Let me be clear here with one thing. Google Analytics is an amazingly powerful and flexible solution, and I am not going to negate that. What I am trying to say, that Google Analytics is… not for everyone. It is just too difficult for many, many users.
Is it for you? Read on.
Oh. And BTW. This article is based on my experience with the currently most powerful version of Google Analytics – Universal Analytics. The newly released version – Google Analytics 4 – lacks many features available in UA. That is why it is not the right time to write about it.
Proper Google Analytics setup is a tough cookie
For people who have their first contact with Google Analytics, installation of GA’s scripts may seem trivial – grab a script, install it on site OR send to the developer who will do the same OR install via a plugin (like Full Picture for example :)).
But this is just the beginning. The more you lern about GA, the more you realize, that you actually need to do a lot more to have useful, actionable data.
Well, that’s a lot, isn’t it? And we still haven’t touched setting up gathering of non-standard (i.e. useful) data via custom events, dimensions, metrics and content groupings.
P.S. Full Picture makes it easier to set up of cross-browser tracking and gather custom data.
Google Analytics requires you to constantly update its setup
Let me give you an example.
When your customer checks out, leaves your page to make the payment and then returns (is redirected) to “thank you” page than you loose information what traffic channel was responsible for attracting this customer to your store.
This is because the moment someone returns to your site from e.g. PayPal than this source gets all the credit for bringing you the customer and not the original source.
To defend against it, you should update your “referral exclusion list” to contain all the domains your payment gateways use. And sometimes there are many of them (dozens of banks each of which can have 1 or more payment solutions).
But this was just one example. Other important things you should keep updated are your ghost spam filters (see link above) and IP addresses of your employees.
Let me dwell on the last one for a minute – it’s important.
The thing is that if you are not using Full Picture for your GA integration than you may have huge problems with turning off tracking of your employees who visit your site for various reasons. You may not have any means of turning off tracking for your employees. Then the only way would be to filter their traffic from reaching GA reports via GA’s filter lists. But keeping them updated at all times is close to impossible.
BTW. Full Picture let’s you disable tracking for every visitor (logged-in or not) by having them visit the page with a ?tracking=off added to your site’s address. Then all traffic from them will not be counted. Easy, right?
Google Analytics has deceiving reports and inacurate metrics
At first glance everything seems very straightforward. You have a dashboard with basic data, reports with more detailed information that you can filter and customize and an ability to create your own reports if you need something extra.
But there’s a catch.
Users who have little time to dwell into the nitty gritty of the advanced reports are left with the basic ones. And these paint the wrong picture with their averaged data (you should never look at “average”).
Going a bit deeper, data analysts come across data that is deceiving at minimum and oftentimes wildly inaccurate. Just to mention a few off the top of my head:
- “time on page” metric
- bounce rate (because high bounce rate is sometims good and sometimes bad)
- improper channel categorisation (especially social)
BTW. Our Full Picture WordPress plugin allows site-owners to measure the time visitors are engaged with content 🙂
Of course, if you know Google Analytics well enough than these issues are no issues for you. But how many people are well versed in GA?
Is Google Analytics for you?
Did you know about all these issues? Do you still think that Google Analytics is for you?
Tell us how you use Google Analytics and what you like/hate about it most.