Google has rolled out one extremely helpful service in the form of free, real-time Web statistics--and one expensive yet useful service with Google Analytics Premium.
The Good News: Real-Time Web Analytics
One of the huge drawbacks of Google Analytics when compared with other Web analytics tools was that it only offered credible data from the previous day. There was no real way to track same-day stats or the impact of content shared on social media sites.
If Google has switched the feature on for you, you'll be able to see it by switching over to the new version of Google Analytics by clicking on "New Version" in the top right-hand corner of the page. If it is enabled, you will see it by clicking on your Dashboards tab if you do it now, or your Home tab if you are trying it out next week.Google calls this Real-Time, and it may be the excuse you need to nuke your paid Web analytics solution.
Google has only turned on the feature for select users, so if you don't see it, don't panic. You can sign up for early access here.
Real-Time Analytics allows you to instantly track the efficacy of social media campaigns. By tagging links that you share on Facebook and Twitter with tags related to your marketing campaign, you can track the exact impact of those links. If you need to know how to do that, here's the link.
Google Analytics Premium: Google's Black Card of Web Statistics
When Google called this service "Premium", it wasn't kidding. The service costs $150,000 per year--far out of the reach of most small and midsize businesses (SMB). But it is an extremely robust tool. One feature alone--downloadable unsampled reports--sounds temptingly like it would let you download your own data about your Web properties from Google. The 24-hour live technical support is attractive--especially to the less tech-savvy at larger corporations who may miss out on key data with the current Google Analytics.
Google Analytics Premium may be a no-brainer for high-end advertising agencies tracking campaigns for multiple clients, but keep in mind that they are already employing high-end analytics tools like Omniture and WebTrends. It may be hard for these products to compete with an enterprise-level solution from the search engine with the highest market share. However, Omniture and WebTrends have the added benefit of being legacy solutions embedded with their customers.
It will be interesting to see if Google Analytics Premium becomes the dominant player in this space or if it has to grasp for market share. It all depends if Google Analytics Premium gets the same in-depth and user-friendly features that Omniture and WebTrends have been developing for years.
So, are Google Analytics Premium and other higher-end analytics products only for enterprise-scale business? Not necessarily. It depends on how much volume you do in online sales and marketing. If your online sales dollar volume is extremely high, you may want to consider them as a tool to pinpoint sales conversions.
There's also the question of ROI. How will you find the money to pay for these services? The intelligence they give you will help you better target all of your marketing. You'll stop wasting money on campaigns that may have seemed to make financial sense under the old Analytics model, but don't stand up to scrutiny under your new, shiny tools.
Is There Something in the Middle?
If you still want a more robust solution than the free version of Google Analytics and don't want to go with higher-end solutions like Omniture or Google Analytics Premium, there are a number of mid-range players. Urchin from Google is locally hosted software for Google Analytics and ranges from $7000 to $10,000.If the only attraction of Google Analytics Premium for your business is the capability to create customized reporting, look at Urchin first. Compete.com offers competitive intelligence on the keywords your competitors are using to drive traffic to their sites.
While the higher-end analytics tools are fun to contemplate, for most SMBs the exciting news is the Real-Time promise to let you track the progress of a link instantly in the free Google Analytics. Being able to see how well a particular social media platform performs will allow you to determine how much precious time you can spend on it.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest.