9 Sins of Google Analytics

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Google has created business and consumer applications for just about any occasion imaginable, exemplified by its popular programs like Google Maps and Google Analytics. Because of their ease-of-use and zero cost, many people have come to rely heavily on these solutions.

Yet like all things in life, Google Analytics isn’t without flaws, and users should take its downsides into consideration before placing all their data in one Google basket. Here are the nine sins of Google Analytics that may have you thinking twice:

1. All Your Data are Belong to Us

This has been a contentious point with many Google Analytics users, as they fear their information will be exploited or sold to third parties since it is being compiled by a company that offers other related applications, like Google AdWords, that could use it.

2. Trouble Getting Support

While there are options for finding solutions to problems with Google Analytics, they aren’t always from reliable technicians, unless you want to pay. Unfortunately, the only online customer service offered is from other users like yourself. Attempting to find valid answers in a forum can be hair-pulling and futile, while using the Google Analytics Authorized Consultants can be costly.

3. Mediocre Reporting

Google Analytics is free and they say you get what you pay for, but the limited reporting features are frustrating nonetheless. Reports aren’t as customizable as those featured in other competitive solutions. For example, the conversion data is provided in percentages instead of actual figures.

4. Limits to Defined Variables

Google Analytics only allows for one user-defined variable for segmentation. While there are steps to get around this problem, they are tedious.

5. Slow Data Delivery

You may not always need to receive data on a real-time basis, but when you do, waiting hours on end to retrieve important information can prove taxing.

6. Lack of Log Files

Having the ability to call your analytical history is a major advantage. While data is stored on Google’s servers, it isn’t readily accessible for the user, which is frustrating when settings are changed. Other analytics programs that support log files feature filters for added analytical capability.

7. No Spiders

For the SEO professionals, seeing the moves of spiders, or automated browsers, is just as essential as actual human web surfers. Since Google Analytics only supports browsers using JavaScript, it won’t track spiders.

8. Paid Campaigns Erroneously Show as Free

Google Analytics offers auto tagging capability to track paid or organic traffic, but unless campaign tracking links are used, the paid campaigns will appear free.

9. Revenue From Email Unknown

For eCommerce users, if you want to find out the generated revenue from your house email or its influence on conversion rates, you will have to use campaign-tracking codes.


For the basic user, Google Analytics will likely be quite satisfactory, and is probably ideal for the majority. But for more advanced users, such as those that need greater volumes of data to be processed and with more detailed analysis, Google Analytics definitely has its limits. Based on its shortcomings, what alternatives do you propose? Please leave a comment to discuss.

Annie Wallace

Annie Wallace

Annie is a stay-at-home mom, a self-taught viral marketer and a blogger.
Annie Wallace

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  • Sachin sharma

    I am using Google Analytic services and I thing I am satisfied. Also I did hear about any other alternatives… !!!!!!

  • http://www.qarchive.org/lab/ khibinite

    I use Clicky also – like it very much.

  • http://depromote.com Ridho Putradi S’Gara

    I still using Google Analytics for basic reporting. But when it comes to comprehensive report I use other tools ..
    And yes, the support problem is really banging my head against the wall ..

  • http://www.lacunagroup.net Amanda Orson

    I also use GetClicky, for precisely the reasons that you’ve listed here. It’s affordable, provides most of the same information, and for my mileage I find it more usable.

  • http://twitter.com/justincutroni Justin Cutroni

    Hi Anne,

    While I agree that Google Analytics is not perfect, a few of your assertions are wrong and there are workarounds for almost all of the issues that you describe:

    1. Not much to say here. If you don’t like Google having your data don’t use GA. But the data is not used by other tools.

    2. So I strongly disagree here. There is a lot of support out there, in fact I would counter that there is more support for GA than any other analytics tool on the planet. Sure, the free support can be a bit disorganized, but the sheer mass of free information is amazing.

    Then, on top of the free information, the network of support providers is outstanding. There are over 300 support organization that provide some pretty amazing service. Does it cost money? Absolutely. But why shouldn’t it?

    3. While the reports are rigid, you can replace almost EVERY metric in a standard report using the Custom Reports feature. In you example you mention that conversions are only available as Conversion rate, but this is not true. You can create a custom report and use the raw conversion counts rather than the conversion rates.

    4. This is incorrect. Google Analytics allows up to 5 custom variables, and depending on how you use them, you can extend the usage significantly.

    5. I’ve seen GA process data consistently in 3 hours and, at times, in 45 minutes. But I still counter what do you need real time data for? Of all my clients, only the largest publishers need data fast, and by fast they need it in 1 hour. I think the customer-base for real time data is very small.

