November 14, 2005

Under Analysis?

Google's purchase of Urchin last March bore fruit today as Google Analytics, a free web analytics program for up to 5m page views monthly unless you have an AdWords account, in which case there is no ceiling.

Urchin is a very powerful program, still available for those who need statistics for intranets or otherwise private networks and appears to have lost little of its power in translation to a free service. Analytics offers 80 predefined reports with 18 predefined segments, the latter of which allow technographic drill-down reports such as Flash plugin version, connection speed, screen resolution and color depth. One of the neatest sounding features is Site Overlay, where your site is rendered in a frame with click/conversion data overlays for each link. You can compare date ranges on any report, do a/b comparisons on ad performance, view drill-down GeoTargeting, Google style in a Flash 7-based report. In fact, the tool is chock-full of DHTML and Flash, which as ArsTechnica coverage points out, may cause some problems if your platform is not Mac or Windows.

Implementation is via a couple lines of Javascript inserted in every page you want tracked, the code itself generated for your use when you sign up for the service. For dynamically generated sites this may simply involve minor changes to one or more templates while static sites could call for a site-wide search and replace operation; either are fairly low-impact.

What does this mean for your clients? Those who have lived with substandard or no reporting at all no longer have a reason to ignore web analytics. Larger clients who have invested in tools may find it worthwhile to migrate to Google Analytics anyway in order to take advantage of cost savings and the lowered hassle of having to maintain their app and server logs.

Clients who have more than 5m page views per month and who do not participate in Google's AdWords program may still want to take a look—are they happy with their web analytics app? Is log management a thorn in their side? Do they advertise already? Have they considered the AdWords program?

One question you should ask your clients is how comfortable they might be with not hosting their own data. The client may have business guidelines or regulations against data sharing, with which a service such as Google Analytics may be so construed. Such a business would also steer clear of similar services such as WebTrends On Demand, which, I might add, is far from free. ;)

I've signed up for the program and am anxiously awaiting my reports -- the service is early-adopter-slammed at the moment with Google reporting a 12-hour processing delay. I hope to have more to say on this after I've had a chance to check out the actual reports instead of the report frameworks I've been exploring while I wait.

This is big news, folks, to be sure, Google's changed the face of web analytics to add value to their advertizing offering and I'm sure we're going to be hearing a lot more about this in the press and from our clients, best to bone up on it now, perhaps a good start would be at Conversion University?

Posted by Lewis Francis at November 14, 2005 9:37 PM
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