Book Review: Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics

Dave Cross dave at
Sun May 18 16:23:39 BST 2008

Feel free to put on the web site.


Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics
Author(s): 	Brian Clifton
Publisher: 	Sybex (2008)
ISBN: 		0470253126
Reviewer: 	Dave Cross

I've been running Google Analytics on a number of web sites since it was 
first released in 2005. I've got a lot of good information out of it, 
but I've always suspected that I'm not using it to its full potential. 
Having read this book I now have a much better idea of what I'm missing 
and, more importantly, how I can put that right.

Brian Clifton has written a really useful guide to getting the most 
benefit out of Google's free web analytics system. He is, of course, 
well-placed to do that as he leads the Google Analytics team for Europe, 
the Middle East and Africa.

Part one is a good overview of web analytics is. Chapter one explains 
what web analytics is and what you can get out of it. Chapter two goes 
into more detail about the method that people use to analyse their web 
site traffic and chapter three introduces Google Analytics and explains 
where it fits into the web analytics landscape.

Part two gives an introduction to using Google Analytics. Chapter four 
looks at the interface to Google Analytics. This chapter gives the 
reader a good free for the interactivity of the Google Analytics 
interface. It's this interactivity that makes Google Analytics far 
easier to use than many of its competitors. Chapter five looks in more 
depth at ten of the reports that the system generates. By the end of 
this chapter I was already learning new little tips about the system.

Part three is about implementing Google Analytics on your web site. 
chapter six shows you how to tag your web pages so they are included in 
your reports. This is about as far as my Google Analytics knowledge 
goes. So chapter seven introduces ways to customise the Google 
Javascript code in order to have more control over what data is 
recorded, it was all new (and very interesting). For example, the 
chapter has techniques for measuring page load time and tracking 
outgoing links. Chapter eight is all about Google Analytics best 
practices and is full of the kinds of tips that only an expert in using 
the tool would be able to share with you. Having read this chapter I 
configured up some of my sites to track search queries and set up more 
goals on my sites. Chapter nine is called "Google Analytics Hacks" and 
is a really useful cookbook of tips and techniques for getting even more 
out of Google Analytics. Top of my list of things to implement from this 
chapter is to add tracking to all of my error pages.

The sections we've discussed so far have all been about generating as 
much useful data about your web site traffic as possible. But, of 
course, huge piles of data don't do you any good at all unless you can 
make some sense of the data and then act on your findings. This is what 
part four is about. Chapter ten offers some useful hints on how to make 
sense of all of the data you have collected. Clifton looks at a web site 
from a number of points of view (sales, marketing, web content creator 
and webmaster) and for each of them suggests a number of key performance 
indicators that will be of interest to them. He then shows how to 
construct these KPIs out of the data that Google Analytics has captured. 
Chapter eleven moves on to the next stage and looks a number of 
real-world examples where data from Google Analytics can be used to 
identify poor performance from areas of a web site and suggests ways to 
improve matters.

I'm no web analytics expert and, to be honest, some of the stuff in part 
four made my eyes glaze over a little. But my company doesn't rely on 
its web site for income so I've never had to worry about the number of 
visitors I get or how long they spend on the site. Web analytics has 
really just been a hobby for me. If I was in a company where those kinds 
of things were important, then I feel confident that this book would be 
the right one to turn to in order to learn more. This book certainly 
goes into more depth when talking about both the technical side of 
Google Analytics and how to interpret the data than any other book I've 
read on the subject.

This book has taught me a lot of new and interesting things about Google 
Analytics and I feel sure that I'll be going back to it in the future 
when I need to know more. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to get 
the most out of their Google Analytics installation.

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