Review of Google’s Real-Time Analytics

Introduction to Google Analytics Real-Time

Yesterday, Google announced the launch of Google Analytics Real-Time,  which provides users with access to information about what is happening on their website(s) right now. This tool provides owners with information about which of their content or pages are popular and is especially beneficial for data that can immediately affect site metrics, such as with social media (ex: Twitter).  

Tour of Real-Time

What does Real-Time look like and how can you use it for your website(s)? For starters, it appears on the dashboard. 

Google Analytics Real-TimeClicking on “Overview” will provide information about how many users are on your site right now, the number of page views per minute/per second, the top referrals to your site, the top active pages, the top keywords, and the top locations.

Google Analytics Real-Time

For instance, based on the screenshot above, we can see that there were currently 8 active users on the Distilled site, with a breakdown about the type of user. In this case, it showed the percentage of new and returning visits. 

 Here are screenshots of the top active pages and top referrals.  

Google Analytics Real-Time


It was pretty exciting to see visits to our NYC Meetup and our NYC SearchLove conference.

And scrolling down, we can see the top keywords and top locations that generate traffic to the Distilled site.

Google Analytics Real-TimeA visit from the keyword “the best SEO consultants” was a welcome surprise. :)

Google Analytics Real-Time

The different sections, “Locations”, “Traffic Sources”, and “Content” provide a deeper breakdown of the information that was already presented in the “Overview”.  For instance, the “Locations” section shows the percentage of the different countries that visited the site. Similarly to features already in Google Analytics, clicking on a specific country, say the United States, will result in additional information provided like the specific state and city. 

Google Analytics Real-Time

The “Traffic Sources” section shows what percentage of your traffic is generated by direct, campaign, organic, or referrals. In our case, the campaign traffic is most likely from email.

Google Analytics Real-Time

Google Analytics Real-Time allows you to segment the information based on what is actively occurring on the site now and what happened on the site 30 minutes prior.  We would love to see if Google can extend that to ~3 hours prior.  This way owners can compare different time intervals and see how their traffic has been affected overtime.  

How to Use Real-Time

Similarly to what the Google Analytics blog already stated, the real value of Real-Time is in its social media aspects. For instance, this feature will allow you to see the immediate impact of the traffic that comes from Twitter, which means overtime, you can discern what time you should be tweeting (such as for geo-targeting purposes), how often you should retweet, and what type of content will generate the highest CTRs. It will be interesting to see the type of experiments that will be produced as a result of this new feature. 

Google Analytics Real-Time


This new feature is especially powerful for news publication sites (for news and videos) and any industry that needs to see how their site is being impacted immediately. In general, Real-Time will also provide direct competition for any paid analytics products that currently offer real-time features as a selling point.  

Other uses for Google Analytics Real-Time include testing out campaigns such as email or paid search to double check and make sure that tagging was properly implemented.  

Additional Features to be Added

Eventually, we’d love to see if Google will also include additional features, such as real-time bounce rates, time on site (to see what type of content actually brings in the right audience), and goals (such as purchase funnels).  

Overall, we’re pretty excited about these new features.  We’d love to hear what you think about Google Analytics Real-Time in the comments section below or on Twitter @stephpchang

Stephanie Chang

Stephanie Chang

Stephanie helped open Distilled’s New York office in June 2011 after working for a year at a New York-based full-service agency. She oversaw the SEO and social media execution for a variety of clients including B2B, B2C, e-commerce and international...   read more

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  1. This new Google Analytics feature is not only usefull when one page is being shared on twitter. It can also be very usefull when you're sending a newsletter or when you're business is broadcasting a TV spot.

    I haven't got the real-time feature yet, but i hope it will come soon...

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  2. This seems very promising! Very useful for real-time feedback when you're engaging people. Any sort of timed broadcast/TV/radio spot would come into play as mentioned above.

    A chrome extension would be very interesting as well, so you could see in real-time whether what you were doing was bringing people to the site. Of course this would likely be a part of the Premium services because of the constant data requests.

    Also interested in what kinds of real-time split tests I can put together!

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  3. Matt

    You know what's even more fun? Real time data that you can also segment out by age, gender, behavioral interest, organic, paid search, or anything else!

    Yahoo! Web Analytics:

    All for free.

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  4. Excited to give it a try!

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  5. I've been waiting years for this feature! Good to see Google is making progress in this area.

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  6. Hans

    Am I the only one in the world who finds the current Real-Time Google Analytics disappointing?
    For me (a small B2B website owner) the most important feature in Google Analytics is the domain name (or network name) behind the visitor. Why on earth is Google in this real-time version not showing WHO the visitor is?

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  7. What is the definition of an "active user"? doesnt look like it does a great job of letting you know when a user leaves the site.

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  8. Patrick

    What defines an ACTIVE VISITOR?
    What is the time period before they are considered inactive?

    reply >

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