Google Analytics Intelligence Beta – Article 1

So we all login to google analytics and are noticing this new Beta feature called Intelligence… Looks like the Google Gods have delivered for us again. Sometimes these suddenly new features are amazing, and sometimes they are lackluster. I don’t know about you, but it is feeling a little like Google has turned into the Chocolate Factory in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. Don’t know the reference…hmmm.

The fact they are free is the amazing part, and to the chagrin of several hundred developers at competitors like WebTrends, Omniture (now Adobe) and Coremetrics it is just one more dink in the armor, especially when these types of enterprise features are considered something you would typically pay for.

Ok, so what it is… Well actually if you don’t have much traffic you won’t notice much when you click it. Since I work for a large corporation and have quite a few small, medium and large Google Analytics accounts for my sites and other clients, I can see the disparity in what you get. For bigger corporate clients there is data showing up.

2 kinds of data.

One is called “Automatic Alerts”, the other are “Customer Alerts”.

Just assume the automatic alerts they decide for you, while you have some control on your own. Weird thing is the actual types of control are very general with a simple low to high sensitivity bar. Without a lot of information about this tool, I am going to take a stab at the relevance and how to use it…

Automatic Alerts (Variance Reporting)

Like I said, if you have some data coming through that is a bit more than just 10 visits a day, you will see something. What I am seeing is any form of data that is above a specific variance curve showing up. If you have had basic statistics. I suffered through it twice in two MBA programs, you have the basic within like 2.5% of the mean at both sides of the bell curve. When I see low medium and high settings, this probably is more like the variance of like 20%, 50% and 70%. You can modify it a bit with that bar.

What does this really mean for analysis?

It pretty much it means they are “Alerting” you to unusual activity in your account. For my corporate accounts I am seeing things out of the ordinary showing up, like traffic from a specific geographic location has increased by greater than 40% or time on site has increased from a specific location by over 88%. You will have to become a hack like me to understand the fact that this stuff is relative. This means that it really can mean very little depending on the situation. You have to dig deeper to see why or how it is a variance.

Time Frame

Trying to get a handle on what time frame means, it appears that if you choose a small time frame at the top of the page, you create a statistically insignificant amount of data to analyze, and you will notice that there is no results. There are two types of time frames involved in this analysis. There is the time of the report you are looking at, at the top of the page, and there is the “Time Frame”, one day, that is in the middle of the page. You can shift this “Time Frame” back and forward (if you are not looking at today). This way you can see if the trend is common each day or just for this day. Does not look like right now that you can switch this from a day to a week or month, but that would be a nice feature. Maybe I am missing something on the screen to switch this. Also, seems like this is going to cost us money at some point, so maybe that is the paid feature? But then, I have not yet gotten to custom intelligence.

Alert Sensitivity Bar & Significance Bar

There is a significance bar on the right side of each metric and dimension. This significance bar is related to the variance discussed earlier. It can be used as a measure of how important, or in my old stat class we called this the Sigma. I actually turned down the Alert Sensitivity bar in the middle right and noticed that a few of the alerts dropped off. This sounds right, if it is straightforward. Obviously you will have less alerts if the Alert Sensitivity bar is lowered.

Graphing Anomalies (Alert Data)

Another part of this is the cool way you can quickly access graphing. Let’s say you are looking at a specific alert. There is a little graph icon on the left of each alert. Click on it, and you can that specific target data across the page time line, and BAM a pretty powerful way to use this thing… Try it and see what I mean.

Alerts Candlestick Bar Graph

Notice this secondary graph beneath the normal graph. This one is tracking how many alerts per day. If you are just starting out this is set for the automatic alerts only. If you set up custom alerts, it will track them on this chart as well. I am going to set up a few and then report back through this blog and my twitter account @dgudema on how they work.

Group By Metric | Dimension Function

There are 2 ways to Group the Information, by Metric & Dimension. Metric refers to the basic metrics listed on the right side. Dimension appears to be the more deeper secondary level metrics like region, new vs repeat visitor and other more detailed items. Interestingly enough the higher level metric may not show the alert that is in the lower level metric.

I am sure that there is more here that I have missed. I will cover it in my second article coming up soon.

WordPress In The Enterprise – Article 4, Upgrading WordPress!

