It’s been just over a year since Google redesigned and relaunched Google Analytics. In that time GA has become an innovative product that seems to improve every day.
But I believe that many of us, myself included, are really missing the point when it comes to Google Analytics. I don’t think that we fully embrace the paradigm shift that Google is pushing with GA. Let me explain…
By releasing Google Analytics for free, Google has thrust web analytics into the mainstream. This is great for our industry, but it places a heavy burden on Google. They must provide a product that makes analytics easy.
But is web analytics easy? That’s debatable, but the simple truth is that there are millions of people out there getting into web analytics via GA and Google needs to help them understand their data.
Paradigm Shift #1: use GA to do more analysis.
Google Analytics is designed to facilitate the understanding of click stream data. How? By providing an interface that helps people explore their data by providing lots of context. All of the time spent redesigning GA was for one reason: to create a product that makes analysis easy for everyone. That’s a rather lofty goal but it is analysis most critical part of being a web analyst. If GA can help us understand what’s happening with our website then we can take action.
Have people embraced this idea? To some extent, yes. Many users I talk to like the features in GA and feel that it is an effective tool for analysis. But there is a huge number of users that still do not understand or know about many of the features in GA. Believe it or not, people still don’t know that you can track different types of online advertising, not just AdWords. A large segment of people use GA to track “hits” to their site.
Let me caveat this by saying that there are some analysis tasks that are just not possible in GA. However, these tasks are usually more advanced analysis techniques, like applying a control limit or doing a long tail analysis. Perhaps the GA team will ad advanced features as the product matures with the market.
Paradigm shift #2: less formal reporting, more pestering!
Just as important as understanding the data is the distribution and access to the data. Google has tried to facilitate this need in two ways.
First, access to Google Analytics is pretty easy. Anyone with a Google Account can get access to a GA account. Three fields and two clicks and you can add someone to your analytics account. It’s that easy. And, to the best of my knowledge, there is no limit to the number of users. Now Joe in IT can access the data along with Kathy in marketing.
Second, the new GA redesign included email reports. While this does not seem like a revolutionary feature, the ability to distribute actionable data, to anyone, at any time, helps drive change. Why export data, create a report and then email it when you can email it right from GA? You can pester your co-workers and contractors (who are the ones that usually need to take action on the data) with the information they need to make change.
I don’t think that many people have really embraced GA’s email reports feature. Multiple people a week ask me how to get data out of GA so they can create elaborate dashboards or other reports. They try to force GA into their current reporting framework rather than trying to change. I’m not saying this is wrong, but I think we need to give GA’s features a chance.
While Google Analytics is not the end-all be-all web analytics application, it is a solid foundation that will continue to evolve and meet the needs of a growing and maturing user base. The big question is, will we embrace the change that many of GA’s features support, or will we continue with analytics as usual?
Think I’m off the mark? Have I consumed too much of the Google Analytics Kool-Aid? Leave a comment below!