For online marketing professionals, online businesses and pretty much anyone with a website, Google Analytics is one of the most important tools at their disposal. For years now it has allowed people to easily see how much traffic they are getting to their site, how users have arrived at their site and how people are behaving once they are on their site.
However, one criticism that has often been raised against Google Analytics, mainly by rival software companies, is that it is not in Real Time and there is a delay between activity on site and it registering in Analytics.
Real Time Analytics
Well Google has now come out with a new Real Time update that shows Analytic users exactly how many people are currently on their website, what pages they are currently viewing, what country they are visiting the website from and how long they have currently been on the website.
On the surface this sounds like a revolutionary new aspect to Google Analytics as it brings a new dimension to how users can view the data they are gathering from their website. But is it actually useful or just a fun PR stunt?
Don’t get me wrong, Real Time Analytics is fascinating to watch, as you can see in Real Time as people come on and fall of your website and at what point they do so, but this is just a small amount of data over a minute or so and it would be foolish to base any new website alterations or data conclusions on such a small amount of analysis.
The other 2 options are to sit and watch the Real Time Analytics all day to gather enough data to come to a useful conclusion on user activity or use the normal analytics to look at the previous day, week, month or year in an instant and use that to base your changes on. Now I don’t run our company but I’m pretty sure my boss would prefer me quickly looking at the last month worth of data as opposed to sitting at watching Real Time Analytics update all day long.
However, although I think that Real Time Analytics is useless for any in-depth analysis, there is still one or two situations in which I think it could be useful. For example, if you want to see the immediate impact of a Tweet, Email Shot or new Blog Post etc, you can use the Real Time feature to see if it has lead to an instant increase in traffic to the website and how long that increase lasts for.
This could be especially useful with Social Media campaigns as it will help gather information about what is the best time to Tweet and the impact of different types of Tweets, e.g. ones containing @mentions, Re-Tweets or just plain links.
But, having said this, I still think that the idea of sitting and watching Real Time Analytics will lead to no real groundbreaking analytical conclusions but rather just waste time watching it go round. It does answer a lot of critics of Google analytics and offers a new perspective for monitoring social interaction, but Google Analytics most useful purpose is in-depth analysis of site performance, which I think we already had and do still have available to us with the original Analytics data.