A client recently asked me to provide aid in getting Google Analytics installed in addition to their current install of WebTrends. I say in addition to because that's what I am going to end up recommending and what I think they are considering. For almost all of our clients, Distilled recommends Google Analytics, and this post is to explain why. I am hoping that others might be able to use it someday as a basis for getting Google Analytics added to their current tracking solution.
Why Google Analytics
These reasons all build on each other. If you have more, please let me know, I'll add and give you credit. The first one is the biggest pull to me and my business sense.
Google Analytics is Free
Monthly Cost: $0. Consultants needed: None. Training: Free.
There is no reason monetarily to not run Google Analytics. If your or your company wants to spend that $20k a month on another solution, go for it. But install GA as well. It's free. And if you can ever let go of the other one, ask for the savings as a bonus. Okay that might not fly, but maybe ask for that savings in budget? That'll get you a number of new team members to do outreach, social media, an SEO only development resource. There are so many other ways to spend that money.
Of course, you could always just run both, keep a back up of data when Analytics decides to mess with us.
Analytics API Access (Automagic Reports!)
All of our clients at Distilled that use GA get sent monthly reports that include some awesome graphs of how their natural campaigns are going. These graphs are made in less than a minute via a program we have that was built off the Analytics API. The API gives you clean data access to everything in your GA account and even allows you to back up your account
. No longer can people say that the data is not their own.
And yes, I know there is API access with other analytics packages, just few companies use it. If your current package has this and you are not utilizing it, we highly suggest it.
One of my biggest pet peeves with some larger analytics packages is that you don't have access to get to the data you want whenever you want. A professional consultant must be called in to make these reports and add these capabilities for you. With Analytics, custom reports allow you to see your data the way you need to see it, whenever you need it. And they are getting better every day. Avinash Kaushik recently spoke at MozCon and showed us all kinds of ways to use custom reports to get data in new ways
. There was even a YouMoz post on how custom reports helped a client increase revenue
. Could your analytics package have done that on the fly? I know of at least two rather large and pricey analytics packages that cannot do this.
Testing is one of the best things in the world and testing tracking methods is even better. The great thing about Analytics is that you can set different profiles to focus on specific aspects of your business. Want to just see blog traffic? You can do that. Want to see just traffic from Canada? Sure. Only traffic that signed up for the newsletter? Why not? You might get great insight as to what they are interested in and cater to that more. The possibilities are endless. I know Omniture can do this too, and WebTrends, but there is that "setup" component and the consultant needed.
WMT and AdWords Awesomeness
No one can argue that Google sends the most traffic. For one of my clients, Google makes up 90-92% of their organic traffic. If you knew who it was, you'd be shocked. For PPC, again, no one can say that AdWords isn't the place to be. AdWords can be set up to send the right tracking codes to your current analytics package but it just happens with GA. Cost data integration FTW! Also, the great impressions data on keywords in Webmaster Tools? You can feed those into GA seamlessly too.
You don't need a consultant to use GA, but they are out there. If you have a particularly tricky set up, there are many ways to customize GA to your needs. If you have on site devs, there is no need for outside help. Most of the customizations are possible with the right person on your staff. Odds are that they already exist. One person shop? Bootstrap and get to reading. There are tons of resources on the Internet on how to set up specific customizations.
Google Analytics is NOT Perfect
Not by a long shot. If you want to know about specific visitors, not going to happen. Google Analytics is all about trends. If you cannot ensure that the tracking code is on every page, or PDFs are big for you, GA isn't going to be great for you. But the first rule in online marketing is to have Analytics of some kind. Some are more difficult than others... as long as you have an idea of what is going on, it's a great first step. Just have something running so you can plan, see trends, etc. Some of you might even be against using Google anything. <rant>To that I say: Bing ... you're missing it here. Make Bing Analytics, soon. What is taking you so long? </rant>