Today, the Google Analytics team officially launched Right Now - a real time tracking feature that shows you what's happening on your site Right Now. You can read the official announcement here.
We've been fortunate to experiment with this feature the last couple of weeks. It's pretty slick and has a high entertainment value - at least, initially. Below are some ideas I've put together and how I envision this new feature being used as well as some of the things I'd like to see added in the future.
Making Use of Google Analytics Right Now:
- Checking immediate social media impact - getting the sense that something is going viral? Did you just push out a campaign across all your networks? Use Right Now to watch the impact happen as it's happening.
- Observing TV campaign impact in real time - if your TV campaign runs during a set time with a call to action to the web, you can watch the immediate response.
- Debug tracking code issues. There are better ways to do this, but recently my go-to debugging tool was experiencing issues as I attempted to debug a tracking code issue. To ensure the script was executing, I opened up the Right Now content report and watched myself arrive on the questionable page. This confirmed the tracking code was being executed and that the GA .gif was sent to Google Analytics as intended.
- You're about to do a major update that will take a site offline for a short period of time. You've analyzed your hourly reports and know the time of night when the fewest numbers of visitors come to the site - minimizing the impact of taking the site offline. With Right Now, you can do a real time check on the site to ensure traffic is low before you make any changes. Right Now allows you to know the actual situation on your site before taking any major action.
With the exception of the last point, the reasons I listed above serve your curiosity more than it does business intelligence. Even if you can watch a social media campaign take off or see that your TV campaign resulted in an immediate spike, there's not a ton of action you can take based solely on that information. In the end, we need to see how these campaigns perform in terms of outcomes - that takes time and analysis.
All of this being said, I do believe this feature has real potential, but most of it is still unlocked. Here are some ways I'd like to see Right Now improve that I believe will make it more useful.
- Filters - currently, the data you see in Right Now bypasses profile filters. So all the nifty filters you are using to remove internal data and rewrite how the data is processed into the reports is not reflected in Right Now. Having filtered data in Right Now will allow us to both test our filters in real time and leverage all the advantages gained from filtering our data to our specifications.
- Recording - re-watch events as they unfold. Chances are you aren't watching an important event as its unfolding, so it would be interesting to go back and watch an event as it occurred. Being able to watch "replays" of our campaigns can tell us a lot about how information is shared and how it affects our site.
- Integration into your menu bar - this will require API support, but this would act as your site's heart monitor. Self updating visitor metrics, a chime when a purchase it made or a goal is achieved, an alert (see next bullet) when a sudden new trend occurs, etc. This doesn't necessarily make Right Now more useful but it does give us more convenient access to the information.
- Right Now Alerts - It's fun to watch Right Now, but it's kind of like looking up at the sky for a shooting star. You could be looking for a while without seeing anything remarkable. It would be great if you could program custom alerts to trigger right as something is happening. For example:
- Big rush of twitter traffic - is a link to your site getting shared?
- Your blog is getting major play all of the sudden - did your site just get a big mention on an important site? If you aren't yet prepared for the influx of traffic, you can jump into action.
- You shopping cart funnel is more clogged up than normal - is there an issue preventing people from getting through the checkout process? Why is there an abnormally high number of people at the billing page but a disproportionate number of people reaching the receipt page?
The only incremental intelligence you get from Right Now is that the information is delivered to you in real time. In other words, the fact that it is happening and that it's happening NOW. The fact that it is happening AT ALL was, and still is available from other reports. When used properly, the potential for this new tool is considerable. Right now (no pun intended), I feel most of the potential is yet to be unlocked. API support and feature updates should do their part to make that potential a reality. In the meantime, there's insight to be gleaned, but overall it's limited.
All of this won't stop the rush of enthusiasm and excitement. After all, this does seem like the shiniest, newest and bestest toy to come out of Google Analytics since Advanced Segments and it is an awesome achievement on the part of the GA team. But at the end of the day, the most insight to be gleaned from GA will come from inside our custom reports, in our custom built spreadsheets and most importantly, through our own analysis.