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Site Overlay Report: Google Analytics Power User Part 2

When asking people what their favorite Google Analytics report is you will likely get a lot of different responses. On of the more common responses will likely be the Site Overlay report.

Before jumping into who should use this report and what type of analysis should be done there are a couple of things that should be understood about this report:

  1. The Site Overlay report will not work properly on all sites or pages. This is a know issue to Google and they are working to make it more robust. For it to work all links on a page must exist as an HREF element on the page.
  2. If you have multiple links on a given page that all link to the same page, the Site Overlay report will not differentiate between the links. That is it will credit all links on the page with the click, not just the one that was clicked. To fix this issue so that you can determine which link was the actual source of the click you will need to add an additional query parameter to each of the identical links. As is often the case in life, when you fix one problem you create another. The new problem that we have created by adding unique query parameters to each link is that we now have to be careful when viewing other reports such as Top Content. Now when we look at our Top Content report we have to sum the page view data created by the query parameters to get the true page view count.

So now that we have that out of the way:

Who should be using the Site Overlay report?

The Site Overlay report is great way for designers, marketers, and analyst to visual see how people are interacting with your web pages. You can quickly and easily see how visitors are interacting with your page elements and layout.

How should the report be used? What should I be looking for?

  • Look for what links are being clicked.
  • Look to see if text links are being clicked more than graphics or buttons.
  • Look to see if anyone clicks on links in a drop down menu. Are you hiding content?
  • Look to see not only which links get the most clicks, but which have the highest $Index (value), conversion, transactions, revenue...
  • Look to see how people interact with your content that is below the fold.
Insights such as those listed above will give you ideas on how to test changes to your layout and different elements and their position on the page.


Another tool that I really like that gives you a similar visualization to Google Analytics Site Overlay is Crazy Egg. Crazy Egg has a number of advantages and benefits that make it more valuable to me than GA's Site Overlay, but it is a paid tool, so you get what you pay for.

We'd love to hear your thoughts. Let us know what you find most usefully about a Site Overlay tool. Which ones you like/use and any tips that you might have to share.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Possibly an ignorant question...

Once you add the query parameter to the links to make the unique Site Overlay links work, can't you use a filter that would then make the Top Content report work?

Thanks.
# Posted By Wilson K. | 12/17/08 7:57 PM
Good questions Wilson. The Top Content report still works, but what happens is that when someone clicks on the link with a query parameter it creates its own page view (virtual page view). So when you go to your Top Content report and want to see how many people have viewed product page X you need to sum up all of the pages that represent product page X. That is to say sum up the original page and all of the ones created by the query parameter. To help with this you can and should filter, but this doesn't help much when you are looking at the top level of the report for summary level information.

I hope that helped with your question.
# Posted By John Hossack | 12/18/08 8:46 AM
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