Beyond the Numbers: Google Launches In-Page Analytics

Marketing — whether online or offline — has always been one-part psychology, one-part math, and one-part communications. And for those of us who prefer visuals over numbers, Google Analytics has just released the Beta version of In-Page Analytics.

The new feature makes it much easier to determine how visitors navigate and click through a website. Instead of crunching numerous clicks and click-through rates for every single page in Analytics or an Excel spreadsheet, In-Page Analytics, as the Google Analytics blog notes, shows a vast collection of data in a simple, visual format:

“When looking at Google Analytics reports, sometimes it’s difficult to visualize how visitors navigate on a given website page. To make this visualization easier, some users keep the website open in another browser tab so they can reference it while looking through reports.

Others rely on the Site Overlay report in Google Analytics, which, admittedly, hasn’t worked as well it could. Today, we’re happy to share with you a bit of what we’ve been working on to address this problem. We’re releasing a new feature into beta: In-Page Analytics. With In-Page Analytics, you can see your Google Analytics data superimposed on your website as you browse.”

Here is Google’s YouTube video introducing the feature:

Although In-Page Analytics is still in testing mode, it seems to be a step forward towards analyzing all click-through data in a visual context since the feature seems to measure text links, image links, and advertising links. (More on the last item later.)

If the manager of a business website or personal blog sees that most clicks occur, for example, at the top of the page, then the users will know that links in that location should focus on the primary goal (sales pitches to product pages, pay-per-click advertisements, and so on). Links elsewhere will be of secondary importance.

Google Analytics’s support page for In-Page Analytics poses several good questions that webmasters will want to ask themselves while purusing the data:

    Is my page layout optimal for what I want users to accomplish on the page?
    Are my users seeing the content I want them to see?
    Are my users finding what they’re looking for on the page?
    Are my calls to action motivating or visible enough?
    Which links are users clicking?

As far as the specific questions:

Is my page layout optimal for what I want users to accomplish on the page?
Are my users seeing the content I want them to see?

If your goal is for traffic to click to an interior page about “widgets” and there are few clicks on those links, then obviously there is a problem. The benefit of In-Page Analytics is that it provides a visual context in which to analyze the problem. Is the link too far down on the page? Is attention drawn away from the link by a nearby image? Is the link lost in a sea of boring text? Google’s new feature should help to provide some answers.

Are my users finding what they’re looking for on the page?

Another important benefit of Google In-Page Analytics is that the data can be sorted through the Advanced Segments feature (click on the “Add Filter” on the right of the In-Page Analytics toolbar). Webmasters can see data pertaining only to demographics including:

— Certain keywords
— Geographic locations
— Referring websites
— Specific search-engines

Our widget webmaster can filter the results to see click-through data for Google searches for “widgets,” for people located in Boston, or from a given blog about the topic and then analyze and improve his site accordingly.

Are my calls to action motivating or visible enough?

If a call-to-action — a push to click on an advertisement, to a contact form, or to a sales page — is in an optimal location but is still not generating a significant number of clicks, then the problem would likely be with the CTA itself. Perhaps the text or image is either not compelling enough or actually turning people away — In-Page Analytics can help determine whether there is a problem, but the feature cannot tell website owners what to do.

Of course, In-Page Analytics is not perfect — even Google needs to do a Beta version — so webmasters will need to keep a few things in mind. As a commenter at Mashable notes, multiple links on a single page to a destination will show the same click-through data even though the results would be different in reality.

According to Google, the technology cannot yet distinguish between such links. As a result, a link to a Contact page both at the top and bottom of the main page will show the same data even though the link at the top likely garners moe clicks. Google has said that it helps to change this in the final version. However, links on different pages to a given destination do have different CTR data for the link on each page.

In addition, it is unclear what click-through data on advertisements means. For example, I have a personal blog with a few banner advertisements. In-Page Analytics gave me click-through data on an advertisement in the top left-hand corner — but I have a widget in that location that rotates between several advertising networks. Was the CTR for the specific advertisement (or ad network) that appeared for In-Page Analytics at that moment, or was the data collectively referring to all of the ads and networks delivered by the widget in that location? At this point, I cannot say.

Still, these are relatively minor issues, especially in a Beta version. Google has seemingly delivered yet another useful tool for businesses and website owners — especially those who would rather not deal with too many numbers.