A Preview of Google Analytics Real-Time

Photo by Zen Sutherland, FlickrA few days ago Google announced a very exciting addition to their Google Analytics (GA) service: Real-Time user tracking.

The Real-Time traffic monitoring software doesn’t require existing users to install anything: Your existing analytics insertion codes will work just fine.

The new service will allow you to view a “Real-Time” dashboard from within the “new” version of the GA dashboard (the same version they’ve been advertising via a red link in the header for a very long time).

The timing couldn’t have been better for us; we have been evaluating several real-time traffic monitoring tools for just this purpose. Combinations of TOP, server-status, and future software yet-installed will still play a role in our ability appreciate server resources, but the Google Analytics Real-Time traffic monitoring tool will allow us to very quickly appreciate where users are hitting across our enterprise WordPress system.

Use Cases

For our immediate purpose, the tool will allow us to appreciate when our servers are getting hit, and where these users are coming from and what content they are interested in.

The real-time information, however, could influence how and when you pull in social media channels and allow you to measure real time the traffic generated by those channels.

Imagine posting content on FB or Twitter and watching how long it takes for that traffic to make its way to your site, adjusting your message real-time as you track their behavior.

Or perhaps discover a portion of your website that suddenly became very popular, allowing you to respond to a potential crisis (or a success) while it is still relevant to your users; not the next day, after the dust has settled.

Preview Video (full screen recommended)

 

Improvements

Right now the monitoring software looks pretty bare bones. My major two gripes so far are:

  • Does not seem to leverage the same _gaq.push variables that the normal analytics software measures, (such as _setDomainName), but hopefully these variables will become fully integrated with time.
  • Lacks the ability to follow a user through their individual navigation paths and watch how they weave in and out of your website (a feature available in the existing static analytical tool)

Final Verdict

The feature is a big win for Google Analytics, and a welcome addition to their immensely useful [and free] tool suite.

To enable real time tracking on your Google Analytics account, go bug Google here.


Photo by Zen Sutherland, Flickr