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One set of Business Intelligence software that is gaining a great deal of interest across the BI world is that of the Google Analytics toolset. Despite being offered for free these tools from Google are beginning to challenge some aspects of the larger BI players including Business Objects, Cognos, Spotfire, etc.

There are however a number of aspects to the Google Analytics offering, so to begin with I'll provide a simple summary of what I see as the key components.

Google Analytics

This is the one that started it all (and it continues to evolve). The basic Google Analytics is an application that is driven by data collected by Google for ever web site that has a small code block added somewhere on the site.

The code block, once inserted in the website, will send back information every time someone visits the page with the code block on it (eg. How long the user stays on the page, where they go to after reading that page, how the user got to that page, etc).

This tools is commonly used by managers of websites to understand who is visiting there website, and how they behave once they are there. By changing the content on the site and/or how the site is advertised the website manager will work to 'improve' the statistics or goals.

The Google Analytics tool is also complemented by three other tools AdSense, AdWords, and WebOptimizer that work to help a website gain visitors via search worlds and help website generate revenue via embedded Google ads. 

Google Insight

The Google Insight tool on the other hand allows you to look in to the performance of general search words. The power of this tool comes from its ability to compare words, or the same word in different locations or over different time periods.

You can access this tool at http://www.google.com/insights/search

Try words like 'Tax' to see cycles in the use of certain words and look at the World Heatmap to see where the most activity on the search word is. 

People use this tool to try and understand what words people are interested in at any given moment and/or how searches of their competitors might compare with their own.

Google Gadgets

The final set of Google Analytics I'd like to reference here are the set of Google Gadgets that are available when using a Google Spreadsheet.

When using the Google Spreadsheet application amongst the usual lines, bar, and pie charts are a much more powerful set of embedded objects or gadgets such as, Interactive Time Series Chart, Motion Chart, word Cloud, World Heatmap.

Google themsleves use these Gadgets in their other Analytics offering, and the can usually be embedded (using iFrames) in websites to real enrich the content of the site. I have a number of examples spread across this website (eg. Product Portfolio)