I previously presented here my opinion about several tools to collect statistics for a web site (Alexa.com, Performancing metrics, Webalyzer). Then, I started by writing about the existence of Google Analytics, the still-in-beta-test offer from the American search engine giant. But I could not test it because Google did not provide an invitation to the evaluation in time for the review. This is correted now. Google sent me an invitation last month and, with the added experience, I can now share my understanding of this product.
The installation is a bit more complex than with all the other tools I tested since you have to first create a Google account and then log to the Google Analytics web site using an invitation code. This seems a bit useless, but let’s hope than when Google Analytics is out of the beta phase, this will be simplified (However, Google tends to keep a lot of things in beta during years).
Before going into the details of operation, just notice that the reports use Macromedia Flash and the plug-in must be installed to view them. Additionally, you will notice that the update of the statistics is not done immediately, so the first report will have to wait a few hours to a day.
Essentially, this is – by far – the most extensive source of information about web site visits I encountered up to now. All sorts of presentations are specifically targetted to the various audiences for your statistics (manager, marketing, site webmaster).
Flash graphics are really sweet, very readable, easily customizable or quick to adapt to requests.
But there is a major issue. Even after a month of tweaking, moving, testing, changing configuration, I still find several of the graphics utterly unreadable, impossible to understand or completely inadequate for a small but relatively sophisticated web site like my roumazeilles.net or SpamAnti.net.
As a matter of fact, for most webmasters and web site owners, there is too much of everything. If you have built a major online shopping center, I belieeve that Google Analytics will be useful to keep understanding what your visitors are really doing on the web site. But if you are an individual webmaster or representing a user group or small company, and built your own blog or web site, too many useless things will clutter your display and your time will be better spent elsewhere. My opinion is that Performancing metrics is much better targetted to human-size web sites.