In my opinion, it depends. It depends on your analytics needs.
We’ve worked with plenty of “enterprise” class organizations that were new to web analytics. They had very simple needs and GA met most of them easily. We’ve also told companies that GA is not right for them because it did not fit their core needs.
Your organization may be different. You may need a tool that integrates with ODBC data sources, something that GA doesn’t do very well. If that’s the case then you might need to go with a different tool. But again, it all depends.
But the point of this post is not to debate GA’s “enterpise-y-ness”, but to address some of the common issues that we usually see during an enterprise installation.
Issue #1. Tracking All Sites Logically
Large organizations tend to have more sites, and more sites mean more data. Collecting the data in an organized fashion, that allows room for growth and appropriate access for users, takes time and planing.
During an enterprise implementation we usually create a series of accounts and profiles that segments the data based on business logic and access needs. We create a data hierarchy that provides high level aggregate tracking across the entire online experience (i.e. roll-up reporting) and detailed tracking for each individual property.
Let’s consider the websites for Major League Baseball. Each team has their own site located on a subdomain. There is also an MLB store and different micro sites dedicated to things like the All Star Game and the World Series.
Lots of content on many different sites. While the exact implementation solution will depend on their specific needs, it probably involves collecting all the data in a single profile for roll-up reporting and then creating profiles for each team and micros site for detailed reporting.
Issue #2. Unique Visitors
Tracking lots of domains usually leads to an issue with unique visitor tracking. GA uses a first party cookie to identify each visitor. This means that if a visitor visits 3 different domains they will receive 3 different cookies and appear as three different unique visitors.
Now, I know GA has a cross domain tracking feature. But what happens if an enterprise wants to know the unique visitor count across 50 web properties? Installing cross domain tracking on that scale is a huge task. In fact, it’s a pain in the ass.
Many of the clients that I’ve worked with have compromised and ignored unique visitor tracking.
You may be different. Unique visitors may the one critical metric that you can’t live without. Could you use GA? Maybe, but you should carefully weigh the implementation needs vs. your analysis needs.
Issue #3: Page Tagging
When I first started working with GA I never thought that tagging pages would be an issue, but it is. It’s not so much a technical issue as it is an organizational issue. Big companies can have so many sites with some many nooks and crannies. It can take a lot of work to identify every site, find an owner and then get the tags placed in the appropriate place.
Issue #4. URL Structure
This is probably one of the most difficult challenges we face when working with large sites that have hundreds of thousands of pages. GA will only track 50,000 unique URLs per day. While this is completely adequate for most sites “enterprise” sites can exceed this limit, especially if the site is content based (think about a some of today’s largest community sites, they have forums, blogs, and tons of user generated content).
What happens when you fill GA with 50k unique URLs in a day? You start to see ‘(other)’ in your content reports and you can no longer identify which pages visitors are viewing on your site.
To resolve this issue we usually need to create some type of bucketing strategy to ‘roll up’ pageview data into different content categories. This is normally done by matching requested URL patterns at the server level, and then generating a ‘virtual’ pageview in GA.
Sometimes we segment the data into different profiles, thus giving us more ‘buckets’ to store the data.
Again, the exact solution depends on many different factors, but this issue can be mitigated with some effort.
Issue #5. Campaign Tracking
This is a problem for everyone! I find very few clients whoa are diligent about tracking their marketing campaigns using link tagging. A general rule of thumb, the bigger the client the more challenging it is to track all online campaigns. Why?
Big organizations have different people running different campaigns. Many times they’re using one or more agencies to help run their campaigns. Getting everyone to use a cohesive link tagging strategy is a lot of work due to the sheer number of people that are involved. This is more of a training/process issue rather than a technical issue.
If you’re an enterprise organization, or consider yourself an enterprise organization, don’t discount GA without taking a hard look at your real analytics experience and your needs. GA might just work for you.
If you do decide to use GA don’t expect to slap the tags on your site and finish the configuration in a week. Like every tool out there, it takes time and planning to get things right.
Do you have experience with GA in a large, “enterprise” environment? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.