Google, it's long been said, has an economic interest in making the web better because more time spent online means more ads clicked. The company reminded Analytics users today that they too have an interest in speed, saying that page load speed impacts not just their own site conversion rates but also their AdSense offerings and standing in Google search results. It's not just browbeating, though: the new tool will allow site owners to try out different methods of optimization and track the resulting consequences in terms of load time.
Web analytics expert Alastair Croll posted an in-depth discussion of the impact that slow pages have on sites in September 2009, arguing that the following occur as pages slow down:
- Fewer search queries per user
- Less query refinement
- Less revenue per visitor
- Fewer clicks, and lower satisfaction
- A longer time for visitors to click something
- Fewer searches per day
- Lower search engine rankings
Sean Power, Croll's associate and co-author of the O'Reilly book "Complete Web Monitoring," said to us today about the new Google Analytics Site Speed report:
"Google now provides even more intelligence to allow site operators to better understand conversions. This is a great thing - it helps legitimize the movement behind web performance optimization which has been growing for almost 10 years now. With more and more metrics to track, businesses will need to practice restraint. It's so easy to aimlessly look at 'metrics'; concentrating on using data to solve real business problems is all that really matters."
As the scope of Google Analytics expands, it grows more intelligent about the nature of the web and thus more capable of offering its users more and better information.
Optimization specialist Robert Kingston, however, wrote yesterday about the new feature and argued that it uses a pageview sample rate low enough that it's unlikely to surface meaningful insights to owners of small sites. That setting appears unchangeable at present, but it's hard to imagine Google letting a long tail of data go underutilized.
Google Analytics is of course wildly popular all over the web; software research firm BuiltWith has identified more than 12 million sites on the web that use the service. No other analytics service tracked by the firm has been found on as many as 1 million sites.