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Google put the anal into Analytics

My prayers appear to have been answered. The new version of Google Analytics is here and it’s a huge improvement. For a start, Google Analytics is now task-based, rather than the raw, almost visceral collection of filters we had before, which often scared the pants off my clients when I signed them up as Users to view their statistics.

As I mentioned in a recent Google Analytics post on Brian Heys’ ‘blog:

“The thing I least liked about the old version of Google Analytics was that it was just a bunch of largely unrelated filters.

It’s almost like Google / Urchin had said: ‘Look, here’s your data. Go figure, dude!’

I wanted something more task-oriented. The new version seems to cover that.

But there are some issues, which I’ve emailed Google about.

However, if it’s ‘Lite’ web statistics you’re after, try Clicky which is much more instant and accessible…”

And there’s a lot to be said in favour of Clicky, but it’s Google Analytics we’re here to talk about, not Clicky.

For all of its new smarts, the new and improved Google Analytics has thus far scared two clients, who – were formally scared bereft of pants by the previous iteration – are now equally scared of the new version.

The good

But fear not, ‘coz Google has quite neatly offered an option to access Google Analytics via the old interface, which will in one fell swoop gather together the aforementioned pants and at once, re-clothe my clients.

The new UI (User Interface) is a massive improvement over the previous version, with the very clear at-a-glance appearance, giving you more of a feel of something that offers an insight into the direction that Google are taking.

Talk was of Google working to come up with a common UI across all of their applications, which you can see evidence of if you look at the likes of Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Reader (a common web application used by some of the regulars to Blah, Blah! Technology) Google Calendar et cetera, all of which exhibit a similar feel.

The process of drilling down through the layers of data is now a simpler, more visually rewarding task. In simple terms, Google have just spread everything out more.

So there are now nice, bold titles and a fearless use of white space. All of which means that the previous cramped busyness of things is consigned to history.

What’s also nice is that the Export functions are more obvious, which helps. The amount of options within Google Analytics is at times quite baffling while also being beguiling.

But because things are now task-based, it’s much easier to do stuff like find all visitors from a particular province / state / county who used a particular search query, for example.

The new visual richness, which does quite at once lift Google Analytics into the realms of a true RIA (Rich Internet Application) means that even when you do get lost – because you will – you don’t feel quite so bad, and the very accessible navigation will pull you up out of your lostness.

And so it is that the layers of data are now exposed, lifted to the surface with fewer clicks without loosing any of the anal retentiveness of the earlier version.

To imbue some sense of data ownership, the new Dashboard allows you to move the furniture around.

The page is divided up into Overviews, which can be dragged around, or even removed. If you want, you can add others from elsewhere within the various parts of Google Analytics, which means you can build your very own Dashboard.

Sort of web-based data-mining Feng Shui, if you like.

The bad

However, there’s a problem with this idea.

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve added your clients as Users to their Reports, which means that they’re also quite free to create their own Dashboards.

Problems then begin to surface when you try talking a client through something via the Dashboard when they’ve moved their furniture around in a very different arrangement to your own.

While there’s some huge improvements to Google Analytics, there are some shortcomings, too.

For example, the previous iteration showed a graph of visits and page views combined. That’s now gone. You either have one or t’other, which is a step back.

Additionally, the graph that we do have is just aching to be clickable. So why can’t we? Why can’t we click those big ol’ blue dots and be magically taken away to view the web statistics and traffic details for that day?

Then there’s the still unresolved problem of having to send a written letter to Google requesting a change to the time zone.

Oh yeah, got to luv that one!

Despite what I’ve said, what’s still really good about Google Analytics is that it’s still free.

But if I must complain…

The not so much ugly, but really annoying

Why on Earth can we not see our data in real time?

OK, I know I said this wasn’t going to be about Clicky, or about MyBlogLog, or FeedBurner, for that matter. But what do all these guys have in common? They all offer real-time data.

What’s most galling is that the service from FeedBurner is almost a moment of: “Oh, by the way, you can do the web stats’ thing’n all, guys!”

It’s especially odd that Google doesn’t offer this functionality because they’ve now tied Google Analytics into Google AdWords more comprehensively.

And anyone who has used Google AdWords will tell you, you have to watch your spend .. like, every hour!

So imagine what you’d be able to do if you could see all of the web traffic filtering in and do live Split Testing?

Yes, imagine that Mr. Google?

And what else might Google do if they decided to push things a little and make their applications work not just harder, but more in a together sort of way?

Overall, there’s some huge improvements to Google Analytics, but the lack of real-time web statistics means I’m going to hang onto my equally free Clicky account for a little while longer…

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

6 replies on “Google put the anal into Analytics”

Thanks a lot for the link, Wayne. I agree with your comments about the new Google Analytics, and I was *this* close to switching to the new WordPress Stats.

One thing I really miss that was in the old one, however, is an at-a-glance world map that shows visitors concentrations. The new one forces you to drill down into it, and isn’t as good.

“Thanks a lot for the link, Wayne.”

That’s all right. Don’t mention it.

“One thing I really miss that was in the old one, however, is an at-a-glance world map that shows visitors concentrations.”

Yeah, some of my clients liked that, too.

I’ve got an article on Personal Branding coming up for tomorrow.

I might have to move it on a day or two after this Google Analytics article, what with words like: sex, pornstar and anal popping up in two articles back-to-back…

Hi Justin, Clicky is a lot cheaper than Hittail. Plus, we use Clicky for as-it-happens web traffic analysis, while Google Analytics is for the holistic stuff.

As for the feed subscriptions, I’ll look into it.

Speak soon…

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