Real-time data reporting
One of the more exciting updates to Google Analytics is the introduction of real-time reporting. Found under the home menu, this is a first for Google Analytics: insight into what's going on at your site at this very moment.
After going to the home menu, you will find "real-time (beta)" as the first choice in the left nav. It expands into four sub-categories: "overview," "locations," "traffic sources," and "content."
"Locations" shows (as one might expect) the countries from which current visitors to your site are located; "traffic sources" breaks down how users found your site (referral, organic, etc.); "content" shows what specific pages (sections, blog posts, etc.) are being viewed at that moment; and "overview," as seen below, brings them all together, including the total number of active visitors on the site.
How might you use this data? It can tell you how traffic might ramp up and down at specific times of day, or, if you tweet a link to your site or blog post, you can use it to experiment and see if specific times for posting links work better than others. There's a lot of potential here. (It's also just kind of fun to watch.)
New search engine optimization insights
Among all the changes made in the Google Analytics redesign, the new search engine optimization data in the left nav. under "traffic sources" is a particularly helpful addition, and potentially game-changing. However, in order to view "search queries," "landing pages," and "geographic summaries," you must sync your Webmaster Tools profile with your Analytics profile. This is simple (assuming you're using Webmaster Tools, which you should be), and you will be prompted to do so when you try and access one of the search engine optimization menus.
Once that is done, you'll be able to view more robust information about search-related data than ever before -- queries users are using to reach your site, including potential impressions versus actual clicks and click-through rate (CTR); your top performing landing pages and their CTRs; where most of your visitors are located; and more. Use this data to help shape your SEO copywriting, your AdWords copy, even which pages you choose to highlight on your homepage. This is valuable information, and now easily digestible. Here's some sample "landing page" data:
There are now several ways to measure Google+ activity within Analytics.
Note the new "social" menu under "audience:"
Here, you can monitor all parts of your site -- blog posts or any other content -- that have been "+1'd," divided into the subcategories of "engagement" (how many visitors did and did not make a Google+ related interaction with your site), "action" (detailing your users' social source, which, for now, seems to always be Google, and what social action was taken), and "pages" (pages that received a "+1"). It is, of course, an incomplete social picture, but could prove to be an important addition.
And in the end
The analytics you take are equal to the analytics you make. Google Analytics is a great tool, but it's important to stay on top of and continually investigate. These four changes are just the tip of the iceberg. Explore on your own, try new things in Analytics, and enjoy it.
Dan Brooks is digital marketing manager at Flightpath.
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"Analytics" image via Shutterstock.