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Real-Time Analytics brings Google closer to the Grail

Google’s on-site Analytics program has gone from strength to strength since the internet giant bought out Urchin way back in 2005. What started out as a basic web site analytics solution used by web site owners and marketers to better understand their users’ experiences, optimise content and track marketing performance has evolved into a source of real-time on site data thanks to the launch of Real-Time Analytics last week.

Google acquired PostRank four months ago and it hasn’t taken it long to add the service to its Analytics stable which was probably accelerated by the popularity of similar services like Chartbeat and Woopra.

Even the old enemy, Facebook, launched Insights in Q1 this year with the aim of providing users with a platform which will enable them to see what kinds of content people like, this in turn allows them to create more great content which in turn gives the end consumer a better experience.

Now, Whilst GA’s functionality was never called into question, especially after you could link it to your Adwords account, the fact that data was three hours old, if you were lucky, and up to 24 hours old (the norm) made it rather cumbersome when web site owners wanted to see the real time impact of their campaigns.

One of the really nifty aspects of this increased functionality is checking for any reporting anomalies that may occur due to incorrect tracking code implementation. By having real-time reporting feedback it’s far easier to tell whether you’ve implemented your reporting correctly or not.

Another benefit of having real-time analytics is to see when engagement with content starts to taper off — that’s a clear sign that users need to be re-engaged with content that has performed really well. Where Google is still getting this wrong though, is by relying on the numbers. A blog post with high engagement numbers could be a good thing, but it could be because the content is so bad that people are sharing it in order to show what a fail it is. Despite the above, what makes this function great is seeing the geo-location of people accessing the site from social media content, especially if you’re trying to target a certain location.

Some web analysts are even heralding the launch of Real-Time as the answer to their offline advertising prayers intimating that once an offline advertisement is aired, Analytics users will be able to monitor the impact of that campaign in terms of the way they arrive on site, how long after the advert the new users arrive and what they’re using (phone, desktop, tablet) to get there.

Rumours also abound that the real-time functionality only applies to social media campaigns and not to the whole GA suite, with real-time analytics firm Clicky blogging that:

This isn’t “real time Google Analytics”, this is a single report in GA that is real time. The rest of GA remains the same. This is more akin to Chartbeat, to be used as a real time compliment to a standard analytics package, rather than a full standalone real time service like Clicky is.

With an interface redesign coming soon and the launch of improved Search Engine Optimisation reporting via Webmaster tools, it seems as if the evolution of Google’s Analytics program is just beginning.

Author | Graeme Lipschitz: Columnist

Graeme Lipschitz: Columnist
Graeme Lipschitz is the co-founder of digital innovation agency Wonderland Works where he heads up Social Media, Search and Product Development. He was previously the business development manager at Clicks2Customers.com and has worked for Google UK and South Africa as a lead account strategist, growing Adwords accounts in the... More