New visualisations have been among the most popular features. You can now view many reports by hour or day and graph data by day, week or month. And we've made it easier to compare visits to conversions. You can also graph two metrics against each other over time so, for example, you can compare the number of visitors and the bounce rate for a certain week, or see if visitors who come to a site through AdWords spend more or less time on your site than visitors overall.
We've also added a new ga.js tracking code. This pagetag allows for more flexibility and customisation. It's just as easy to install as the old code, but enables more seasoned users to track ecommerce transactions in a more readable way and make use of advanced tracking features. We've also added a Google Analytics codesite (code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/) to help you take advantage of documented customisations that have been made to the tracking code.
If you have content behind a security firewall, an intranet or an internal network that prevents you from using Google Analytics, you may also want to consider Urchin software. You can configure it to fit your own requirements and process/reprocess log files as frequently as you wish. Urchin is also great for intranets, since it allows the analysis of firewall-protected content, such as corporate intranets, without any outside internet connection. You can even track your site with Urchin and Google Analytics combined.
One of the coolest things we've recently added is industry benchmarking. Still in beta, it enables you to see how your site's data compares to others'. For example, if you have a travel website and you get a spike in traffic on Mondays, you may want to know whether other travel sites get that same spike. We don't share individual data with competitors, but bucket data into industry verticals and then anonymise and aggregate it.
Finally, Website Optimizer is a free tool that complements the functionality of Google Analytics to hone your site further. You can create different versions of your web pages, and Google then splits your traffic automatically, so your visitors tell you which version they like best. Things you might consider changing include images (bigger, smaller, colour, black and white, with models, no models); headlines (questions, shorter ones, emphasising different points); calls to action (different button designs and copy) and layouts (three columns, two columns, one long scrolling column).
Test a few big changes, not several small ones. A good rule of thumb is one page variation for every 100 conversions. So if you get 300 conversions per month, test up to three variations, including your current page. Run your test for at least two weeks. Don't jump to conclusions: make sure the data has an opportunity to normalise.
Make testing an ongoing process. Once you find a winner, keep trying to beat it. Remember that not finding a winner can be helpful, too, since you learn what doesn't work and you protect yourself from making changes that could have permanently harmed your site's performance.
First published in .Net Magazine, Issue 181