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In Google Analytics Essential Training, Corey Koberg shows how to use the Google web analytics platform to generate and evaluate information about the visitors to a web site, including data on site traffic, user behavior, and marketing effectiveness. This course covers the out-of-the-box functionality, from account creation to reporting fundamentals, and explains how to glean insights from the vast array of data available.
The real-time reports in Google Analytics are an interesting development and they're fun to look at, even if not everyone will find them consistently useful. However, there are a few specific use cases where having access to real-time data could be critical. So like so many reports, they're great for those times when you need them, even if you don't use them every day. Let's go to the reports first, and then we'll take a look at a couple use cases. Here we come here to the Home tab, click on Real-Time reports, and first up is the Overview report. Immediately we notice this big bold count of active visitors for the site. Below that we see a breakdown of new versus returning visitors, and to the right we see two column graphs.
They allow us to view traffic trends over time, minute by minute, and even second by second. This is an easy visualization to see spikes or drops in live traffic, but insights are a little harder to come by after that. So let's move on to the meat of this report down below. Here we see the top ten four different dimensions: top ten referral sources, showing us the top ten web sites referring to our site, the top ten pages our active visitors have viewed in the last 30 minutes, and the top ten keywords that brought the current visitors to our site.
We also see the top ten locations of our active visitors, and we can drill into the titles of any of these widgets to see some more details, or we can use a left-hand navigation to get our reports from there. Let's start here by looking at the Locations report. The Locations report look similar at the top, with a count of active visitors, and then it breaks the visitors down country by country, showing the countries that represent at least 1% of traffic, and the grouping all the traffic from the rest into Other. We see the same column graphs showing page views per minute and per second. At the bottom here we see a full list of countries that our visitors are showing our site on and a map that shows this visually.
A fun feature with this map is that Google has actually integrated Google Earth here. You can see the Map and the Earth options on top. Google Earth has higher browser requirements, so if doesn't load on your browser, you can get the same info, but with a slightly less visually immersive view on the plane map. But don't worry; it's essentially the same information. Google Earth even lets you zoom into the level where you can see individual buildings in your city, and it can be helpful for things like identifying if the traffic shown is coming from your building or perhaps the conference center across town. Just keep in mind these maps may be up to several years old in some cases and are stretching the bounds of what I consider to be reliable geolocation granularity and specificity.
The Real-Time Traffic Resources has the same live stats on top, except that the traffic breakdown here is by medium. Other than that, this report is much like the regular All Traffic Sources report found in standard reporting section, except that you're limited to the dimensions that are presented. You can still drill down into organic traffic here and see the sources and the keywords that brought them in, but that's about as far as it goes. If I click on Organic, we can see that report. Now the last report that we've got up here is the Content report, and on top it's identical to the Real-Time Traffic Sources report, but the bottom here represents live data about the content for active visitors.
So all this is really cool to see, but one downside is you won't see conversions or E-commerce data here. Processing things like that takes additional processing, so for now we are limited to visits and pages views. These reports are particularly valuable to the publishing industry or anyone whose page content changes more than once per day. Think about this. If your front page is like CNN or The New York Times and it changes every hour with breaking news, you can't look at a report that summarizes entire days for a page to draw any conclusions about the content, because that one page wasn't static for the entire day, so you don't know with the metrics represented are for the morning version of that or the afternoon or anywhere in between.
In web analytics the assumptions is somewhat that the page is going to be page for a day, and that's not always the case in situations like these where the homepage has lots of iterations inside of a single day. Or if you're holding a conference in a particular location, these could help you understand how people in that location are using your web site or even see the impact of social media at an events, since social is a very right-now-oriented channel. A similar use for these reports would be for popular retailers that offer promotions or events. They could know in real time how offline campaigns or in-store events are affecting the online performance. Or if a company is fortunate enough to have a highly anticipated product launch, these would be great reports to watch in real time.
So while these reports won't necessarily be part of your day-to-day analysis--unless you're a publishing company, or in charge of certain social media marketing--but they can provide timely insights on how people are interacting with your site.
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