Interview with Annie Cushing @AnnieCushing from


Annie Cushing is one of world’s most trusted Google Analytics experts. She is an independent SEO and web analytics consultant. This super-smart woman makes data collection and analysis sound simple and fun. She has a unique gift for presenting data in beautiful ways. Follow her @anniecushing to get all her updates and insights

I thank Annie for agreeing for this interview and spending her valuable time and for sharing these wonderful tips.


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Q. How did you pick up your impressive statistical reasoning skills?

A. Hundreds of hours of reading every book I could find and watching every video on data and Excel I could track down.

Q. Give us more insight into ‘Interests’, ‘Affinity Categories’, and ‘In-Market Segments’ found under ‘Audience. ’ *(Google analytics). How can we benefit? Please provide examples if possible.

A. These are optional dimensions. The word on the streets right now is the data is pretty unreliable. I suspect it might be more reliable with ecommerce sites, but I don't have data to back that hunch up.

Q. What is the best method to track canonical URLs through GA?

A. Remove as many query parameters as you can from your URLs using under Admin > [Choose view] > View Settings > Exclude URL Query Parameters. You should use the same logic you use for canonical URLs: If a parameter doesn't determine unique content, exclude it. The URL Parameters report in Google Webmaster Tools (Crawl > URL Parameters) is a good resource to find parameters. Filtering these out doesn't filter out the traffic; it merely consolidates your pages in content reports.

Q. Are there any tips which you can share with us to help us understand attribution modeling?

A. This resource from Google is the best you can reference to understand how to best utilize attribution modeling.

Q. What things should we test for landing page optimization and what metrics we should use for analysis?

A. Make sure your landing pages are attracting the right keywords, using GWT's Top Pages report (under Search Traffic > Search Queries). Also, monitor average page load times, bounce rates, and revenue like a hawk.

Q. Care to share any tips to increase AdWords ROI using Google Analytics?

A. Compare the keywords you're bidding on to the matched search queries (what people actually searched for). I find some of the biggest leaks here. One client (a college) was unknowingly getting a third of their traffic from porn terms. Also run your destination pages through a crawler like Screaming Frog. You'd be amazed by how many businesses spend money sending traffic to 404 pages.

Q. How effectively we can track social media ROI and what are your key performance indicators?

A. Google's added a ton of insight to Google Analytics in its spate of social reports. But they are utterly useless if you're analyzing bad data. So the first step is to read this guide I wrote on campaign tagging and pay special attention to the Fixing Your Default Channel Grouping section.

Q. Lastly, what is the newest challenge in technical analytics? Will Universal Analytics really change the present scenario of tracking?

A. I believe the biggest challenge is resolving the disconnect between last-click attribution data and multi-channel funnel data. Because they measure the contribution of direct traffic so differently (with last-click giving credit for a conversion to the last campaign visit before the conversion and MCF giving the credit to direct), there's no way for marketers to marry this essential data.

Someone from Google needs to enter the tunnel of chaos and standardize how direct traffic is credited with regard to conversions, so we can all scream, cry, write ranty blog posts with crazy conspiracy theories (as we marketers are known to do) and then move on with fully integrated data.


Thanks for your time Annie. Your answers will definitely help internet marketers and analytics savvy people. Please leave your comments below as I would love to hear from you!

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