Ah Crap! Google Changed Something… Again!


Google Analytics (GA) is one of the most widely-used analytics programs in the world. Although Google tends to make changes to most of their products and algorithms often, Google Analytics is a little different. It only gets fundamental changes maybe once per year … and even that might be pushing it. Granted, there are little updates here and there that happen, but generally the big ones don’t happen that often. This has been true, until recently.

There are a lot of people who want GA to focus only on what they want and need. A lot of people used to say that the user interface (UI) of their analytics product was terrible (my opinion is that it was OK, but could use some help in certain areas). They also noted that it was too hard to find things and that there was too much fluff data in the program. Knowing that they can’t please everyone, Google has started making changes where the most people are asking for them.

Within the last week or so, there has been two HUGE changes to Google Analytics. Both of which change the fundamentals of the program many of us had finally began to master. Both of these changes center on the UI of their product. This is fascinating to me. Not the fact that they made a change – the fact that they made two changes so close together. I want to go over each of these changes and share some of the things that I have observed.

The first major change involves labels, moving analytical pieces out of one section and into another section, and some design changes. All of these changes aim to make the product easier for non-analytical people to use. Once you log into Google Analytics you will still be shown a list of all your analytics accounts. After selecting an account that you want to work with, you need to choose the profile within that account. So far nothing has changed, but hold on, we’re getting there…

Partial screen shot of Google Analytics date chooserOnce you actually get into the dashboard area of GA, this is where you will be able to notice changes. The first thing that I noticed (and some of your will probably think I am weird, that’s OK) is the little icon under the date dropdown that looks like a little graduation hat. Upon clicking on it I learned that it is an Analytics Education area for the specific analytics section I am on. I thought “Cool!” My next immediate thought was “I hope this flows all the way through GA.”

Screen shot of Google Analytics' new navigation menuI was going to go to the left hand navigation and click on Traffic Sources (one of the higher level navigation items that used to be in GA) but I couldn’t find it. This led me to see that some of the main navigation items on the left hand side had also changed. Upon continuing to look at the navigation (top tier and secondary tiers within) I notice that the phrase “Traffic Sources” doesn’t exist anywhere in the new navigation (this could, and probably did, make a lot of people’s heart drop because it is one of the most used areas of GA). So right now, we have gathered that an Education section of some sort has been added and some navigation items have changed.

So what all changed with the navigation? Well, the top level navigation items on the left side used to be Real-Time, Audience, Traffic Sources, Content, and Conversions. Now the left side navigation main items include Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. So Acquisition replaced Traffic Sources and Behavior replaced Content. Before we forget about that Education section that was discovered earlier, upon looking at each of the 5 main navigation sections on the left, there is an Education section for each of them. It highlights some of the things that you can do from an analytical perspective in each of the sections and provides a short overview video of each section.

In the Acquisition section, the Overview now shows you a table of sorts that outlines all of the different traffic channels along with Acquisition Information (Visits, % New Visits, and New Visits), Behavior Information (Bounce Rate, Pages/Visit, and Average Visit Duration), and Conversions Information (Transactions, Revenue, Conversion Rate) for each of the channels. By clicking on one of the channels, it will take you to the new Channels area under the Acquisition section. (NOTE: You are only able to see analytical information for the Acquisition and Channels from July 25th, 2013 going forward. These two areas do not show data prior to that). In one of the Channels you will see a lot of the same information that you used to see in the Traffic Sources section of GA before these changes. Also under the Acquisition section is a new area called Cost Analysis. You will use this section to see visit, cost, and revenue performance for your paid marketing channels. If you have Google AdWords hooked up to your GA, your AdWords data will be displayed and have imported AdWords cost data associated with it.

The new Behavior section (as far as I can tell) was simply just a name change from the old Content section. I believe everything in there is the same and nothing new has been added.

Screen shot of Google Analytics' new segment control.The second big change has to do with the Advanced Segments area of GA. Before this change, there used to be an Advanced Segments button just to the right of the left side navigation and under the page title. Well, as you probably guessed, that is no longer there. A dropdown arrow has replaced it next to a circle that is 100% filled in by default. By clicking on the dropdown menu, it will reveal all of the options for Advanced Segments. The first group of Advanced Segments that you see are ‘All’ which is all built-in, custom, and starred segments that are available. On the right hand side, you can also just view the built-in, custom, or starred groups individually. You can have up to four Advanced Segments on at a time (look above the advanced segment box and you will see the one that is already there and three other dotted lines boxes outlining where three more can go. Towards the top of the advanced segment area, there is also an area where you can toggle between views for your segments. You can either use the grid (default) view or you can change it to a list view.

I know that this was a lot of information to take in, but this is one of the biggest GA updates that I can remember in the past six years. What part(s) of the new GA do YOU like the best? Or, did I miss a change that you noticed? If so, let me know!

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This entry was posted in Industry Trends, Search/SEO/PPC by Matt Hacker. Bookmark the permalink.
Matt Hacker

About Matt Hacker

As Geonetric’s client analytics strategist, Matt helps clients define goals and measure online success. He goes beyond numbers, translating data into actionable guidance. This former manager of Web services for a busy Web design and video production company has experience in everything from search engine optimization and social media management to usability and design. Matt received his bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Northern Iowa. He is also a certified Google Analytics Individual.

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