Google Analytics

A while back Google did something that forever changed the way I look at free website statistics. They took Urchin (a $5,000 website tracking program), renamed it Analytics, and then gave it away for FREE. There is so much about this topic that interests me, I thought I would try and spread the word a bit more…

Urchin is a professional grade, log & .ASP based, website analysis tool. When purchasing Urchin, of course there are different packages to chose from. But if you want to have all the features that Google Analytics provides for free, then you would have to dish out roughly $5,000.

“What’s the catch?” you ask… Well, first off Analytics isn’t “exactly” the same program of course so there are some pros and cons to take into account. The biggest difference is that Analytics gets its information because of a small script that the website owner embeds in the footer of the website. Urchin gets its information from the log files on the web server and dynamic code on the server (Active Server Pages).

Basically speaking… A script can be blocked, the log files and server language can’t. Another difference between the two is that Urchin can suit your needs better if your website is behind a security firewall that prevents you from using Analytics, but this is VERY rare from my experience.

What this means is that while Urchin tracks everything that happens on the web server (which IS just about everything), Analytics can only track information for users that allow the script to run and are browsing your website at the time. This equates to roughly 75% of the total users from my personal experience using both of them on the same website for the past year.

In reality, that percentage is probably lower than you will experience since I purposely filter out internal traffic from the company offices of that website.

Some internet users who are a bit on the paranoid side intentionally block the Analytics script fearing that their privacy is being compromised. I for one can tell you that no personal information is collected from the script. At most, the website owner will know that user “A” is using Internet Explorer on a Windows XP computer and user “B” is using FireFox on a Linix computer, and also what their IP address is. This information is the standard log format for all web servers, even ones that do not have ANY type of specific tracking installed.

Now, this is what you have to ask yourself…

  • Do I have limited funding for my website analysis, or none at all?
  • Would I like to understand the common trends and details of my visitors?
  • Do I need to know exactly what every single visitor does on my website?

If you answered yes to the first 2 questions, go sign up for Google Analytics right now by clicking HERE. If you answered yes to the last 2 questions then warm up your credit card for some serious exersise and then click HERE.

Thats what I thought…

Now, to top it off… Google has just revamped the entire Analytics interface to be more usefull, and it actually did help me find the information I wanted faster. The new interface is also customizable, you can drag and drop sections around and add new sections from the depths of the menu items on the left.

The Old Look

Analytics Old Dashboard

The New Look

Analytics New Dashboard

There really is a TON if information here. You can see what pages are more popular than others; what page was the first page that brought the user to your website; what pages that when the user saw them, they immediatley left your website; and you can also see the common paths from one page to the next, to the next, until the user leaves the website. This can really be helpfull in letting you know if there is page on your website that YOU like, but nobody else does and it makes them want to leave the site altogether.

More Stats

One other important feature of Google Analytics is that it integrates with Google AdWords. If you use AdWords, and you have setup conversion tracking, then Analytics can also take your advertising sources into account. You can find out what ads are working and what ads you should stop wasting your money on. You can also find out what keywords are more likley to end up generating a conversion.

Also, in addition to AdWords “conversion tracking”, Analytics lets you define “conversion goals” such as a newsletter signup, a request for more info, or the purchase of a product. These conversion goals will provide you with conversion info no matter where the user came from. You can see what referral links you have out there that bring in lots of visitors but none of them are ever interested in your services or products. And, just an important… what referral links you have out there that bring in a low amount of visitors but a good majority of them are very interested in your services or products.

Conversion Goals

Implimentation is easy as well, you just copy and paste the code that Google Analytics gives you into the bottom of each of your your website pages. If you use a common footer include, you can put it there and it will automatically go into every page in your website. The reason you want to put the code at the bottom of the page is that you dont want the script slowing your users down. Pages load from the top of the pages code to the bottom. If the script takes a few seconds to load, at least your content was already loaded first for the user.

In the end, the cost vs. reward for Google Analytics is unmatched!

About the author

RJ Ponzio

RJ founded Shore Web Tech LLC in 2011. The mission of Shore Web Tech (SWT) is to help small and medium local businesses take advantage of today's affordable technology solutions. RJ currently holds Google's "AdWords Qualified Individual" certification.

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