Gavin Wray

Why I want to track Google Spreadsheets views with Google Analytics

My last post was on how to update your Google Docs settings to track published documents in Google Analytics.

Currently, you can only documents track documents in your Analytics reports - not views of published spreadsheets or presentations. I’d like Google to add support for tracking published spreadsheets too.

At work, I advocate making statistics available online in multiple open formats and not, for example, in an Excel file hosted on the corporate site for users to download. I’m using Google Spreadsheets as the repository to store the data (here’s an example page linking to data no longer online).

I’m trying to follow good practice set by The Guardian Data Store and national discussions on Twitter around open data. By posting the data on Google Spreadsheets, visitors can retrieve the data as an HTML page, or CSV, TXT or Excel file. They can view the data with free tools. No proprietary software required. Microsoft Office users can still use Excel files in the usual way. Everyone’s catered for.

Being a content analytics nut, I’m often looking for ways to collect as much evidence as possible on how users interact with content. Having the statistical evidence to back up ideas on where to direct web content efforts is vital for convincing other people you know what you’re talking about. It also gives you, as a content manager, confidence in your decisions on what works and what does not.

To web standardistas, developers, open source veterans and knowledge management types, the choice to share data in open formats such as CSV, TXT, XML or HTML is a logical one. The argument does not need to be made to this audience.

Outside of these circles the argument still needs to be made. So, Google, please give me some ammunition!

I’d love to use Google Spreadsheets as a more extensive repository for online datasets but will ultimately need to evidence that it actually can work for users. Adding support for tracking published spreadsheets in Analytics will help to make the case.

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