytics products. In fact Avinash Kaushik has an entire chapter dedicated to this in his kickass of a book Web Analytics: An Hour a Day (I recommend that you do read this!!)

I have been seriously working on GA for about a year or so now and the more I use this tool, the more I learn about how little I know! That’s the thing with knowledge, by the time you know a lot, you think you know very little. I wish if the other way was true as well :-D

The thing with GA and what turns off most people is that the sheer volume of data it can show in those pretty little orange pages is a lot. So a cursory glance gives you loads of data, however to get an insight, you have to sift through this data. Create segments, look at those segments and search through various different reports to find that one insight which will help you drive more traffic, more leads, more sales to your site.

This is where Google has shone their brilliance, they have allowed web developers, analysts, webmasters and business intelligence guys to actually work together and create custom reports, custom segments which can be shared. Yes, so I can burn the midnight oil trying to find which content works best for my site … however if I had to do the same for another website, I would have to re-create all those steps all over again. What a colossal waste of time! But now, I can simply share that report/segment and voila!!

In the next few days, I will be sharing more custom segments as well as custom dashboards which you can simply import in your Google Analytics and start right off!

10 reasons why Diablo drives me nuts

I have been playing this game for a month or so now, whenever there is a weekend, I do put in my 4-5 hours in this game. Some of the features in this game absolutely drive me nuts! Here are 10 reasons why Diablo drives me nuts!

  1. No offline single-player mode. Which means, my internet connection HAS to be available. Plus for slower internet connections (which is common in India), the game is virtually unplayable. Not to mention the regular scheduled maintenance downtime on Tuesdays, meaning for 1 day a week I cannot play the game I own.
  2. Limited Video card ranges. I would think that a company as big and experienced as Blizzard would not make this mistake, however they have. The video cards with which D3 can run is limited to a handful, which means the bulk of their loyal following from D2 will either have to buy a new computer (which I did) or watch the screencasts on youtube.
  3. Real Money Auction House effectively means that to play in the higher tougher modes, you have to fork out more cash for items. Although I will not stoop so low, but it’s a possibility that many players are facing.
  4. D3 as a product is not fully ready, they have released the product into the market to ship it first. This could be done to simply beat other games which are coming out and slowly eating at the games market share. Games such as Torchlight II (which went in Beta last month), Star Wars, Amalur, Rift (which has a major upgrade lined up to be released in front of WoW: MoP). When you ship an incomplete product, bugs are bound to rise. The good thing about Blizzard that bug resolutions come quickly through patches, but each time a patch is rolled out, that means further downtime. Blizzard, do you want your paying customers to play the game or just sit by grumbling while you patch things? The amount of threads and trolls that I have seen on the Blizzard forums shoot up whenever a new patch comes out. I mean, go ahead and admit it that the architecture of the game has not been thought out properly.
  5. The game is geared to be played on higher and higher difficulty modes. So when you ultimately kill Diablo in Normal mode, you move on to the Nightmare mode. Now, the drops given by Diablo are so mediocre that they quickly become unusable in the next difficulty mode. Now, this can be a minor technicality, but then the only time I would keep the drops that Diablo gives me is when I defeat the game in Inferno mode and wait for the PVP season to begin.
  6. Every RPG these days turns into a farming and grinding game. There are some crazy farming videos that I am seeing these days, heres one. Well, if the game turns into one GearQuest, then I the facebook game GearQuest is better, eh? And free t boot!
  7. Now this is petty, but I have to bring this up! My favourite class, the Paladin has been nerfed.
  8. For each class there are two types of weapons, a 1-handed weapon which can be dual-wielded and a 2-handed weapon which requires both the slots. Now, the benefits of the 2-handed weapon are not as great as having two 1-handed weapons. What that means, that I will never use a 2-handed weapon for any of my characters because I am not using the stat-gains from one of my item slots (the other hand which is now stuck with carrying the 2-hand weapon). This seems to be a problem in game design. At least make the stat gains from 2-handed weapons worth the trouble damn it!
  9. With the Auction House, come the hordes of gold farmers and gold vendors on each game. WIth them comes incessant spamming on general chat about different websites offering the cheapest gold. I had earlier blogged about the Economics of Gold Farming in World of Warcraft … I guess D3 also is relegated to the same fate.
  10. Each of my characters are stuck on their own servers. So when the Americas’ server is down, I can’t play with my Level 35 Barbarian, if the Asia’s server is down, I can’t play with my Level 15 Demonhunter, and so on. Which means that I am stuck with one server (unless I power level all my characters)

