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Google Analytics Site Overlay Trick Exposed!

As you may already know, Google Analytics comes with a report feature called Site Overlay.

The Site Overlay feature enables tracking of individual clicks on hyperlink URLs found on pages of your website. The report actually lays a “click map” over the pages of your site and allows you to track the exact links users click on throughout the pages of your website.

This can be very beneficial in determining what links convert to sales and which links are completely overlooked by visitors.

Knowing what links convert can help you determine if the keywords you use in the link convert, the location of the link converts, or both work together to generate sales.

All of this can help you organize your page to better speak to your visitors and give them what they are looking for, where they are looking for it!

However, the current Site Overlay feature has a fatal flaw.

Google Analytics Site Overlay Fatal Flaw Exposed!

As of this writing, the current Site Overlay feature tracks by URL not by location or keyword used, and it groups these results into one final metric — even if the link appears in more than one location on the page.

Why is this flawed?

Well, let’s say for example that you have the same hyperlink URL (pointing to the same product) using two different sets of keywords in two different locations on a page and want to test which location / keywords generate the most interest.

Although the locations and keywords are different, the hyperlink of each is points to the same identical URL (the same product page).

So, until this little trick was discovered, if you planned on using it to track how effective the location or keywords used in a link were, then you could forget it.

If you visit your Site Overlay report in Google for the page you are testing, you’ll notice that each location shown on the site overlay contains identical conversion numbers. It doesn’t matter the location of the links, nor the keywords used. Remember, it is tracking based on hyperlink not location and since the hyperlink URL address is identical, it does not differentiate between the two locations.

Overlay showing 2 different locations depicting similar metrics

This information alone is of no use at all. It tells you nothing in the way of which link location generated the most interest and subsequently sales. It simply is no good.

But This Little Trick Solves Everything

We can fix this flaw using one little trick.

First remember that in Google’s eyes URL elements are tracked based on uniqueness. So, different URLs will yield different unique and individual metrics.

Armed with that bit of knowledge and a little creative thinking, we can turn a previous negative tracking situation into a positive one. As a result, we can now accurately track the exact location on the page that generated the most interest even if the resulting product page the visitor is taken to remains the same.

How is this done?

By adding a simple variable identifier to the hyperlink’s URL we are now able to track the location on the page that the hyperlink resided. With even a little more creative thinking, we could even track the keyword or keyword phrase we targeted in the link location.

To perform this trick, add the following to the end of each of the links you want to track. What you determine the variables to be is completely up to you, for this example I am using the term “location” and a unique identifier that correlates to the location on the page in which the link appears.

We add to the following to the hyperlink URL of the first location: &location=1

So your complete link now looks like this:
http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php?cPath=20&location=1

Add the following to the hyperlink URL of the second location: &location=2

So your complete link now looks like this:
http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php?cPath=20&location=2

Want to track the keyword as well? Try this:
http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php?cPath=20&location=2&key=a_keyword

Yet another idea for tracking location:
http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php?cPath=20&location=rightside_nav

One Distinct Product URL + Two Unique Tracking URLs = Two Different Tracking Metrics!

Now you have two distinctly different URLs in Google’s eyes but both point to the same product. Viola. Exact page location and keyword tracking in a bit ’round about way using Google Analytics.

Overlay showing tracking of location 1 on the page

Overlay showing tracking of location 2 on that page

Looking at the above results now (depicting more meaningful data), we can see that although both links point toward the same product category, the link on the left far out performs the link location on the right. There is no guessing. The proof is in the numbers. So one may consider removing the link on the right and make room for more information that converts to sales.

The limits are endless. Just make sure you do NOT include spaces in your string or it won’t work accurately. Also make sure the base URL remains the same from product to product, page to page. The only thing that should differ from each link is the variable string you add to the end.

To your success!

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