Saturday, January 26, 2013

4 Problems with Google Analytics

Working on a project with team Dragonfly, we realized that Google Analytics doesn't provide real-time reporting – that sucks….  We wanted to watch the real time effects on a website after we sent out several social media campaigns, but the data just didn’t populate fast enough to give us the real time info we desired.

First of all, let me say that Google provides some great ‘free’ resources in its analytics package – I use the word free loosely since they own all of your data.  The analytics they provide can truly offer some meaningful insights, but it is not a crystal ball.   I have to think that part of Google’s strategy is reliant upon us being ignorant and them being all-knowing. That’s how they can charge us for the ‘Enterprise’ version of their software.

I have to say that Google is great – I don’t want to be that guy who wins a free Ferrari, but complains because it’s not the right color.  That being said, here are some common frustrations with this popular tool:

  ‘Not Provided’

This is really irksome as of late.  Just over a year ago, Google began encrypting search result for signed-in Google users as a means of protecting their information.  I read a blog recently that claimed that 39% of Google searches now show as ‘Not Provided’.    64% of companies will see 30-50% of their traffic come through as ‘Not Provided’. 

This is a big issue for many people who are looking to optimize the SEO on their website.  It is even more frustrating to think that Google has the information for the traffic – they just withhold it for the privacy of their clients… unless you pay them for the information (They don’t withhold the traffic sources for PPC.)

    No clear action given from data

Although great information can be gleaned from Google Analytics, Google doesn’t actually provide any direction.  So, unfortunately, that means that in interpreting the data one major issue is simply a PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair).

One stat that most people look at on their website is the bounce rate, but the meaning is not uniform for all websites – some understanding of how it affects your website is required before you know what is good, and what is bad. 

Blog – a bounce from a blog may not necessarily be a bad thing.  The goal of a blog is to get people to read the page… and hopefully get them to return the next time there is a new post.  So a visitor coming to your blog, reading it, and leaving, is not necessarily cause for alarm.

Service business – With many service businesses, a phone call is what we are actually trying to generate from your website.  Unfortunately, many of the Analytics tools don’t show a phone call generated online as anything more than a bounced visitor – even though they may have called your store and order a Million dollars’ worth of work done.

E-commerce site – A bounce on this type of website is something that means a lot more.  In order to make a profit someone will have to select and item, put in shipping and billing information, and then confirm the order.   In this case a high bounce rate means there is some room to improve the content and/ or user experience to ensure more interaction, and more sales.

    Inaccurate keyword reports

If a visitor leaves a page open for a long time, it may be recorded as multiple entries for that visitor’s keyword.  This can cause a spike in keyword reports and throw off the data.   This is more prevalent with the increase of tabbed browsing from many of the browsers these days.  Although with an increase in traffic, individual keyword spikes will become less noticeable.

    No tracking of Spiders

When a Spider  or Web Crawler comes to your website, it doesn’t activate the Java script, so you cannot get any data on their activity.  This is most unfortunate, because it would be great to see how your website is being viewed by these spiders for SEO purposes.

It’s no secret that Google keeps its search algorithms secret, but it seems that they are doing several other things intentionally to make website optimization difficult…  Or at least it will seem more like black magic than science.  If they were to give information on ‘Not Provided’ and allow insights for SEO best practices, it would level the playing field and let anyone willing to put forth the effort improve their search rankings.

Where does Google Analytics fall short for your needs?