One of the main reasons of me loving Diablo II so much was its great replay value. But what D3 has done is forced me to replay this game even when I do not want to!

Now find exactly how many people are bidding for your keyword

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is often becoming the de facto traffic generating mechanism for people who have the pockets. This, in addition to the fact that Google is really aggressive about its growth in the Indian markets puts Google Adwords right up there in the strategy of any digital marketing executive.

I have been working on the Adwords interface for the past 18 months or so now and get excited whenever I discover a new and useful feature in the web app. One such awesome feature is the single keyword bidding tool.

Where do you find this?

You find this feature in the Keywords interface of any campaign. Be sure that you have enough data points (works for a weekly period for most of my keywords).

The tool is only available if you are selecting one single keyword at any point of time.

Google keyword bidding

There is a small bar graph icon for the keyword bidding tool, now simply select this keyword and view the bidding and competitors.

Google Keyword Competitors

What can you do with this?

This data is good, but what can one do with this data? Well, this gives you a wealth of information –

  • How many people are you competing against (for eg. I did not expect to be running an ad on this keyword)
  • How are you doing vis-a-vis your competitors in SEM (yes, we are beating the crap out of the rest ;-))
  • The approximate budget spends of your competitors
  • A bit more research on the landing pages can help you identify what your competitors are doing right and you are doing wrong

This is one fun tool that the folks have Google Adwords have churned out.

Economics teaches us that when information is provided to everyone, then the wealth extraction within the market is at a maximum. The adwords bidding is one such great example, wherein me (and all my competitors) have the same access to data. The two players who will end up benefiting the most after the correct usage of this tool are bidders who take fast decision and Google.

Starters guide to SEO

One part of my role at Pristine is building up the site traffic, be it via Paid Advertising, Referral traffic or via Search Engines.

Anyone who has indulged in Paid Advertising would know how expensive it can turn out to be if you do not know what you are doing. It can be very effective in the short term, however for long term and more sustainable results, relying on non-paid search results is far better. Hence SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

The problem with SEO is that almost everyone who has a website think that they should do SEO, and SEO is playing around with meta tags. Seems simplistic no? In the past month or so, the amount of people whom I have talked to regarding to SEO has shown how less people know about the workings. Add to it the complexity of the ever-changing algorithm of search engines such as Google, Bing, etc.

The idea behind SEO is to target specific keywords for specific pages on your site, so that when your target audience searches for those keywords, your site shows up in the search results.

Here are some tips which I would have appreciated when I started off. Please do keep in mind, that I am no self-professed expert in SEO, just that like all of us around here, even I am learning, and this post is one such humble attempt to share whatever that I have learned, and what I know works to get results. Having said that, I know it would help all of us if you could point out any errors that i have made, or make suggestions and provide additional tips!

