Over the past eight months, Google has steadily released one revolutionary new feature after another. On March 17, the company announced a new version of Google Analytics. Up until this point, users could decide whether they preferred to stick with the old interface or switch to the new one. However, Google recently announced that the old version of GA will be turned off in January 2012.
If you’re not already familiar with the new version, take the next few weeks to get comfortable with it. To help you get started, let’s review the top 10 features of the new Google Analytics.
Dashboards got a much needed overhaul in the new GA. Users can now create up to 20 personalized dashboards, developing widgets and formats that make the most sense for them or their company. For instance, each company department could develop its own distinct dashboard to quickly access site performance statistics that relate to department goals. Keep in mind: Dashboards can only be shared by users on the same login.
At a minimum, these four widgets would benefit the average user.
- Visits – Timeline (can also include Metric)
- Goal Completions and/or Transactions – Timeline
- Source/Medium – Table
- Bounce Rate – Timeline
2. Keyword Clouds
Rather than viewing a long list of keywords to spot trends, users can now evaluate a keyword cloud. This cloud makes it easy to visualize top keywords based on different user-selected criteria, including visits, bounce rates and pages per visit.
3. Real-Time Data
In the past, Google Analytics data was typically delayed up to 24 hours after the visit. For the first time, GA offers a real-time data solution. With its real-time reports, users can view the activity on the site as it happens, drilling into the top active pages, top referrals, keywords and geographic locations driving the traffic. In addition to monitoring current activity on the site, these reports can also be used to test campaign tracking prior to launching campaigns.
4. Site Speed
When Google released this report several months ago, it required additional code to be added to sites. Now speed reporting is standard on GA, and doesn’t need extra code. Use the site speed reports to get information about average page load time.
Why is this important? A slow site can have a negative effect on quality score for paid search, so visits can cost more to a slower site. Google has also indicated that site speed may be an important factor in organic search rankings. Additionally, a one-second delay can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Use this report to monitor site speed and avoid these issues.
5. Search Simplifies Navigation
GA has activated menu search, a phenomenal usability update. The tool makes it easier for users to quickly navigate to the proper report. Google also created an account search that lets users directly access the correct profile, rather than scrolling through hundreds to locate the right one.
GA also introduced the ability to switch between multiple profiles while staying with and maintaining the settings of the same report. Previously this could only be done using a Firefox plugin.
6. Webmaster Tools
The new integration incorporates Google Webmaster Tools data into Google Analytics. Using this tool, users can get a better sense of which Google property (web, image, local) drove site traffic. Similar to statistics provided to paid search advertisers, Webmaster Tools provides impressions, average position and CTR data for GA.
Although the numbers are not 100% accurate, they can be used to evaluate relative trends and to provide insight into data lost due to Google’s search update. Although the Webmaster Tools report is in Google Analytics, it’s limited to a single part of GA.
7. Social Engagement
Use Google Analytics to track how visitors interact socially with your site. A 2010 study showed 54% of small and medium-sized businesses said they already use or plan to use social media, and 17% planned to increase their social budget again from 2010 to 2011. With more companies making a push for social, it makes sense to analyze social site interactions.
GA’s new social reports break down how many of a site’s visitors are socially engaged with the site, itemizing which social source and action occurred. That way you can determine how many of your visitors +1′d site content vs. how many Liked it, as well as the pages that prompted this social action. Social plugins ShareThis and AddThis easily integrate with Google Analytics, passing information on social interactions back to GA with minimal changes.
8. Visitor Flow & Goal Flow Visualization
Flow Visualization was announced in October, but only recently started rolling out to most users. Flow Visualization consists of two reports: Visitors Flow and Goal Flow. The Visitors Flow report can be used to visualize the “flow” of visitors through the site, while the Goal Flow is an improvement on the original Funnel Visualization reports.
The Goal Flow report is especially valuable, as it simplifies evaluating a conversion funnel. Have a checkout process six pages long? Now you can determine at which page people are abandoning their carts. Then improve the process and save the sales.
9. Event Tracking
Prior to this new feature, any goal interaction with a site that didn’t result in a new URL needed to be tracked using special code to create a virtual pageview, which resulted in inflated numbers in GA. For the first time, Events can be used as goals. Want to find out how many people downloaded a PDF? Interested in knowing how many visitors viewed more than 30 seconds of a video on your site? Now users can easily track these events without affecting other metrics.
10. Multi-Channel Funnels
The Multi-Channel Funnels are a series of reports intended to help provide attribution information. For example, a person visits your site first from a paid search ad, then from an organic search listing, then from a link in Twitter, and finally from an email link. Therefore, which channel should get credit for the conversion? With many analytics platforms, the credit goes to the final funnel, thus, the email marketing campaign.
Multiple reports in the new Multi-Channel Funnels allow users to view further back than the final channel. Now GA shows every interaction a user had with the site in the 30 days prior to conversion. Using these reports, departments can take credit for their assists to conversions, and companies can make more informed decisions about which marketing activities have the highest ROI.
These are just a few of the many great advancements made to Google Analytics with the new rollout. While there are still several features missing (such as the PDF and email export functionalities, percent comparisons, missing graph by week option, etc.), Google is constantly striving to correct these with future iterations of the platform.
What’s your favorite feature in the new Google Analytics?
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