Google Analytics





I have been testing Google Analytics for a couple of months now, and thought it appropriate to share my experience with this tool.

Setup

You’ll sign up using your Google/Gmail account. There used to be a wait time before Google will give you access, but now you can instantly use Google Analytics. For each page you want to track, you will stick a short Javascript snippet at the end of your HTML page. This can be time-consuming if you have lots of pages and no way to do it automatically.

Update Frequency

Data seems to be updated twice a day, once just past noon and once just past midnight (Pacific Time).

Type of Metrics Reported

At the summary level, it shows Visits/Pageviews, New/Returning Visitors, Visitor Geography, and Visits by Source (referer). If you are only interested in a high-level understanding of your traffic, this summary page by itself would be sufficient. There are additional reports that would allow you to dig deeper. In addition, Google Analytics also provides a way to track goals (basically you are specifying a webpage as your destination page, or the end of your funnel) as well as integration with AdWords.

Other Comments

There are some concerns in the webmaster community that Google might be having too much of your site’s information, and one day Google will turn this against the webmasters. Personally, I am not concerned. My views are:

1) Allowing Google to get more information on my visitors could in the future help them drive more traffic to my site, so actually it might be a positive.

2) Google can already track a lot of those information via the Google toolbar anyway, so using Google Analytics for website traffic analysis really doesn’t pose an additional risk.

3) Google has repeatedly said that the data store for Google Analytics is separate from all other systems at Google, so the webmasters should not worry. Actually I am a bit more suspicious about this claim, because the fact that data is housed separately doesn’t guarantee that other groups within Google cannot access that information.

Summary

At the high level, this is a nice tool for someone who doesn’t have another way of analyzing his/her site traffic. Setup is straightforward, and the reporting interface is easy to use. At the same time, given that it only gives you the top channels (for example, top referers), Google Analytics is not sufficient for detailed web site traffic analysis. For that, you’ll want to go with a third-party tool or write your own script. In the future, I’ll talk about my experience in analyzing my site traffic.

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