I first looked at Google Analytics for web analysis a couple of years ago. At the time, it was quite a few steps behind some of the commercial packages (e.g., Omniture, web trends, etc.). I’ve spent the last couple of years working with several large ecommerce implementations that use Omniture. This week I started working with a new client that implemented (although doesn’t really use) Google Analytics. I am amazed at how far it has come. It is now very comparable to Omniture – and it is FREE! At this point, Omniture, Google Analytics and several other commercial products provide you with a tremendous amount of information about how your users interact with your site. If you don’t have a tool in place, I see no reason to pay for one of the commercial tools when you can use Google for free.
So, the key isn’t the tool you choose – it is how you use it. To really get the value out of these tools you have to dedicate resources to actually analyze the data. This takes it beyond looking at what your top pages are, what mix of browsers come to your site and what the average order size is – and digs deeper into identifying opportunities to optimize key portions of the site to get a tangible lift in sales. This includes analyzing key use cases on your site and identifying steps where users are abandoning (leaving your site or going to a different part of your site), analyzing the internal search terms and corresponding results to optimize the results and improving your merchandising through analysis of which products customers seem to naturally associate (cross sell opportunity) and identify under-performing products that are taking up valuable site real estate. Don’t think the only way to increase online sales is to add new features or pay for marketing – sometimes the best thing you can do is optimize what you already have to increase conversions for the users already on your site.