I know I’m going to get shit for saying this, but I think that my good friend Judah Phillips and the fine folks at CMS Watch may have too high an expectation about what Google Analytics is supposed to be. Not that Judah or Phil Kemelor are incorrect in their assessment that G.A. is missing a lot of functionality you expect to find in “Enterprise class” web analytics applications—stuff like APIs, data warehouse query, advanced visitor segmentation, look-up tables, data loading, etc.—all of which appears to still be lacking in the new version of Google Analytics.
The thing is, I’m not sure anyone at Google ever said it was supposed to have all that functionality.
Now, I don’t read every word Googler Avinash Kaushik writes (much as I try Avinash, I’m waiting for the book!) so maybe he said something like “Google Analytics version 2 eliminates the need for any investment in web analytics technology, period!” I kind of doubt he’d say something like that, partly because that doesn’t sound like Avinash, but mostly because it’s ridiculous.
Even with Kaushik’s whole 10/90 rule, it’s hard to imagine a thoughtful guy like Avinash saying something like “You should dump your existing million-dollar, multi-year investment in Visual Sciences for Google Analytics and spend the money you save on analysts.”
And I don’t think I’ve ever heard Brett Crosby talk about Google Analytics replacing the other vendors. Again, maybe I’m wrong, but Brett (and Google’s) goal for Google Analytics has always struck me as being basically “great web analytics at the best possible price” not “the only web analytics platform you’ll ever need.” Granted, I kinda stopped paying attention for 17 months there, but given the media fascination with all things Googl-y I bet someone would have said “Hey Eric, did you read what Google said about dominating the web analytics market and destroying the other vendors?”
Judah pointed out this language at Google extolling the virtues of Google Analytics:
“Google Analytics has all the features you’d expect from a high-end analytics offering.”
Yeah, this is wrong, but this is clearly marketing and kind of hinges on the words “you’d expect” doesn’t it? In a high-end analytics offering, I personally expect a high-end analytics offering to provide visitor-based analytics with unlimited real-time visitor and session-level segmentation over the entire data-set plus the ability to define as many data dimensions and custom metrics as I like, combined with a flexible ETL tool that allows me to combine multiple disparate data into a single combined view of my site visitors and marketing campaigns.
Maybe my expectations are too high?
Personally I think that the new version of Google Analytics is one of the best things to ever happen to our industry.
Even though Google Analytics still lacks some core functionality that most companies absolutely need when they get really serious about web analytics, the new release does one thing that the industry absolutely needed to push it to the next level: The new Google Analytics interface encourages exploration and supports drilling-down by allowing the user to maintain their inquisitive momentum.
This is HUGE and is one of the things that really excited me about Visual Sciences Visual Site a few years ago. Now, don’t get me wrong, GA2 is no Visual Workstation, but the AJAX and pre-loading they’re doing allows me to quickly change tabs, re-order columns, etc. without having to waaaaaaaaiiiiiiitttttt for the page to load. I am probably the world’s antsiest analyst and I totally hate waiting for data to appear and reports to be generated. GA2 hasn’t done away with that, but it is clearly heading in the right direction.
On this I think Judah, Phil, and I all agree.
I don’t personally think that Google Analytics is high-end or Enterprise-class, and that’s okay. But I do think the new Google Analytics does create real pressure on other vendors to re-evaluate their UI and perhaps places some increased pressure on everyone else to further differentiate their product and solution offerings. Especially if you believe we’ll see an integrated Google Analytics + Website Optimizer + Feedburner (which Ian would probably call the “Fondleburgerwizer”) sometime in the near future …
Not that this should be a problem, since each company has different goals for their application in the marketplace. But it is worth noting that Google Analytics is showing up all over the place. Have a look at this snapshot from the unreleased update to the Vendor Discovery Tool:
What this says is that of the 9,181 URLs tracked by the system, the tool found Google Analytics code on 25% of them. More importantly, both GA and WebSideStory code were found on 6% of tracked URLs, GA and Omniture on 4% of tracked URLs, GA and WebTrends Hosted on 4% of tracked URLs, etc. Personally, if I’m any of these vendors, I really don’t want to see Google Analytics on my paying customer’s web sites.
I’m not trying to be obtuse, but I think it’s only fair to take the recent update for what it is: a really thoughtful overhaul of the primary integration point for most people with their web analytics data. Faster access to data, more relevant metrics tied to dimensions (“bounce rate” against campaigns and search keywords, how freaking cool!), and a brilliant UI built by some of the best in the business.
Nice work, Google.