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The value of Google Analytics

© February 2006 Anthony Lawrence

I've seen some pretty big websites say that they have no use for Google Analytics. That surprises me, because I look at its reports almost every day and find it an invaluable part of my income generating strategy.

It is certainly true that Analytics does nothing that I couldn't do myself, though to do so would require more disk space and processing power than I would want to give it. I'd also have to write a fair amount of code to get the information out in readable format. Why go to all that trouble when I can put in a little bit of Javascript and get it all for free?

Yeah, well, there is that privacy stuff. I am handing Google a tremendous amount of information. But I'll keep my head deep down in the sand for now, thanks.

My web site is the source of a great deal of my income. The majority of it comes from consulting and troubleshooting gigs and the rest comes from advertising revenues. Two pages are extremely important to me because of that: my rates page and my Advertise Here page.

(I recently began accepting individual banner and text ads again. I had discontinued that for some time mostly because I didn't know what to charge. I now have several years of Google advertising revenue under my belt and have also looked at sites like Text Link Ads and AdBrite and have a much better idea of what to charge. As usual, revenues will be shared with contributing authors.)

I'm a tinkerer. I change those two pages often, trying out new ideas in hopes of increasing income. I use Google Adwords to drive traffic to here and of course use internal links also. I want to measure the success of my efforts, and Google Analytics gives me those measurements.

To do that, I tell Analytics to treat visits to those pages as a Goal. Once I have done that, Analytic reports tell me everything I could possibly want to know: are there more or less "conversions" (visits to those pages) this week than last week (or this month to last, or any two periods I want to compare). What was the source of these conversions - did they come from Adwords, from internal links, from specific pages?

If I had merchandise to sell, I could also define "funnel" pages: pages that lead to placing the order, such as a product selection page, a page that gathers shipping and billing, and a final checkout page. Analytics could then let me know if visitors started ordering but abandoned the process part way through - which might indicate that my process is too complex or something on the page is causing them to change their mind.

Of course Analytics tells me much more. I can see stats for individual pages, I can find out whether my visitors come back and how frequently they do so, and so on. There are graphs and tabular reports, and there is very little that you can't quickly determine about your website's visitors.

I can experiment with such things as posting schedules: do I get more readers if I post new material in the morning, the afternoon, or evening? Is posting one new article per day better than two or three? Some of these things take weeks to find out, but Analytics has the answers if I want them.

Maybe the very small websites don't need this sort of data, and maybe the very large sites have their own ways of getting it. For me, Analytics is just what I need.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> The value of Google Analytics

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While we all ooh and ahh over the reports and graphs, Google is quietly building an incredible pile of extremely valuable information. (Tony Lawrence)

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