Book Review: Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics
dave at dave.org.uk
Sun May 18 16:23:39 BST 2008
Feel free to put on the l.pm web site.
Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics
Author(s): Brian Clifton
Publisher: Sybex (2008)
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
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
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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