Greater Lafayette Information Technology Society

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by Wally Hubbard, Avosot
February 15

Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

This web site now uses Google Analytics, a service that provides web site owners with information on visitor traffic.  It can provide information not captured in web server logs.

The owners can go to a “Dashboard” page that shows the number of visits and average time spent on the site, graphed over a day, month or year. An e-commerce site could also use the service to track how far visitors went along the path to completing a purchase, and see where those who started but didn’t finish the purchase bailed out.

For this site, set up was easy.

First, sign-up is required at Google Analytics. Sign up requires a Google account, your name, and your country. The service is free for up to five million page views a month. Even that limit is removed if you have a Google Adwords account (Google displays your ad in its search results whenever a search includes words or phrases you have selected, and you pay whenever someone follows your ad's link).

Second, some JavaScript code is provided that must be added to the HTML “head” section of each page to be tracked. The 13 lines of code include a tracking number and code that loads a 25 kilobyte JavaScript file, www.google-analytics.com/ga.js. This tracking code could slow the loading of the page slightly, but it’s likely to be already cached on the machine from previous visits to sites that use the same service. The code is “minified”, which makes it smaller so it loads faster, and makes it hard to read if you try to figure out exactly what information is being tracked. Since the tracking code is written in JavaScript, its ability to track browsers that have JavaScript disabled is minimal.

The user agreement says “Reports are to be used solely for your own internal use. . . Google may retain and use information collected in your use of the service, subject to the privacy policy.”

Here's a sample of the reports available, showing a map of visitors over the first day of use:
A report from Google Analytics on visitors over a one-day period to GLITS.biz

Most of the U.S. visits are probably from me as I worked on the site. A Canadian visitor (only one of the two Canadian visits was new, so one person visited twice) doesn't seem to have spent any time on the site, while two Romanian visits each spent an average of more than two minutes looking at two or three pages.

The Bounce Rate shows the percentage of visitors that looked at only one page on the site before leaving. Given that GLITS.biz has only one main page, I'm surprised the number is not higher. The most popular pages, after the main page, are minutes from past meetings. CityBus and the FBI were the most popular.

Looking at other pages, I can see that the most common browser was Internet Explorer v8.0. Others included IE7, IE9, Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Operating systems were mostly Windows, plus 2 Linux and 1 Macintosh. Screen resolutions ranged from 1024x600 to 3840x1200 (a dual display setup).

Two visits had JavaScript turned off and no report was available on the time spent on site—probably the visits from Canada, and possibly they were one visit that viewed two pages. There were 17 unique visitors.


Another useful Google service is Webmaster Tools. This allows a web site owner to optimize for search engine keywords and see who links to the site. It shows which words on the site have caused it to be listed in Google search results, and how many times those results were clicked on.

Recent searches that included GLITS.biz in the results used the words “FBI” (from the November 2008 meeting, 70 hits), “orange arrow” (from a graphic’s name, 50 hits), “backup devices” (35 hits) and “GLITS” (30 hits). The number of clicks on each for GLITS.biz is reported as "<10", less than ten, and could be zero.

There are also three links to the site from other sites reported, two of which (docjax.net and itknow.com) I would guess are link farms (which exist to skew Google search results, although GLITS is an innocent bystander). The other link is from my personal web site. I am also aware of one link to the site that was not reported by Webmaster Tools, so it appears Googlebot hadn't scanned it yet.