Scott Hanselman

Google Analytics - It doesn't suck

November 18, 2005 Comment on this post [14] Posted in Reviews | DasBlog | Javascript | XML | Tools
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Like everyone else on the planet I set up Google Analytics a few hours after it was released. For DasBlog it was easy, I just added the few lines of javascript to my hometemplate.blogtemplate file and it immediately appeared on every page.

However, LiveStats is also free on my kick-ass hosting service (Orcsweb) but can I get extra info from Google? First off, of course, Google's analytics are Javascript based so there's little they can do if the client browser has turned off Javascript. Also, everyone's ISP runs a different statistics program, so your mileage will no doubt vary. My question is just: should I bother with both?

Google Analytics tells me I really need to work on my stylesheet since there's a pile (surprised me) of folks running 1024x768 out there:


I can't find the same data in LiveStats. Google Analytics tells me that I have few dial-up users:


and most folks are running IE6, with FireFox in a close second:


Google also offers things like "Visitor Loyalty" and "Visitor Recency" to let me know if you stop by, and continue to stop by. Of course, it's only been 3 days, but I'll let you know in a few months. There's at least 20 (seriously, 20, to mention sub-reports) other kinds of reports from comparing targeted AdWords to "organic" visits to "Entrance Bounce Rates" to see what entry points to your site keep the visitor sticking around. Also every report can be drilled down to the hour.

It's amazing that Google can just destroy a whole industry just by giving a tool like this away. I shudder to think what it felt to work for a small web stats company that day.


Google Analytics is fantastically deep, and while it appears they are having some capacity problems as my data is pretty stale, I suspect that once they've ironed out the kinks that nearly every small site on the planet will be using it. Additionally, once they've completed the inevitable (more complete and seamless) integration with AdWords, it'll be even more compelling.

The interface is also Flash (not Ajax per se) and as such, is quite flashy. It's easy to navigate and very intuitive. I'll spend more time here than in my ISPs free stats package. I wonder if this means that many ISPs can cut costs by yanking their stats?

On yucky detail though, the XML export is crap. Well, not complete CRAP, as it IS well-formed, but for all intents it's just angle-bracketed delimited files. Note the mindless root node and lack of namespace, schema, or even inline DTD. Note the cheesy non-standard date range and ethnocentric presumably mm/dd use of "Sat 11/12." Woof.

   <report>Executive Overview</report>
   <date>20051112 - 20051118</date>
   <dataset id="0">
      <title>Visits and Pageviews</title>
      <column1>Date Range</column1>
<column2>Visits</column2> <column3>Pageviews</column3> <ncols>3</ncols> <record id="0"> <name>Sat 11/12</name> <value1>0</value1> <value2>0</value2> </record>
...more of the same...
<record id="59"> <name>Riyadh|246408|467728</name> <value1>6</value1> </record>

Note the "tunnelled" data near Riyadh there, separated by pipes. For a second there I thought I was looking at RSS. This crappy export format aside, it's an amazing package, and mind-blowing for free.

Now playing: India Arie - I Am Not My Hair

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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November 18, 2005 11:49
Hmmm... Russia's and the Siberia region is not giving you much love. You'll need to talk about Vodka a bit more.
November 18, 2005 12:13
If you have a 15" LCD, you're probably running at 1024x768.
I run widescreen at 1280x768 - so all those widescreen resolutions in your stats should probably be aggregated into the 1024x768 stats for your CSS testing.
November 18, 2005 12:33
Yeah I have it running too and its very nice.

The regular hits from Scotland will be me ;o)

Just about to start readin 2.0 professional.

November 18, 2005 15:03
well it sucks over here. the reports page only loads every other time, and it looks like they are not very good at collecting data. infact they only collected data for 1.5 days and stopped without giving any reason...

if this isn't getting any better pretty fast, i'll be going back to my old stats software.

thomas woelfer
November 18, 2005 17:58
Uh, 15% compared to 50% is a "close second"?
November 18, 2005 19:15
Great review, Scott. I looked at this, but didn't bother due to the lack of info on their site. I'll definitely plug this in later tonight.
November 18, 2005 20:04
I've got a 19" monitor & I'm running 1024 -- Only because I can get 80 Hz refresh, as opposed to 60 Hz when going to a higher resolution. Maybe I just need a better video card.
November 18, 2005 20:25
It is going to miss some people that do read your site. For instance, I read everything from Bloglines and rarely ever come to the actual site. So, I assume that I will not be counted (except today as I just came here to post this comment about not coming here...weird).
November 18, 2005 21:44
Oh yes, I forgot to mention, since none of my RSS traffic comes through here (it's all handled by Feedburner) we're only talking about folks with Browsers. I use FeedBurner for those kinds of stats.
November 18, 2005 22:36
So how do they do it? Black magic? Is it an AJAX like call? If users have javascript turned off they don't get counted?
November 18, 2005 23:00
LiveStats sucks, the new version at orcsweb is dog slow and not as useful as the earlier versions. Its probably the one thing about the orcsweb package that i'd like to see changed.
November 19, 2005 2:16
Yay! 1024x768! :-).
November 19, 2005 22:42
I'm too slow. They are no longer accepting new accounts (at least temporarily). :(
November 21, 2005 19:56
Makes sense.. I added the javascript to some of my pages on Thurs and I've yet to get a report.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.