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There's no denying the utility and effectiveness of Google Analytics as a means to better understanding the way users interact with your website. Among all the features that GA has though, Real-Time Reports are often a bone of contention; it's a matter of dispute as to exactly how useful they are.
I decided to ask some experts for their views on the matter to try and get some answers.
On our Google Analytics Course you'll learn exactly how to make the most of its impressive features to maximise your online efforts, including Real-Time reports.
So let's take a look at what the experts say:
Great for Testing
A key theme that seemed to crop up regularly was how many found real-time reports useful for testing technical aspects of a campaign, whether that's for code, tracking or links.
@AaronCharlie Great for testing code, 'walking the shop floor', and getting non-experts interested in analytics. Underrated reports.
— dan barker (@danbarker) July 26, 2013
very useful for checking new tracking (e.g. events, goals, etc.). Also for testing emails to make sure all tagged links work — Dara Fitzgerald (@darafitzgerald) July 26, 2013
Whilst Facebook was busy announcing the new Graph Search to the world's assembled media, Google slyly introduced a new look Google Analytics fascia. It's not just superficial though - there are some changes geared towards making the analytics experience smoother and easier.
So let's take a look at what's new:
Aside from the aesthetic difference of white widgets on a grey background, the biggest change to the Dashboards is the ability to customise the layout of them as shown below.
This allows for concentrated focus on one particular set of metrics if for example, there is more data, or just for those the user considers most important. A small but very useful change.
Setting the right goals for your site is an essential way of collecting quality data. Simply relying on traffic or page views will not give you and your company a clear enough picture of how your site drives business.
However, picking a goal alone (x number of purchases, for example) will not give much indication as to where and how your site is bringing in customers. To best achieve this you need to set up goal funnels.
Without setting up your funnels properly you'll end up with goals like this:
In this post we'll show you what goal funnels are and why they are so useful in providing solid data from which you can make informed policy decisions.
If you want to learn more about goal funnels, try our Google Analytics Course.
For each goal, there will be a route that visitors to your page will take that leads to the completion of that goal. It used to be the case you could see how the majority of visitors landed on the site, but with the continuing loss of referral data, it's becoming harder to do this.
For this, let's use an example of an online bookshop.
One of your goals (or main goal) will be to sell books. You may well have a homepage with links to categories of books. Clicking on a category could be the first stage in the funnel. You can track, from the homepage, how many people click on a category link.
Last month, Danny Sullivan revealed that search marketers were to lose a new source of referrer data - iOS 6 Google searches. This comes off the back of updates to Google and Firefox in the past year that have also resulted in less referrer data. Thanks to a clever Google Analytics dashboard from Dan Barker, we can now see the true impact of the iOS 6 update. The less referrer data there is, the harder it is for search marketers to monitor and refine their strategy based on actual data rather than guesswork.
Something that Brandwatch's Andy Keetch spoke about at the Content Marketing Show we really emphasise on our SEO courses is the importance of data-informed marketing - that's hard to reinforce when that data is disappearing!
So where has all the referrer data gone? And how can we get it back? Let's think like Sherlock and go hunting for answers...
The Great Loss of Referral Data - Background
Just over a year ago in October 2011, Google created SSL search for signed-in users in an effort to improve privacy. This meant that any organic searches were put through to analytics with the keyword (not provided), which immediately created a headache on our Google Analytics courses with everyone wanted to know what was going on!
So in your traffic report you can see how many people arrived on your site via organic search, but for over 30% of searches you just see (not provided) as a keyword. Google originally said this would only affect single figures.
Firefox then did the same earlier this year - switching to Google SSL search by default when using the built in search bar.
Interestingly, while the move to SSL is touted as a 'privacy' measure, if the clicks come from paid ads, you can see the keywords that sent people to your site. This muddies the waters a bit when it comes to privacy and comes close to being a 'pay for data' issue.
However, hiding keyword data was just the start...
During my morning round up of BrightonSEO I asked the question 'Has SEO grown up?' For my afternoon round up I'm going to focus on one tip from each talk and why I liked it.
The afternoon was as varied as the morning with topics from linguistics to affiliate marketing, all from good speakers with something interesting to say and wisdom to impart on the audience.
We were also lucky enough to spot one of our Top SEO Trumps in the flesh! Here's Ralph Tegtmeier enjoying his pack. We left our final packs dotted about at the after party. Did you find one? Let us know!
If you did miss the talks and want to know more about SEO and inbound marketing, we offer a 5 day SEO training package. Pick from a selection of courses including SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing and Google Analytics to create your own custom 5-day course! It's a great way to introduce yourself to the concepts of earned media or as a way to boost the skills of new employees so they can get to work straight away.