Google ratcheted the quality of their analytics product up by another notch this week.
They have now included two core features into their analytics engine - internal search and event tracking.
They are now able to track people's search behaviour on individual sites. This isn't the hugest new feature for the majority of users on this product. However, any internet retailer will find this hugely useful as it will show how easy the site is to navigate in 'last resort' terms.
I haven't seen any evidence to support my view that search is usually the last thing people use to navigate within a site, but I believe this to be the case with the majority of stores. Only a store with more than roughly fifty products should feel the need to push their search function. All other sites should consider their site design and find ways to guide customers to the right destination without needing them to explicitly tell you what they're after.
For those that do have large numbers of products, it gives an insight into products that are important to customers. It can give an idea about rapid changes in popularity of generic ranges of goods. Admittedly we already have access to which product pages people are looking at, but searches should do some of the categorisation for us.
It will also open up possibilities in terms of measuring the performance of the search pages - tweaks will now be more easy to appreciate.
This feature would have made a real difference when we were working on Jellyfish. Basically it allows things to be tracked when they don't involve a new page being loaded. Jellyfish was a particular problem since the page only tracked as one URL as far as google analytics could see. Event tracking should mean that we will be able to look at the performance of flash and ajax parts of sites.
More visibility is crucial here and I'm surprised it's taken this long for Google to put in a fix to this problem. Web 2.0 is fast becoming obsolete in terms of jargon, to be replaced by web 3.0 - surely this will then be supplanted by web 3.1 and then maybe web 95?
Anyway, Google are showing us that they're going to continue putting effort into analytics. It will be interesting to see what they come up with once the acquisition of doubleclick is complete. Their tracking system will be really comprehensive then!