Author: Michael Miller
Aimed at: Beginners to web analytics
Pros: Clear explanations and logical presentation
Cons: The 10-minute lesson format leads to some repetition
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
There's more to Google Analytics than a cursory encounter might suggest. This title for beginners merits being Best Book of 2010 on the topic.
This book is aimed at the complete beginner so Lesson 1 explains web analytics - the collection and analysis of data relating to website visitors. Michael Miller states, "the goal of web analytics is to better understand how a website is being used - and apply that information to optimize the site's usage." He goes on to outline what information you can expect to obtain using web analytics and how it can help discern trends and the effectiveness of advertising.
The lesson includes a table that gives the definitions of "key metrics", the various statistics that can be gathered and interpreted - bounce rate, click-through-rate,hit, pageview, unique visitor etc. and concludes with a screendump of the main Google Analytics dashboard.
From the outset the motivation is clear, ideas are presented in a straightforward way and are well explained.
Lesson 2 guides you through the process of creating a Google Analytics account with appropriate screendumps where necessary.This lesson is likely to take fewer than ten minutes but, as it concludes with you copying the tracking code you need to paste into your website's underlying HTML, you need to continue straight away to Lesson 3 which accomplishes this. In fact Lesson 3 repeats the preliminary steps which points up the fact that the 10-minute lesson format can be a troublesome restriction.
Lesson 4 is a basic introduction to Google Analytics Dashboard and understanding the information presented in its various charts and statistics. It also covers exporting data in PDF or XML format and sharing the data via email. The following lesson goes further, showing how to display different metrics or different time frames and how to compare two metrics or data ranges. It also covers filtering results to show only information about certain types of visitors.
More advanced visitor tracking is covered in the next lesson, allowing you to analyse visitor loyalty and to uncover browser and network properties. Where traffic originates is the topic of Lesson 7 - does it come directly or by referral from another site - and importantly from which other sites, or via search engine - and if so which search engine? Lesson 8 is devoted to analyzing content - the top pages, top landing pages and top exit pages.
Much of the motivation for using Google Analytics is to increase revenue and we arrive at this topic in Lesson 9, Tracking AdSense performance. This short chapter refer the reader to a complete book by the same author on using Google AdSense and AdWords, which are the topic of lesson 11. The intervening Lesson 10, Viewing the Site Overlay Report, is devoted to an alternative, and very immediate way, to get information about web pages.
Some of the final lessons are devoted to improving website performance. Lesson 21 is on finding error pages and broken links and involves modifying generated tracking code. Lesson 24, Identifying Poorly Performing Pages goes hand in hand with the a lesson on using the Google Website Optimizer to test the changes you make in an effort to improve performance. Although short this lesson alerts you to a useful facility and gives a link to finding more detailed instructions.
This book's clear structure, including a detailed table of contents and comprehensive index, ensures that users are able to quickly find information they require and take advantage of clear step-by-step guidance well illustrated with screen dumps and examples. Recommended for anyone who has never used Google Analytics or has only encountered its top-level features and facilities.