Google Instant Previews in your data

James StandenGoogle Analytics Data

Are you suddenly getting lots of traffic from Google Inc. to your site?

What you might not know, is it might be affecting your pageviews and your bounce rate in Google analytics.

Google Analytics seems to be recording previews (in some cases at least, not yet clear exactly how) as page views.

Take a look at your Google Analytics data. Look for a service provider “google inc.”

Now, if you are like me, you will see that on or around Nov 8, suddenly, I’m getting traffic from all over the world from this service provider- a lot of traffic with 90%+ bounce rate.

So, the question- first, what to do about it- is viewing a preview the same as an actual pageview?

Second, is it actually recording a pageview every time someone does a preview? I think not, most likely, from time to time Google needs to load the page to generate the preview but after that uses a cache, without reloading the page.

The problem is that this is going to skew your results. Depending on how many of these “not really pageviews” there are, your time on page, bounce rate and other metrics are going to shift. Particularly if google cache is time limited, so it keeps reloading to recache.

But what does it really mean? Is it a bounce? I suppose it is- the searcher didn’t click. But again, I think that its not directly related to how many previews there are. All you see is google populating the cache (and I’m guessing here- if anyone knows the detail, please let us in on it.)

Have you seen these page views in your Google Analytics data? Are they affecting your results, or does it look like it will be insignificant? Again, it seems like the way to detect them is to look for a service provider “google inc.”

This has the potential to seriously distort data- its critical that web analytics folks are aware whats going on, and yet I have yet to find anything from google where they discuss the impact on google analytic results of this new preview function.

As the data collects, I, for one, will be following this very closely.

UPDATE: Nov 15 2010- visits from google inc. continue to be relevant still no news I’ve seen from Google on this.