2011 has been a big year for all of us who use Google Analytics to monitor our website performance. This year has seen lots of new reports and changes to some of the ways that this information is displayed when you login.

New Version of Google Analytics

So to summarise these changes I thought I’d write a blog covering all of these changes as well as some thoughts on where this might develop in the future.

The main change in Google Analytics this year is the launch of the new interface which will become the only way for people to access Google Analytics in January 2012. This new interface changes the way that some of the data is displayed in your Analytics. Some examples of these changes are highlighted below:

New look and feel for the stats including easier access to Organic SEO and PPC traffic with a traffic sources report which has tabs in the menus for Organic and Paid search.

Some of the ways that this information is displayed has changed with some extra text links and different tabs. As the new Analytics interface is becoming default in the New Year now is the time to get yourself acquainted with the new look and feel whilst the old version is still around to fall back on!

One of the changes which I’m not a fan of is the removal of comparison percentages when comparing two date ranges – this is quite annoying as comparing November 2011 to November 2010 is a great way to monitor how your various Search Marketing activities is progressing – time to get the calculator out to work out the percentage increase yourself!

Addition of the ability to review the loading speeds of your website. Initially this was done by adding a string of code to the tracking code on your website but last month Google changed this so that the site loading times were available to everyone without changing the code you use to track visitors. This new functionality will allow you to see which pages are running slowly on the site to help you address some of these issues.

Easier tracking for mobile devises allowing you to see what types of mobile devices are visiting your site which is great for making sure that your website performs to its best on these platforms.

Flow visualisation

Flow visualisation allows you to view where people go on your website from different sources, allowing you to make the most of each page which leads people through to your ultimate goal, be it an ecommerce transaction or a form sign up. This great visual representation of your visitors behaviour is also available for goals you have configured with a funnel.

This information can be useful if you are looking to decrease the number of people who leave the site before they convert, as you are able to see which page they are leaving on and make some changes to the content and calls to actions on these pages.

Custom reports

The functionality and information available on custom reports in Google Analytics was also improved and there is now an easier interface for building these reports and greater functionality of what you can see in these reports.

Muti Channel Funnels

Multi Channel Funnels were also introduced this year allowing you to track back all of the touches that people had on your website before they converted. This means that rather than the last touch being the source of the conversion you can see that lots of different marketing channels have helped to make a sale on your site. This report allows you to see all of the ways people have found out about you before buying from you.

For example if someone looks at your website from a PPC advert to begin with and then signs up to your newsletter and then visits the site from your latest special offer mailing and buys something, previously you would only see that the Newsletter resulted in the sale, rather than being able to see that your PPC campaign also had a hand in this. These types of conversions are called Assisted Conversions in Google Analytics Multi Channel Funnels and this information is very important to marketing departments for being able to see which of their online campaigns is helping to drive the most traffic.

This report also includes a time lag report showing how long it took from first touch to final purchase, allowing you to better understand your customer buying cycle.

Real Time reports

Google Analytics also added the Real time reports to the new version of Analytics, allowing you to see real time information about who is on your website and where they are coming from, this is really useful if you want to make sure that your campaign tracking codes are implemented correctly.

Webmaster Tools integration

Another change which has been introduced in Google Analytics this year is the ability to view the keyword information from Google Webmaster Tools from within Analytics. To do this you need to link the Google Analytics account to your Google Webmaster Tools account for the domain name. Once this is done you can see the keywords for the site and the number of times these have resulted in your website showing up in the search results for a keyword and the number of times this has resulted in a click through to your website. One thing to take into account with this data is that I generally find that the average position for the keyword seems to be lower than it actually is.

Google Premium

Google have also announced a new Premium version of Analytics for people who need to get more from their Analytics or have over a certain number of visitors to your site per month. This new service is a paid for service but allows for 24/7 support, more reporting functionality, training and a dedicated account manager at Google.

Social Media

There is now a report in Google Analytics which includes information about Google+ visitors to your site and the impact that people +1ing your site has had on the site performance.

This week Google also reach out to Social media outl.ets to encourage them to integrate with Google Analytics to allow better tracking of what people are sharing, bookmarking and voting for online. Allowing people who use these social networks to better understand how this helps their brand marketing.

This is strongly related in with Google seeing the importance of Social Media more and more, the launch of Google+ and more people using social media marketing to boost the brand awareness and reach of their website.

Google’s changes to Privacy

Another big area which impacts what we see in our Google Analytics was the change Google made to its handling of privacy in searches. If a user is signed into a Google service and then goes to Google and does a search for something this is treated as a secure session and as a result our Google Analytics now shows (not provided) as the keyword for these searches. This means that the level of data we get from Analytics is now lower than it was in terms of the number of visits for each of your keywords on the site. However you are still able to see the number of visitors from each traffic source just not which keywords these signed in users.