Friday, February 25, 2011

Professional Presence: Website Monitoring

A while ago I talked about how to establish a professional presence online using Google Apps.  If you followed those steps, great! you're well on your way.  But your not done yet.

If you're running a cloud-based business, any cloud-based business, whether that's a blog or a full-on eCommerce application, you have to be monitoring it.  There are a number of great tools to help you do this, and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to use them.

At the top of the market is Gomez, a simply fantastic tool that can show you exactly what is happening with your site.  For basic monitoring (i.e. "Is my website up?"), setup is quite simple.  But Gomez can answer so much more (i.e. "How is my site performing for users in S. China on Firefox?" or "How does my site look on a Blackberry Torch?")!  As you get into these more advanced scenarios, configuration becomes more complex.  Gomez is the cats-meow of monitoring tools, but be prepared for the price - it has pricing to match their top-of-the-market status.

  For basic uptime and response time monitoring, Pingdom is a fantastic solution.  Their price points fit (starting at free!), and the service is incredibly easy to use.  While Gomez feels built for technicians, Pingdom is built for non-technicians.

Both of these services are cloud-based (meaning no software to install) and can be up and running in minutes (Pingdom) or a couple of days with Gomez (and this is really just because you have to buy it and have contracts etc. - the actual provisioning can also be done in minutes once you have a paid account).

Go out and try these - it's a part of establishing your professional presence online.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Google Analytics Tips: Sitemap Index Files Work Great

I was recently working on a site with 10,000,000+ unique URLs.  If you're up to speed on Sitemap guidelines from Google, you'll know that a Sitemap can only contain 50,000 URLs.  So, we had to break our 10MM unique URLs up into 200 or so smaller Sitemap files - from there, you create a sitemap index file which provides a link to each of the individual sitemap files.  Technically, this was difficult to do (ping me for more details), but I was curious how Google Webmaster tools would work:

  • Would I have to manually upload each individual Sitemap or could I just specify the Sitemap index?
  • If I just specified the sitemap index, would it let me "drill into" each individual sitemap?
The answer, as you would expect from Google, is that you can just specify the sitemap index -> from there Google will 'find' the individual sitemap files.  Each individual sitemap can be examined in the webmaster tools - and all the statistics "roll up" under the main Sitemap index.  Nice work Google!

Also, for those of you who are curious - it took a few hours for Google to parse and update statistics (# of urls, # of pages in web index etc.) for the 10MM or so entries.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Google Doubleclick for Publishers: Optimize Ad Performance

Previously known as Google Ad Mangager, Doubleclick for Publishers is a powerful tool that helps you optimize ad revenue across your sites and pagers.  If you want to work with multiple ad networks (BBN, AdSesne, Olive etc.), then you should give DFP a look.

DFP comes in two flavors - "Small Business" which is free, and DFP which is a paid-for version.  I'm still looking into the differences between the two.

DFP lets you:
  • define your Ad Units and optionally group them into Placements
  • create Orders with one or more Line Items targeted to particular Ad Units or Placements
  • rules to define what ads should show when -> for example, run ads from my BBN Network for my N. American visitors but use AdSense everywhere else.  Things like that.
  • you can pass targeting information in from your pages, and then have DFP target ads based on those parameters.  For instance, if you know that a site visitor is 'female' based on your site's profiling capabilities you can pass that to DFP and have it target ads based on gender.
  • you can also use DFP to promote your inventory to the sister product Doubleclick For Advertisers.
A pretty cool product - one that I'll be posting more about.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Google Analytics Tips: Connecting AdSense to Analytics


It's possible to connect have Google Analytics 'connect' with your AdSense data so that Analytics users can view AdSense performance.  Considering AdSense only allows 1 user account to access AdSense, using Analytics can be useful way to allow more user to access AdSense.  Here's how I like to set it up.

AdSense can be added to 0 or more website profiles.  So, what I like to do is setup 2 profiles from the start:

  1. -> Use this for the basic profile that most users will access.
  2. +AdSense -> This is exactly the same profile as the one above, but also includes AdSense information.  
There you have it.  A simple way to share AdSense performance information with a selection of users of your choice.  

Google Analytics Tips: Resolving User IP Addresses

We currently us a third party system to resolve user's IP addresses to domain name. It helps our advertisers better understand the type of exposure we're providing them. I thought to myself

Surely, Google Analytics can be configured to do this for us or there must be a 3rd party tool that we could bolt-on.

Well, the answer, apparently, is no to both. It turns out that Google views the user's IP address as "private" (for reasons I can't understand seeing as it is transported on the public internet with every request!) and so doesn't make it visible through Analytics. They do, of course, capture the user's IP address as this is how they do the geographic reporting.

Also, there were some hacks around at one point using filters to scoop this out, but Google has shut those off as well and reminded us all that the Google Terms of Service prevent this anyway.

If anyone out there has solutions for doing this, I'm all ears!

In the mean time, this article had an excellent summary.