When Google makes major changes to one of its products, it usually revolutionizes the industry the product is related to. Take for example what the android platform did for mobile phones or what streetview did for Google maps. Everyone that uses the Google product holds their breath to see how the change will affect them and if it will make life better or worse. Face it, Google touches all of our lives many times a day, so when a Google product changes, it affects us down to the core.
One of the many positive effects modern technology has on human beings is not to be apprehensive of change. Being adverse to change in business leads to competition beating you, and in your personal life it can lead to isolation or doing tasks in a more time consuming way than others.
Is the new Google Analytics good or bad?
Google have been testing this new version of analytics for the last few months and giving Google Analytics users the option to switch to the new version or revert back to the old version. Now Google have announced that this new Google Analytics version 5 is going live at the start of 2012 and the old version will be inaccessible (although all your data will of course be available in the new version format).
In a nut shell the new design looks smoother, it still has that ‘clean’ Google design look about it with no overcrowding of information. All in all it’s a good looking design. But who cares about how it looks? Lets get down to the nitty gritty of each feature and how it has changed and if that is good or bad for us as webmasters.
Google has used a lot more tabbed navigation to seamlessly allow the user to get the specific information they require without overloading the menu bar on the left hand side. There are sometimes 3 levels of tabs on the page which can be confusing for a new user, but once the user learns where all the options are, the tabs become a benefit for navigation and not a hindrance.
They have also allowed for a totally customizable and interactive dashboard for your homescreen which I like as well. You can arrive and see the information you want straight away once you have set this up.
Page Load Speed:
All Google speak about now a days is how important page speed is for your rankings in its search engine (plus of course content is king but let’s focus on page load speed). Information about page load speed was available, in part, in the labs area of Google Webmaster Tools, but now they have integrated this information seamlessly into the Google Analytics package. The great thing about this is that all your analytics are now in one place and the page load speed information is incredible. You’ll be licking your lips when you realize you can see page load speed broken down by country (with a super cool interactive map). You can also breakdown this information per page performance and also by browser.
Real Time Analytics:
Oh yes they have! This is one of the most fun parts of the new analytics version. It allows webmasters to actually see in real time many details about current (to the split second) number and behavior of visitors on your website. You can see details like what pages are currently being looked at, current time on site and other useful details. If you want ‘in the moment’ reporting at your fingertips, now you have it.
Since mobile phones are the fastest growing internet usage segment it is no surprise that Google Analytics have increased the quality of the information they give webmasters. Of course like in the old analytics you can still see what mobile device and what pages they visit (and operating system – if its iOS or android etc). Now you get a deeper breakdown of the phone exact model and there is even a funky feature to get a visual image of the phone model so you can see it next to the phone model name.
Another trend online is that internet users are investing more time in the social side of the internet. Hence webmasters are being fed better quality information by Google Analytics on factors such as how many people are ‘socially engaged’ in your website (they use their +1 data and other factors to define this). Unfortunately there aren’t details from facebook such as likes, or any other way to see shares via blogs and news forums. This section needs to be developed more but it is a small first step in the right direction.
Keeping inline with Google Analytics desire to be the one place where a webmaster can get all information, there has been an improvement in the sharing of data from Google AdWords Campaigns to Google Analytics. The depth of the data is great. You can segment and see data based on campaign, keywords or even time in day that your ads were performing best directly clicks to your website.
Search Engine Optimization Data:
The search engine optimization data is an exact copy of what webmasters are used to getting inside the ‘your site on the web’ page inside Google Webmaster Tools. It is easy to set up but must be set-up from inside Google Webmaster Tools itself and not from inside Google Analytics. SEO experts can definitely utilize this information to their benefit for creating strategies and seeing the effect of certain SEO work performed on organic results. SEO experts can also do split testing with title meta tags and other factors to see if they get higher click throughs compared to impressions.
For those webmasters who use Google Site Search on their site, this feature allows all the analytics data to feed straight through to your analytics account. As said, this is another proof of Google integrating all analytics data in one place making it easier for webmasters to see all information in one place – being in Google Analytics.
Goals and Funnels:
Possibly the most visually engaging and impressive new part of Google Analytics version 5 is the funnel visualization charts. They allow the webmaster to see graphically how visitors navigate through your site. It is simply beautiful to be able to see the thickness of lines and instantly see where proportionally more or less traffic goes and comes from within your site.
All in all there has been a great improvement in Google Analytics version 5. For a free tool, it reports on everything you could possibly ask for in one place combining all Google products such as Google+, Site Search, Webmaster Tool and AdWords. There are still areas such as the social tab that can be developed further, but as a whole, this new version of analytics is both visually better, easier to navigate (better UI) and gives much better and deeper analytics information to webmasters. Have a play with it today and get yourself acquainted with what’s coming in early 2012 by selecting ‘new version’ when you are logged into your Google Analytics account.