Experience with Google Analytics

by Krishna on January 20, 2007

Ever since I started my website long back, I have been interested in knowing statistics about site visitors. I have gone through different software, from using basic counters to downloading web logs and using AWStats with Perl on IIS. Last year, I switched to using Google Analytics. Recently, I also added the code to my blog using the new template customization features.

In both cases, the move has been really easy. On the website, I just had to update my XSL header file. (Aside: Although the site is ASP.NET, I use XSL templates to drive some of the common content). Blogger provided the ability to add an HTML/JavaScript “page element” where I could embed the script. All this is pretty much invisible and unobtrusive to users hitting the site. Although counters were cool when the web started, nowadays, it is mostly ignored by new visitors or interferes with the site design & look.

Google Analytics presents three different perspectives to the visitor data — Executive, Marketer and Webmaster. The Executive view (like an “executive summary”) provides quick information like geographic location of visitors, top sources, keywords, contents, entrances and exits. The Marketing and Webmaster views provide a lot more detailed information with regard to these.

A detailed analysis of how to use Google Analytics is provided here by Dennis McDonald. Some of my observations and thoughts:

  • There are a lot of reports — amazing, considering the fact that Google does not monetize the site using AdWords. I believe that Analytics acts as a loss leader for marketers to purchase Adwords since they can better manage their campaigns.
  • The Executive views are well thought out. Many big-bang-for-the-buck changes to the website can be easily arrived at from the information provided. For example, if a high percentage of users are leaving a page, it may be necessary to change the layout to make follow-on links more conspicuous or enticing. I found doing this on one page reduced exits by about 8%.
  • Linking content from Wikipedia (like my book reviews) has resulted in a lot of traffic to my website. I find this has also increased the Page Rank of those pages. Obviously, if you are trying this, you have to submit a link to something relevant, otherwise your entry will be edited out. [Aside: Original Google paper]
  • A lot of blog traffic seems to come from Google and Technorati. A related fact is that the average page/view is lower for the blog than the website which seems to suggest that people come searching for a particular content and blogs are not well organized to provide additional links on the same content to visit.
  • I suppose at least some blog visitors have subscribed to the feed, but neither Google Analytics nor Blogger provide any ability to know that. I can track if someone is reading the FeedBurner feed, but it doesn’t provide anywhere near the same information — even if I subscribe to TotalStats.
  • There are a lot of vanity searches for “krishna kumar” leading to the website. That way, it is good to have a common name, but it is not easy to be on the top of the search results. Right now, I (site or blog) seem to be on the 1st page of Google (out of 1.3 million results), Live.com (450K), Ask.com (320K) and Yahoo! (2.5 million). [Aside: Yahoo! seems to have more sites/pages indexed than Google, but having compared the cached pages on both, I can state from personal experience that Yahoo! is really behind on crawling.]
  • The above sounds really egotistical, but maybe not — I suppose everyone has Googled themselves. In fact, there are some good reasons you probably should Google yourself. (And according this guy, some reasons not to.) Also, here is Eric Sink with a blog that, in part, discusses about the visibility of your name due to technology, regardless of how influential you actually are in real life.

Since neither my website nor my blog is commercialized, understanding to use Analytics is purely academic. It is nice to understand some aspects of how SEO (search engine optimization) works. I also use Google Webmaster tools — which provides some search information not available to Analytics. It is also encouraging to see more hits some days so that I can keep writing. Hopefully some people find some of the information on the site and blog useful.

{ 1 comment }

Dennis D. McDonald January 23, 2007 at 2:41 am

Krishna - thanks for the mention of my old articles -- I have used Google Analytics to help structure my blog since it has told me how people arrive and where they go once they get there.

I've done some looking since I wrote that series, too -- it pays to look in regularly and see, for example, that web surfing truly is international!
- Dennis

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: