Google Analytics Mini-Review

It took a few days for Google Analytics to start giving me meaningful reports for my sites, but now that it’s working, I wanted to write up a short post on it.

Google Analytics has a ton of features.  I've got it set up to track some of the sites I host, and the results are great.  The map on the right, for example, shows a map of visitors to this very blog over the last few days.  I had no idea so many of you were from Europe - Hi!

The UI for the service is still wonky.  By wonky I mean features don't work right.  I've submitted two requests to support so far - the first one came back as basically "yeah it's broken, here's a workaround", and I'm still waiting on the second.  But they've dealt with the initial slowness pretty well.  Tracking data is still nowhere near real-time - data from Friday still isn't visible, and it's Sunday now - but the UI is at least responsive and I have some data to look at.

Two aspects of the interface make it more than just another Analog or Webalizer.  First off, reports are grouped into views based on the type of user you are.  Choose 'Executive' and you just see the summary stuff; choose Webmaster and you see one set of reports, choose Marketer and you see a different set of reports.  It's fun to take off one hat and put on the other, and think about your site from these two perspectives. 

Some interesting tidbits:  While I'm glad to see that not a single visitor was using 640x480 as their screen resolution (it's almost a tie between 1280x1024 and 1024x768), some of you are still running Windows 98.  The visitors who found this page through a Google search (all 39 of you in the last 3 days) didn't go anywhere else on the site.  But the 257 of you who found this page generally did wander around the site a bit before leaving.  Mechanical Turk: Visual Studio Edition is the post that had the most people look around the site before leaving.

There are other packages that can do this kind of analysis, but I don't know of any that are free.  They tend to be quite expensive.  Google makes this service available for free for up to 5 million page views, or completely free if you use AdSense on your site.  For many people, this could be reason enough to switch to AdSense.

For my blog, I've found the stats gathered by the WordPress ShortStat plugin have become almost useless, since most of the hits the blog gets are from spammers.  More than half the traffic to this blog is not human.  Somehow Google is filtering that out - I don't see any of the spam hits in the Google Analytics reports.  Even digging into the referrer reports, they're just not there.  That's an awesome feature.