Google Analytics: some of the new features explained

It seems that scarcely a week can go by here without us having to talk about Google. It’s not our fault, they keep doing stuff! This time they’ve upgraded Google Analytics, their immensely powerful tool for tracking activity on your website, such as what users of your site are looking at, how many of them there are, how they got there, where they go afterwards, what they’re interacting with and for how long.


The big change

Aside from the interface improvements, which we’re sure you can discover for yourselves, the flagship new feature appears to be real-time activity monitoring. As the web gets faster and faster, and web designers have to be increasingly more fluidic in their approaches, this new tool will allow you to see what’s happening on your site literally as it happens. Seeing what people are doing on your website as they do it will probably at first be a bit of a novelty, but the practical applications for it are potentially huge, and will allow for a far more proactive approach to web design. Just written an amazing blog post that you want to tell your Twitter followers about? Well now you can see how many people answer that call to action after one hour, two hours, a day etc. Knowing this could help you to refine what might at the moment be a relatively scattergun approach to content sharing, as different types of sharing might have varying degrees of impact for different types of content. Perhaps links posted in some places carry a longer tail than in others, in that people are still clicking that Facebook link after a week, but not the Twitter one.


The other big change

Along the same sorts of lines, you’ll also be able to track which channels (such as searches, social networks, affiliate links etc.) customers have interacted with in the 30 days prior to conversion (purchase), rather than just the last channel that resulted in that conversion. We’ve been saying for a while now how important it is to have a multi-channel digital marketing strategy, and now you’ll be able to see the proof and optimise accordingly. For instance, with sequential marketing you could potentially derive a specific order that you wish to engage certain customers in, like affiliate/Facebook/mailing list, or print advert/organic search/deal of the day. There’s a lot of potential there, particularly as so many online customers tend to do their homework before parting with their money. Now you’ll be able to see how much of a part you played in that process, and what more you could therefore be doing.


The slightly smaller changes

With the increasing popularity of mobile browsing, and responsive web design subsequently becoming more and more important, it behoves a good web designer to know what the browsing habits of their audience are. Now you’ll be able to see what parts of a site people find more or less popular on their mobiles. For example a ticker tape bar might look great on a computer screen, but people might have trouble clicking it on a mobile browser, that is if it shows up at all. It will even show you which devices people are using, which again might be a bit of a novelty to start with, but will no doubt become invaluable information when designing sites for mobile access in the future. Another improvement is flow visualisation, which will allow you to see the analytic information for how people navigate to, through and from your website expressed as a flow graphic. This might seem aesthetic at first, but it will give you an easily digestible insight into your users’ activity, and it looks brilliant. This one will really become what you make of it.


There’s still plenty of time to acquaint yourself with this new upgrade, and indeed you’ll still be able to roll back to the old version until early 2012. However once you’ve seen what this version can do, and how useful these analytics can be for web designers and website owners alike, we don’t see why you’ll want to.