Google recently released a Real Time Tracking feature in the new Google Analytics interface. Though still in Beta and providing limited capabilities, we are now able to see what website visitors are doing as it happens.

Google does an excellent job at keeping us online marketers on our toes, releasing new applications, platforms, interfaces and features so regularly that sometimes many of us find it challenging to keep up.

Whether it's a new feature in AdWords, revising their algorithms, or changing the SERP layout, we are forced to constantly adapt to change and learn new techniques and skill sets to perform our jobs to the fullest.

Impressive New Features

  • Instantly know how many visitors are on your website

  • Monitor referring attributes

Instantly discover how visitors are arriving at your website, broken down by

  • Source
  • Campaign
  • Medium
  • Keyword
  • Monitor Top Active Pages

Discover which pages currently have the most active viewers or check page performance over the past 30 minutes.

  • Monitor geographical impact

Analyze the stream of incoming traffic as it happens by visitor location. Click on a Country and Google breaks it down even further to the City-level.

The BIG One: Measure Social Media Impact

Let's say your company just posted a Tweet. Real Time Reporting allows you to monitor the immediate response to your social media initiatives and gauge its performance. Knowing when to re-engage your audience is never straightforward, but knowing when traffic from particular sources begins and drops-off will do nothing but help influence your strategy.

Real Time
definitely has wow-factor
Prior to this, we had to wait around 30 minutes to 3 hours to view data and in some rare cases, still wondering what the impact was of a website change or social media initiative for up to 24 hours after the fact.

Google Real Time Reporting definitely has wow-factor, but I expect even after trying it out, many are still rather unsure what they can do with this knowledge - how they would act on it and maybe if they can even act on it.

I do admit there is absolutely a place for Real Time Analytics, but for the average Analyst, it is really too early to tell what the real benefits are for the majority of users. Perhaps all we need is the hourly report Google Analytics already provides.

Is Traditional Analytics All we need?

A few Beta Version Limitations to Real Time Reporting:

  • Unable to save or export reports
  • Unable to apply advanced segmentation to the data
  • No profile filtering
  • Real Time Analytics only provides reporting for the past 30 minutes

We all can agree, sometimes we need to step back from what's happening now, and analyze our findings, visualize data and look through spreadsheets for spikes, dips and irregular activity. From that, maybe we can better understand the impact of our efforts and act upon it properly.

If you are monitoring in real time after a Tweet, are you really going to sit and stare at the computer screen awing at your efforts -jumping for joy, watching the visitors pour in? Heck, I would (and will be after this post goes live) - but what actions will I take with this information?

Maybe our time is better spent accessing that irregular traffic spike that may have occurred instead of looking over an hourly impact report? Just like any experiment or test, you can't come to a solid conclusion immediately, but rather have to sample a larger audience, factoring in variables.

Yes, knowing what is happening at any moment can help us better understand our website visitors, but so can traditional Analytics. The real challenge is strategizing a plan of action for when problematic issues occur and having the necessary support to implement changes on the fly.

Leave a comment with your early experiences, tips, advice and strategy.

Solid Google Analytics reads:

Nick Supapol

Nick Supapol is Paid Search Strategy Lead (and consistently ranked #1 ping-pong player) at Search Engine People, specializing in Travel, Consumer Goods and Business-to-Business.

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2 Responses to “Will Google Analytics Real Time Reporting Really Change the Way You Work?”

  1. Shockley says:

    Great post, Nick!

    I've found that this feature can be quite addictive. There's just something about knowing who's on your site at this very moment, where they came from, etc.

  2. Mike says:

    Nice post. It's funny, but I wasn't even aware of this. I don't use analytics that much as it is…just to measure bounce rate and new sources of traffic. Many people I know prefer Statcounter for data.

    I get much more use out of Google Webmaster Tools. Your click through rate from the serps is something far too few people keep track of…and much more important IMHO.