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Google Analytics: tracking your visitors, prospects, and sales

by Brian Brown (follow me on Twitter): April 23, 2008

Graph

Today is the first stat of the rest of your stats.

Every great journey begins with a single stat.

Make stats, not war.

Is it me, or does everything in life just seem to revolve around stats? Oh wait, it's not me, it's Google. That goofy "do no harm" company is at it again with a stat program that is totally armed and dangerous: Google Analytics.

The old way
I've been using Sitemeter for the longest time with Pajama Market. It's nice. It tells me how many visitors I have. What web sites directed those visitors to me. It gives me cool graphs to see the visitor numbers go up and down like my nieces hot air balloon. (Yeah, my niece is a hot air balloon pilot. What does your niece do?) What more could you ask for in a stat program?

The new and vastly improved way
And then Google came along and slapped me across the face three stooges like (or is it Marx brothers like? Or is it Honeymooners like? Quick, someone turn over to Nick at Nite and let me know!)

I pay like $5 a month for Sitemeter. Google Analytics is free. (Ok, sitemeter has a free version too, but then my stats are public. I don't want someone's dirty muggs on my stats.)

Blogtoolsweek Flexibility
Sitemeter shows you stats for today, this week, this month, or this year. GA shows you stats for any time period you want (from when you installed them on your site). GA is flexible like that cool slinky you had as a kid. The metal one, not the plastic one. The metal ones are so much better...until you step on them by accident.

Google also has about 487 additional features that other common stats programs don't have. Roughly.

As an aside, can I just say how much Typepad's statistics totally suck? I mean for $15/month you would think they would throw their users a bone and let them track referral links for more than a day. Ha! Fat chance. Good thing there's Google Analytics.

Track your goals
The real gem of the Google Analytics package for the small business blog is the "goals" section. If you are selling something from your blog, you can track a specific landing page, a page where someone is sent after they buy a product from you, to determine how well your blog is meeting its sales goals. I can't find that in Sitemeter.

We want faster!
The one, tiny tiny downside to Google Analytics, is that it is not live. There is a lag of a few hours between someone visiting your site and that visit showing up on GA. A small price to pay for...well, free stats.

To sign up, visit Google Analytics and add their code to your blog. You can add the code to a sidebar item pretty easily.

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Comments

The latest code for Google Analytics makes it even more flexible than you make it sound. What I find particularly handy is checking which outbound links visitors are clicking on, which of my visitors click on adsense ads and how my site search is used. Really cool stuff...

Yep, it really is better than I make it sound. In fact, if I were the chief salesperson for Google Analytics, they would probably have no sales. But since it's free, that's OK.

You bring up some nice features. They were included in the "487 additional features" I mentioned, but they are worth mentioning on their own.

Thanks for commenting GA Fan.

Hi Brian,

I'm a GA fan myself - although I do use Sitemeter as well. I still have yet to review all of the features, but I think 487 is about right ;)

I used to be addicted to checking stats, but now I only check GA once a week and Sitemeter every other day. I'm slowly getting over the "numbers" and just focusing on writing good content.

Thanks!

Yeah, I agree that obsessing over stats can be, well, obsessive. But my favorite part of checking stats is seeing where my visitors are coming from. What search terms are they using? What other web sites are mentioning Pajama Market? I have a hard time wading through a whole week of stats to really see this.

Cheers.

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