Looking for Instant Gratification? Try Real-Time Google Analytics!

Real-Time Google Analytics Report

In this day and age we want immediate answers and instant gratification. For this reason one of my favorite tools that I use every day is Real-Time Google Analytics. As its name implies, Real-Time lets you see visitor activity on your site as it happens. So how do I use Real-Time Google Analytics?

To ensure the GA tracking code is actually tracking.

We are in the business of building websites, and on any given day we have multiple sites in various stages of development. I may install a code on a site two months before it launches. If the new site is replacing an existing site, I use the same code on the new site so that we have the historical data along with the new data. In this case I’ll keep the tracking code turned off so that Google doesn’t get confused by seeing the same code on multiple sites. Once the site launches, I turn the code on (if need be), go to the new site, then in another window go to Google Analytics. I look under Real-Time > Overview and voila – one active visitor from Naperville, Illinois. As long as I see “me” in Real-Time, I know the code is installed and working correctly. Sometimes I’ll also go to the site on my iPhone or iPad, and make sure it is tracking on these devices. Under Real-Time > Content I can see the active page but also the device breakdown by visitor. Again, as long as I see “me” as an active desktop, mobile or tablet user, I know the code is tracking.

To test that conversions are working.

On our automotive sites we have between 12-20 visitor conversion opportunities. We track conversions a few different ways, one being in Google Analytics where we can go back through the visitor funnel and analyze the data multiple ways. However, we can only analyze if the data is there, so the first thing I do when we launch a new site is set up all of the conversion goals in GA and get to testing. To test I go to the live site and fill out each form, therefore completing each conversion. As I submit each form, I go back to GA and look under Real-Time > Conversions. If the conversion goal was set up correctly, and if the form behaves as it should, then I will see the completed conversion pop up here. If it doesn’t, then I know I need to investigate the setup in GA, and/or the conversion behavior on the back-end of the site (sometimes the form or resulting page redirect needs to be adjusted). Once I see the conversions appear in Real-Time I can be confident that we will track our client’s data correctly.

Other uses for Real-Time analytics.

Google has other suggestions for using Real-Time:

  • To determine if new or changed content is being viewed (think news sources that change their content frequently – they’ll want to see right away if people are viewing the new content)
  • To watch if a one-day promotion is driving traffic to your site
  • To see the immediate effect of a social network post

So I’d like to know – how are you using Real-Time Google Analytics?

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