Advanced Web Metrics and Google AnalyticsWhen we first deployed Google Analytics to our websites, it was just a matter of putting in the javascript tagging according to GA’s setup guide. With that, we thought our job was done as “techies”. When the business folks and marketers approached us to get more detail out of GA, we happily put in on our list of to-dos, but at the bottom (of course).

That whole perception changed when I picked up this book “Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics”, written by Brian Clifton. It is a recommended read if you truly care about your organisation and its online presence.

As the book described “Web analytics is a thermometer for your website – constantly checking and monitoring your online health”. It was through this book that I learnt all the little tricks possible with GA, and frankly I’m hooked on this whole analytics ‘thing’ now. I’m setting up measures and goals for almost anything useful even before the business folks comes knocking on my door.

The book is made up of 4 parts comprising a total of 11 chapters, starting with foundation topics like “Why understanding your Web Traffic is important to your Business” and the various methodologies of capturing the data and making sense of it. I found it a good and solid start which gives newcomers a good introduction on the topic of Web Analytics. However, if you’ve used other web analytic tools before and understand the “why analytics is important”, you could probably skip over these 2 chapters and start at Chapter 3.

Chapters 3 to 5 orientates you to Google Analytics, detailing how GA works, it’s history as Urchin, and gives you a tour of the GA interface. Chapter 5’s “Top 10 Reports Explained” is a great way to get up to speed on the standard GA offering, if you’re never laid eyes on GA before.

Now, Chapters 6-9 (ie Part 3 of the book) is really where the money is, in my opinion. The author goes into detail about how to setup GA, how to collect data into multiple GA accounts, how to take advantage of “virtual pageviews”, campaign tracking, event tracking and the list goes on. A fair warning here, it does get quite technical, and some of my non-tech coworkers had a hard time keeping up.

If you balk at the sight of javascript, you might want to find a tech guy to help explain some of the coding aspects. But I assure you, it’s well worth it. Once you get a handle on these chapters, you’ll be able to setup any form of monitoring and data collection you would ever likely to need.

The remaining chapters of the book covers areas like Key Performance Indicators and applying GA to real world tasks. To be honest, I kind of flipped through these without really paying much attention to them. A marketer or business person might get more juice out of these topics, but as a tech person, it’s not something I would spend too much time on.

Because this book was published in March 2008, there have been some new features added into Google Analytics which are not covered. These are Custom Reports and Advanced Segmentations. You can find out more information at the Google Analytics Blog or at YouTube. In fact, I would recommend you bookmark the official Google Analytics Blog to keep up to date with the latest information from the GA team.

Overall, the author did a great job making a somewhat complex topic into something easily understood. This book has something for everyone – the tech guy, the marketer, the business guy and everyone else in between, and makes this a must read for anyone who is serious about improving their online business.

You can find extracts of this book at the Google Book Search