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10/19/2011
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Google Analytics Shows How Customers Travel Your Site

Google's new real-time user flow capability shows how website visitors become customers--and why they don't.

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Google Analytics is adding two new ways of seeing your website data, visually and in realtime.

Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising at Google, announced the additions at Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, which is produced by Federated Media and O'Reilly Media in partnership with UBM TechWeb.

Wojcicki said the current Google Analytics provides a lot of data, but not everything site owners want. "What it doesn't show is how users are moving around the site and whether they're getting stuck and are they converting? So we wondered how can we show that?" she said.

For inspiration, Google reached back to the 19th century and historian Charles Minard's famous visualization of Napoleon's 1812 campaign into Russia and the losses incurred along the way, Wojcicki said. In one image, Minard was able to show geography, time, and troop strength, particularly dramatizing the attrition from desertion and death on the way to Moscow and on the retreat back to France. Data visualization effort Edward Tufte has called it "probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn."

[ Get more news and videos from Web 2.0 Summit. ]

In Google's equivalent, the new user flow feature of Google Analytics, you're seeing how many visitors to an online store complete the march to the shopping cart--or whatever the equivalent is for your business in converting site visitors to customers. Google has also improved on Minard by making the visualization interactive, so you can drill down for more detail at any point on the graphic.

Google will begin enabling this capability across Google Analytics accounts in the coming weeks, Wojcicki said, with a beta version of a realtime data analytics capability that lets you see how many people are looking at your website at any given moment and what they are looking at. User counts and the corresponding graphics update in realtime as users come to the site and leave. This is a particularly important capability for websites promoting themselves with social media campaigns, who want to be able to see whether they are getting the response they want.

"You don't want you to know about that two hours from now, you want you to know about that right now," she said.

Listen to Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising at Google, describe the new enhancements:

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