Top Ten Google Analytics Myths Busted

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In person, at conferences, on the phone and over the web, we hear a lot of people talking about Google Analytics. Unfortunately not all of it is well-informed, so here for the record are our Top 10 Google Analytics Myths, and why you shouldn’t belive everything you hear:

  1. Google Analytics is for home users only
  2. GA uses third party cookies
  3. Google doesn’t provide any support for GA
  4. Google Analytics slows your website down
  5. GA is only a Google AdWords tool – “it’s the next version of Conversion Tracker”
  6. You can only get Google Analytics if you have an AdWords account
  7. Google will use conversion data to fiddle the auction system of AdWords
  8. Google Analytics is free because they will charge you later when you are locked in
  9. Google will use your data to sell more adverts
  10. GA is free because they are farming the data for industry trends, ROI, conversion metrics, PageRank, etc.

1) Google Analytics is for home users only
Wrong. GA is a scaleable web analytics solution that can adapt itself to any user. We’ve implemented GA for multinationals as well as SME’s, and the GA client list contains names like General Electric and The Financial Times. Just because Google Analytics is free, doesn’t mean it’s small time – it just means that with GA, everyone can get access to enterprise-class web analytics.

2) GA uses third party cookies
Just plain wrong. This is a favourite line propagated by the competition (running scared since GA was released). GA uses first party cookies and that means accurate reporting, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Our whitepaper on web analytics data collection – explains the importance of using first party cookies.

3) Google doesn’t provide any support for GA
Way off again. Not only is there online support here – http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/request.py. But there’s a global network of authorised consultants providing support in 16 languages (http://www.google.com/analytics/support_partner_provided.html). Google Authorised Analytics Consultants (GAACs) provide support, training and consultation on all aspects of GA. The theory behind the GAAC program is for Google to spend its money on making the best web analytics package it can, and making it available for free, whilst you spend your money on the most difficult part of the problem – interpreting the data.

An influential post from Avinash Kaushik highlights this problem. To summarise – ditch your expensive analytics vendor, get a GA account and spend the money on analysis. We couldn’t agree more.

4) GA slows your website down
Err, well okay, maybe slightly, but we’re talking about milliseconds. GA works by page tagging, and any time you add more content to a web page, it will increase loading times. However if you follow best practice (adding the tag before the </body> tag) then your page will load first. Also, bear in mind that any page tag based web analytics package (which is the majority)
will work the same way.

5) GA is only a Google AdWords tool – “it’s the next version of Conversion Tracker”
In a way, it is the next version of Conversion Tracker, but that’s like saying that a Rolls-Royce is the next version of a Model T Ford. GA is the Google version of Urchin-on-Demand, a product of the Urchin company bought by Google in 2005. As such, it was a popular and highly regarded web analytics solution capable of tracking any online marketing even before it was integrated with Google AdWords.

6) You can only get Google Analytics if you have an AdWords account
Not at all. Anyone can apply for a Google Analytics account, whether or not you are using AdWords. Admittedly, if you don’t have an AdWords account you are limited to 5 million pageviews per month, but then all you have to do is open an AdWords account (£5.00) and that restriction is lifted. This is a world class web analytics product. For free. That’s not too much
to ask is it?

7) Google will use conversion data to fiddle the auction system of AdWords
Just not true. The Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy prevent this and besides, why risk it when the system is working so well?

8) Google is free because they will charge you later when you are locked in
Although we can’t read the minds of the Google people, and they love to bowl googlies (Wiki:Googly) every once in a while, this just doesn’t make sense. There is a partner product to GA, called Urchin Software, which is a paid product designed for in-house use and the two products complement each other nicely. There’s just no need to charge for GA.

9) Google will use your data to sell more adverts
Nope. Google’s privacy policy is clearly written out here: http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacy.html. We’ve read it so you don’t have to, and it’s a lot more strict than many of the other online services you might have signed up for. Think about it – Google’s high public profile means that if they get this issue even slightly wrong, the whole world will know about it.

10) Google is free because they are farming the data for industry trends, ROI, conversion metrics, PageRank, etc.
As Authorised Google Analytics Consultants, we have been assured by a senior source at Google that this is just not going to happen:

“… knowing your conversion rates and ROI is great for your business – you the client need to know this. And its important to you that you maximise ROI to your best potential. However this is of no interest to Google, beyond the fact that Google are happy that you are using their tool to perform the task. Benchmarking clients is the job of third parties, Google does not offer this service.” Dr. Brian Clifton, Head of European Web Analytics at Google

In order for the AdWords system to work there has to be trust between the advertisers and Google themselves, and Google is never going to sacrifice that trust just for a few more dollars when the system is working so well for all concerned the way it is now.

So that’s our Top Ten – let us know if you’ve heard any other GA myths that need de-bunking.

2 Responses to “Top Ten Google Analytics Myths Busted”

  1. Adrien Says:

    Hey, Thanks for this entry ; I have some others myths (are they?)

    > You should wait at least 6 month before receiving GA invitation
    > You cannot segment you visitors with GA
    > GA overlay is inacurate
    > GA isn’t improving any more (they are hard working in order to send invitation and they don’t spend time improving the tool )
    > …

    Thanks :)
    Adrien

  2. GA Experts Says:

    Hi Adrien,

    Thanks for your comments, however it would be our pleasure to de-bunk them too:

    1) A recent post from the Official Google Analytics Blog (http://analytics.blogspot.com/) stresses that invitation codes are now being sent out at a much increased rate. Our own investigations have confirmed this, and it looks like a seven day wait is the current going rate.

    2) Segmentation is very much possible with GA. You can cross-segment against any of the variables in this screenshot (http://www.ga-experts.co.uk/images/cross-segment.png). You can also create your own custom segments using the utmSetVar variable to label your visitors, e.g. if you wanted to report just on registered users.

    3) Site Overlay isn’t inaccurate per se, but it does sometimes struggle with more complex dynamic websites. In mitigation, this is a very complex information set that produces some spectacular results for free – if you wanted to get a heatmap study of your website from EyeTracker, you’d be paying thousands.

    4) In terms of GA updates, I can assure you that the engineering team are constantly upgrading Google Analytics. There are regular updates posted to the Official Google Analytics Blog, and there is even a link to recent updates at the bottom right of your account’s Analytics Settings page (https://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=32828).

    Hope this helps.

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