Google Announces New Data Visualization Tools for AnalyticsBy NICK BILTON AND CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
In the early 1900s, John Wanamaker, a political figure and well-known merchant, coined one of the most famous quotes about advertising: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
For the past century that observation has remained true, but that is slowly changing as online companies start delivering real-time analytics about Web surfers and the ads they see. It could be used for social networking advertising — an area that Google is poised to enter with its new social network, Google+.
On Wednesday, at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Google announced that it is releasing tools that will help narrow the advertising conundrum even further. The company showed off a new analytics tool called “Flow Visualization” that can track the path users take when navigating a Web site.
The new tools are for Google Analytics, the free service for Web site owners and app developers to track what happens on their Web sites, like the number of visits to a site, the percentage of first-time visitors and the amount of time people spend there.
Now, with something called flow visualization, Web sites will also be able to see what those visitors do on the site in a graphical format. For example, they could first sort visitors by which browser they use or which country they live in, then see which pages they visit and how many abandon the site at each point along the way.
Flow Visualization takes the data Google collects and then creates an interactive visual map. The graphic will illustrate the number of people who are navigating a Web site, but also the path they take on their journey: entering through the home page, clicking on interior links and viewing ads along the way.
Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president for advertising at Google, said at the conference that the new tool was inspired by a form of early data visualization from the 1900s known as a spaghetti graph. Ms. Wojcicki pointed to an early map showing Napoleon’s army as it marched on Russia in 1812, which shows the number of soldiers who died on the journey over a period of time.
In a similar way, Ms. Wojcicki said, ”Flow visualization enables Google to show how people are moving around a Web site.”
“We think this is going to help data be told in a story that can be understood very quickly and easily,” Ms. Wojcicki said.
Ms. Wojcicki said that the tool would be useful for companies running promotions on social networking sites like Google+ and Facebook. They want to know how many visitors a promotion sent to the site immediately, not two days later.
Google also recently introduced a paid version of Analytics for businesses that want extra features.
Ms. Wojcicki said Google will be releasing the new product to Google Analytics users in the coming weeks.