a brief history of web analytics

The data and analytics market has seen enormous growth in recent years and is expected to be worth $550 billion by 2028.

How Has Web Analytics Changed Over the Years?

Many millions of businesses are already relying on analytics services to better understand the behavior of their customers and optimize their web experiences. There are approximately 28 million businesses using Google Analytics today, with the world’s most popular analytics service currently in its fourth iteration.

The Origins of Web Analytics

Online data firm InfoTrust recently commissioned an interesting infographic by NowSourcing that details the origins of web analytics and the rise of Google’s dominant services.

It all began about three years after the birth of the internet with analysis of hit counters and server logs, though websites would soon become too complex for this basic analysis.

As images, video and audio started to feature on a lot of websites, log analysis couldn’t keep up as more and more http requests were made by browsers visiting a single web page. Javascript was a huge improvement and steered web analytics into the domain of marketing. It used tag-based analytics to track user behavior such as how much someone pays for a purchase or even how big their monitor is. It also tracked interactions with specific page elements, though it only worked if Javascript was enabled in the user’s browser.

Another huge leap forward came from the company Urchin, which revolutionized web analytics by processing data in as little as 15 minutes. Previously, in the late 1990s, website data would take as long as 24 hours to be processed. This massive reduction in the time it takes to process the data propelled Urchin to the top of the analytics mountain where they worked with one out of every five Fortune 500 companies and all the major web hosts.

The Birth of Google Analytics

In 2005, Urchin was bought by Google for $30 million. They set about incorporating Urchin into their own brand and offered their own analytics that was tied in directly with Google’s web marketing offerings.

Google then introduced Universal Analytics in 2012 which enabled tracking of users across multiple devices and platforms. This worked by assigning unique IDs to each user. It also enabled the monitoring of offline behavior, providing deeper insight into demographics and giving companies much richer customer data.

In 2016, Google started incorporating machine learning to enable real-time learning.

Google Analytics 4

The fourth and latest version of Google Analytics (GA4) was introduced in 2020 and was designed to combine app and web analytics in a single platform. There had been some understandable uproar about privacy rights prior to its release, and so Google created GA4 to be more respectful of user privacy without compromising the data insights.

Google’s Universal Analytics is still going, though is due to be shut down permanently in the summer of 2023.

Image: Depositphotos

This article, "How Has Web Analytics Changed Over the Years?" was first published on Small Business Trends

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