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Book Review: Advanced Web Metrics With Google Analytics – Second Edition by Brian Clifton

Google Analytics (GA) has been around since November 2005. It is a free service that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website giving users the ability to track a wide variety of information about those who come to a site including where they were referred from, monitoring online campaigns, as well as tracking landing pages.

It used to be enough just to track the hits that a site received. In today's competitive market, it takes much more information to really study the online experience and improve the experience for your customer. The goal of Advanced Web Metrics With Google Analytics is to show you how, through the use of GA, to drive improvements, increase conversion rates, and increase not only customer retention, but your bottom line. This book is 528 pages divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Why Understanding Your Web Traffic is Important to Your Business," can be simply stated. "Web analytics is a thermometer for your website – constantly checking and monitoring your online health." This chapter will show you what you can obtain from the analyzation of traffic to your site, the return on your investment, and where web analytics fits into your organization. Chapter 2, "Available Methodologies and Their Accuracy," takes a look at how web data is collected, the limitations of web traffic information, and figuring out privacy concerns.

Chapter 3, "Google Analytics Features, Benefits, and Limitations," will show you that it is important to understand what you can achieve with web analytics reporting. Here you will learn about the key features of GA, how it works, what it cannot do, what Urchin software is, and what the differences between Urchin and GA. Chapter 4, "Using the Google Analytics Interface," takes into account the latest developments in Web 2.0 and will show you how to drill down into data, determining if a trend is good or bad, and how best to annotate charts to highlight key events for better analysis.

Chapter 5, "Reports Explained," takes a look at the reporting options that you have from within the GA dashboard. You will see the top reports, how to understand page values as well as data sampling. Chapter 6, "Getting Up and Running with Google Analytics," is all about getting the basics correct. This chapter will show you how to create your account, tag your pages, use profiles, how to link GA with both AdWords and AdSense, and more.

Chapter 7, "Advanced Implementation," now looks at the more advanced setups that you may need. You will learn about the _trackPageview() function to create virtual pageviews, how to capture e-commerce transactions, track campaigns in AdWords, track events, and customize GA tracking code. Chapter 8, "Best Practices Configuration Guide," takes a look at what to do once everything is setup. Here you will look at best practices, how to define goals and funnels, the importance of visitor segmentation, and how to use filters and advanced segments.

Chapter 9, "Google Analytics Hacks," examines how to get further information from your site that the reports may not answer by default. In this chapter you will see how to track error page and broken links, gain a greater insight into pay-per-click, and how to improve site overlay, conversion, and e-commerce reports. Chapter 10, "Focusing on Key Performance Indicators," takes the knowledge you have already gathered and will take it to the next step. Here you will set objectives and key results, set and prepare key performance indicators (KPI), as well as how to use KPIs for a Web 2.0 environment.

Chapter 11, "Real World Tasks," will show you practical examples that most web analysts regularly need to perform. You will see how to identify poorly performing pages, measure the success of internal site searches, how to optimize your search engine marketing, and how to use Website Optimizer. Chapter 12, "Integrating Google Analytics with Third-Party Applications," now will show you how to extract GA cookie information using JavaScript or PHP, use the GA export API, and how to integrate Website Optimizer with GA.

Advanced Web Metrics, while it has a lot of information that will help beginners get started and work with GA, it is really more aimed at those who are serious about learning about Web Metrics and Google Analytics. In the intro the author says that it is not aimed at the complete web novice nor at the web engineer. What I will say is that you have to have a decent base of knowledge of the Web and a good understanding of HTML and some good JavaScript skills.

That said, Advanced Web Metrics is a great book for those marketers, webmasters, and senior managers who want, or need to better understand those who visit your website. It will give you the tools to allow you to adapt your pages for the maximum return on investment. While it may require some study for those who don't have the HTML and JavaScript, if you do have these skills, Advanced Web Metrics is an absolutely must own book and so I highly recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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