  • Read up on your meta tags, some of them are useful. Make a note of the description and author tags, you would be working with description the most.
  • Do not target more than 2-3 keywords per page, since you have to use that keyword in all the different important sections of the page viz., description tag, title tag, h1 tag, main content, etc. you cannot really target 1-2 keywords without damaging the copy of your page.
  • If you are working with a tight budget, then use a free tool such as Traffic Travis, the demo version is free. If you have a decent sized budget, then I would highly recommend Pro SEO MOz, it not only has a very comprehensive SEO tool, but also it has an extensive knowledge base on SEO
  • Search Engine’s maintain the authority of websites, this is generally a factor of how well you write, and how many sites are linking to your content. Google especially is one search engine which rewards regular content creation, in fact the current search algo (don’t know why its called the panda update) also favors freshness of content. So the same page would rank higher if it were regularly updated.
  • Always look at the different search terms via which people are coming to your site. Those are essentially content creation triggers!
  • Many people swear by backlinking, citing different open directories to publish your site links. However, I am skeptical about this approach. The one thing I use this approach for is to check where are my competitors linking, and get my presence their as well. I think if you can create good quality content, then it will automatically fetch the backlinks that you require.
  • Search engines are also influenced by social behavior, so typically the search results shown in Google would be influenced with what your friends are sharing on your social networks. E.g- If I share this post on say Twitter and if you are following me on Twitter, then you would definitely see this as a search result!
  • SEO is a long drawn game, and it requires patience, practice and discipline. Do not expect magic to happen, it’s a slow and gradual process and does not happen over night. To hope for such miracles, either you need to be Larry Page or Steve Ballmer.

Why this Kolaveri Di?

I am sure that by now most of you have heard of this song.

If you haven’t yet heard the song, then do give this video a look-see –

There is a huge hype around this song, for a multitude of reasons –

  • It’s written and sung by the son-in-law of Rajnikanth
  • The main keyword of the song, kolaveri actually has no meaning per se. It’s sort of an accepted slang which means rage … murderous rage to be exact
  • The song is half in tamil (no frilly lyrics there), but simple casually strung lyrics, and half in english … in fact I do not understand Tamil, yet I could make out the gist of the song
  • The gist of the song itself, is identifiable by the multitudes of youth
  • The beat of the song is catchy, in fact I can imagine this song being put on full blast on speakers on a lazy afternoon in the locality
  • Is this simply a good song bolstered by viral social media or is this an internet meme ala Rebecca Black’s Friday? Well, it’s a viral phenomenon for sure.
  • Dhanush seems to be enjoying the creation of this video as well, and you can see the support of other stars such as Shruti Hassan in the background
  • The part where the song goes “pa pa pa paan, pa pa pa paan … ” that’s enjoyed by both my daughter and wife :)

WoW on Wine

No, I don’t drink and raid :)

I recently have taken a lot to playing World of Warcraft during my free time (I think this also reflects pretty well on the blog :-)). I also have bought a good powerhouse of a desktop, and had dual booted it with WinXP and Win7. The problem with Win7 is that I have the 64-bit trial distribution and it hangs a lot, it has driver issues. The problem with WinXP is that its WinXP :-)

I am not that much of an operating system nazi, but the machine slows, down, the wireless network card that I am using is not fully utilized (WinXP sucks when it comes to driving the wireless interface!!). All in all, when it comes to playing an Online RPG, the environment does not deliver it’s 100%. Thus, I tried to give Ubuntu a try.

  • I already had the 11.04 distro with me, so the first thing I did was update all the repositories, include the third party repositories, and install Wine. Wine stands for WINdows Emulator. You can read more about Wine here.
  • After Wine, I went for installing Winetricks, which is a third party software. It’s used to easily streamline commands via a wizard which otherwise I would have been forced to use the console.
  • Somehow the Wine commands that get integrated into the shell (the right click menu of your explorer) are a bit different from the wine that got installed. So at first the program refused to run giving some obscure access management errors.
  • So, refusing to be let down, I went and searched for third party alternatives. You can skip this step, and definitely do not install the Crossover Games application because its just a trial, however, the PlayOnLinux (POL) application is recommended here, since after installing that, at least the icons of the .exe files will be visible
  • However, when I ran the Launcher.exe of World of Warcraft via the custom command console (by right clicking on it and selecting Open with Other Application, and then simply typing wine in the command box)
  • That’s it. Now the World of Warcraft launcher will run, and the game runs seamlessly

Since the game does not use the latest DirectX drivers, instead it replaces them with its own set, the textures and the games will be slightly different. I noticed a different texture for the water in WoW for example. But otherwise, the game is perfect for running. The network card works better, so I get a faster ping rate.