blogging Google google-analytics Humor information-scent Programming The Internet web-analytics Web Design

Taking Web Stats to the Next Level (of Weirdness) with Google Analytics

If you have ever run a web site, you've been exposed to the addictive, number-crunching fun provided by web stats. Any web site that's worth it's pixels will have, at the very least, a freeware program like AWStats parsing through the server logs and putting together colorful charts and reports. Our host, Q5media, are kind enough to provide us with LiveStats by Deepmetrix. Web stats can be really useful for blogs. They can tell you all sorts of interesting things about your readership, for example, last month 55 people found the site while searching for Yakety Sax, no doubt landing on our article about how Yakety Sax makes anything funny. Other top searches included guys kissing, how youtube works, and once you go black. Hopefully everyone found what they were looking for. As you can see, the most important use of web stats is to find the strangest search phrases people use to get to your articles. The small sample above is actually at the top of our list, but on a more sedate blog you might have to dig a bit to get to the comedy. Looking further down I get gems such as "indian dicks" and "bees apocalypse." In addition, web stats provide you a way to start fights between your writers as they argue over who's getting more traffic and why. So it's a lot of fun. In order to get some really deep knowledge, you have to venture off into the world of web analytics. Analytics gives you more than just the list of top pages by visitor count. You are able to see where readers come from, how they make their way through the site, and how they exit. If you have advertising on your site, you can really get a sense of what works and what doesn't. Google Analytics is a completely free, and fairly useful, analytics package to try out. It works by placing a small JavaScript on your pages - in Wordpress, you could stick it in your footer. So what is this deep knowledge I speak of? Let me give you an example: a few days ago we had an article about the weight loss drug Alli. With Google Analytics, I now know that 9 of the people who read the article clicked on an ad, no doubt one selling Alli or a similar weight-loss product. Six people clicked on to an article about things every nursing student should have, which means at least a tiny percentage of our readers actually look to us for helpful information. But five people clicked on the the page for the tag "accidents." If you follow that link you'll notice that there's only one article there. The only thing I can think is that five of our readers were not interested in the helpful information aspect of the article as the "pooped myself" aspect. They picked up on the tag and thought it would lead them to more... accidents. What's worse, in the academic world, this trail they followed is called the "information scent."