23 Cool Things About Google Analytics Version 2

Not long ago, I shared my Google Analytics problems.

Not long ago, I replied to an article I thought isn’t too accurate.

Not long ago, Google Analytics launched an upgrade since its first public release. I am fine with the first version, considering that it delivers meaningful information more than just a typical free web analytics tool. But this release got me excited to try out its new features.

This new release puts emphasis on connecting website goals with every metric displayed. This is a good response to criticisms that free web analytics tools only give numbers. It also helps marketers easily understand how their campaigns (links, AdWords, etc) perform without becoming hardcore number crunchers.

1. New interface rocks
This new interface makes the older version look lame. Display screen is wider, more information is presented on a larger figures and a summary of the website performance without the need to click anything. Site Usage answers questions most likely asked by executives as they start inquiring about their sites.

New interface rocks

2. I can customize my dashboard
I can rearrange report elements I want to see in the dashboard. If I am a marketer who wants to know first-hand information on performance of my AdWords campaigns, I’d click the “Add To Dashboard” button on top of my AdWords reports and voilà, it becomes one of the first reports I see just after I log in. Same is true for a keyword conscious marketer who likes to track how many referrals for “asian financial news” delivered traffic to his website.

3. I can get reports even when I don’t log in
This is one major upgrade that I need to update my PowerPoint presentation about web analytics products comparison. The export function is still there (with additional PDF reports in version 2) but I can also send the report via e-mail immediately. Also, I can schedule reports to be sent through e-mail to me or whoever wants to receive. Additional reports can be submitted using the third tab called Add to Existing. Speaking of e-mails, Google also announced integration options to track performance of e-mail campaigns. Neat!

I can get reports even when I don’t log in

4. Segmenting users requires fewer clicks
I don’t need to dig in deeper to find an associated information regarding a certain metric. For example, if I want to find out where are users who go to my site by email links, bookmarks or typing my site URL are coming from, I just go to Traffic Sources |Direct Traffic and select Country or City in the Segment menu.

5. Comparing periodic performance is now easier to do
Timeline reports compare two distinct date ranges and once I use this feature, all reports reflect a comparison between these date ranges. Whether keyword performance, visits from specific cities or web browser usage patterns.

Comparing periodic performance is now easier to do

6. Better grouping of report segments
If I view a report, say about page views, it’s not only page view data I see in that instance. Without leaving the page, I can choose related report (on upper right side, there is a pull down menu that displays a selection of pageviews, visits, pages per visit, average time on site, etc.)

Better grouping of report segments

7. “About this report”
On every page, there is a description of a particular report. For dashboard, Google Analytics defines it as

The Dashboard is your customizable collection of report summaries. To add a report to this dashboard, first navigate to the report and then click “Add to Dashboard” at top left (directly below the report title). Change the position of reports in the Dashboard by clicking and dragging them. To remove a report summary from the Dashboard, click “remove” on the report summary. Click “view report” on the report summary to navigate to the full report.

Google Analytics even dives in to make me understand the significance of each report page using the Conversion University (discussed below).

8. Accessibility of Goal Conversion Data
As I mentioned earlier, one of the key elements found in the upgrade is the consolidation of site performance on almost every page using the goals I defined in setting up my website profile. I can determine if a keyword referrer delivers conversion or not. I can determine if visitors from Hong Kong make more conversions that visitors from Australia.

Accessibility of Goal Conversion Data

9. Trending is something
Sparklines (images sitting next to the numbers) are present on non-highlight metrics and gives me a snapshot of the trend for the past month or so (default report range is for the last 30 days). Without going to the report details, I see a snapshot of how traffic, page visits or bounce rates fared within that period of time. No, that’s not a logo as what I initially thought, but a small graphic representation of real data!

Trending is something

10. Interpreted data is readily available
I don’t have to look at the report numbers themselves. On Traffic Sources | Keywords, I can easily see:

Search sent 42,358 total visits via 4,479 keywords

or

Visitors completed 23 goal conversions

when you go to Goals without looking further. We see the picture quickly.

11. Reverse Goal Path
This report will tell me what are the common paths followed by users before they converted. This will help me further streamline my pages so that less impressive performing pages can be identified and fixed.

12. Funnel Visualization is now clearer
I visited Goals | Funnel Visualization and I see which pages are the top referrers going to my goal page, how many made conversions and if they did not convert what did they do? Went back to the previous page? Went to other categories or simply left my site? Conversion rate numbers are also there. With emphasis on numbers, I would not wonder “where the heck did that percentage come from?”.

