Web Analytics in China

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1 Web Analytics in China From Good to Great Analytics behind the Firewall The Chinese Internet is one-of-a-kind, and using Google Analytics raises a few challenges: Slower connection speed, higher latency Google data centres located outside of China Reporting interface is slow (sometimes not accessible) in Mainland China Data discrepancies often observed Yet, Google Analytics remains one of the most popular webanalytics tools for the top Chinese e-commerce sites, because of its superior functionalities. Data Integrity is a challenge in China, but it can be addressed. Here are the main things to bear in mind, and a few tips to do great Analytics, even behind the Great Firewall. Outline Data accuracy Access to Google Analytics Reporting Interface Differences in the way metrics are computed Our recommendation i The Great Firewall of China refers to legislation and projects initiated by the Chinese government, that attempt to regulate the Internet in Mainland China. It is conducted under a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations, which are non-transparent and unpredictable. LEGEND BT : Baidu Tongji GA : Google Analytics UA : Universal Analytics

2 Data accuracy According to our observations, the Great Firewall normally has a standard and stable impact on the Internet environment in China, but its impact becomes much stronger and unpredictable during some political campaigns and special events. Standard Firewall : the Issue of Latency While the Firewall does not block calls to the GA servers, it introduces a certain amount of latency in data collection. This in turn can affect data accuracy, as visitors might change pages before GA data has been sent. However, the potential latency in data collection does not affect site performance. Data in GA is not 100% reliable Upgrade GA to UA (UA s tracking library is over 50% lighter than GA s) FIREWALL China Implement Google Tag Manager in selfhosted mode for null-latency (advanced set-up required) GOOGLE S SERVER CN WEBSITE Result Visitors might change pages before tags are fired and tracking information is sent to Google s servers. Our tests show 98-99% consistency for number of PageViews between UA and BT. Special Events On this chart, one can observe a drop in website traffic. Rather than being the result of an actual decrease, it is due to an intensified censorship policy that impacts Google s web services in China. These restrictions do happen, but rarely. According to our observations, they occurred 3 times in the last 4 years, with traffic disturbances for up to 3 days. Double-track your website with BT. When you observe a huge drop in traffic in GA, check in BT to see if it is caused by the Firewall.

3 Access to Google Analytics Reporting Interface GA reporting interface ( shares the same domain name as Google s search engine. Therefore GA is strongly restricted by the Great Firewall and access to the interface can be very slow or not possible at all. This does not mean your data is not being collected properly (if you are following the solution recommended above to address the standard impact of the Firewall). Problems in accessing GA reporting interface do not impact the accuracy of data collection. Virtual Private Networks 1 (VPN) are an easy and affordable solution to work around the Firewall and access GA reporting interface normally. Make sure you choose a VPN with good reviews for China. Differences in the way metrics are computed PageView is the only metric which is identically defined and implemented in GA and BT. Therefore, PageView is the only objective metric that we recommend to compare between both tools in order to benchmark data accuracy. i When a webpage is viewed, the tracking code on that page is loaded and triggered, thus the PageView of the given page is counted 1. Different Definitions of Other Metrics Unique Visitor (UV), as defined in GA, is determined by the presence of a set of cookies in a web browser, within the selected date range. Unique Visitor (UV), as defined in BT, is determined by a unique VisitorID that is permanently stored in the browser s local storage, even if cookies are deleted. Moreover, the metric UV in BT actually refers to daily unique visitor, within the selected date range. 1 VPN is a technology that simulates an Internet connection from another location than the user s. Definition of Unique Visitor and New Session in BT (in Chinese): 3

4 Sessions are reset in GA (i.e. a new session is counted) if any of the following scenario occurs: A new activity after 30 minutes of inactivity Only under UA : A new visit on the website from a different referral A new entry on the website from a different campaign Sessions are reset in BT (i.e. a new session is counted) if any of the following scenario occurs: A new activity after 30 minutes of inactivity A new visit on the website from a different referral A new entry on the website after restarting the web browser For example, let us consider a user who leaves the website for a 3 rd party payment platform during the checkout process, then comes back to the confirmation page within 30 minutes. In GA, it is not counted as a new session, since there is no campaign parameter in the URL through which the user comes back to the site (cf. This is not true under UA however). In BT, this scenario will be counted as a new session, if no cross-domain tracking is implemented. The new referral will override the previous session. Bounce Rate in GA is the percentage of single-interaction visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page). By allowing for more precise interaction tracking, Event-Tracking impacts bounce rate. However, with advanced Event-Tracking set-up, it is also possible to discount an interaction to still count the visit as Bounce. Bounce Rate in BT is the percentage of strictly single-pageview visits. The calculation of Bounce Rate in BT differs from GA s : Event-Tracking does not impact Bounce Rate In any case, there is no option to allow you to discount an interaction ( no noninteraction option) For example, a visitor arrives on a landing page, closes the newsletter subscription pop-in (tracked event), then leaves the site. This will not be counted as a Bounce in GA, but you can configure this event as noninteraction, in order to count this low-engagement scenario as a Bounce. In BT, this scenario will always be counted as a Bounce. Average Session Duration. Since Bounce Rate is computed differently in GA and in BT, different values are to be expected for the metric Average Session Duration (the session duration of a bouncing session being zero). Moreover, when a visitor closes a webpage, a hit is sent to BT with a timestamp, but none to GA. Definition of Unique Visitor and New Session in BT (in Chinese): 4

5 In short, for metrics such as Sessions and Unique Visitors, it is normal to see discrepancies between reports created using different tools. The best way to think of metrics across different analytics products is to think in terms of trends, as opposed to exact figures. Our Recommendation Implement a double tracking Google Analytics/Universal Analytics & Baidu Tongji (and train your team) to enjoy the best of both worlds: Google Analytics Benefit from the advanced features & regular updates of Google Analytics, and validate trends with Baidu Tongji Baidu Tongji Baidu Tongji allows campaign autotagging and reporting from Baidu Tuiguang (Search Engine Advertising) In real-time report, Baidu Tongji tracks site traffic on the user level, including the IP address and all the pages visited (contrary to Google Analytics) Baidu Tongji provides advanced demographic and localisation reports with a focus on China Baidu Tongji also offers site speed comparison, site index inside the Chinese Firewall, Baidu trends, one-click Brandzone tracking, Search Engine Optimisation suggestions (Google Analytics/Universal Analytic hides keywords unless paid with Adwords) fifty-five helps brands leverage their data to increase marketing, advertising, and sales effectiveness. We help businesses collect, enrich, and activate their data to find new customers, foster engagement, increase conversion, and drive sales across online and offline channels. We work with our clients to achieve these goals using a combination of consulting, software, and managed services. Co-founded by former Google executives, fifty-five has offices in Paris, London and Hong Kong. Paris London Hong Kong fifty-five proprietary

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