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May 18, 2007

Google Analytics V2 - The Prettiest Of Them All

By Alex Cohen

How do you make web analytics easier?  That's a question the web analytics community discusses on an almost daily basis.  Google has answered the question 2 ways. First, by creating Google Analytics and giving it away for free.  Second, they announced last week's eMetrics summit that a new, beta version is being slowly rolled out to users. 

Should I Care?
Based on my experience with WebTrends, Omniture, ClickTracks, NetTracker and Google Analytics (GA), I definitely think this is the slickest UI of any analytics program out there.  It stands out for 2 key reasons:

  1. Improved "Findability" - We're all awash in data.  The challenge for any tool is to present the data you need in as few steps as possible.  The other challenge is to help non-technical people understand and use the tool.  GA V2 automatically puts the report your looking at in context other relevant data and site averages.  It helps you see data you should be looking at even if you didn't know you should be.  As Google's Analytics Evangelist, and much beloved community member, Avinash Kaushik put it the new version has improved "findability"
  2. Greater Context - As anyone who has had a paid search campaign canceled after one week of bad results knows, it's important to surround data with the appropriate context (trends, averages, marketing events, seasonality, etc.).  GA V2 automatically provides sparklines that place whatever data you are looking at in a graph that shows that data over the past month.  It's no substitute for analysis and statistical considerations, but it's a nice safeguard against knee-jerk reactions to metrics.

So the question is...

Is It Perfect?

Far from it.  GA V2 is mostly a cosmetic upgrade with the addition of some functionality that most analytics tools already have.  I definitely don't underestimate the value of improved UI, but Google can still do more to live up to their claim that this is an "enterprise" level tool, especially:

  • The ability to import PPC data from other engines
  • A section to put in context for notable events
  • Dashboard sharing
  • Greater out of the box segmentation

What Else Is There?  Where Can I Learn More?

I'll be highlighting more about analytics in general through examples with Google Analytics V2 and critiquing Li's own use of analytics for SearchMarketingGurus :-)  I've listed some of the other features below.  The Google Analytics tour is a good way to learn about the new version.  I should warn you, people get mesmerized by demonstrations and think it's a solution to all of their measurement woes.  Remember, it's more about how you use the tool and who helps you use it.

  • Email and export reports: Schedule or send ad-hoc personalized report emails and export reports in PDF format.
  • Custom Dashboard: No more digging through reports. Put all the information you need on a custom dashboard that you can email to others.
  • Trend and Over-time Graph: Compare time periods and select date ranges without losing sight of long term trends.
  • Contextual help tips: Context sensitive Help and Conversion University tips are available from every report.

    Credit to Andrew, my colleague at Commerce360, for Skype-ing the breaking news to me as it happened.  Craig, our president, has a podcast on the topic at the company blog.

    Do you have a breaking interactive marketing strategy or web analytics story?  Skype me at alexc360

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    I've REALLY been trying to get used to the new version of Google Analytics, but I just don't like it. I find myself going back to the old view because it helps me find what I need easier. I'm sure in time, they'll faze out the old view, and I'll be forced to adapt, but for now I'm going to continue using it.

    Hey Trent,

    Have you tried using the report finder tool? It helps you locate data in the new interface.


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