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Everyone who has a website and a search marketing plan knows just how indispensable solid analytics data has become. While solid analytics packages were only available at a premium not long ago, the introduction of Google Analytics has given the power of information to any website owner for a very competitive price: free.

Google Analytics has continued to mature since its release, undergoing a large scale change to the enhanced version 2 earlier this year, and the Google Analytics team didn’t stop there. Recently a number of new features have been announced, and we caught up with Brett Crosby, Senior Manager at Google Analytics to talk about the latest and greatest:

WebShare:What are these new GA features and what were the main drivers behind including them in GA? How do you select which features to include in future releases?

Here were the most recent announcements:

  1. Site Search reporting
  2. Event Tracking
  3. Tagless Exit Tracking
  4. New javascript: ga.js
  5. and of course Urchin Software from Google is now in beta

All of these are pretty exciting advancements, but I am particularly excited Site Search reporting and Event Tracking. We wanted to announce the Tagless Exit Tracking feature now even though it will come out a bit later because we didn’t want people to have to adjust tags on their site twice.

As for which features we prioritize, a lot of it comes from talking to our customers. But we also look at areas where we see big opportunities to advance our product, customer sophistication, product functionality or the industry as a whole.

WebShare:How could a business use the new site search reports to make strategic decisions around their website and their business in general?
BC: Site Search reports are an absolute gold mine of data about how people use search to navigate your site once they are on it. Aside from surveys that interrupt users, Site Search is one of the only ways to get qualitative data rather than just quantitative data about what your users want. The search box on your site is a voting booth for your visitors to tell you exactly what they want out of your site. Our reports tell you if you are delivering.All the internal reports we have looked at with this have gained incredible insights already from this feature, so I am very happy that it has launched. Site Search reporting is something I am personally very passionate about, so I am very happy our engineering team did such a great job with it. To be clear, this has already launched so it is available for everyone now.
WebShare:Businesses with Flash-based websites are lining up to roll out the Event Tracking features – can you give some insight into the excitement & demand surrounding this feature?
BC: Event Tracking is basically Web 2.0 reporting. It tracks AJAX and Flash interactions that aren’t really pageviews, but are interactions with your page. This is a very important release and will help push Google Analytics and the analytics industry as a whole forward.
WebShare:We have always been able to track keywords from a search with GA, what additional information does the internal site search feature bring and how can a site owner use it to their advantage?

There is a lot to be said here. First it is important to distinguish the difference between searches that get people to visit your site vs searches that happen once people are on your site. If you don’t have a search box on your site, you should really get one. You can get one for free with the new Google Custom Search Engine.I am adding one to the Google Analytics site right now actually. Why do you need one? Search engines have made people lazy… err… I mean… efficient, and they expect to be able to search for exactly what they are looking for; no more hunting and gathering with out-of-date navigation. Site Search is how people want to tell you what they want. And if you aren’t giving it to them, guess what? They go somewhere else. If you look around, all the smart sites know this and already have search boxes. The rest of us need to get on board.

So if you are reading this and own a site, go get a search box on your site asap. The reports you get from GA on Site Search are amazing. Rather than go through the details, I think I’ll just point to my friend Avinash Kauishik’s appropriately titled blog post, “Kicking Butt With Internal Site Search.”

WebShare:You’ve been involved with web analytics for a long time–what are some of the changes you’ve observed in the industry as of late? What do you see as the next big step to close the gap between raw metrics & actionable information for business owners?
BC: I love this type of question because that’s what I think about for the bulk of my time… not what is already released, but what can we do to take it further, make it more actionable? As you’d imagine, I have a lot to say about this, but I think you’ll just have to wait and see. We’ve got a lot of features in the works and we hope our users love them when they launch.
 Cardinal Path is a Google Analytics Authorized consultancy, and can help you get the most out of your analytics. We offer a wide range of services, from Google Analytics training to Google Analytics consulting, and can work with projects of virtually any size.