This article is the 4th of a series of articles about WordPress In The Enterprise. This article is a work in progress, I am going to add to it as I go about this process, since I am tackling an issue that right now has no easy answer in the enterprise, and that is how to upgrade enterprise driven WordPress implementations. Why upgrade? Well, every chicken little on the WordPress blog/web has said if you don’t you may have a security issue. This is the kind of corporate implementation that includes a development server, a QA server and a load balanced production server.

If you want to start at the beginning and read them in a sequence use the following links below:

WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 1 – Setting The Mood
WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 2 – Issues And Plugins
WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 3 – Implementation Problems

Ok, now that you have read up on the first series of articles, let’s get to the heart of the problem with upgrading from an enterprise perspective. First off, the real issue is that WordPress is not an enterprise product, just yet. This does not mean it won’t be in the future, so like a WordPress plugin that does not yet exist, we have an issue that just needs to be solved. The big issue is testing a new WordPress Version on a development server and then somehow easily upgrading the QA and production servers.

Upgrade Method
If you use the WordPress upgrade method right out of the box, you are somehow violating a holy grail of upgrading from development to QA to production. Or are you? The current WordPress recommended method of upgrading is to load the new set of version files like from 2.8 to 2.84 (not overwriting wp-content’s themes & plugins directories, or anything else unique) and just letting the new version, like 2.8.4 do its magic. By magic, I mean it sometimes, but not always makes modifications to MySQL table structures. If that were not an issue, this would kind of be a mute point, because then we would just copy the development site over and be done with it. If you need the most recent version of WordPress, you can get it by clicking here.

Testing Plugins
Let’s take a little diversion here. Obviously one of the most important issue in the enterprise solution that I am trying to figure out, is testing plugins. Apparently you have to update certain plugins with the most recent version of the plugin to make sure it is compatible with an upgrade. This is a bit taxing on plugin makers who have to keep up with major revisions. The task at hand is to test plugins like seo-all-in-one-pack, google analytics, redirection, and others for compatibilities. If a very important plugin can not be upgraded and remains incompatible with the new Version, well, let’s just say you will be going to the backup.

The Backup
An important step in the upgrade process is the backup. I am not talking about the system backup you get from your server folks when the server crashes dead as a doornail, I am talking about backing up MySQL fully before you do the upgrade. Not explicitly required for the non-enterprise version, but for enterprise it is a must. Simply back it up to a .sql file and keep it handy, even in the development site before an upgrade. Good practice and that is what enterprise WordPress is all about.

The Upgrade Process
Once you have gone through the standard copy of the files over the development, you need to surf wp-admin area of WordPress. Immediately it will come up and there is a button that says UPGRADE to version x.x.x. You click it and hopefully it all goes well. Simple enough and that dev version is upgraded.

The QA Process
Tedious as it is, you need to go through and not just test out the content, permalinks and categories, but you need to take a look carefully at the plugins from both a site perspective on the outside and in the admin and tools areas as well to make sure they are functional on the inside. Once this is complete and tested, it is time to push it.

Pushing It
By pushing it, I mean pushing files up to the QA server, along with a mysql copy. This may be more of an SA task, but up till now it has been in the hands of the person managing the WordPress version. If you had left it purely up to SAs, it probably would not have happened right. All that has to happen at this point in the process is complete duplication of 2 things: files and Mysql DB. The duplication on the QA and production server will complete the process…hopefully.

Until somebody writes the ultimate publishing plugin for WordPress Enterprise, this will be a bit of black hole. Trust me somebody out there is going to fill this void. We have been hard at work on our own internal WordPress publishing plugin, but I am sure there will be open source versions sometime soon on the web.

Dan

Next Article WordPress In The Enterprise – Article 5 – Post Mortem

WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 2

WordPress Enterprise Issue And Plugins

Now that you have read my first article,WordPress For The Enterprise – Article 1, which is really more about reasons why to do a WordPress enterprise implementation, let’s get into what is missing; how we are dealing with it; the absolutely necessary plugins that are out there and the big issues. Here is the big issue and the Plugins I recommend (I am sure there are more out there, and I promise to update this blog with them):

