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Tracking ‘Email Opens’ with Google Analytics

November 11th, 2013 by Linus Xavier No comments »

The common problem faced by online marketers & analysts today is that, data is available in Silos and not integrated.  When you send an email campaign, web related analytics (visits, bounce rates, conversion rates etc) are tracked by your web analytics tool – say Google Analytics. However, your web analytics tool doesn’t tell you how many people opened your email. Oops, now that’s the second level in your sales funnel.

Your email / CRM tool usually has this data on how many people opened the email, provided tracking is enabled.

Now, I’ll explain how to get this metrics within Google Analytics automatically.

(To use this method you need to be using the Universal Analytics version of GA – not the Classic Analytics. If you’re not using the Universal Analytics, you can upgrade easily.)

Step 1:  Create  a Custom Metric. To do this, logon to your GA account, click “Admin” link on top right. Then select your account & property. If your account is already upgraded to Universal Analytics you will see an option “Custom Definitions”. Click it to see the “Custom Metrics” option.

custom metrics

Now click “Create Custom Metric” link. You’ll see the form below – enter details as shown below.

create custom

Once you have created this custom metric, now you have metric which can hold & display the email opens for all the email campaigns. In the next step we’ll create a pixel which will actually capture the data & then store it.


Step 2: Creating a Pixel. This is how your pixel will look like.

<img src=”<UA-XXXXXXX-YY>&cid=<UUID>&t=event&ec=email&ea=open&cs=dealmailer&cm=email&cm1=1″ />

tid – This is your Google Analytics tracking id

cid – This the client id, and usually your email application should be able to automatically fill this field through mail merge.

cm1 – This indicates the slot of custom metric. Since this is our first custom metric, I’m passing 1 here.

Step 3: Add the above pixel to the footer of email HTML before sending the email.

You should be able to track the email open metrics by going to Acquisition >> Events >> Overview in your Google Analytics account.

email opens


How to Opt out of Google’s Ads that Show your Photo & Name

October 12th, 2013 by Linus Xavier No comments »

Google is planning to show your face & name in advertisements. Many of you, like me would’ve felt uncomfortable on this very idea. Be it just as Social endorsements, I still don’t like it.

Here ‘s how you can opt out of these ads

  • Visit this Google Endorsement Settings Page
  • Scroll down & Uncheck the setting that says “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.”
  • Click Save & you’re done.


E-Retail in India to grow at a whopping 175% YoY!

September 25th, 2013 by Linus Xavier No comments »

E-Commerce growth in India will be driven by online retail in 2013, as suggested by a study done by IntelligenceNODE. Non E-Tail revenues (mostly OTAs) will grow at a much slower rate – approx 1.4% MoM, where-as E-Retail at 8.8% MoM.


OTAs have historically constituted the bulk of E-commerce in India. However this trend is changing, and changing fast. Online Travel will grow at a much slower pace, compared to online retail and hence the likes of Cleartrip, MakeMyTrip will have limited growth, in their already low-margin flight booking business.

Online retail, driven by Flipkart, Myntra, HomeShop18 etc. is expected to grow at a whopping 175% YoY. Although, this number looks nice, there are too many folks fighting out the battle there, and hence no one’s profitable yet. In this last-man standing game, we might find more big fishes consuming the smaller ones – especially since most of the E-Retailers are running on losses to acquire more customers and achieve higher top line. With the cash-rich Amazon entering the scene, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out.

Can deal sites survive?

June 17th, 2013 by Linus Xavier No comments »

E-Commerce sites around the world, especially in India are driven by deals to some extent. I’m referring to product based deals, rather than Groupon-like service deals. Lower prices compel new users to try out a site, and also help vendors liquidate their excess inventory.

There’s a popular theory in India that deal sites can’t survive. Sites like, are real-life proofs that these sites can be successful. was acquired by few years. Amazon probably has the best resources to try and test various things. If they’ve acquired Woot & they themselves are running daily deals there must be something right about it. In addition, the growth of deal sharing websites like Slickdeals, suggests that there’s a huge market for deals.  Ok, now there’s no doubt that there’s a sizeable market for deals. There’s a segment (and a big segment) of deal-seekers. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to go after them or not. Amazon did.

Price at which customers want to buy the product is fixed – for eg customers want to buy at 10-15% lower than anywhere in the market. No point in selling at market prices and calling it as a “deal” yeah? Deals will not, and never be profitable  or sustainable if the subsidized prices are funded through marketing budgets.  May be yes during initial phases, yes but not in the long run. Products must be sourced at great prices. But, why would the manufacturer give E-commerce site products at cheap prices?

