Users of Google Analytics over the past week will have noticed a few subtle but disorienting changes to the interface. There are a whole bunch of these, and I won’t bore you with the details, but one effect has been to emphasis the existence of the previously well-hidden real-time reports. These show you who’s on your site right now, where they are, where they’ve come from and what they’re looking at.
These reports are one of the most interesting features of Google Analytics, although to be honest, it’s unlikely that most of us are going to get any genuinely profitable marketing insights from them. However, I have seen them used successfully in one rather elementary application: showing the skeptics how hard a website is working, live. This is particularly effective if you bring up the “Google Earth” view, which darts around the globe automatically showing you the cities from where visitors are viewing the site. It is, to use a rather unprofessional term, very cool indeed. Just be prepared to field the inevitable question: “Can we see their names and addresses?”