Google Analytics is one of the most widely used web analytics tools available, perhaps more than any other tool. The ability to track visitor behavior allows you to determine what is working for you, and what isn’t. That said, many people who use the tool have found themselves wanting more. Google has responded to these needs, and has now added new real-time capabilities.
In the past, Google Analytics was used entirely to measure the behavior of site visitors in the past. This is great for getting an idea of what worked in the past, but it doesn’t allow you to respond to problems and behavior as it is emerging. Real-time tools are nothing new, but in the past they were only available on paid services. Google’s software is available for free, so this will change the way many site owners approach the web.
Those who are already familiar with Google Analytics and like the interface will be happy to see that the real time interface fits right in. It maintains the same color theme and has a similar menu system. Real time is located in a drop-down on the left side of the home page of the analytics interface.
Options available include overview, locations, traffic sources, and content. Most people will be content to use the “overview” option, which includes a summary of all the most relevant information about what is happening on your site right now. This includes information about how many visitors are currently on the site, the top keywords, the top locations, and the most popular content.
One of the most helpful things about getting real time information is the fact that you can determine what time of day your site is busiest. This lets you make changes regarding when to submit new posts. It also allows you to determine what content is most popular during which times.
Real time is also very useful for visitors who are bringing traffic to their site through social media. By monitoring when a social media channel stops bringing in traffic, you will know when to post a new tweet or another announcement of Facebook, for example.
Perhaps the biggest complaint that most people have about the real time feature is the fact that it is “too” real time. In other words, it only tells you what is happening on the site right now. The standard analytics tool still offers information about daily traffic, but there is a gap between standard analytics and real time analytics. You can obtain information about the past several days, weeks, or months, and you can obtain information about what is happening right now, but you can’t obtain information about the past ten minutes or hours.
This means that in order to determine what times of day are most popular, you need to actually be in your analytics account watching what is happening. Taking full advantage of real time requires constant monitoring, which can be a little excessive.
All in all, the real time analytics update is a very helpful tool to take advantage of. It will be most useful for sites that need to change and adapt to the behavior of their visitors as it is happening. This means that blogs and news sites will benefit the most. Sites that want to make sure they are properly capitalizing on current events will be able to benefit from this tool more than anybody else.
More serious sites will need history of traffic throughout the day, rather than just what is happening right now. While they will not be able to rely on Google Analytics exclusively, they will be able to use it as a comparison in order to make sure that their other tracking software is working properly.