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Twitter Unlocks its Valuable Web Analytics Data with Free Dashboard

Twitter has announced its long-awaited Web analytics dashboard. At last, website owners will be able to clearly see how Twitter drives attention to their content. The Twitter Web Analytics panel shows how content is shared across Twitter, how much traffic Twitter refers, and how much engagement a site generates with the integrated tweet button.

“Twitter Web Analytics will be rolled out this week to a small pilot group of partners, and will be made available to all website owners within the next few weeks,” the announcement says. “We’re also committed to releasing a Twitter Web Analytics API for developers interested in incorporating Twitter data in their products.” Just like Google Analytics, Twitter’s dashboard will be free for publishers.

The Dashboard

The analytics dashboard has four navigation tabs. The first, ‘Traffic,’ plots the number of tweets linking to the publisher’s site against the number of clicks on those links. The graph can be viewed for one day, the past week or the past month. The ‘Tweets’ tab shows all tweets containing links to the site as well as any tweets sent from the site’s embedded Tweet Buttons. The administrator can retweet and reply to those tweets from within the dashboard. The ‘Tweet Button’ tab shows how much engagement the site gets from its Tweet Buttons, and the ‘Content’ tab shows the site’s top-performing pages.

TechCrunch is reporting that Twitter’s Director of Web Business Development, April Underwood, says that the data are cleaned up, with bots and spam removed. Twitter will also release an API for Web Analytics, allowing publishers to pull this extensive Twitter data into other analytics suites.

A Long Time Coming

There are loads of thirdparty Twitter analytics services out there, some of them built into full-fledged social media dashboards like HootSuite, but Twitter’s entry into analytics has long been anticipated.

Twitter has recently acquired a series of analytics companies, and the chatter around those deals added up to a looming product release. In July 2010, we reported on several communications following Twitter’s acquisition of Smallthought Systems – parent company of analytics tool Trendly – that suggested a new analytics product was imminent. Twitter VP of Communications Sean Garrett responded to us that the “whoop-la” was merely about “an existing analytics product that very few people see.” We were not convinced.

“But now that all tweeted links will go through t.co first, all clicks on Twitter links will come from one referrer. In short, Web publishers are just beginning to realize Twitter’s full traffic potential.”

Later that summer, we were able to confirm that Twitter was making a real-time analytics dashboard available to a small set of beta testers. Twitter then went silent with us about specifics; as Twitter’s Carolyn Penner told us, “We’ve been talking about providing analytics since last December [2009], but have nothing to add at this time.”

In the meantime, though, Twitter has provided analytics tools for advertisers. This is a clear need as Twitter scrambles to monetize, but the advertiser tools have been the only analytics available directly from Twitter until now.

This summer, Twitter acquired marketing intelligence startup BackType, which the Twitter Analytics announcement credits as a driving force behind the launch. Ryan Sarver, product manager for Twitter’s platform/API team, tweeted his congratulations to that team today, saying he is “excited to see the @backtype team’s hard work seeing the light of day.”

Twitter Reveals Its True Influence

In August, Twitter took a big step toward cleaning up its analytics data by turning on its t.co short link wrapper for all tweeted links longer than 19 characters. T.co is still not fully implemented yet, but when it is, content providers on any platform will finally be able to accurately measure their referrals from Twitter. Prior to t.co, publishers would see different referrers if the clicks came from Twitter.com, Twitter’s client apps, third-party apps or bounced off some link shortener first.

That’s a very long tail, making Twitter referrals hard to measure. As a result of the confusion, Twitter was often discounted and discredited as a traffic referral source. But now that all tweeted links will go through t.co first, all clicks on Twitter links will come from one referrer. In short, Web publishers are just beginning to realize Twitter’s full traffic potential.

With the launch of Twitter Web Analytics, publishers will now be able to accurately measure the impact of Twitter in both inbound and outbound directions. With over 100 million active users, a number that has grown by 105% just this year so far, publishers and Twitter users are about to find out for sure about the value of this service.

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