Google Instant Preview skewing analytics
Tuesday, November 23 2010 by Kate Billinghurst
The credibility of Google Analytics may have taken a hit after it emerged that data has been skewed for many users in light of the introduction of the Instant Preview tool.
Internet consultants and developers across the web have noticed that the newly launched Instant Preview technology, which has yet to be rolled out in full, has in some cases treated an image preview as a site visit.
Google's John Mueller responded to one of the complaints about this issue on the Google Analytics blog, indicating that the company was aware of the issue and is seeking a solution.
"Because of that, you may see a temporary change for that particular user-agent."
This could be particularly worrying for internet consultants that have seen a skewing of their analytics, with Search Engine Land suggesting that this may have affected websites for a few weeks.
Google Instant Preview is not a new concept, with similar window previews having been used by the likes of Bing and Ask.com in the past. The search giant is hopeful that it will improve search usability, but has included tools that enable developers and companies to exempt their sites from being previewed in this way.
Unfortunately, the Instant Preview FAQ site notes that this will also block normal snippets, adding that there is currently no way of preventing one without also preventing the other.
Until it is fixed however, there is little doubt that some developers are suffering and will be required to make temporary amendments to how they track site visits in order to curb the impact of this skewing of their data.
One user posting on the Google Analytics blog indicated that one of their high traffic sites went from five visits in a particular browser in a single day last week to 453 visits on a single day this week.
If this is the kind of affect Instant Preview can have on analytics, Google will no doubt be hoping that the issue can be resolved sooner rather than later.
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