Google Analytics is a free statistics tracking and analysis service that allows web site administrators to analyze traffic flow on a web site. Although most hosting solutions come with similar software, it may not be as easily understood or as easily navigated as Google Analytics. One of the more impressive features of Google Analytics is the ability to flag certain pages as “goals.” This is specifically beneficial to e-commerce web sites. However, regardless of the purpose of a web site, Google Analytics can help make that web site better.
Whenever someone visits a web site, a variety of information is stored on the server in the form of access logs. These files are simple text files that are formatted in a specific way to allow programs to analyze the stored information and present it in a way that can be more easily understood. This data includes the IP address of the computer, the amount of data transferred, the URL visited, the time and date of the visit, the operating system and the browser used by the visitor to the web site. The most common information used to tell whether a web site is doing well is the number of visitors. This is certainly valuable information, but it tells us nothing about what visitors are doing when they visit a web site. Standard statistics software will guess at how much time people spend viewing a specific page, but this is also not as valuable as the information collated by Google Analytics.
Since HTTP connections are not persistent, it's impossible to actually track a visitor's path through a web site. An HTTP connection is a simple two-way communication between a computer and the server that ends as soon as the data is transferred. The visitor's computer makes a request, and the server sends some information back. The computer and the server do not have any additional contact until the visitor requests more information from the server. There are other types of connections used to create a persistent connection to the server, but those are not used for browsing web sites. This causes a number of problems for web site developers, and there are a number of solutions to overcome it. In the case of web site statistics tracking and analysis, a visitor's path through a web site can be built by comparing individual requests to the server and gathering requests that share a number of pieces of information. If a number of requests come from a single IP address, it is a good guess that they are all from the same user. In this way, statistics software like Google Analytics can build the paths that users take as they browse a web site.
For each “goal” you can configure a set of funnel pages that lead up to the “goal” page. By analyzing how many users follow the funnel, you can analyze where people are stopping, getting lost, or just leaving your site. Analyzing this data will help you make your web site more effective in helping people to reach the “goals.” In addition to goal tracking, Google Analytics will help you analyze web site loyalty, bounce rates and visit depth. Loyalty means, what percentage of your visitors are repeat visitors. This is also related to the percentage of new visitors you are seeing compared to the number of repeat visitors. Bounce rates show you what percentage of visitors only view one page before leaving. Visit depth will show you how many pages visitors request before leaving.
One of the biggest advantages Google Analytics provides over other analysis software is ease of use. With a few clicks, you can define any range of dates from which statistics can be viewed. You can also easily navigate from general data to more specific data. Everything from bounce rates to conversion rates (how many visitors reach the goal) can be easily found by a few clicks. Google Analytics can also help you understand each report that you see. Helpful tips can be viewed at the bottom right hand corner of many pages that give short descriptions of the data included in the report and sometimes even what the numbers could mean for your web site. To learn more please visit: http://www.google.com/analytics/