Funnel Visualization is now clearer

13. I can click my browser “back” button again
This change meant one significant thing: I can now bookmark my reports if I don’t choose to add them to my dashboard. This is an improvement from the previous version which requires users to click several times before they can reach their desired reports.

14. PDF export format is now available
In addition to XML, CSV and TSV formats, PDF is now part of the update. This is especially useful when I am using data for presentation rather than importing them to Excel and doing pivot table analysis. PDFs are more appropriate reports to send to executives who might prefer to look at summaries while CSV formats are more suitable to number crunchers who want to extract more detailed information.

15. I can identify which link partners are delivering quality visitors
By looking at Traffic Sources | Referring Sites, I can tell which referrers are delivering the most traffic or how many pages on average they browse every time they look at my pages. But more importantly I can identify now easily which of them did deliver conversions. This is accomplished using the indispensable Goal Conversion tab.

I can identify which link partners are delivering quality visitors

16. I get the hint if my site works across different browsers
Hint: If the average time on site of someone who visits my site using Safari is obviously much shorter than the Internet Explorer or Firefox, then there must be something wrong. I get help by going to Browsers | Browser Capabilities | Browsers. Although this huge disparity doesn’t always indicate that my hint is correct, I have the reason to suspect instead of just saying, “Yeah, I know my site has anti-Firefox contents”. Or isn’t it?

17. Browsers + OS too!
Sometimes it’s not only due to a specific browser’s page rendering that causes the problems. (I quickly remember my days in the office when I have to spend half day or so hopping from one computer to another testing a web page across different browsers and platforms). It’s also how these browsers are supported by certain operating systems. I think this isn’t much of a problem now, but it’s good to verify using this “Browsers and OS” metric to make sure I am right in what I think.

Browsers + OS too!

18. Site overlay is improved
This is a feature I first saw in ClickTracks. Now, Google Analytics also displays Click Value apart from just the number of clicks on links. In effect this is similar to the clickthrough rate we often see at Pay Per Click measurements.

19. Data appears more instantaneously
In the older version I used to have problems displaying the numbers as I hover on certain points such as the number of visits and page views on a specific city. Now Google must have done its homework in making it work.

Data appears more instantaneously

20. Navigation Summary is now more useful
With reference to a particular page, say the directory of Hong Kong restaurants, it’s now quick to find out what pages my visitors come from and where they go. Do they usually come from the homepage link, a link from a Hong Kong dining resource site or elsewhere? From there, which restaurant pages are most visited and how many of these visitors end up exiting the site?

These type of questions can be answered by looking at the data at Top Content and click on Navigation Summary.

21. Better geographic conversion data
I can now identify if which users among Hong Kong, Madrid or Seattle stayed the longest in my site or have made the best conversions. With incorporation of date range comparisons, I can compare the same cities in terms of different cross-reference data: is Hong Kong a much better source of visitors this quarter than last quarter for my Traditional Chinese language pages?

Better geographic conversion data

22. Question marks are answered
All questions are answered and are available without going to the help pages. If I find an icon with a question mark symbol (?) that’s the key to answering my questions. Of course there are Help pages if you have more questions in mind. While these features are already available in the previous version, I had an enhanced user experience with these context help functions.

23. Conversion University insights
What is this metric for? What is the impact of this measurement relative to goal settings? Some questions are left unanswered because web analytics tools deliberately leave them off for users to interpret and understand. Google Analytics’ Conversion University is like a lecturer which tells us “use this report when you want to find the xxx” or “if you want to find out the top yyy” metrics. Try it!

I mentioned changes which are good. But there are also items that inherit their features from the older version. Setting up goals, filters, managing user access and tagging process remains pretty much the same. Which is good because they are really easy to configure and I see no problem in those processes. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.

One downside I see is that some data is misrepresented. When bounce rate goes down, it should be a good news, yet Google Analytics colors it red (undesirable effect). So it appears that the more people visit a landing page and leave the site, it is a good thing in the eyes of Google Analytics.

Next stop for version 3 (if Google will ever release one for FREE)? Eye tracking tools! If ever this gets incorporated, perhaps Google Analytics might need to be renamed too. Since Google is tagging Google Analytics code within the report pages (see the source code) itself, hopefully it will develop features based on how Google Analytics users behave within the confines of this report tool. We’ll see.

If you haven’t tried it, give it a shot. After all it’s just costs 0 dollars. If you dislike it, no problem, just cancel your account or you can leave it alone.

Thanks Jeff and Greg Veen!