Category Archives: simplicity

Actionable Analytics — Part 3

I did it.  I packaged into a video not only the steps from Actionable Analytics — Part 2 but also some insights to help you interpret your Google Analytics (GA) traffic with your crisp new Custom Segment turned on.

You’ll see how focused your GA review time can be with the right goals setup as custom segments.  You’ll know which geographies, referrers, search keywords, content, etc is producing results on your website.  Without delay:

Actionable Analytics – Part 2

It’s time to make your website analytics actionable!  From my last post, Actionable Analytics – Part 1, you should have:

  • Google Analytics installed on your website
  • Created a goal for  Engagement
  • Created a goal for Conversion

If you don’t know what I mean please visit Actionable Analytics – Part 1 to catch up.

The key to knowing what components of your website are producing for you is to look at visits on your website that reach the goals you’ve set.  This is done by creating an Advanced Segment in Google Analytics (GA for brevity) which, when selected, will filter out all the traffic that does NOT reach your goals.

Step 1: Login to your GA account, click “Advanced Segments”, and “New Custom Segment”.  It should resemble:


Clicking “New Custom Segment” leads you to:


Where you will select a previously created goal in the drop down selector right after “Include” and set the threshold — I like “Greater than 0″.  By setting your advanced segment to show visits and visit data where a goal is >0 will show you visits which reached the goal.  Once you “Save Segment” you’ll be able to select this segment of your traffic when viewing your analytics.  Then everything you see, so long as your segment is selected,  will be activity which occurred during visits which reached your goals!

This is BIG.  You can now locate the Top Geographies, Top Content, Top Referrers, Top Keywords, and any other Top “Dimensions” or “Metrics” you care to consider!  Now go look over your data with a new focus: Find out what’s working and DO MORE OF IT!

To make this process easier to follow this post needs either 1) a lot more pictures or 2) a video.  I’ll get right on that.

Look for Actionable Analytics – Part 3 to contain a video overview of this process.

Rackspace Cloud Servers: So far, so good

I’ve moved a forum with 30,000 visits/month and 250,000 page views/month from an EC2 micro instance to rackspace’s smallest “256MB” server.  I did this because the EC2 micro instance was “complaining” by limiting the performance of the server when the site would hit periods that would max the CPU for more than a few seconds.  I thought that was the ideal candidate for a micro instance!?  This was causing the site to slow to a crawl for little chunks of time when the site was heavily visited.  The Amazon AWS EC2 micro instance was NOT the tool for the job.

I was not convinced however, that the next step up to a “small” instance was the best path forward for this site.  A micro instance runs about $15/mo. + data transfer and storage and a small runs about $70/mo. + data transfer and storage.  Since the cpu was only exceeding 40% occasionally during short periods of about 5 – 30 minutes about 10 times a week I just didn’t feel good about that price jump.  That got me looking around at alternatives.  Here’s my previous post on that search.

So how did this switch go?  Very well.  I went from maxing out cpu occasionally with corresponding site sluggishness to smooth page loads at all hours of the day — so far.  It has been about four days.

Right now I’m not just happy with a little more horsepower for, believe it or not less money, but the UI of the cloud manager is beautifully simple.  It makes easy things easy.  Best of all is they’ve eliminated all the different kinds of storage — many ebs buckets mounted at different points.  As useful as that has been to me in a previous life ( for scaling massive legacy systems (email for example) it creates so much work for simply running a website that is fairly busy.

I haven’t formatted an EBS volume, fought with attaching it to my instance, nor tried to figure out an effective labeling scheme to keep track of my system wide (multiple EBS volumes) backups for rackspace cloud.  What about creating AMIs?  No problem.  The running server is persistent!  When you make changes to a server, stop it, restart it they’re still there!  Crazy; I know.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that they keep it this simple and it stays stable.

Here is a cool systematic comparison between the two

Web and IT Simplicity

This is an underrated idea.  Businesses and organizations with a heavy dependence on the web or IT often miss this point.  They are often so caught up in how to add features, upgrade their systems, support customers, and so on.  However, EVERYTHING in your organization stems from the way you process customer calls, the way your customers run your web app, the way you view reports from your CRM system.  Your complex infrastructure is actually complicating everything about your business.  From the CEO or owner’s decision making all the way down to the customers experience calling in for help with your services or products.

Do your customers and yourself a favor today: eliminate one feature or choice on your website or web app.  Tomorrow?  Eliminate one unnecessary server in your data center.  Next week?  Do it again.  Just pick on one small problem area each week.  Don’t worry about getting everything fixed; that’s what got you in this mess in the first place.

Disclaimer: A small fraction of the world’s businesses are so simple their bottom line would be hurt by taking this advice.  You know who you are:  Don’t take this advice if you are already in the 99.999th percentile for IT simplicity.