Thursday, May 13, 2010

Google Analytics, A Free and Powerful Cloud Service


Google Analytics is a free service that you can use from Google to get usage statistics on your various web sites. It’s not only free, it’s powerful, and it’s another example of a cloud based services. I use it on all of my web properties where I can. Analytics can help you not only understand how people are using your site but help you improve sales, increase revenue from advertising, lower support costs, increase customer satisfaction, find dead pages and more. Understanding how people get to and use your site can have huge benefits to large and small sites. This article will explain how it works, features of Google Analytics, how to implement it on your site and a look into why everyone doesn’t use it.

cyberanalyticsHow it Works

Google Analytics gathers usage statistics using “beacon code”. Beacon code is a small chunk of HTML or Java script that is normally placed at the bottom of your page. Every time your page is accessed, the code executes and sends a signal to the Google Analytics server with a key. This is a common method used by other vendors like Omniture for their SiteCatalyst product. Look at HP’s home page and you will find the Omniture beacon buried in the code. This may sound like a pain because you would need to have that code on every page of your site, but most sites use a template or wrapper, so the rendering engine for your site puts the code on every page for you . Once your beacon code is working, you can see what pages people are accessing, how they got there and in general, where they are coming from. This BLOG uses Google Analytics. I placed the beacon on the template for this site and it shows up on every article or page.


Once it’s working, Analytics provides tons of information about your visitors. Here are some highlights:

  • Visitor trending - New vs. returning users, page views, etc.

  • Loyalty - Length of visit, depth of visit

  • Capabilities - what browser they use and things like screen resolution, colors and Java support

  • Network Properties - Service providers and connection speeds.

  • Mobile info - Devices used and mobile carriers

  • Traffic Sources - Where traffic originated from geographically and what site sent them to you (like

  • Traffic Stats - Top content, top landing pages, etc.

  • Site Search - If you have a search engine there are stats for that too

  • Event tracking - custom event setting stats

  • Goals - Allows you to set certain pages as “goals” like a check-out page on an e-commerce page.

  • Custom - Support for custom reports and counters or other custom variables set by the site owner as well as application programming interface to do even more with the data.

The reports are well thought out and include plenty of graphics. Rather than show you each detail page, click HERE to see a detailed report that I pulled for this BLOG shortly after installing the Google Analytics beacon on my site.

This is just a partial list of features and capabilities. Analytics has an “Application Gallery” for things like campaign management, E-Commerce and more. They allow other developers to create mini-apps that allow you to do things like visualize how people are using your site. You can get the full rundown from the Google Analytics web site including a marketing video. There is a lot here, more than I can digest within this BLOG.

How to Implement

It’s easy to setup Analytics. It’ easy as cut and paste but requires a touch of geek skill to know how to do it in some cases. If you have a Google account, just go to and create a site. At the end of the process you will be presented with a chunk of code, copy the sample beacon code and past it into the bottom of your page inside the <body> tag (you have to be in the HTML view of your editor though).

If you have a site on, just follow the step-by-step directions authored by a fellow blogger located HERE.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Use Google Analytics?

A lot of big sites do. Google has case studies of big sites that use Google Analytics. ReMax, The Huffington Post, CKE Resturantes, American Cancer Society, and BuildDirect are just a few of the customers that use Google Analytics. Why then doesn’t everyone use this free cloud service. It may have something to do with Google’s privacy policy, terms of service, or, because it’s free, companies are worried about their service and availability. It’s also possible that prospective clients are uncomfortable with Google knowing more about their company than they would like. Some potential customers may need features that are not available. There are probably many reasons not to use Analytics. In the near future, I’ll begin covering how you might go about evaluating cloud services and the things that you want to consider before making a decision on a vendor. If you are a small site like this BLOG, it’s a pretty easy decision, free wins every time.

- Chris Claborne

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