Sweet, it pays to be a night owl. I just noticed that Google Analytics is live. This is a result of Urchin joining Google. I tried it out and here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
- It’s free. Technically it’s free for sites with 5 million pageviews/month or less. If you have more than 5M pageviews, you need to sign up for an AdWords account, but it sounds like there’s no minimum spend once you sign up. In other words, it’s free.
- If you’re using WordPress with a theme like almost-spring, you would edit your header.php file, e.g. wp-content/themes/almost-spring/header.php and put the JS just above the </head> tag. That’s it. Do a view-source on this page and search for “urchin” to see where to drop the code.
- The help pages are pretty good, and it looks like the system is available in 16 languages. If you use weird tricks like reloading the same url with different params as someone submits information, you can add virtual stages so that you can track the progress of users on that url.
- They’ve done a very nice job of emphasizing that conversion data is well-protected. Take this quote from the benefits page, for example:
ZDNet also has a good quote from Paul Muret, one of the Urchin founders who is now a director at Google:
Though in theory people who are using Google Analytics and competitive services to monitor their ad campaigns could be exposing information to Google on how those rival services work, Muret said Google would not get any competitive advantage from that.
“We have very strict controls on the data. It is only used to provide reporting to customers and people using the analytics,” he said.
Blackhat SEOs may be leery of using Google for analytics, but regular site owners should be reassured.
The timing on this is great for me. I often advise site owners to check out their server logs, but I hadn’t done much rooting around on my own logs since I started my blog. In fact, the first webhost I signed up for didn’t include access to server logs! To be fair, I did sign up for the “I am a cheap bastard” plan though. I only got error logs, so I had to estimate visitor levels by looking for misses when browsers tried to load a favicon from my site and failed. My current web host gives me server logs and offers a couple packages for reporting (Analog and something else), but they’re not set up by default and it looked like a hassle, so I never bothered. I guess being lazy paid off this time.
I feel a little guilty using a massively powerful analytics package to track visitors to my halloween costume, but hey: it’s free. Swatting a fly with a Buick may feel like overkill, but if the Buick is free, I’m not complaining. The only downside so far is that you have to wait 6-12 hours for the first report to show up. I’ll head to bed and let you know how it looks when I get some reports. Or, you know, try it yourself and see what you think.
Overall, Google Analytics should be a hot topic at the WebmasterWorld conference this week. Some people will care a lot about the AdWords features, but plenty of people will want to use it just for tracking. Now, I wonder who I’d talk to on the Analytics team to get them to offer a web counter service..