The Right Way to Use Real-Time Data in Google Analytics

The Right Way to Use Real-Time Data in Google Analytics

Anna Kowalska

When was the last time you looked at real-time data on Google Analytics? If you’re like the majority of webmasters, you’ve probably avoided this handy overview in favour of historical analytics. After all, what can you learn from the minute-by-minute goings on of your site?

Unfortunately, this view is shared by many and has become common practice despite the benefits or proper real-time analysis. As the name would suggest, this Google Analytics tool gives a real-time look at the performance of your site from the amount of users currently browsing to how they found you and what pages they’re spending the most time on.

There are plenty of scenarios where this information could massively help you and your website. Here we take a look at the main ones, with a guide on how to use this data.

Checking your Google Analytics Setup

Real-time data is useful from the very start of your website’s launch. For the novice web designer, it’s important to check that Google Analytics is set up correctly – it can be all too easy to misplace coding. Make use of real-time data to ensure you’ve got it right.

Start by clicking on ‘Real-Time’ then ‘Overview’ and you’ll be shown a summary of website traffic. If all goes to plan, it should be showing yourself as the only visitor given it’s only just launched. You can now click through to various pages on the site and check with the corresponding overview, ensuring it is tracking through ‘Pageviews’.

Testing new tracking features

Google Analytics offers a huge array of tracking features from targeted analysis of form submissions to clicks of embedded multi-media. Whichever tracking feature you have implemented, it’s important to check for potential issues.

On the Events and Conversions subheading of Real-Time data, you’ll be able to see any ‘goals’ which have taken place in the last 30 minutes. Always complete the ‘goal’ on your website to see if it shows up on the conversion report. If it doesn’t appear within a minute, you’ve likely made an error in your goal setup.

Analysing data during marketing promotions

Have you forked out on radio advertisement, or maybe had an appearance on TV? Forget historical data, you’ll want to see if this form of marketing has made an impact straight away. If it’s been successful, you should reap rewards almost instantly as people jump online to search out your brand or website.

It can also be insightful to learn where these newcomers have landed from. Could it be Facebook or Google search? For this, click on Traffic Sources in Real Time which shows the source of all active users. More importantly, you can see if users are landing through to the desired page on the site. If you’re marketing campaign is promoting a product or service, but users cannot seem to access that specific page easily, it could be time to re-evaluate website layout.

Spotting potential load issues

Keeping a site accessible with quick loading speeds is more important than ever before. With that in mind, real-time data provides a conclusive look at the performance of a site at any given time. If you experience large numbers at a ‘peak time’ or have major events such as live streamed videos, it’s important for developers to monitor for 404 page errors.

If the real-time data highlights a recurring number of these errors, strategies can be put in place to weed out the issue or improve website infrastructure. In cases like this, it’s not worth waiting for historical data to make improvements. Unless you’re willing to strategise based on real-time information, visitors will likely look to your competitors for an improved user experience.