Friday, January 25, 2013

Using Analytics Correctly

@gcharlton quotes a survey from @dbdsearch claiming that 80% of online retailers are using @GoogleAnalytics incorrectly (October 2012), via @FreshNick @hayden30.

Clearly Google wants online retailers to use all the features of the Google Analytics platform, which entails integrating with various other Google products and services (e.g. Google Adwords) as well as implementing all the necessary tracking codes and cookies according to Google's requirements. Any online retailer that fails to conform to Google's requirements is deemed to be using the platform incorrectly.

But what does "incorrectly" mean? Not doing what Google thinks you should be doing? Since when has Google been the ultimate arbiter of correct action?

We have been here many times before. There is often a significant gap between the designed product (how its designers expect it to be used) and the product-in-use (what the users actually do with the product). A designed product may have a number of sophisticated features that most users never get around to using, perhaps never actually need. On the other hand, the users trying to do a real job of work often display remarkable ingenuity in getting the stupid product to do something much more interesting than it was designed to do.

And sometimes there is a considerable delay until users discover the more sophisticated features. To cite a historical example, most early users of Lotus Notes used it as a substitute for technologies they already had, before they started to appreciate what it had really been designed for.

So there may be many ways people could learn to use Google Analytics better. As @haydens30 says, "there are basic best practice things that a lot of sites don't do - these are easy wins for any consultant".

And there may be many ways Google itself could make Analytics better and easier to use. In announcing some UI improvements yesterday, Nikhil Roy of the Google Analytics Team said "We hope you find these improvements useful and always feel free to let us know how we can make Analytics even more usable for you to get the information you need to take action faster."

What, we have to tell them? Don't they already know?

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