Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Hourly reports on Google Analytics

Google Analytics allows you to break down activity on your site by hour, but this function isn’t easy to find in the current version.

I have set up a custom report to do this (custom reporting is available on the left-hand side of your Google Analytics screen).

Custom reports are set up by dragging metrics (blue) from the left of the screen and adding dimensions (green).

I have dragged over Entrances – which counts how many people arrive on the site – and split it down by hours of the day. So, for example, I can see that between 9am and 10am there have been 1015 site entrances during the last month – and there have only been 100 between 1am and 2am.

As usual, I can filter the report by selecting a particular date, or range of dates, at the top of the screen. On 21 June most people arrived in the hour before midday, while only two people arrived 1am-2pm.

My hourly report is set to drill down to ‘Page Title’ (that’s the second green dimension that I dragged on to my custom report. This means I can click on any hour of the day and see where those entrances took place during that hour.

As my focus is on the two-day OU online conference (21-22 June 2010) I can now focus right in and see where people arrived on the site during specific sessions.
What is more, I can then subdivide that information, so I know how many people arriving on a certain page during a certain session are new visitors, or which country they come from.

By the time I have narrowed it to time, date and city where the visitor is based, though, the level of granularity is such that it has ethical implications because I now have a fairly good idea who some of those individual visitors are. I can click through and see who their service provider is (for example ‘open university’, ‘university of leeds’) and what their connection speed is (an online conference on dial-up? – ouch)

Using Google Analytics at this level of granularity seems/is intrusive. That’s a tension for my work on learning analytics – because how can learning analytics work if they don’t split down to individual level? I guess the distinction has to be that I should be in the user’s hands to turn them on and off, and to decide their own privacy levels in different situations.

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