What You Don't Know About Google Analytics

It's not uncommon for 'Net professionals to gravitate to the features most useful or appealing to their specific role when it comes to the use of software - particularly analytics solutions. Periodically exploring the new, or perhaps less-used, features of these software systems could ensure that the one data point that could change the course of a campaign, a brand or a business for the better, doesn't escape notice.

Google Analytics is hands down the most popular (in terms of usage) Web analytics system on the market today (BuiltWith reports that nearly half of the top 1 million websites use the solution), but millions of Web workers likely aren't getting the full value from the insights it contains about their digital initiatives. In this edition of Website Magazine's Insight on Analytics column, follow along to discover a few recent (and important) updates that you may not yet know about Google Analytics.

Content and Conversion in Real-Time: A relatively recent addition to the analytics platform, Google's Real-Time data is a content marketer's dream. Accessing the feature provides an immediate indication about the pages users are currently active on, where users are geographically located, and how many are accomplishing both events and goals. It's real-time and it's real important that 'Net professionals keep an eye on this feature moving forward, as that data will likely be accessible in any number of marketing optimization and automation platforms in the near future.

Google recently introduced a Real-Time API that enables developers to make queries about the real-time data it provides, using that information in ways that offer some direct and immediate benefit to site owners. For example, since it's possible to obtain the top-visited URLs, it's possible to build a widget showing where readers are on a website at any given time. Google provided the example of Twiddy.com, a vacation rental company that tested adding a real-time metric like active visitors to landing pages in order to impart a sense of urgency and demonstrate demand for a product (integrating with an ecommerce cart through a custom implementation). Using the tactic resulted in increased revenue of 18.6 percent, an average order value (AOV) boost of 11.9 percent and a conversion rate lift of 7.9 percent. It's hard to ignore that paying real attention to real-time data proves beneficial.

Connect and Optimize: Another interesting aspect of Google Analytics that often goes unnoticed is its deep integration with other Google services - namely, AdWords. Google's recent release of enhanced campaigns serves as only the most recent example as the advertising offering's data has long been integrated with the analytics platform. Enhanced campaigns leverage signals like location, time of day and the device (as well as its capabilities) to deliver users context-friendly advertising and make campaigns more successful for advertisers.

What Google Analytics can reveal thanks to a deeper integration, and rather easily, is data on the performance of specific bid adjustments. For example, an advertiser may notice that conversions increase on the weekends, and through analytics, will be able to understand on what specific day and on what device - all the way down to the keyword level. Using the new feature over time will provide advertisers an opportunity to spend less on customers and instances that don't convert and more on those that do.

Separate and Segment: Likely one of the most common activities for Google Analytics users is exploring specific sets and even subsets of user traffic - for example, organic traffic or visits with conversions. The previous segments available in Google Analytics served users quite well but the capabilities have recently been amped up and the "reimagined" approach will likely be well received by both analysts and marketers alike. In addition to a fresher and more logical UI, major changes to Google Analytics segmentation capabilities include the ability to create custom segments to track users and their behaviors across multiple sessions. It is a very robust feature that warrants greater attention.

Google Analytics is by far one of the most popular solutions on the market today to help 'Net professionals understand what's happening with users and on their websites. These new features are certainly powerful and will prove useful to the sophisticated digital enterprise: those that care about what specific groups of users are doing, how/when they are doing it and to what effect.

Stay up to date on all the latest Google Analytics features, and discover strategies for measuring the digital performance of any type, in Analytics Insider channel.