There’s a great scene from the original Cannonball Run in which one of drivers hops into his Ferrari convertible, rips the rearview mirror off of the windshield, tosses it out and then says to his startled co-driver, “What is behind us—does not matter.” In the world of analytics, all information is, by its nature, backward looking (you can’t measure what hasn’t happened yet). But it isn’t the historical measures themselves which are of interest to analysts, rather the trends they reveal and path(s) forward they illuminate. In short, to be valuable, analytics must be actionable; they should provide hard data to clarify what you should keep doing, what you should stop doing, and what you should do differently.
Learn more about creating custom reports in Google Analytics, improving site conversion rates, interesting tools that extend the capabilities of Analytics and more here in some of the best articles and blog posts on web analytics from the past year.
Google Analytics 101, Part 1 by Search Engine Watch
Frequent best-of contributor Ron Jones provides an excellent introduction to Google Analytics for newbies, and even intermediate users may learn something new here.
Eyes on the Prize with Custom Reports by Google Analytics Blog
Sebastian Tonkin provides step-by-step instructions for creating custom reports within Google, such as a report showing the conversion rate for visitors from a specific geography or traffic source.
A detailed tutorial on using the Advanced Segments Tool in Google Analytics to gain insights into measures such as differences in conversion rates based on content viewed: sure, that popular blog post drew a lot of traffic, but was it productive traffic? Advanced Segments can help answer such questions.
6 Tools Every Google Analytics User Should Have by ROI Revolution
For technical analysts, Shawn Purtell reviews six—actually seven—Firefox extensions, Greasemonkey scripts and other tools that enhance the functionality of Google Analytics. One example is Social Media Metrics, a tools which “allows you to see social media and link bait statistics for your specific pages.”
Is Yahoo Analytics Better than Google’s? by ECommerce Guide
David Needle reports results of a CMS Watch study which gave higher marks to Yahoo’s analytics tool in a couple of areas, including higher default pageview limits for larger enterprises, and the ability to access and view raw data, which would “let you continue to maintain a historical record instead of starting over” if you ever move to a more robust paid analytics platform.
Polaris Puts Google Analytics On Your Desktop by I’m Just Sayin’
A brief but helpful review of Polaris, a free Adobe Air application that delivers eight of the most popular Google Analytics reports straight to your desktop without logging in. A slick, quick way to stay current on your web traffic stats.
New AdWords ID Data in Google Analytics API by Google Analytics Blog
Alex Lucas explains how to combine data from Google Analytics and Google AdWords to “get a (more) detailed picture of the performance of…ad creatives and keywords.”
New Google Analytics Features Can Help You Track Your Social Media Success & Failures by Social Conversations
Li Evans showcases several new features recently added or planned for Google Analytics, such as new goal tracking types, custom variables, mobile apps tracking and custom alerts.
100 Ways To Measure Social Media by MediaPost Social Media Insider
What metrics can be tracked in social media? David Berkowitz offers up his list of “100 thought-starters.” Some are easy (e.g. numbers of fans and followers), others are more challenging and may require more sophisticated tools, but it’s a great list for generating ideas.