The power of Deal sites lies in the volume. Not by selling 1000 units to a couple of re-sellers but by selling to 1000 unique customers.  Manufacturers are often stuck with excess or unsold inventory, and they might go bankrupt. In any case they need to liquidate whatever they have as quickly as possible. Successful deal sites identify opportunities and work out a way to source products at throw-away prices. The focus is not to on the manufacturer, but to please the customer by offering great prices. The focus is on acquiring & retaining customers on long term basis. Not by being happy to sell all the units of bad quality, to achieve short-term sales targets. This will never work. Just see this screenshot from – they will not sell stuff to re-sellers. It’s B2C, not B2B!


Another mistake sites do is to try and sell products at market prices once they’ve achieved good traffic. I can’t believe how people can miss out the obvious flaw with this approach. The source of traffic itself is price. Jeff Bezos’ famous wheel of growth for your reference.

You can either be an Apple or an Amazon., not both. If you’re selling a commodity you can try to become an Amazon – by improving efficiencies & reducing prices. Else you can try to become an Apple by creating innovative & unique products.


Low quality affiliate traffic is good!

May 23rd, 2011 by Linus Xavier No comments »

Online businesses essentially the ones that generally leads / conversions through a mix of traffic sources, are particularly harsh towards “low quality” affiliate traffic. Now, let’s define what is considered to be “low quality” for these businesses.

Low quality traffic could be –

1. The traffic that doesn’t convert well
2. The traffic that generates invalid / bad leads

Now, I’d agree that #2 type of traffic should be avoided as it’ll definitely save time in verifying the leads. Sources that generate invalid or bad leads pose a risk : You end-up paying for the invalid leads if those aren’t detected, and even if the invalid leads are detected well, the very process definitely adds an overhead.

The traffic which we should just love is the #1 type of affiliate traffic. Marketing teams generally rush to the affiliate agency as soon as they detect that the traffic from one of the affiliates isn’t converting well. This is because, the low conversion rate of a high traffic affiliate would adversely impact the  overall conversion rate of the site – and hence showing up bad on the reports!

But wait.. Assuming that your site doesn’t get practically slowed down by this traffic, I don’t see anything wrong with the traffic to get rejected! Well, with affiliate traffic – you pay only for the conversions. So, essentially the non-converting traffic you get is all a bonus. Plus, affiliates usually run on 30/45 day cookie. So, if even a small percent of the huge non-converting traffic is converting after the 45 days, you don’t pay for the conversion. More bonus!

Let’s take a use-case. I plan to fly abroad 6 months from now. I come across this ad for a cheap flight booking site through an affiliate ad. I simply bookmark the site. I come back after 3 months and complete my booking with the site. How often do we do this?

Why do marketers forget the product / brand awareness created by the campaign, which could lead to long-term gains? Too much focus on only conversions, isn’t a good thing!

How to get Youtube embed code in new interface

May 1st, 2011 by Linus Xavier No comments »

Youtube has been making changes to the interface recently. Today, I was trying to get the HTML embed code for a certain video from Youtube, and I had to break my head for about 10-15 minutes to figure out where the code is.  Possibly Youtube wants to hide its embed code, and hence discourage its usage. You see, it’s not very profitable for Youtube to spend its bandwidth & server resources for videos embedded on other sites.

Anyway, here it is. Just below the video – click the “Share” button. Now, a link to the video is displayed ready to be copied. Below that, there’s the small “Embed” button. Click it to get the embed code for the video. Hope this helps!

Why will Tumblr dethrone Twitter and Why should you start “Tumbling”

April 24th, 2011 by Linus Xavier 1 comment »

Twitter has become such a powerful force, in a relatively short period. But, how long is it going to be at the helm? The days are numbered, I’d say. Twitter was an excellent idea – however, it was started without monetization plans or future growth ideas. The power of Twitter lies in its simplicity, which really helped in the acceptance of the platform by the masses.

Now, Twitter by definition is a micro-blogging service – which lets you share content limited to 140 characters. This limitation in content size was possibly due to two reasons:

1. Twitter wanted content to be shared via SMS, which was limited to 160 chars
2. Twitter, by very defintion was intended to share bits of content

Social Media is like a 2-sided market place. The platform should be optimal for both the content publishers & the target audience (yet another reason, why Twitter clicked!). Most Twitter publishers publish content, along with a URL (usually shortened) they want the audience to visit. Content publisher’s #1 way would’ve been if the audience could follow their RSS feeds. However, the audience found it easier to follow Twitter, instead. Hence the publishers had to move to Twitter as well!

Now, what’s Tumblr? If Twitter is like a house-hold knife, Tumblr is Swiss Army Knife. Tumblr describes itself as follows:

“Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos, from your browser, phone, desktop, email, or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors, to your theme’s HTML.”

The posts in Tumblr are called as Tumblogs, and they aren’t limited to text. They can be text, audio recordings (sent directly from mobile – and you don’t need internet enabled on your phone!). In addition it comes as a package. With Twitter, one needs to have accounts with URL shortening services & analyse the traffic there. On the other hand, Tumblr allows Google Analytics integration! You can’t make Tumblogs from Twitter – but you can tweet from Tumblr!  Optionally, one can also post Facebook updates from Tumblr.

