Why You Should Use Google Analytics

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.

Custom Reports

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.

Profiles

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.

Customizable

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>

Kate Morris

Kate Morris

Kate joined us after a year running her own search marketing consultancy in Austin, Texas. She brings with her a wealth of experience having worked in-house and agency-side in SEO and PPC. Kateh264 // A native Texan by birth, Kate got her BBA...   read more

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13 Comments

  1. Have you ever tired Open Web Analytics?

    reply >
    • Kate Morris

      That was one of the other one's I mentioned but I blanked on the name, I've been hearing great things about it!

  2. Like there's nothing between GA and expensive analytics packages! There are many other options, which do not include sending complete data to the company you're buying advertising from (if you're using Adwords). Clicky is easy to use, with more possibilities than Google Analytics and cheap (or even free). For a small site and "just to have something running", Piwik might be good enough, the beauty of it is that it's completely free and you own your data.

    And why the Bing Analytics suggestion? There is such a thing as Yahoo Analytics, also free. They would just need to allow everyone to use it, instead of restricting access. However they don't seem interested in doing this...

    reply >
    • Kate Morris

      I haven't used Clicky yet, but heard of it. And I suggested Bing Analytics really for them, as there is a lot of data for Bing to learn from if they had an analytics package like Google Analytics. I am not sure Bing gets access to Yahoo Analytics, and I was also unsure of how long Yahoo Analytics would be around. I may be cynical, but everything Yahoo has been going down the drain, so I don't really trust my data with any Yahoo product right now.

  3. Chris G

    Overall this is good information but I think you are 'way overestimating the need for a consultant to set up custom reports and profiles, for both WebTrends and Omniture. If somebody can learn to do those things in Google Analytics, they are capable of learning to do so in the other products. I'm not saying the approach is similar among all of them; I'm just saying that it involves about the same level of intelligence. (It's true that Omniture often requires touching the page code, which is not something most analysts get involved in and that's a drawback.) Google's big advantage is that its interface is more intuitive and helpful than what other tools have, although the others are working hard at closing the gap. But, back to the original point ... a consultant is usually needed? That could just be consultants talking.

    reply >
    • Kate Morris

      In the setups I have seen there has been a major need for consultants, but then again I only have contact with a few (2-3 right now). From an external SEO consultant's standpoint, it's rather difficult to get information from these programs. In house might be another thing, so that's good to know. I'd love to hear from companies using Omniture especially that don't need consultants to set up things like entry landing page reports.

      I'd love to see more about how to set up programs like Omniture to do what GA does. I haven't looked too hard but always open to new techniques and blogs that explore these topics. You interested in writing any? :) I am sure I can help find some places to publish those. :-D

  4. Chris G

    I'm always interested in things like that. Right now I'm especially interested in what you would consider to be a good entry landing report. Once I see what you have in mind, I might be able to describe how to replicate it without a consultant!

    reply >
  5. Max

    Does anyone have anything against Piwik (http://www.piwik.org/)? Seems like you get quite a bit of the GA goodness combined with the open source independence.

    I would say that GA's free-ness for clients should absolutely be used as leverage to get them to pay someone to train them on how to ask the right questions of it. I have been close to tears seeing how much clients have burned on PPC despite having had all that delicious, free, actionable data just waiting to be mined.

    reply >
  6. Ulrik

    Overall very poor advice. Google Analytics is not free. You are giving all of your data to your competitors advertising agency.

    Let me rephrase this by asking you these simple questions:

    Would you sell all you CRM/Customer DB information from this day forth to an advertising agency who has ALL of your competitors as clients and who offer these same competitors the opportunity to target their ads towards people based on peoples behavior on other websites? Would you sell ALL that information from now and going forward for the price of a decent enterprise analytics tool?

    And for the readers who think WTF is he on about.

    Google provides you with behavioral targeting through display and paid search ads. If you doubt me Google it. If you still can find it, here is a few links:

    http://searchengineland.com/google-rolls-out-behavioral-targeting-to-all-adwords-advertisers-82976

    http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2082391/Interest-Category-Targeting-in-Google-AdWords

    What this means, is that if you sell Hifi equipment, you can target for ads towards people who are interested in Hifi equipment.

    Google knows who is interested in Hifi equipment because you have been so kind (read extremely idiotic) as to install a tool (GA) on your site that sends every single bit of information about your clients and prospects' behavior to their data base. And you willing do that, for a free mediocre analytics tool.

    So, lets sum up. Lets play that I am a sales agent for an advertising company and you are in charge of sales for your company. I call you and ask:

    "Hi there, I am from this global advertising agency Google. I have all your competitors as customers and they would pay me a fair amount of money if I could help them grab some of your clients and potential clients. All they really need is your customer and lead contact information and what products they are interested in. You know, all your CRM data. OH! if you could throw in how much revenue each client is generating, that would be really sweet of you. You know, it would help us a whole lot in asserting who exactly would benefit your competitors most to snatch from you. In return we will provide you with this (wave hand in a jedilike fashion) magic tool for free. If you use it right, you might just better at getting more customers and retaining the ones you already have. You will save tens of thousands of dollars every month and it will only cost you all your customer information. Oh and by the way, we designed it so it automatically send us everything your clients and leads do every single day. In fact we just updated it, so it also allows us to use the data in real time. You know so we can grab your leads the minute they have left your site....clever huh?"

    Would you REALLY in your right mind say: "Sounds like a fair deal. Consider it done!"

    Or would you think, the easiest and cheapest way to retain customers and work your leads would be to NOT install Go... [continued below]

    reply >
  7. Ulrik

    [continued from above] ...ogle analytics?

    reply >
    • Christina

      Hi Ulrik,

      So here is a question for you: As an advertiser that's exactly what we want. We need a tool that tells us who we should target and not blindly spend our money. And to be honest, why is it so bad to share information about the behavior? That's basically what we do in Marketing. Researching our audience's behavior and then target them accordingly. Again, I really don't understand why it is so bad to have this information and why it is so bad to give out information like this. It doesn't really hurt. And if you used GA, you would have the same advantage as your competitors. It's not like you are giving away your credit card information, bank account or secret storage pin. It's 2013 after all!

  8. David Sottimano

    You saved me so much time with this post today (client presentation). Thanking you in public :)

    reply >
  9. I agree that every business should invest in a Google Analytics account, it's free so there are no excuses! I personally think the best thing about it is that you can see what the top pages on your site are and can improve your other pages from this by seeing what interests people have. I work on SEO and improving our companies website so it is so great for me to see in a graph what needs to be improved and what is working. I try to look at it at the end of each working week - therefore I have something to work on in the following week and try to write blogs on subjects that the readers are interested in.
    We have an article on Google Analytics too, it has some similar points but some different ones too with some helpful tips - it helped me when I first joined http://www.lucidica.com/blog/online-marketing/top-5-tips-for-a-small-business-using-google-analytics/

    reply >

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