Confessions of a data junkie

I admit it: I am a data junkie. I check my analytics immediately after I wake up, sometimes even before I start up with my e-mail fix. When I power down for the night, I usually take one last look before closing the browser. While I’ll usually take anything I get, Google Analytics has been my drug of choice for some time now. (After all, the site does promote that “everyone’s doing it.”) Sometimes the fact that it is free seems like it should be illegal.

Most of you will recall that Google acquired Urchin, an analytics package, just about two years ago. By November 2005, Google Analytics was being doled out on the street, inciting anyone who has ever bought keyword advertising to get hooked on Web site analytics. Make that everyone with a site or blog. Since today is ‘fessing up day, I’ll admit that some of my sites don’t even have Google AdWords running (gasp!).

About a week ago, Brett Crosby and Jeff Veen of Google Analytics unveiled a new interface at the Emetrics Summit  in San Francisco. Within no time at all, two of my sites now had the updated reports. Usually game to try anything and everything beta, I must say that I was slow to adopt the changes. While the interface sure looked snazzy, I had learned the old tool like the back of my hand. Change freaked me out, as it meant that a fast fix would have to be relearned. Fortunately, both the old and new versions will be available for at least two months. In addition, Google offers up a helpful “Report Finder.” This weekend I held my breath and dove in. As it turns out, the redesign is primarily a usability effort, providing customers with greater customization and collaboration. A few examples straight from the Google Analytics blog:

  • E-mail and export reports: Schedule or send ad-hoc personalized report e-mails 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 e-mail 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.

In short: Google Analytics is sounding like an enterprise-level application. Not only is there more control over view, but the ability to deliver clean reports in PDF format to clients and higher-ups suggests that this package just might evolve to a much larger offering. One can only wonder how exactly this interface will continue to evolve, should the DoubleClick acquisition be approved.

Personally, the dashboard customization is quite enjoyable. Once I navigated to my favorite reports, I simply saved the elements to the dashboard. From the dashboard view, I found that these elements could be moved around by simply clicking and dragging, much like how you can customize the iGoogle home page.

Keeping in mind that this is still a beta product (I did encounter a few errors), the new Google Analytics interface gets a thumbs-up. Now, if you do excuse me, there are some metrics I need to check in on.

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