4 Great Reasons to use Google Analytics

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Having used a large number of web site visitor trackers over the
years, I first approached Google Analytics some time ago, with the
somewhat jaded attitude of someone who's 'seen it all' or at least
'seen most of it'. What could possibly make this particular utility
stand out in such a large crowd of competitors?

But first... What is Google Analytics?

Analytics is Google's very own visitor tracking utility, allowing
webmasters to keep tabs on traffic to their site, including visitor
numbers, traffic sources, visitor behaviour & trends, times spent on
the site and a host of other information gathered via two pieces of
JavaScript embedded in the source-code.

Unlike other free visitor trackers, which insist on displaying
annoying and often amateurish badges or buttons when they are being
used, Google Analytics simply runs quietly in the background,
gathering the necessary information without any visible signs of its

Which brings me quite neatly to Analytics' first major plus-point; the
price. What webmasters are effectively getting, is a fully fledged
visitor tracking utility without all the irritations and limitations
normally associated with free products of this type.

Ok, so its free; but is it any good?

In a word; yes.

The sheer depth of information gathered, really leaves very little to
be desired. From search engine analysis to page views, bounce-rates
and more, the available data is presented so as to give users an easy
overview of the most essential elements, with the ability to 'drill
down' to less commonly accessed or more in-depth statistics and

Additionally, on the 18th of July 2007, the Google Analytics old user
interface was discontinued, making way for a newer, more ergonomic
look which makes reports more accessible and the interface itself more
intuitive for the user.

The new Dashboard provides 'at a glance' visitor statistics for the
previous month, as well as a graphical breakdown of your visitor's
geographical locations in the form of a world map. A pie chart clearly
shows what proportion of visitors reached the site through search
engines, by referral or through direct access, whereas the 'Content
Overview' provides a list of the most commonly accessed pages.

What makes Google Analytics special though?

Although Analytics boasts all the features and statistical data to be
expected from a top-class keyword analysis and statistics tracker, it
also features a number of additional tools which put it ahead of the
most of the pack where ease-of-use and depth-of-information is

1. The Map Overlay

Essentially, this feature brings up a map of the world, highlighting
the countries a site's visitors stem from. Clicking on a country
produces a close-up view, along with a geographical breakdown
according to the region and/or city from which visitors accessed the
site. This tool in itself is invaluable for all those webmasters with
geo-specific sites, concentrating on a particular catchment area.

2. The Site Overlay

This is conceivably Google Analytics' single most important feature
from a webmaster's or online business owner's perspective, as it
provides a hands-on view of visitor behaviour. When clicked, 'Site
Overlay' opens the tracked web site in a new window and, after a
moment's loading time, overlays each link on the screen with a bar,
containing information about clicks to the target page and goal values
reached [more about goal values in a moment]. Since it allows the
webmaster or site owner to navigate his or her site and see exactly
how visitors flow through it, it is difficult to imagine a more
effective tool than this as far as raising a site's conversion rates
is concerned.

3. Goals and Funnels

Unless the site being tracked is an information site which does not
rely on generating sales or enquiries, conversion rates are as
important as sheer visitor numbers. The 'Goals & Funnels' feature
allows users to set up specific goals for their site, such as tracking
a visitor to the 'Thank you for your enquiry' page for instance. It
also allows the user to set up specific monetary values for each goal,
and thus track the site's financial performance and profitability
during any given period of time.

The term 'Funnels' refers to the specific path a visitor takes to
reach the goal's target page. Since most web sites sell a number of
different product ranges or feature a number of ways to enquire, all
of which lead to a single 'Thank You' page, the funnel allows for the
tracking of each individual path with a minimum of fuss.

4. Graphical Representations

A great many visitor trackers out there will present the collected
information in a certain way, be it a list, graph, pie chart, flow-
chart or whatever. Whilst all these methods of presentation are of
course valid, it is nevertheless a fact that most users are different,
and a pie-chart is not necessarily ideal for those users preferring to
work with graphs or vice versa. Google Analytics however, allows users
to choose between views on many of its reports. Although this may seem
like a relatively minor point, it nevertheless makes things easier, as
it allows the user to work with the view he or she is most comfortable

In Conclusion:

Google Analytics provides webmasters and site owners with a highly
effective means of tracking visitors and analysing statistical data,
easily the equal of most subscription based services in the industry.

Although some concerns have been voiced amongst more paranoid internet
users, that Google puts everyone's collective data to its own evil
demographic uses, there really are precious few reasons not to
recommend this fantastic tool as one of the best means to boost any
web promotion and marketing campaign.

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