Google Analytics vs. Other Statistical Packages

Not really a conversation about GigaWidgets, but…Lately, I’ve been asked by several people why Google Analytics shows different data than “other” analytics packages. This is a good question, and there are multiple reasons why this would occur. First, let me say that I did not realize wold was a word, until I mistyped “would” above, and spell check was OK with it…anyway.

Most available analytics packages vary in data collection and reporting methods.  Selcecting the right package/s for your application should start with you deciding what you want to see.  This is probably true for more than just “Analytics” packages.  There are thousands of ways to look at and compare data….and only 24 hours in a day. Decide what metrics are important to you, and then spend some time understanding what drives those metrics into conversions and produces the returns you seek. (page views, request for information, subscriptions etc…)

For example, Google Analytics shows you, by percentage, users bandwidth or circuit they used to “surf” your site on. That’s neat and all, but not very interesting assuming you’ve designed your site according to the common standards used in the last 10 years. Useless is a better way to put it. Not to mention the fact that the term “Cable Internet” is completely meaningless due to the nature of the medium and it’s Layer 2 (OSI) access methods. In reality, Cable Internet could mean anything from 256k to 50M(the bandwidth they like to brag about deploying in select cities).  I’m not saying they won’t get there, it’s just about the demand.  back to topic…

Again, decide what you want to see, then work on how best to cull the data.

A few things to know about Google Analytics (not unique from other SE’s or Stats packages)

Google Analytics -
-is a cookie based analytics package. This means that it will NOT track all users to your site if they have cookies disabled.
-depends on 3rd party image loading to be enabled in the users browser. If they have disabled this, Google Analytics will not track their session.
-is a cookie based analytics package. A repeat I know, but this also means you won’t see duplicate “hits” from users who visit your site thru a proxy or other gateway that has a “pool” of IP’s assigned to it. With other packages, these visits could/would show multiple visits to your site, when really it was just one user.
-calls data sets what it wants to. This may mean other Analytics packages define data sets differently. For example, Google defines two visits, 29 minutes apart, to the same page, as a single visit. Other packages will certainly handle this differently (read 2 visits) Wow, that’s twice the amount of traffic to my site..nice………hrmmm…wait a minute…I haven’t sold twice as much?!
-uses 1st party cookies, or cookies generated by the site your visiting. Other stats packages may use 3rd party cookies, or ones they picked up from the party they came to before yours (probably store bought not home made!) Many browsers will block these “store bought” cookies for security reasons, hence no traffic reported for that users visit.
-calls the Mother server (Google Corporate server named Mother) every time a user visits a page. This may not be the case on other packages, assuming the user viewed the page from his/her cache.

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the major points on Google Analytics, it’s time for you to decide what data is important to you, and how you will use it to drive more traffic to your site. Common indicators to use for performance analysis are:

Total Sales Volume in a given time period, usually 1 Month
Total visits to site
Visit duration
Most abandoned page/s
Using these metrics, you can begin to look at “trends” and correlate those trends into performance information for your site, and your bottom line. I’m sure you’ll come up with more as you analyze your statistical data.

Over time, the trends will be more informative, once the site has a chance to settle down and the internet community is fully aware of your new site. e.g. SE’s, Robots, Spammers, etc…The key for you is going to be Trends. Look at the data as percentage based values, not absolute. This will bring out the statistical side in you, provide a clearer picture of what’s happening to your site, and impress your friends with your high level “Statistical Analysis” skills!


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