Improve your web site with Google Analytics


by Gina Trapani

In my ten years of building web sites, I’ve tried practically every free web site stats analyzer under the sun – and none has come close to the utility, richness and depth of Google Analytics. Formerly pay-for, commercial product Urchin, Google’s on the road to making Analytics free for any web publisher with a Google Account. Using the data Google Analytics provides, you can make informed editorial, navigational and page design decisions to boost your site’s traffic and effectiveness.

Google Analytics has tons of features that could fill a series of articles, but today I’ll just point out a few of the useful ones that can help you improve your web site and find out more about your


To get set up, sign into Google Analytics with your Google Account. You may have to enter your email address and wait for an invitation, but it’s so worth it.

Once you’ve got your account set up, to get Google Analytics tracking your site’s pageviews, drop a snippet of javascript onto your site’s pages (much like Sitemeter.) This is really convenient for folks
who don’t have access to their web server’s logs; though it does require some trickery for webmasters with a site made up of static pages. If you’re a blogger, just include the Google Analytics code into
all your blogging software’s templates.

Slice and dice any report by date

While most stats packages only let you view information by month, year or week, with Google Analytics you can set custom start and end dates. Click on the date range button and choose your date range before viewing any report.


Click on “Apply Range” to set all the reports and charts you’re currently viewing to the new date range.

Top content

As a blogger my favorite Google Analytics report is called “Top Content,” located in the “Content Optimization” > “Content Performance” menu under “All Reports.”

Here you can see the most popular pages (for a blogger, posts) on your site. The “Content By Title” report does the same, but instead of showing URLs it shows you the page titles that are most popular. (Bloggers, make your permalink page titles your post titles, for Google juice AND the ability to see a list of your most popular posts in this report.)


Filter content by title

While that top content report comes in one form or another with most web stats packages, with Google Analytics you can filter by keywords in the page title.

For example, if I wanted to see the pageviews/unique visitor numbers for all of my feature articles, in the “Content by Title” report, I’d enter “Geek to Live” in the “Filter by” input box at the top right.


In fact, Wendy, Adam and I have a little friendly competition going using this report – “Hack Attack” versus “Technophilia” versus “Geek to Live”‘s numbers in Google Analytics. (As you can see in the
image above, Adam’s cleaning up! For now. 😉 )

Site Overlay click map

Another neat feature of Google Analytics is the “Site Overlay” report (under “Content Optimization”, “Navigational Analysis.” This shows you exactly where your site’s visitors click with a little
percentage bar that appears next to each link on your site’s pages. This feature is pretty slow – and ineffective for a blogger’s constantly-changing front page, but it is a nice way to see what your
visitors are clicking on in the sidebar.


Web design parameters

Finally, if you’re planning a site redesign and wondering what screen resolution your visitors mostly have, or if they have Flash installed, or what their favorite browser is, check out the reports
under “Web design parameters” for all that invaluable information and more.

Speaking of, Lifehacker readers love Firefox!


I’ve only scratched the surface of what you can do with Google Analytics. For more, check out Google’s own tour of Analytics features.

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