Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Site Overlay in Analytics is lame

We can only look a gift horse in the mouth so often. So when Google stumbles with a small feature in the free toolsets that they provide us, we shouldn't yell at them.

Case in point: the Site Overlay feature in Google Analytics.

Site Overlay *should* be very cool, giving us a visual representation of the traffic to our websites by overlaying the percentage of traffic directly on the page itself. For my site, it looks something like this:

Notice all those 0%'s? Unfortunately, Site Overlay only works with static pages. It chokes on dynamic content, CSS, javascript links, redirects and almost any recent technology used to power a website. Here is the company line from a rep I emailed regarding what Site Overlay can and cannot do:

Thank you for your email. I understand you are concerned about zero datain your Site Overlay reports. Please note that the site overlay report uses cURL to request a web page, and displays clicks on standard links that are embedded on that page. Its functionality is currently limited to static pages with unique links to content located elsewhere on the website.

The site overlay is not currently able to work with Javascript links, CSS content, Flash navigation, downloadable files, outbound links, frames, or automatic redirects.

In the above cases, it's common to see missing overlay bars, or bars with zero content. If there are multiple links on a page that all point to the same place, Analytics will total the clicks to on all those links and display the total number for each overlay bar on each of those common links.

If you have a filter that changes your Request URI, the Site Overlay report may display 0 in your report.

Oh well. If Google updates this feature to allow for the use of dynamic content, I'll let you know.

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