Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Overview of Google Analytics

As of the end of Q1 2012, over 10 million web sites used Google Analytics, which had 82% market share among its web analytics competitors. In preparation for this assignment, I wanted to educate myself on the general utility and implementation of Google Analytics and to see how my development team at work could use the wealth of knowledge it can provide to our company’s advantage. To get this overview, I watched a 2 hour 15 minute tutorial video posted on Pluralsight, a developer training website.

I work on one a development team that builds a web application that helps to combat fraud, waste, and abuse in the health care and property and casualty insurance industries. Our technical team often is at odds with the business’s prioritizations regarding which set of work we will consume next. For example, our most recent disagreement was whether or not we should mitigate a security flaw, or build a feature which would enable an internal user to upload release notes to be visible to all external users. Our team stressed the importance of improving this newfound security vulnerability and tried to convince the business that posting the release notes were a lower priority. Fortunately, we used our application performance management software to show our businessperson that out of over three million transactions in the past week, the page that hosted release documents and help files had been accessed just twice. While this performance management software helped us to convince our businessperson that emailing release documents was sufficient instead than posting them on our web app, the flow visualization that Google Analytics would have provided would have been invaluable. It would show the paths that users take, and more importantly would show which paths are taken more often and which happen very rarely. 
Google Analytics Flow Visualization Diagram

On the most recent Google Analytics blog post, it lists and describes 10 Google Analytics Resolutions for 2013; I found the ninth resolution to resonate most with the challenges that my team faces:

“9. Begin measuring your analytics ROI. Time that you spend on collecting, reporting and analyzing data is not free – there is an opportunity cost. In order to prove the value of analytics inside your organization, begin measuring your Return on Analytics. When you accurately collect data, and properly analyze it, you are able to make accurate marketing decisions. Measure the impact of your analytics.

While some companies who use Google Analytics might feel bombarded with data and face analysis paralysis, they can benefit hugely from the data that it can provide – they need to learn which data provides value and which is just noise. In our case, the business felt that a new feature was more valuable than a security enhancement, but our analytics software helped to convince otherwise. I can only imagine the value that these tools would provide if our web app became one of the over 10 million websites that used Google Analytics.