    6. You can configure Google Analytics to store data in your local log files.

    7. This is a problem for all JS based tracking tools, not just Google Analytics. And, if you want to get crafty, you can use the GA mobile tracking code to create a custom solution.

    8. This is an issue with all tools. Every tool in existence uses some type of campaign tracking. Sure, GA buckets un-tagged campaigns incorrectly, but almost every tool has issues here.

    9. Revenue by Email functionality actually exists. It’s a combination of two features. First you need to make sure you are tracking email campaigns using Campaign tracking. This is a standard feature in Google Analytics and almost every analytics tool. Second, you need to collect ecommerce transactions using the Ecommerce transaction code. This custom page tag will grab all transactional info including revenue, product skus and product categories.

    Justin Cutroni

    • http://twitter.com/SergeDescombes Serge Descombes

      Thanks for setting the record straight here, Justin.

    • http://www.seoconcepts.net Jason

      Thank you Justin, as i read this article i was thinking the same thing about how basically every single point was incorrect.

    • http://twitter.com/ian_williams Ian Williams

      Excellent Justin. I was reading this article with three big comedy ‘?’s above my head.

  • http://twitter.com/fastbloke Doug Hall

    Not much else to add other than to agree totally with Justin’s comments. This article isn’t quite ‘balanced’ enough to be realistic and useful to anyone considering Web Analytics solutions. Rather than sing the ‘Google is rubbish’ song over and over, perhaps a comparison of merits and shortcomings of a range of Web Analytics solutions would better inform?

  • http://twitter.com/fastbloke Doug Hall

    Not much else to add other than to agree totally with Justin’s comments. This article isn’t quite ‘balanced’ enough to be realistic and useful to anyone considering Web Analytics solutions. Rather than sing the ‘Google is rubbish’ song over and over, perhaps a comparison of merits and shortcomings of a range of Web Analytics solutions would better inform?

    • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

      Hey Doug, I just wanted to chime in to say that I am happy to see you here! 🙂

  • http://claimid.com/pasqualon Pasqualon

    Additionally to GA I have been testing Piwik, it’s free, customizable, open source and workaround several downsides from GA:

    1 – All My Data are Belong to Me – since the DB is installed on my server, I have all control of it;

    2 – Piwiki has a community willing to help, its well documented, but, there is no much specialist on market;

    3 – I can configure it to give all report that I want, there is a plenty of plugins with reports templates, have I mentioned its open source?

    4 – Same as previous, I can personalize and modify to fit my needs;

    5 – Its realtime!

    6 – I can configure to save logs, nevertheless I own the DB;

    7 – Same issue as every JavaScript-based web-analytics;

    8 – Same issue as every web-analytics;

    9 – I don’t see the point here, using campaign tracking code for email is a common practice.

    Sure, to use Piwiki you have to be very advanced, it’s like using Linux instead of MacOS, but since it’s an open system you can configure and personalize the way you want/need.

  • http://halte.ro Ioana

    Aside from the very important privacy issues, GA is not exactly user friendly either. I’m familiar with the interface, but it’s difficult to explain management how to see data themselves as they have to dig for it.
    I find Clicky very satisfactory and cheap for a small site. I’ve been wanting to use Piwik as well, but the technical aspect scares me a little.

    • Jason

      You can always create custom reports for your management and if you want to make it even easier have them sent on a regular basis so management wont even have to log into analytics.

  • http://www.lesliestrickland.com Leslie Strickland

    Nice post, Annie. I’ve been really diving into Google Analytics lately. I’ve found the restrictions with the customizable reports annoying. Also, I do have to manually correct the paid search traffic/organic traffic mix ups regularly in my reports.

    Even with the drawbacks, I’m very happy with the data I get from GA. It’s not nearly as cumbersome as some other analytics programs. It’s free. For non-ecommerce sites, I’ve found it to be extremely useful and intuitive.

  • http://www.ydeveloper.com/kaushalam-ecommerce.html SEO Friendly eCommerce

    Google Analytics is one of the best tools for site analysis but there are some other external tools available to get details of visitor. Recently I have used tool for site analysis and with this tool i am able to get more details than google analytics and also i can easily track path of visitor step by step and also get time spend on each page during visit.

  • Moshe Eshel

    I used a product called ClickTracks in the past, it was very good and was very flexibl but not very easy to configure, it also lacked a few features as well.
    BTW Google also sells (as in it costs money) urchin which is locally installed and is reported to be as good or better than GA but it is very expensive

  • Anonymous

    Through this Google analytics we can analyse our sites.. Thanks for sharing this information..