I’m generally a believer that you get what you pay for. But with Google Analytics (GA) being free, you certainly get a lot more than you pay for.
I’ve been using GA on a variety of sites for years now. While I’m certainly no expert on it, I have gotten my hands dirty enough with it to appreciate all it has to offer. We recently launched a new ecommerce site for a customer. In the ramp up of launching that site, I did an evaluation of the different web analytics offerings out there. I won’t go into the details of what I found. But here’s the summary of my findings.
You should just use Google Analytics until the time that you hit GA’s traffic volume limits. If you have a need for capabilities beyond GA, then get a second package to cover that need.
Now Google Analytics isn’t free for everyone. You do need to pay for it once your site exceeds 5 million PVs per month (which is a good problem to have).
Here are some of the reasons that I think you should just use GA:
- It’s the standard out there. It’s the most used web analytics package today. Now I’m not saying that you should use it just so you can be a lemming. But because it is so pervasive, you get a lot of integration for free. For example, most ecommerce solutions support GA out of the box. All you need to do is type in your GA account number and your reporting immediately starts working.
- Tons of depth. It has the standard PV and UU type stuff. Some of the more interesting features include:
- Events. You can define events throughout the experience and track them as desired.
- Goals. You can define the business goals you want to track. We have the concept of Valuable User Actions (VUA). This is when a user actively inputs data into our system. We want users to do 5 or more VUAs. So we set a goal for 5 VUA and can now easily track it.
- Site search reporting with some pretty cool search specific reporting attached.
- Real-time. Who doesn’t love watching their web stats in real time. At our office, we’re kind of addicted to the stats and have a TV on the wall showing it at all times.
- Page flow analysis.
- Campaign tracking. Just add some simple code to each link in your social efforts and see what efforts are bearing what results.
- eCommerce support. You'll be able to see what your purchasing customers did on the site and where they came from.
- A/B Testing
- Integration with Adwords and Google Webmaster tools.
- Customizable reporting.
Now, not all is perfect. My biggest complaint about GA is about usability and learning curve. There’s a lot of functionality here. But discovering it and mastering it can be a challenge. And there are some settings that I still have trouble remembering where they are in the UI.
But the net of the conversation is that Google Analytics is a great tool for anyone that wants to understand how users engage with their site.