Adobe Analytics Google Analytics

What are the biggest differences between Adobe SiteCatalyst and Google Analytics Premium?

The short answer I always give is that Google Analytics is like a one size fits all t-shirt, and Adobe Analytics is like a custom-tailored suit. The rest of my answer is not so short.

Google Analytics:

  • The standard reporting interface is usually easier for beginners to learn, but isn’t very flexible when you want to orient the data differently than the default. Same goes for dashboards.
  • With Universal Google Analytics there are a lot more implementation options than there were in Classic Google Analytics, including far more ecommerce tracking options, along with custom dimensions and metrics. With enhanced ecommerce you can now track products from product impression to product view to cart to checkout to purchase, where in Classic GA you can only track products on the order confirmation page. With non-Premium Google Analytics you get 20 custom dimensions and 20 custom metrics. With Premium you get 200 custom dimensions and 200 custom metrics. However, the amount of customization and the degree to which you can configure these custom dimensions and metrics are very limited compared to Adobe.
  • One of Google Analytics Premium’s selling points is you get unsampled data, but to be clear, you do NOT get unsampled data in the browser-based reporting interface. You simply get an option to download the unsampled data into a .csv or .tsv file.
  • With Premium you also get support service, which I believe is Google partnering you up with an official Google Analytics third-party partner.

Adobe Analytics:

  • The standard reporting interface has always been super flexible. You’ve always been able to drag whichever metrics you want into a report, breakdown line items by other dimensions, and customize the reporting menu to your company’s needs and internal terminology. And now with their new Analysis Workspace interface that launched on 9/17/2015, it is even MORE flexible. Honestly, Analysis Workspace is the most nimble digital analytics interface I’ve ever seen. You can pivot and segment the data quickly and easily, and the load time is extremely fast.Adobe has other ancillary tools like Report Builder which is an Excel add-in, Ad Hoc (formerly known as Discover) with very powerful segmentation features, and Data Workbench (formerly known as Insight) which allows you to pull in other data sources.
  • The implementation options are really only limited by your imagination and availability of dev resources to put them into place! In regular Adobe Analytics you have 75 eVars and 100 events, and in Adobe Analytics Premium you get 250 eVars and 1,000 events. Each individual eVar can be customized on which value gets credit for conversions (first click / last click / shared) and how long values get credit for conversions (time-based, session-based, or on the completion of some other event). Similarly with events, they can be configured to be incremented, deduplicated per session, or deduplicated across multiple sessions with the use of some unique ID.Not to mention you can easily create calculated metrics in Admin, too.
  • Data is always unsampled.
  • Support is usually directly with Adobe’s account team or Adobe Client Care. The account team seems to be far more focused on selling you other tools in the Marketing Cloud than helping you with the ones you’ve got, and Client Care is usually worthless.

I like that Google Analytics gives you more out of the box to start with and there is less need to implement or configure the basic types of reports that are applicable across all sites (pages, campaigns, products, etc.)

On the flip side, I like that Adobe is so customizable and so flexible. This is a blessing and a curse. As others have stated, the quality of Adobe Analytics data is totally dependent on how well it is implemented. Going back to my original analogy, imagine someone who only knows how to sew on a button trying to sew an entire custom-fitted suit from scratch!

Cross-posted from


Adobe Summit Breakout Session: Data Storytelling

This session was not very technical and really had nothing to do with SiteCatalyst specifically, but data presentation in general. As analysts we’re comfortable in the details and the numbers, so it can be hard to pull ourselves out of the weeds and remember that our audience doesn’t care about what segmentation logic we used, but “what should I do to make my business better?” This session had some good best practices for packaging up the data and putting a cherry on top. (PDF of the presentation can be found here.)

A few random quotes:

  • “We hear facts, but we feel stories.”
  • “If you lead with data, people’s shields come up. Dry, factual arguments are met with skepticism.”
  • “If you lead with a story + data, shields come down. The story allows people to drop their intellectual guard.

NOTE: Every single presenter must have been given that third piece of advice, because I swear the first 10 minutes of every single presentation at Summit was some useless, often unrelated tangent: ReportBuilder and U2, Discover and river surfing, etc.  So while I agree a story can be useful, I would argue the story needs to be RELEVANT.

A reminder on the basics of a literary story arc, and mapping those to a data story:

  1. Introduction / Setup:  background of current situation, identify main problem or opportunity
  2. Inciting Incident / Rising Action: share the findings from the data to reveal deeper insights
  3. Climax / Denouement: present major finding or key insight (a-ha! moment)
  4. Falling Action / Resolution / Conclusion: give recommendations

Some advice on visuals:

  • build the customer journey with visual elements (use screenshots of the site to remind audience what the visitor sees)
  • identify the right data (add context by comparing to another date range, another segment, etc.)
  • identify the right visualizations for that data (don’t get fancy because you can, 2D charts along common aligned scales are best for accurate comparisons, avoid pie charts)
  • remove unnecessary noise (no more than 4 lines in a line graph, if you must use a pie chart have no more than 5 slices and lump all “other” into 5th slice)
  • highlight what’s important (use colors, annotations, etc…don’t make the audience work to find what you want them to see)
  • make it easy to consume: “Never force your audience to memorize, organize, or calculate numbers in their head.” (omit unnecessary chart features, use clear labels and chart titles)

5 things to avoid which will derail your story:

