Google Analytics, if you’re not using it you should be

I’ve been using Google Analytics for about a month to track 4 of my sites (and more recently this one as well) and I am impressed! The key (in my mind) to Google Analytics and other high end commerical solutions like Fireclick and Omniture is that they use client side Javascript based tracking which is far less prone to crawler inflation and provides more information (e.g. flash version, screen resolution, color depth, etc..) than log based solutions.

Sure, you lose the 1-2% of users that have Javascript disabled but that’s a lot more accurate than the 15-30% overcounts I’ve seen in many log based solutions. If you’ve ever used AWStats on a high traffic site you’ve likely observed the gross overcounting that occurs from crawlers when AWStats doesn’t know about, spam bots,
etc…

In summary Google Analytics offers a lot of the features of the high end commerical solutions such as site overlay (temporarily disabled), funnel analysis, conversion or goal tracking, cookie based returning and unique visitor stats, detailed client stats, etc… and best of all it’s free. If you’ve got a personal website or are a small to medium sized company you’d be crazy not to at least try it!

That said, there are a few features I would like to see in Google Analytics:
1. Google Analytics desktop dashboard that gives me a quick overview of each of my sites at a glance so I wouldn’t have to login each time.

2. Live traffic data. I haven’t found a way to get up to the minute page view counts which is critical for identifying massive traffic spikes when they happen instead of the next day.

3. Similar to 1 but an aggregate report on the web version that gives me an overview of each of my sites next to each other. As it is I have to drill down into each site to get even basic overview info.

4. The one big feature I would like to see would be on the fly drag and drop pathway analysis like Fireclick and Omniture both offer.

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4 Responses to Google Analytics, if you’re not using it you should be

  1. Todd – I’m struggling to learn how to use Google Analytics. I’m fairly sophisticated from an analytical skills standpoint, but I must admit that the inner workings of web site traffic analysis is a new subject for me and the variety of availabel tools is a bit bewildering. I’m bloggng about what I’m learning (for example, here’s a recent article: http://ddmcd.squarespace.com/managing-technology/learning-to-use-google-analytics-part-2.html)

    One of the annoyances I noticed was tha need to collapse and categorize pages into content categories manually before analyzing; I explain this in the article but it seems to me that there should be a way to get Google to get a signe page referred to in ist data anlaysis whether or not the link contains a forward slash on the end or not.

    Anyway, can you suggest any web sites that provide basic instratuctions on how to best use Google Analytics?

  2. Todd Huss says:

    Hi Dennis, thanks for the comment, good article on learning to use Google and your frustrations. I guess I found the transition relatively easy because I’ve spent a fair amount of time using similar commerical web analytics services. That said, the Google (former Urchin) analytics interface lacks some of the features and finess of the larger services but for free it’s the best thing going by far! I don’t know of good intro materials off the top of my head but if you have a specific question I should be able to answer it.

  3. Richard Hull says:

    Hmmmm…. sharp graphics, snazzy drill-downs, sophisticated, easy, free-to-use, etc. — I can see why you would want to use google-analytics on your site, but don’t forget that there is a price to pay: I can’t help but think that this is another ubiquitous example of Google attempting to capture every morcel of online activity. Not satisfied with retaining my search habits, my emails, or what news I read, they now know what site’s I’m browsing too. Great.

  4. I’ve been struggling to learn Google Analytics — I’m now up to 4 blog entries on the topic of “Learning Google Analytics,” and here’s a link to number 4:

    http://www.ddmcd.com/learning_google_analytics_04.html

    This has been a “learn by doing” in my spare time type of epxerience. I continue to be amazed at the variety of tools available here, but learning them is taking quite a bit of time and I don’t want to make this a full time job!

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