10 kick-ass features in Google Analytics v5
Ian Lurie Jun 23 2011
It’s no secret I’m a Google Analytics fan. But Google Analytics version 5, coming soon to a browser near you, addresses some major shortcomings. Here are ten features you’ll want to check out, the moment they’re available:
1: Multi-touch attribution
Important note: This is a separate beta and is rolling out on its own. So you may have access to Google Analytics v5, but not to multi-touch attribution. Go here if you want to sign up for the beta.
This is the big one. The brass ring. The Big Woo. You can now track how different channels, like organic search and pay-per-click marketing, contribute to each conversion on your site. Until now, you could use first- or last-click attribution.
If you don’t know what this means, and the implications for marketing, read my 2-part post about attribution.
A simple example: I can do a quick Venn diagram showing how much different marketing types contribute to each other:
Why it’s good. You can finally show how SEO, PPC and other marketing efforts contribute to sales, leads and other stuff. SEOs will love it because they can show how SEO, which is often a first- or second-click driver, contributes to sales previously attributed 100% to PPC, which is often a last-click driver. And PPC-ers will love it because they can recommend increased budgets if/when PPC is assisting other channels.
Why it’s bad. It might make your brain hurt. Could force managers to learn math.
2: Create multiple dashboards
In the previous version, Google Analytics had a single dashboard. Now, you can create lots of dashboards. For example, you might show different data to different parts of your team, or create a dashboard that focuses on a single channel:
Why it’s good. You can customize Google Analytics for different clients/stakeholders.
Why it’s bad. Choice is not always a good thing. By the time you’ve created your 99th dashboard, you may want to kill Google.
3: Easier advanced filtering
Everyone should be using this feature, all the time. You can quickly add an advanced filter to any report:
Why it’s good. Zooming in on specific issues, keywords and other datapoints has never been easier.
Why it’s bad. May cause folks to use advanced filters as a shortcut, when custom reports will be more efficient long-term.
4: Site performance measurement
Add one line of code to your site and you can track the average load time, page by page:
Why it’s good. I’m obsessed with site speed. I care about this stuff. Seeing it in a report is a good thing.
Why it’s bad. I’m not convinced of its accuracy yet. Time will tell.
5: More keyboard-friendly navigation
We have a lot of clients, and that means a lot of sites. Clicking through 10 pages of domain names was… annoying. Now, I can just type in the domain and zap, there’s my site:
That’s just one example. The reports search box has a nice type-ahead function.
Why it’s good. Keeps me from going insane.
Why it’s bad. No downside I can think of, actually.
6: Navigation that actually makes sense
Much of the navigation in Google Analytics v5 actually makes sense, and no longer makes me feel like I’m navigating through a chimp-infested jungle.
For example, click the little settings button on any page and you get (gasp) access to all profile-level settings: Advanced segments, Annotations, etc.:
Why it’s good. Fewer clicks is always good.
Why it’s bad. It’s yet another change to Google Analytics’ navigation structure.
7: Event-based goals
Strictly nerd stuff here, but I love the fact that I can now set up a goal based on a previously-defined event. For example, I can now set a goal that fires when someone watches an entire video.
Why it’s good. It just is, ok?
Why it’s bad. It’s really, really hard to explain the difference between goals, events and pageviews to most clients. The reason—the distinction doesn’t really make sense.
8: New custom report types
You can now apply filters to custom reports, then save that as a new custom report:
You can also place multiple tabs in a custom report (which may have been available in v4, but I never noticed). And you can create a so-called ‘flat table report’, which then lets you drill down on multiple dimensions, metrics, combinations of both, etc. Want to see which operating system + search engine combination drives the most traffic? Go for it:
Why it’s good. This report type gives you more database-style access to Google Analytics.
Why it’s bad. Will further bury people overwhelmed by the amount of data and number of options.
9: Keyword clouds
Before you barf on your monitor at the mention of a keyword cloud, read a little further: Google Analytics v5 lets you create a keyword cloud based on visits, of course, but you can also create one based on, say, bounce rate, or average time on site:
Why it’s good. Create fast, easy visualizations for the c-suite, for yourself, or just for fun.
Why it’s bad. Doesn’t let you use metrics like conversion rate (yet).
10: Little things
- ‘All visits’ no longer required if you pick 2+ segments.
- Goal completion URLs appear in the goals section. Previously, Google Analytics only showed the goal name, which could get pretty annoying.
- Expand the left-side navigation without reloading the page every time. Trivial, I know, but it used to drive me nuts.
- Embed multiple views in a single custom report.
- It’d surrre be nice if I could set up a goal funnel based on a series of events. Maybe in version 6?
What I don’t like
I do have some pet peeves:
- Google, why do you tease? You release new features to 1% of your user base, then wait 6 months, then release them to another 1%, then… ARRRRGHHH.
- Google got rid of the PDF export. Why? Oh, for the love of all that’s good and right in the universe, why?!
- Can you please make the on-page analytics work, someday? Or did you delete it out of total frustration?
- Intelligence alerts are actually intelligent. If you use ‘em, you know what I mean. If you don’t, don’t worry about it.
- The drill-down doesn’t always make sense. If I’m looking at Organic Search Traffic landing pages, and click on a page, I’d expect to see a list of keywords for that page, but I get a one-line report instead. I can select a secondary dimension and get what I want. But why the extra step?
It’s a win
Regardless, Google Analytics version 5 is a huge step up. Multi-channel attribution alone makes it a must-have tool.
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Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint.He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More