There’s no arguing with the fact that Google Analytics provides a wealth of free information. Truly, if you were only going to take one single action to improve your website results, it should be to install Google Analytics and make decisions about your website’s future based on the data the program generates.
That said, Google Analytics has one major weakness – its data is reported on a daily basis, not in real-time. For most of your website analytics needs – including determining your overall bounce rate or top content pages – this isn’t an issue. However, there are a few key areas where having access to real-time website analytics data can make a big difference in your site’s overall success.
Consider any of the following advantages to see why adding a real-time analytics program to your website data reporting services is a “must do”:
Advantage #1 – Track Visitor Movement Through Your Site
One area where real-time analytics shine is the ability to track the movement of readers throughout your site. Although Google Analytics can show you common entry and exit pages that visitors use to navigate your site, you aren’t able to track their full paths or see them in real-time.
Why is this important? Well, think for a second about how much valuable information you’d gain if you were able to follow visitors as they moved through your site. If you noticed several visitors clicking away from one page after brief visits, but spending much longer on other pages, you could conclude that the content on this page isn’t meeting your visitors’ expectations.
Using real-time visitor paths through your website to understand “average time on page” (versus overall average time on site, as reported by Google Analytics), you could take action to improve under-performing pages and make your website more appealing to your visitors.
Advantage #2 – Evaluate Promotions as They Occur
Another area where real-time analytics can be especially valuable is when monitoring new promotions you’ve released on your website.
For example, say you’ve just launched a new sale that’s only running for a few days. With this limited window, you may not have time to run A/B split tests in order to determine whether you’re using the most engaging headline or whether you’ve placed your promotional message in the best possible place on your site.
But while you can’t generate split testing data that quickly, you can use real-time analytics programs to monitor user behavior on your website. By looking at your past sales data, you should have a general idea of your approximate average conversion rates – aka, how many of your visitors participate in your promotions by becoming buyers.
Using real-time analytics, you can determine at a glance whether or not visitors are acting on your sales message at the level you expect. If you aren’t seeing results that are comparable to your past promotions, you can take action and change different elements of your sales display – without having to wait for Google Analytics’ next-day reports or time-consuming split test results.
Advantage #3 – Maximize Social Media Presence
Finally, consider using real-time analytics to improve the results you get from your social media activities.
As an example, say you’ve just launched a new post on your business blog and have set up your favorite Twitter automation tool to release tweets advertising the article at three specific times later in the day. If you tracked the traffic generated by each of these messages in Google Analytics, you’d only see the total number of visitors from Twitter for the entire day.
Instead, by monitoring your traffic levels using real-time analytics, you would be able to see which tweets bring in the most traffic, providing valuable data about the times your readers are most active on social networking sites and what types of promotional messages they respond best to. Capturing this data will help you to better structure social media marketing campaigns in the future in order to achieve the best possible results.
Alternatively, suppose you’ve made it a goal to attract viral traffic to your website by promoting your content on Digg, Stumbleupon and other social sharing sites. If you’re lucky enough to hit the front page of one of these sites, you’ll want to know it immediately in order to best leverage these new visitors. For example, if you see a spike from social sharing site traffic on your real-time analytics program, you could quickly throw up a special opt-in form, welcoming visitors from these sites and enabling your email list to grow substantially.
To get started with real-time analytics, you’ll need to install a third-party script like Clicky or Piwik. Although Google Analytics is reportedly adding real-time data to its services, this rollout hasn’t happened yet and there’s no clear launch date in place for this addition. Until these features become standard on the default installation of Google Analytics, you’ll need to look elsewhere in order to get the real-time data you need to power website improvements.
Check out each of the following programs for your real-time analytics needs:
Clicky – Clicky is a popular real-time web analytics program that provides a wealth of information to users, including the ability to monitor specific visitor actions across your site, segment these visitors into useful categories and gain insight into detailed elements of social networking promotions.
Clicky offers a free version for sites receiving fewer than 3,000 daily page views, as well as paid plans at a variety of levels that offer premium features. Installation is simple and involves either adding a program-specific plugin or pasting a piece of tracking code to each page you want to track.
Piwik – Piwik is an open sourced real-time web analytics program, meaning that it’s free to install and use on your website. But lest you assume that free products must be lacking in features compared to their paid alternatives, be aware that Piwik offers a huge variety of tracking tools that can be used to generate real-time web data.
For example, Piwik doesn’t just track basic stats like visitor counts or time on site. Instead, it offers advanced goal tracking features, ecommerce integrations and website interaction data that are similar to Google Analytics, but with the added benefit of real-time reporting. It’s a great alternative to consider if you aren’t getting enough information out of your existing web analytics program.
Whether you decide to use one of these programs or one of the many other real-time analytics programs offered today, the bottom line is this – if you aren’t tracking your website stats in real-time, you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to optimize your site. By understanding how your website visitors are behaving in real-time, you’ll be better able to create successful promotions and marketing strategies tailored to their needs, improving your overall website results.