Developing against the Google Analytics Tracking API is a pain. Not only is it a bit of a black box, but the actual statistical output only updates every so often. It isn’t easy, but I love the power it enables.
Long have I wished that someone would create some sort of testing library, either to replace the Analytics script itself, or to sit alongside it and output any interactions with the Analytics server. Until now it hasn’t existed – until now.
I present the Google Analytics Testing script. This bad boy utilises the Firebug script console to output most information you care about going to Google Analytics. Great for AJAXy trackEvent projects or anything else doing more than the rudimentary Analytics set and forget stuff. It works as a Greasemonkey script or you can include it in a script tag anywhere in your HTML. It doesn’t prevent the data itself being sent through to the data, but that is something that may change in a future version of the script.
This script currently relies on the existence of the Google Analytics script, but in the future will exist as a standalone script.
I would love any feedback, bug reports or ideas as to how to make this better and more useful.
Install it now with Greasemonkey or include it in a script tag.
I’ve been doing a fair bit of keyword analysis and so forth here at Easy Weddings and have found that I regularly need to do a search directly from Google Analytics. So I’ve written a quick and dirty greasmonkey script that does just that. This adds a search link to each line of the keywords report. At the moment it is just for one search engine, but using a dropdown would also work.
Grab Greasemonkey and then download Search for Keywords Greasemonkey script.
In the very Macaron flavoured world of the Melbourne Food Blogosphere everyone seems to use blogspot. I don’t usually have much to say about Blogger but more out of pure ignorance than any steadfast knowledge of its technical merits. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to use it, probably opting for the more independent, open-source based WordPress.com for a hosted blogging solution. However one thing I have noticed is the prominence of Google Connect paraphenalia in the sidebar of many of these blogs. These widgets allow me to “follow” each blog, what this means I have no idea as I thought I already was “following” them in my Google Reader account. Surely this has some other functionality other than me giving the blog owner nothing more than a vote of confidence that someone else likes their website.
The other thing that I have noticed recently is the growing prominence of Facebook Connect logins on a number of websites. Each of these things growing is a sign of things to come and I’m sorry FriendFeed but you aren’t involved. The minute one of these 2 systems starts providing me, and my friends (my real not geeky internet type friends) some real value they will go ballistic.
Already I’m liking the Twitter/FriendFeed style flow that has been brought to my Facebook page, not the AJAX fueled “Live Status” updates that was there before, but the I refresh the page and there is something new there every time style updates. Old friends I haven’t spoken to in a while have sent me messages, I’ve seen photos I wouldn’t have seen and I’m feeling the love for Facebook again. It’s just a matter of time until I start seeing every website that anyone has performed an action on showing up in there and being able to comment on it.
Likewise I think that is what is missing from Google’s network, a home page, a public profile page, a place where people can come and see that I’ve found a heap of cool new blogs today, found a love of commenting on blogs and generally learnt how to truly waste time in the blogosphere and that doesn’t include the hour I spent on Google Reader this morning.
There is a heap of different technologies at play here, Jabber/XMPP, RSS/Readers, Social Networking, Blogs, Comments, Forums and Status. Saying that tying them together is the next big thing is like closing the gate after the horse has bolted, but I can’t wait until one of these massive companies can tie them all together.
I’ve been working with Google Analytics a fair bit recently, setting up goals and investigating the use of the Events API on a few sites. There isn’t much about Analytics I don’t like, it works as expected and has features you didn’t even know you wanted. I have 2 things I would love to see implemented, first of all, testing of goals. Currently the recommended way of testing if your goal is configured correctly is by using the Top Content report. This works fine, by it is pretty annoying you can’t test this right there on the configure goals page.
Second, I would love to see functionality wherein you could set milestones on the timeline of Google Analytics. This could mark when a new feature was implemented or when a style change was made, this would really let you visualise changes in browsing behaviour and how they relate to site modifications. In my work’s case, we would also be able to show clients really well the results of optimisations we have made. The display should work in a really similar manner as the news articles on Google Finance.