  1. not knowing your audience
  2. using unfamiliar analytics jargon
  3. sharing too much detail  (be selective in what you share and don’t feel obligated to substantiate everything, the audience likely trusts our expertise and is not interested in the analytics process, only the insights)
  4. leaving out valuable context
  5. talking too much and not allowing time for discussion

And tips from a client who has a “Chief Storyteller” on staff:

  • get your point across, one point or illustration per slide, overall story should have a moral or lesson
  • when presenting to an executive, distill into how it will drive business, and two cocktail talking points
  • you don’t need to show the analysis, only the results (put the analysis in an appendix)

Ouch. That last one hurts. But it’s true. When it requires 25 data points broken into 10 segments trended over 13 months to find some insight, we want to show our hard work.  And as linear thinkers, we want to walk through the logic of how we came to our conclusion.  It’s a good reminder that sometimes the best analysis (even if it took 2 days and 5 pivot tables) can be distilled into one sentence…

Unlike this post.


Adobe Summit Breakout Session: ReportBuilder

At Summit 2014, there was a session called “Adobe ReportBuilder: Attaining data mashing (Excel)ence“.  (Here’s the PDF download of the presentation.  It will show more detail than this post.)  It was one of the more helpful sessions. If you don’t know what ReportBuilder is, it’s an add-in to Excel that allows you to build data blocks within your spreadsheet that pulls data directly from SiteCatalyst. (It used to be called Excel Client.)  It’s a lifesaver for recurring scorecards where you constantly have to pull the same metrics with updated time ranges. No more exporting / copying / pasting!

While I find ReportBuilder to be pretty self-explanatory and Adobe has training videos on the basic functionality, at Summit they shared these useful new features and/or best practices:

Use separate Excel tabs for controls versus data

One of the most powerful features of ReportBuilder is that you can have the report blocks set up to dynamically pull certain report parameters from cells in Excel. Adobe’s first tip was have one dedicated Excel tab for all your controls/inputs, and separate data tab(s) that contain the data blocks:

Advanced / shortcut rolling date expressions

If you choose “Rolling Dates” from the date selection dropdown, there is an additional link for “Show Advanced Options”. Those allow you to write expressions to more exactly identify your rolling dates. Customized Expression Elements:

  • cd = current day
  • cw = current week
  • cm = current month
  • cq = current quarter
  • cy = current year

Expression Examples:

  • From cm-13m to cm-1d (returns the last full 13 months of data)
  • From cw-13w To cw-1d (returns the last full 13 weeks of data)
  • From cd-7d To cd-1d (returns the last 7 days of data)
  • *always add “-1d” to eliminate partial, current day data


Editing multiple report blocks at once

While using cell-based inputs can eliminate the need for this feature, if you happen to still do it the old clunky way there is an option that will save you time by allowing you to mass-edit several report blocks at once. On the “Add-Ins” ribbon in Excel, select “Manage”, highlight the report suites you want to mass edit, select “Edit Multiple”, and follow the wizard to update the report parameters. Don’t forget to refresh!

Dependent data blocks

These are useful if you have a report that returns a list of line items that you want to use as a filter in another data block. I didn’t know this was even possible!

Anomaly detection

Using the previous 30 days as a training period, ReportBuilder can estimate the expected, upper, and lower range of data for a given metric.  You must be looking at a trended report with daily granularity to be able to use this functionality.  Enabling this will help you identify weird outliers in your trended data.


Since it took me 2 months to write this post, with the May 22 upgrade it looks like all the events/metrics are now in the same pane and no longer separated by traffic/conversion metrics!  No more having to build separate data blocks for visits and revenue, yay!


Adobe Digital Marketing Summit 2014

This year was the first time I was able to attend Summit since the beginning of my web analytics career 10 years ago. After attending eTail and, my expectations of any digital marketing conference were super low. In my recent experience, these conferences have solely been venues for marketing douchebags to see how many times they can toss about the latest marketing buzzwords. “Big data!” “Omni-channel!” “Predictive analytics!”

Although some of my buddies who also attended Summit said it wasn’t as good as past years, I was delighted. All the content was extremely relevant and tactical. I walked away with a few secret tools and lots of new ideas. And I’m going to share all those tools and secrets with you now. “Big data omni sharing!”

I’ll be writing up some specific posts about sessions I attended in person and share my extended notes and screencaps on those:

And the single document that was worth the price of admission for the entire conference:

  • Excel Template That Automatically Extracts SiteCatalyst Admin Settings

Getting Started

I have an Evernote notebook full of best practices and tips and tricks for SiteCatalyst, Tealium, Excel, and all the other tools I use.  When I went to Adobe Digital Marketing Summit last month, I took copious notes and several of my buddies asked me to share my notes with them.  That’s why I’ve finally relented and decided to start up a blog.  Mostly just for ease of distribution purposes.

A few warnings before we begin:

  • I refuse to ever call SiteCatalyst “Adobe Reporting & Analytics”.
  • I refuse to ever call Discover “Adobe Ad Hoc”.
  • I might call Genesis “Data Connectors”, but probably not.
  • I probably won’t say “Omniture” very often, but it might happen occasionally.

So if you see me using these outdated terms, it is not because my knowledge is outdated, it is because Adobe CHOSE THE STUPIDEST AND VAGUEST POSSIBLE NAMES WHEN THEY REBRANDED THEIR PRODUCTS. And I refuse to use the new names, and instead opt for the older more descriptive names that won’t cause mass confusion.

Okay?  Okay.  Shall we begin?  Yes, Lisa…