DEV vs. QA vs. PROD
The first and foremost problem with not having an enterprise based solution in WordPress is resolving the enterprise issue of building in a dev environment, testing and QA’ing content in a QA environment, and finally publishing into a secure environment. A lot of gaps here and probably good enough reasons for many IT execs to back off and go for Interwoven, a customized CMS or some other relic of the past. But like I have been saying in Article 1, you have to take the good with the bad, and go with this train, because it is moving so fast, solving so many SEO and other issues along the way, that what the heck, let’s go for it. For now, the answer is still not simple. Across a dozen WordPress implementations, we are currently syncing the Databases. Now that may be a silly answer… albeit let’s get to the real answer. And like all web developers, if there is a problem, there is a solution. That is why have been developing an in-house Enterprise Publishing solution. It is still under development, and it will fit right into the WordPress admin system. When a writer is ready to sync a page from QA to Prod, and it has been approved, there will be a checkbox next to each page, and when they are ready to go, walla, the system will push the content from mysql DB QA to mysql DB PROD… Once we are done with this solution, there probably will be 10 or so plugins just like it on the market. This is coming. Maybe you will be using ours one day.

Anyway, that was the tough news to hear… Now here are the plugins that we can not live without:

Redirection
This plugin is like the old .htaccess in the linux environment that sets the redirects of incoming links, without having to create directories or redirection files. Found this one a while back and it has really improved our migration from non-WordPress sites to WordPress. If you are not familiar with this one. I would take a look. You may not be ssh’ing to the box after you find this to fix your URLs.

Velvet Blues Update URLS
Sounds kind of funky and kind of important. This small utility plugin simply allows you to flip all URLs in the site, including all content pages, from one URL to another. Now, why would you need this. It’s simple. You want to create a temporary site on the production box before you go live. Let’s say your site is called StrategicPoints.com. So before I go live I want to see it as as WordPress site and not mess up the current site. So I create a new.StrategicPoints.com. Let’s say the Mysql DB is coming from the QA site, qa.strategicpoints.com. So you go into Velvet Blues and flip qa.strategicpoints.com to new.strategicpoints.com. (Just a comment that if you do this, you still need to get into the MYSQL db to swap the DB options first before you run this. I recommend PHPMYADMIN for the faint of heart out there, who were not an SA like me in the old Bell days). I will get more into the production migration process in my next article, so we will get back to this process later on.

Exec-PHP
This is a very simple plugin which allows you to drop PHP code into the content area on any page. Sounds like a silly thing, but this could be important in making your widgets and making dynamic things happen in your code.

Breadcrumb-navxt
A plugin that allows you to show your bread crumbs as you surf around a WordPress website.

PagesPlus and My Page Order
Plugins that allows you to manage a large amount of pages better. I have not yet used these yet, so I won’t comment, but if you are dealing with over 100 pages of content, this could be important.

Ax-sidebar
This allows you to better manage the side bar content

All-in-one-seo-pack
A variety of SEO related tools, and seems to be the best one for the enterprise. There are many of these WordPress SEO tools out there, but this one appears to cover most of the needs of SEO.

Google-analytics-for-WordPress
This is one of several Google Analytics installer plugins. This one seems to work. I have tried a few, and this one is ready to go. If you are new to Google Analytics, well you should know the drill by now. Put Google Analytics on the site and you will know the anlaytics

Googe-sitemap-generator
Great tool for generating a sitemap.xml file for Google Webmaster Tools. If you have not logged into this part of Google yet, you really need to, because it is the best way of letting Google know what pages you offer. Great for SEO.

Sitemap Generator
Not to be confused with the sitemap.xml file, the Site Map generator creates a real site map that real users can use. Sounds Great!

WP Security Scan
This is a great security, WordPress, hardening tool. Use it to run a site audit and see what needs to be improved. Keep up with new versions, through the new downloader, and you will keep from getting hacked, always an issue using this open source stuff, and an enterprise concern

qTranslate
Just getting into the localization, then try the best of WordPress breed out there. This is qTranslate. I have used it once so far and it did the job. I will mention however, that it is powerful and does require set up. There are these .mo files that need to go on your site in order to assist with the translation character set. So this one may require talking to a tech guy. For latin languages, it goes right to work. Anyway, we are about to try it out again for a new site and we will see if it is up to the Enterprise task.

That’s about it for now. Hopefully we can come to some conclusion on a set of enterprise plugins. The big one, the “Publishing Plugin” is getting close at our company. Somebody will create a real nice one out there and hopefully solve this issue. There are a variety of problems and issues associated with this production plugin, but I think they will be worked out, to the point that we just point and click and it does the job.

Next, Article 3, the WordPress enterprise migration process.

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Next Article 3, Click Here to go to Article 3, Problems During Implementation

Dan