Today at work we were discussing Search Engine Optimisation and wether or not search engines actually index content a long way down the page. I developed the “kottke matrix test-tube babies” test, this originated from me recalling a crazy post on Jason Kottke’s blog about the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies. These had a ridiculous number of comments (457) and a lot of content, which I suspected would be beyond any reasonable content threshold a search engine may have implemented. I took a search term out of the final comment (test-tube babies) and a couple of terms to narrow the search (kottke matrix) and away I fired on the big search engines.
The results of the test, Google and Live are the only 2 that happen to return the page I was targeting. It’s interesting to see however, that Yahoo finds the Science page which contains the term “test tube” but not “babies”. This page is 180kb in size and “test tube” appears approximately half way down, whereas the Matrix Revolutions page is 646kb and test-tube appears at the very bottom.
What’s the moral to this story? Google and Live.com index atleast the first 646kb of a page, Yahoo indexes (at a minimum) around 100kb and Ask isn’t on the radar.
The whole concept of the no-follow tag is definitely interesting, it’s effectiveness is questionable and as far as comment spam goes, it hasn’t helped. (Thank God for Akismet) As far as it’s use in day to day operations of the web, it is somewhat un-spoken about, I have always thought that links that use the no-follow tag should be indicated as such, so the user can tell if the publisher of the website actually “believes” in that link. It is one thing to link somewhere, but another thing to say I actually respect the linked website enough that I will give it my vote. It’s somewhat like democracy really, it’s one thing to complain about the current administration or government, but you don’t really have that right unless you actually vote.
Anyway, there is a pretty broad assumption that search engines respect no-follow completely – never using that link in the Pagerank algorithm. Duncan Riley from TechCrunch suggests that it has pretty much solved the problem of people gaming Wikipedia which is feasible, but who is to say that Google actually ignores those links. Wikipedia’s content is generally very good and I think it is just far too good for any ranking algorythm to ignore.
We know there are 2.345 million variables (this number may be wrong) that Google uses to rank websites, so why wouldn’t it use links from Wikipedia as another indicator of relevance. The obvious problem that this approach encounters is verifying the integrity of the links. This could be done relatively accurately by time, if the link has been there for a month then include it in the index.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Recent the Google Reader application has had a minor update, wherein when you are reading an individual feed using the spacebar key to scroll and you reach the end, it automatically takes you to the next feed. This is an awesome change and makes using this view far more useful.
Ars writes about Google’s plans to charge for Apps for your Domain, this seems to follow on very nicely with what I wrote about yesterday.
A few days ago there was an article over at Read/Write Web regarding Google’s Gmail/Docs and Spreadsheets integration which pointed out an apparent flaw in their strategy. It was suggested that because of Gmail’s low number of subscribers it may not be as effective at attacking Microsoft’s Office monopoly. It’s true that even if this small number of people all ditched Microsoft Office right now Redmond would not even notice a bump in it’s bottom line, but I think the strategy is far more deeply seated.
My belief is that often Gmail is to some extent a testing ground for Google’s Business and Enterprise products and that in the next 6-12 months, we will see Google ramping up the featureset and integration of Google Apps for your Domain and pushing it as a product to customers. This will be done through Adsense referrals and possibly a more indepth affiliate program like that of Analytics. It is hard to say how many companies are using Google Apps, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are quite a few. I know that PodTech does (link) there are a number of Universities who also use it.
It has been well documented that people are unsure about having their data hosted remotely, especially with the recent experience of data-loss at Google. It seems certain, that as the full integration of Google Talk, Gmail and Docs & Spreadsheets is complete, there will be a rack-mountable server that enables it on a local lan and integrates with their existing search appliances.
I like a lot of things with Google Talk, it’s openness, it’s integration and it’s interface. But the one thing that really gets on my goat – when you ALT+Tab back to a conversation, you can’t start typing straight away. Sometimes you can press tab for the input box to get the focus and sometimes pressing tab takes you back to the contacts window. This is completely unintuitive (is that actually a word) and it drives me crazy.