In short, Tumblr gives you all the tools to publish content. The question is, can Tumblr outscore Twitter’s strength – its simplicity?  Tumblr is currently ranked 54 on Alexa, which is extremely good. However, in a “winner-takes-it-all” market where it is, it needs to reach the masses. When internet was new, no one knew how to send emails. Then, everyone learnt to. Video streaming wasn’t popular with slow internet connections. But, Youtube changed the rule, and got adopted. Twitter achieved excellent adoption as well.

Tumblr is an out-right winner in terms of features. The only barrier I can see is with adoption, which I believe Tumblr will achieve with time. Then, Twitter will be a thing of past!

Why shouldn’t you let an Intern handle Twitter account

March 27th, 2011 by Linus Xavier No comments »

Apparently, Marc Jacobs just did that. See what happened.

Rail Bookings: IRCTC vs Makemytrip

March 26th, 2011 by Linus Xavier No comments »

Why would I book my train tickets on Makemytrip by paying an additional fee, while IRCTC gives the same tickets for less?

Before getting on to the details, I assume that most of us would’ve used IRCTC ( for booking trains. Originally, tickets could be booked through IRCTC portal, or directly at booking offices. People started trusting offline agents, to get tickets because – it was easier to get tickets through agents (although the agents charged their own commissions). Now, why were people willing to pay more to agents – it was because of assured ticket availability (or the agent had higher chances of getting a ticket). Agents knew the tricks of getting tickets, through the rush hours, when booking opens for normal / tatkal tickets.

After sometime, OTAs like Cleartrip, Makemytrip & Yatra ventured into rail booking. These OTAs are allowed to take bookings an hour after the bookings open at IRCTC. Usually Tatkal (and sometimes even normal tickets) are sold out on busy sectors by this time. These OTAs charge a fee, in addition to the IRCTC fare. But have they added value? They have, well to some extent. The booking is easier for sure : Better user interface, saved payment details & one consolidated place for air & rail bookings. Plus, better customer support relative to IRCTC.

However, is the ease of use good enough for the commission? May be, to some extent. How useful is this, if tickets aren’t even available? The trick is to maximise ticket availability. How? Take a look at Makemytrip have done. They’ve worked within the restrictions to maximise ticket availability in trains.

First, when you look for tickets – the system automatically identifies near-by stations and looks for points between which tickets are available. For example, if you’re trying to book a ticket between Bangalore City & Chennai Central you probably won’t get a ticket. However, you might get a ticket from Kengeri (outskirts of Bangalore) or Krishnarajapuram to Chennai Central. Makemytrip does all the permutations between stations internally & hence maximises ticket availability. When I used Makemytrip first to book trains, I was amazed at the intelligence level of this product.

Second, the flexibility of the system. Often one books a train, because the journey is more convenient. For them journey by train is important – timing, class are less important. For some, even travel dates are less important. Makemytrip lets you look for ticket availability across all classes (and/or) if required across multiple dates too – with one click.

Well, once you check the availability on Makemytrip can’t I go back to IRCTC & book the same ticket without paying the agent fee? I can. But I guess the force of requital comes into play here. Add to that the other benefits I’ve mentioned above.

Only problem with their product is the IT implementation – I have always encountered some not-so-serious errors while booking on Makemytrip. Shortcomings apart, I must say – Makemytrip, you beauty!

Sachin Ton & India Losing isn’t Myth, its Stats

March 15th, 2011 by Linus Xavier 5 comments »

The intention of this post is not to hurt anyone, but to prove that the statistics presented to me by some people are plain rubbish. As an Indian, I want Sachin to score centuries & also India to win.

Let me make onething clear – I’m not trying to say that Sachin makes India lose by scoring centuries. All I’m trying to state here is, statistically India lose more when Sachin scores a century. This could be because – others don’t play well when Sachin does, or possibly even there’s a conspiracy in the team to lose when Sachin scores a century!

Let us assume that a hypothetical player has 15 centuries in winning cause. Would you say that he’s outstanding? Well may be – IF he had totally made 15 centuries and all 15 centuries were in winning causes. What if the player made 100 centuries and only 15 were in winning causes? Not so great yeah? That’s why we need to look at Team’s winning percentage, when a player scores a century. If you look the percentages below – you’ll find why the critics are complaining. Sachin’s centuries contribute the least to winning at 69%. You may say that the Indian team has been bad – but why has the team been so bad only when Sachin scores centuries? Ganguly has a 82% success rate & Sehwag has 93%.

Now, look at this table. Since 2004 India overall has a 57% winning rate. However, during the same period India has a 42% winning rate in matches where Sachin has scored a century, which is considerably low.

Why is this? Is there a conspiracy against Sachin in the team? Or is it just that the other players take it easy when Sachin plays well.

PS: I’m hoping that Sachin & other players would work on improving these numbers!