Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Learning to Use Google Analytics, Part 5

By Dennis D. McDonald

Google announced on June 12 some additions to the new Google Analytics service. Chief among these is the availability of hourly updates, which allows for more realtime tracking, which occasionally comes in handy.

Another improvement is the addition of clickable links within the various reports. I find this only marginally useful since I see no way to copy simultaneously a range of links and titles from Google Analytics that I can then use in preparation of my own weekly top ten report. That’s why the “weekly top ten according to Google Analytics” doesn’t have clickable titles — yet.

I check Google Analytics data on a regular basis for this blog in order to intelligently tweak my web site’s appearance and structure. My goal is to continually simplify things and hopefully make navigation easier.

I’ve made a number of changes based on paying attention to Google Analytics data. This blog is actually a group of separate “journals,” pages, and files, each of which potentially has separate URL’s, feeds, and indexes. That’s a polite way of saying that I really didn’t know what I was doing when I initially structured the site!

Regularly reviewing Google Analytics data in terms of where people initially land and where they go after landing has convinced me to pay close attention to how the most frequently used  “landing pages” look and perform. I try to ensure that the main landing page has enough content and navigation information — enough to convince the visitor to stay around and click on something but not so much that the visitor is overwhelmed.

I have also learned a lot from regular use of StumbleUpon. If you spend any time at all with that tool you will quickly learn how important first impressions are since it makes it so easy to jump from site to site.

Another action I took recently: I deleted the listing of category tags from my site’s navigation bar. Removing the tags was partly due to low use of the tags, partly due to my desire to simplify and streamline the page’s appearance, and partly due to my website vendor Squarespace’s recent addition of an excellent search feature. I don’t miss the tags, although a master index for the site’s main Managing Technology section is still available here.

I’ve been using the new Google Analytics for  a month now and I have mixed feelings about whether it is an improvement. The graphics are not as crisp as in the old version, and slicing and dicing the data is a bit different. I’ll play with it some more before “passing judgement.”

I have found it interesting to compare Google Analytics data on “page views” with the raw hits recorded by my web site vendor. If you check out my weekly top ten you’ll see that the two “top ten” lists are always different. The Squarespace data records everything - individual visits by the same person, hits by indexing engines, visits to feed pages, etc.  It’s a comprehensive look at “activity” though it’s clear that it may overstimate the actual number of “eyeballs” that are checking in. Google Analytics, on the other hands, provides as one statistic “unique pageviews” which does a better job of estimating the unique number of individuals who visit; repeated views by the same visitor are not separately counted.

The following are links to the four earlier posts in this series that addressed the original version of Google Analytics. I think after reviewing these that I really do prefer the “old graphics” to the “new graphics”:


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