new Here is a dirty little secret:

Unless you are a exceptionally content heavy website And your content changes every day, it is quite unlikely that your Top 25 of anything changes all that much.

So why do we insist on stuffing our dashboards with top x or this and top y of that and top z of whatever? Let me explain with an example.

Here are the keywords driving traffic for one month:

top search keywords month one 1

And here are the keywords driving traffic to the website in the second month:

top search keywords month two

Notice something amazing? While traffic is very different in those two months the actual keywords that sent traffic from search engines barely changed. In fact even the order in which the keywords sent traffic is astonishingly similar!

I bet most of you (ok atleast you Analysts) are not actually surprised at this because you get dashboards, reports, data pukes and it all seems to be the same all of the time.

The reason for this is also not very surprising. Most websites are in stable businesses, they tend to do the same things when it comes to their acquisition strategy and there is a heavy concentration of the few things visitors want from them.

Yes there are some things happening "under the water" but they can be hard to find (take time and effort!) and our web analytics tools don't make it easy for us to identify those elements.

This leads to a few very sad outcomes:

1) We, Analysts, dutifully keep shoveling data over the fence (and that in our hearts of heart does not make us happy).

2) The Marketers and Decision Makers are frustrated because they think web analytics means stuffing their Inboxes with things they don't want to read.

3) Takes a really long time to take any action because the core things that matter are not apparent. Unhappy bosses.

So what's the solution?

whats changed report

Focusing your analytical and reporting efforts on "What's Changed".

ClickTracks, mentioned often here and in my book :), is a great web analytics tool and one of my all time favorite reports is the What's Changed Report.

It is quite brilliant in its execution.

You can choose any two time periods and ClickTracks will churn through all your website data, apply intelligent mathematical algorithms (statistical significance etc) and present a report to you that shows the most significant changes along all your data dimensions. It's Dr. Stephen Turner and his team at their best (IMHO :).

Awesome, because rather than looking at the top x of whatever you look at every day now you can look at just the data that matters.

Search key words worth paying attention to. . . .

Here is how the What's Changed report looks if I compare two time periods:

whats changed report search keywords sm 1

[Click on the image above for a higher resolution picture.]

Isn't that fantastic!

You can separate the wheat from the chaff by pressing just one button and now you know, instantly, which key words / key phrases need your attention because they have started sending a lot more traffic in the current time period. Maybe these need to go directly into your AdWords or AdCenter campaigns.

You also know which keyword are "falling", becoming less important in your data (perhaps you should drop 'em, perhaps you spent a lot of money to no effect, perhaps customers are moving on). You are SEO'ing your poor heart out, are your efforts working?

Both sides of the report very actionable because they uncover things "below the surface", things that web analytics tools are typically bad at highlighting.

Once you pick your time period you can get this view for all your data.

Referrers worth paying attention to. . . .

clicktracks whats changed report referrers sm

[Click on the image above for a higher resolution picture.]

Which campaigns are working, which are not. What websites are new surprises, on the left, and which ones are on their way to becoming disappointments, most likely on the right. Who should I start relationships with (say new affiliates) and which ones I need just let go. You get the idea.

See what I mean when I say it is absolutely actionable?

[Special Note: Please do not type in all the url's above and check 'em out. Some of them are from websites of an adult nature and might not be office worthy. The data is real for my blog, and no you can't ask me why they link to a web analytics blog. Your guesses are welcome though. :)]

Content consumption, pages, worth paying attention to. . . .

clicktracks whats changed report visited pages sm

[Click on the image above for a higher resolution picture.]

Again all of the above questions and techniques apply in making this valuable.

To me there were two surprises in the above picture.

On the "Rising" side one post, on Personas and Non-Line marketing, became so much more popular. It was written months and months ago. Suddenly it popped. I immediately rushed to check out Entrance Keywords and Entrance Sources and found the reason and I am taking action so that I can get other posts get that same bang!

On the falling side the surprise was that I did not realize in the last month three of those posts (besides the first) were that popular, all were written months and months ago. So in this case I am realizing what I should have known a month ago! If I were doing any sales or marketing or had key topical (important now) calls to action I would go add to these post.

Other reports / data. . . .

You can get this report along many other dimensions telling you what campaigns are working better or worse, what products are selling more or less (statistically) and other such great trends.

Very useful, very actionable, access to trends and insights that are normally hidden. Access to this kind of report helps you do the 90/10 that Tiger Woods is advocating. . . .

tiger woods focus on what to do next accenture

Today sadly with our Web Analytics tools we spend 90% of the time reporting on what you/company did and send masses of reports out, and 10% on what we / you / Marketers should do next. [My thanks to the Accenture corporation for creating such a great ad.]

What's Changed changes that.

Recently our good friends from Juice Analytics have taken a step to help the Users of Google Analytics create their own What's Changed report for Referrers. You'll find all the details at:

You go to the site , spend nine seconds install GreaseMonkey in your firefox browser and then spend another nine seconds installing the plugin, two seconds restarting your browser and boom! You get this. . . .

google analytics juice analytics whats changed plugin

A new button in your Top Referrers report.

Now go ahead and press that button, it will change to a button called Loading…. and after a few seconds (please be patient) you get two additional reports on that page.

#1: Sites with more than 50% growth in traffic in last 3 days:

google analytics whats changed report referrers

Sweet! Now compare that to my Top Referrers report. . . .

google analytics top referrers report

You can easily see how the first report is more valuable than the default report, for one thing top referrers stays the same most of the time.

I can look at the first report and go identify who my real friends are :), why they are sending me traffic, what can I do to get them to my top referrers etc.

#2: Sites with more than 50% growth in traffic in last 3 days:

google analytics whats changed report new referrers

I won't repeat the message again, you can see how immediately valuable this type of information it (not the least to realize that my friends at Zaaz might not be telling the complete truth when they tell me they read my blog every day! Chris, Jason, Shane I don't believe you! :)).

Go run and install the plugin from Juice Analytics right now and see how quickly you can spot new things in your reports.

The "what's changed" functionality in Google Analytics is not quite as robust or pervasive or flexible as it is in ClickTracks. Hopefully someone from Juice Analytics or the Google Analytics team is reading this post :) and perhaps there will be more in the future. But for now I am thrilled that users of Google Analytics can atleast take a small step forward in understanding their data. For that I am grateful to the folks at Juice.

[Sal: I would love to have this "button" on the Search Keywords reports! Please.]

Update: 04/23: Sal kindly obliged and we have a very useful button now in the search keywords report as well to look at "What's Changed". Please see: Keyword Trends in Google Analytics. Here is now it looks (KW that sent 20% more traffic). . . .

google analytics whats changed report organic search keywords

Web Analytics is actionable, I hope that all the Vendors will take a pause from simply helping us Puke data out and consider implementing mathematical and statistical techniques that help us all become the Tiger Woods!

So here's my question to you: When you do reporting of your web analytics data are you on the What's Changed train?

Ok now your turn. Would you care to share some of your insights? Big or small? What has worked for you? Are there other techniques that you have tried that work for you? Any templates or pictures you could like to share with us? Please share your own strategies and success stories. Thank you.

Couple other related posts you might find interesting:

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