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Google hopes Analytics service upgrade lets users dump other vendors' tools

Adds custom reporting, visualization features, AdSense integration to attract IT interest

By Heather Havenstein
October 23, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc. this week continued to hone its effort to push its Google Analytics service into corporate IT shops by adding a slew of new features, including custom report generation, advanced segmentation and integration with Google AdSense.

The new features will let larger companies ditch any third-party tools they are using for segmentation or custom reporting of data generated from Google Analytics, noted Brett Crosby, group manager for Google Analytics.

"This is an enterprise class feature launch," he said. "[Users have] been spending a lot of time and money trying to squeeze out this information from a lot of other tools. We think this will solve the dueling tool problem within these organizations."

The free hosted Google Analytics service was launched three years ago to demand so great that Google had to temporarily suspend taking on new users.

The integration with Google's AdSense advertising network lets users see which pages of their site are driving the most revenue from AdSense ads. Integrating AdSense and Google Analytics will allow users to determine what content people like, which referring sources are driving the most revenue and which geographies are driving the most revenue, Crosby added.

"There are a lot of sites that use AdSense to drive revenue, and that is their primary source of revenue," he noted. "They can see what their return on investment is."

The update also adds support for advanced segmentation, allowing users to isolate and analyze subsets of their Web traffic -- like visitors who came through an e-mail marketing campaign or those who came from a company buying keywords, Google said. "It allows you to basically zero in on any segment of traffic you want to look at," Crosby said.

Once a company creates a segment for analysis, the tool can be used to compare the past behavior of that subset to the rest of the traffic on the site, he added.

"The idea is to create segments of customers so you can see that buyers behave really differently than my 'looky-loo' customers," Crosby noted. "You can start to identify the differences in those sorts of traffic."

Another new feature in Google Analytics allows users to create custom reports using any metrics, Crosby added. This feature could also be used in conjunction with advanced segmentation so users can have more options on how to analyze data.

New advanced visualization capabilities, which provide motion charts of data -- bubble charts that can be animated to show trends over time -- can help users find aspects of data that might not otherwise be apparent, Crosby added.

Finally, Google unveiled a beta of a new Google Analytics API, which will allow developers to pull data out of the analytics service to build new applications. Crosby said that "renegade developers" have already written scripts or created other ways on their own to build new applications that use Google Analytics data. Examples, he said, include iPhone applications that display Google Analytics data on the iPhone and a Flash-based desktop version of the analytics service.

"I think this is one of the most significant things we can do is allow people to pull data out of Google Analytics and build applications for it that we might never have dreamed of," Crosby noted. "We have a very large customer base, and a lot of these people are developers and want to do things with the data."

Google plans to roll out most of the new features to users over the next several weeks. Crosby noted that the integration with AdSense may take longer than a few weeks, and that the API is available by invitation only.

A year ago Google updated Google Analytics by adding internal search and event tracking capabilities. The latter feature allows Web site operators to more accurately measure how visitors are using interactive Web site elements like AJAX, JavaScript, Flash movies, page gadgets and other multimedia tools, Crosby said.

Read more about Business Intelligence/Analytics in Computerworld's Business Intelligence/Analytics Topic Center.



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