Google has provided website owners its Google Analytics website traffic tracking and analysis tool for free for quite some time now. When we heard that they were about to put a new face on what was already an excellent analytics tool I must admit that some of our clients and I were quite skeptical about how such a great offering could be improved upon and remain free. Oh how our skepticism was unfounded!
The new interface, features, and functionality are simply fantastic. We work with several clients who have various levels of analytics need. Our larger clients rely on detailed user segmentation that tools like HBX and Omniture can provide. But packages of that caliber come at quite a price...five figures a year and up usually. So the common question from our smaller clients is "what do these large, expensive platforms offer that Google Analytics doesn't? What makes tools like HBX and Omniture worth all that money?"
Our usual answer focuses heavily on the availability of ad hoc analysis features, virtually limitless and sometimes instantaneous data segmentation, and data portability (being able to pull the data via feed or API into other applications). Also, HBX's Report Builder tool is worth its weight in gold. However this new release of Google Analytics really pushes the envelope into a few of these areas, namely ad-hoc analysis and segmentation.
The ability to slice, dice and filter data in the new interface is enhanced and the mostly-Flash-based application is incredibly fast. The new layout of key metrics, with a big focus on "key performance indicators" like pages per visit is a huge nod to the works of Stephen Few and Eric Peterson (two people of which we are big fans!). Additionally, the "spark lines" for quick trend visualization and super clean interface overall are a literal nod to the modern godfather of graphical representation Edward Tufte.
You can also set up auto emailed reports that are delivered to your (or your bosses) email inbox at whatever frequency you wish (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly). This feature is huge for busy executives and business owners who don't have the time to login to an analytics tool everyday and check on their traffic. With this feature, the info you need is sitting right in your inbox as often as you need it.
Finally, with the new Google product it is possible to segment your analytics data by user type, or a user behavior. For example: if you can get users to tell you their occupation via a web form, you can segment your traffic on that information - show all your stats for just the doctors, or just the landscapers, etc. You could segment your data by those visitors that purchased and those that didn't. Those that filled out a contact form and those that didn't. How are their behaviors different? How can you encourage the more desired behavior? There are a million and one possible things that can be done with this, too many to list here.
There is a lot more to say about this new release of Google Analytics, but the bottom line for our clients is: Google just got you get even closer to the high-end analytics tools, with a much lower investment. The product itself is still FREE, the only cost is the time taken on setting it up and customizing things to track your sites conversion goals, funnels, etc specifically.
Please contact us if you would like to talk about how implementing Google Analytics can help you understand your online customers better. If you're in the NYC metro area, the coffee's on us, you bring the questions.