Just so you know, Google Analytics is installed on this website. Google Analytics is a free website visitor analytics system which we use routinely on most of the websites that we work with. It logs information like :
- what searches were run that brought searchers to this site?
- which posts did people look at?
- what other sites linked people to this one?
- what operating systems, browsers, screen resolutions, network locations did those people use?
We do this because we use Analytics all the time. I find the data it gives me fascinating. I love Analytics with an unhealthy passion. And given that I’m sitting here typing all this stuff in, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to know a little about you, dear reader!
Analytics does not record:
- the name, email address, inside leg measurement or preferred salad dressing of the person using the computer to look at this.
- Anything that your machine/network isn’t set up to disclose routinely.
Analytics does make a guess at your location, and I can see some very pretty maps showing where it thinks you all live. Because I live in Britain, Google kindly puts me right in the middle of the maps it shows me. This makes me feel very important. A lot of you seem to be using networks that say you are in Britain too. You are in the centre of the world, like me! But where, in our central little island, do you live? I can see a map of that too! But oddly, it tells me that many of our visitors come from Billericay. This seems odd. We are based in Cornwall. We have no customers in Billericay. So who are all these Billericay people?
And in fact, the geographical guessing system is far from perfect. My ISP, Zen Internet, is obviously not dispensing particularly accurate data about the location of its customers. I know my location, and I can tell that Analytics is guessing my location to be either Crawley or London. There are visits from Plymouth and Truro, which would be closer, but when I break down the reports for those locations, I can see that they are not me, since I do not typically visit our website by googling for my own name.
The geographic sensing has improved though. There were several years when I connected to the internet via Claranet, when Google geosensing was adamant that I lived in Germany, to the point where I had to override defaults to get a version of Google that wasn’t in German.
By looking at which pages and blog posts people visit (and which are less popular!) I can understand what sort of information is likely to be of use to our website visitors. I can look at whether people arrive at the website and then go away straight away, and what sort of people are more likely to stop for a while and have a good rummage. I can look at which pages get lots of visitors, and which are mostly ignored.
Website visitor analytics offer a brilliant way for the people who build and own websites to understand what the visitors are wanting, without having to intrude and demand time and effort to explain directly.
Knowing how people use a website, what they searched for, which pages they visited and in what order, helps the website owner either to help people find stuff they want more quickly and easily, or make it clearer that that isn’t what they do.
This makes the web better and more useable for everyone. Analytics is a really important and honestly, not particularly intrusive tool that can help make the world a less irritating place.