Google is not only the world’s most popular search engine, which helps to bring visitors to your site.
It is also the creator of several online applications that can help to manage and improve your websites.
Move Over Server-Side Analysis, Hello Google Analytics
Google Analytics has become the de facto tool for measuring traffic to your website. Prior to the advent of this service, website owners relied upon scripts installed to their servers. Two popular solutions included Webalizer and AWStats.
However, these services often showed varied analysis reports and, if you owned several websites, you would have to access these reports individually from scripts on each domain. Now, Google Analytics allows you to add multiple websites to one account. You can even grant access to other users, such as contributors to your website or potential advertisers.
Another benefit of Google Analytics over these older solutions is that tracking is available much sooner. Traditional server-based tracking tools typically had a lag period of 24 hours. Google Analytics data is released almost in real time. The lag period is much shorter, sometimes only three or four hours before the newest data posts.
Google Analytics offers in-depth analysis and reports. You can view the individual page views and unique visits. The reports will also show you how many pages are being viewed per visit, the pages where visitors most commonly leave your site and pages that are seeing the most or longest visits. Google Analytics tracks the amount of time visitors are spending on your website as well as whether visitors are new or returning.
You may notice that these numbers are significantly lower than those reported on other tools. However, Webalizer and similar server-side tools simply interpret the server log file -they’re not smart enough to determine between real traffic from people and robots, such as the crawlers of search engines.
When the majority of website owners use Google Analytics, their traffic reports will be using the same metrics and provide comparable reports, a feature that wasn’t available when webmasters used a number of different tools.
Like other analysis tools, Google Analytics will tell you where your visitors are from, so you can see what advertising and link methods are helping your website. You can even use Google Analytics to see how people are finding your social media profile. Google will also tell you the keywords people are entering when they find your websites via search engines.
Analytics offers information about your visitors, too. Want to know which browser is popular? Google will tell you. You can also read which countries your visitors are coming from and the languages that they speak. Google Analytics will break down mobile users by device, so you know exactly how many people are browsing from the iPhone versus how many visit your website on Android.
Meeting Your Goals
Not only does Google Analytics allow you to watch your hits, visits and bounce rates during specific time periods, but it also allows you to set goals. For example, if you’re hoping to increase the number of page views, you can set a goal and Google Analytics will show you how you’re doing. Google allows you to create up to five sets of goals regarding the performance of your website.
Similarly, you can set up alerts about the performance of your website. You can receive an email when someone visits a specific page of your website for example. This is useful when you’re trying to promote a page, but you could also use it to keep track of pages that you want to keep hidden.
Google’s Webmaster Tool Belt
In many ways, Webmaster Tools is a scaled-down version of Google Analytics. If you don’t require in-depth analysis, Webmaster Tools might fit the bill. You can register multiple websites on your dashboard and view the search queries that visitors are using to find your website. However, Webmaster Tools focuses more on how your website’s visibility on Google.
With this in mind, you can add a sitemap to your account to help Google index the pages on your website or use an utility that allows you to create a file that will block Google from indexing specific pages. Use this service to instruct Google whether to use “www.” in your website address or to inform the search engine when your URL has changed, similar to filling out a “Change of Address“ postcard. If your website corresponds with a business, you can easily add it to Google Places, so that local customers can find you.
Whether you’re simply tracking traffic on a single website, or need to monitor multiple pages, Google Analytics and its Webmaster cousin are a major upgrade to other services.
Do you use Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics? What convinced you to make the switch from other utilities, or do you still use them, too?