[flickr]photo:3660878290[/flickr]Google Analytics has been the premiere free analytics solution for a few years now, but the landscape is changing. The purchase of IndexTools by Yahoo!, and the release of adCenter Analytics by Microsoft, have now threatened Google’s reign over this space. IndexTools in particular, has potential to be a very advanced analytics solution, for very little cost, if not completely free. The tools isn’t quite at the out-of-the-box Omniture or WebTrends offerings, but it is pretty close. All that is good discussion for a separate blog post, for now let’s focus on Google Analytics. In the last week or so, several enhancements to Google Analytics were introduced, two of them what I would consider major improvements to the product and major changes to the free analytics space.
The first change is the Overview interface. You now have a quick view of the performance of any Website Profiles in your account. It displays four metrics (Visits, Avg. Time on Site, Bounce Rate, Completed Goals) along with the id and URL of each of your sites, but the best feature is a percent delta column, which you can choose any of those four metrics for. So, as you can see in the screenshot, visits to the two sites has decreased in the last 30 days, and the big red arrow let’s me know this with a quick view.
[flickr]photo:3660080531[/flickr]Moving onto the individual site data, the two glaring differences that I’ll focus on, are Advanced Segmentation and Custom Reporting. The Advanced Segmentation dropdown appears right in the upper left corner of the dashboard, the screenshot shows what it looks like when it is clicked on. I’ve created a custom segment called “Returning Visitors – Seattle”. Pretty self explanatory: it includes returning visitors from Settle.
[flickr]photo:3660080653[/flickr]I won’t go into details on creating segments, but it is really easy, and like the new custom reporting interface, very Web 2.0 with drag-and-drop boxes. Besides the custom segments, there are also default segments, and you can add any of these into any report you are viewing. So on the fly, I can have my New vs. Returning Visitors report display Search Traffic, alongside the All Visits traffic (screenshot above). This facilitates measuring many comparisons and ratios, that used to require quite a few more steps and effort.
As previously mentioned, the Custom Reporting interface is slick and easy to use. You have the ability to add any metrics (columns) and dimensions (rows) you choose. One important feature, the system prevents you from creating invalid combinations of metrics and dimensions, something certain high priced analytics solutions often permit.
[flickr]photo:3660080959[/flickr]Finally, your reports can have multiple tabs, with separate metrics in them. So, in the report shown, I’ve created a tab for basic consumption metrics (page views, pages per visit, unique pageviews, etc.) and another for search metrics (visits with search, search depth, search exits, etc.). I can easily switch between the tabs, essentially packing two reports into one. The report itself is Visitor Type x City; it displays new vs. returning visitors by city.
There are several other minor enhancements to Google Analytics, but I’ll let you discover those on your own. The addition of segmentation and custom reports adds so much value to the package; it is a fantastic improvment for the hardcore GA users. Overall is great for the entire analytics space: it forces the paid solutions to further increase their value through their advanced features, and it also results in the free solutions catering to a larger and more sophisticated base of analytics users.