Google to offer web traffic analysis services

11/14/2005 12:21:30 AM, by Ryan Paul

Google has officially launched Analytics, a robust new web analysis system
that provides site owners with traffic metrics and massive amounts of useful
marketing data. Based on technology originally developed by a Californian
company called Urchin that Google acquired in March, Analytics integrates
with Google's popular AdWords system, and will vastly improve the quality
and quantity of data provided to existing AdWords users. Those of you that
don't use AdWords can still use Analytics by adding a simple javascript
snippet to your web site.

Analytics features an elegant user interface that leverages modern web
technologies like Flash and DHTML. Although it seems a little rough around
the edges (the Flash components don't display correctly in Firefox on my
Linux system) the service is moderately impressive. It can export data in
several formats, including XML and CSV. With Analytics, you can determine
where your visitors are coming from, which links on your site are getting
the most hits, how long the visitors spend on various pages of your site,
and more:

    Learn how visitors interact with your website and identify the
navigational bottlenecks that keep them from completing your conversion
goals. Find out how profitable your keywords are across search engines and
campaigns. Pinpoint where your best customers come from and which markets
are most profitable to you. Google Analytics gives you this and more through
easy-to-understand visually enhanced reports.

It is still relatively difficult to get a good feel for the usefulness of
the system at this point, but with over 80 pre-built reports, support for
interactive report construction, and tracking for countless attributes, the
amount of data it provides is downright prodigious. In addition to providing
critical marketing data, it also tracks browser features so that web
developers can make informed design decisions. Analytics will tell you the
screen resolution and connection speed of your visitors, as well as whether
or not their browsers support Flash and Java. Flash-rendered graphs are
provided with each data collection so that you can get a quick visual

Although it may not be especially useful compared to some of the critical
features, the geographical map overlay is probably one of the coolest
features. Analytics will generate a Flash-based map of the world that shows
you which regions your traffic comes from. You can click individual regions
to get additional statistics, and you can use Flash's built-in zoom feature
to get a closer look at specific locations.

The site overlay mechanism is one of the other particularly interesting
features. It will superimpose click statistics on top of your actual page so
that you can (hypothetically) see what people are clicking just by browsing
your site. During my experiments with Analytics, I had some trouble getting
the site overlay feature to work correctly. Clicking the individual links in
the site overlay caused the Analytics start page to load in the iframe
rather than the actual content.

Analytics fits perfectly into Google's advertising platform and business
model. Despite the bugs (which may be specific to Linux or Firefox) Google's
newest service looks powerful and comprehensive. The value of the features
and the benefits of AdWords integration will probably be more than enough to
convince site owners to use AdWords rather than a competing service. 

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