I’m a very curious guy, and I wanted to know who is looking at my blog, and for my wife, who is interested by what is viewed on her decoration site (in construction as she wants to make a living of decoration advice). With my hosting service, I have access to Awstats, but Google Analytics seems better suited for data analysis. And this is what this book explains.
Content and opinions
The first part is about the basics of analytics. A short chapter presents the issues of analyzing logs to enhance one site and the next two chapters are about AWStats. This server program (it runs directly with the webserver) is presented with its advantages and its drawbacks, which naturally leads to client programs (the logs are accumulated by a script running on a client browser).
The second part is dedicated to Analytics basics. In fact, the goal is not to start analyzing data, it is extracting the data you want and also sharing it, if you need to. Basic regular expression with application to prefiltering data (during the acquizition) and filter manipulation allow a first data classification befor ethe actual analysis that is presented in the next part. Every explanation is very simple, with a lot of images, so it is easy to understand. Then you can set up the goals of your site, which leads to Adwords campaigns (that can help you earn money), and thus better graphs as you will be able to mix Adwords results with visitors statistics. Finally, you can have estimates of your gains by telling Analytics how much you earn if someone hits a specific page (with a link to Adsense, Google Adwords’ twin). So with this chapter, you are just taught how to install everything so that the fun begins, which is the content of the next parts.
I will spend less time on this part, because I think a lot can be learnt just by looking at how Analytics works. The so-called Dashbord and the time line can be customized, so some tips are useful, but these chapters do not bring much (well, for someone who loves to click everywhere to see how it works a least).
Analytics purpose is to expose some statics about visitors. It generates a lot of different graphs, each of which is presented in the fourth and the fifth parts. It’s sometimes boring, but some useful information are dissiminated everywhere.
The last parts are each very short (they could have been merged, or at least reorganized). They are mainly higher-level views of the data presented in the last two chapters. How people navigate in the site, if goals are efficient or not, and where they are the most, additional e-commerce reports, these are data you won’t use at first, because I think they are more difficult to understand and to optimize. If you can’t figure how to use raw data, I don’t think you will be able to benefit from these. For more advanced users, their presence in the book, albeit short, is valuable (if you’re an advanced user, you should be able to understand the graphs, but knowing Analytics provide them somewhere is the additional value).
Also some pieces of information are quiet natural or obvious, there are a lot of small pieces of advice that are very interesting and important. You can use Google Analytics without help, but it is far easier to have some insights from people that studied several solutions thoroughly. It does not help you to optimize your site, it only gives you the information you need to think of the optimizations you can make.