Avinash Kaushik Answers Questions About the New Version of Google Analytics

What do you like best about the new release of Google Analytics?

From a overall application perspective it would be: “Data Discoverability”. With version 2 Google Analytics sets a new standard in enhancing the ability of novice and expert users to find the most relevant data that will yield actionable insights. Your web metrics and key performance indicators don’t have to be “lonely” any more, you can analyze your favorite KPI in context.

If you meant one specific feature then I like the “Entrance Paths” feature, in Content.

I am not a fan of path analysis, as you know, but this feature is wonderfully informative. You can pick any web page that you want and choose Entrance Paths. You’ll see how many people saw that page and where they went next from your chosen page. That is interesting but it gets better.

Click on any of the next pages and you’ll see where the visitor ultimately ended up (no matter how many pages they saw before they exited the website). As you compare and contrast by clicking on each of the next pages (middle column) you can judge the efficiency of that path in getting your visitor to the Submit Order page or Lead Submission page or whatever you choose. Very handy for understanding page influence.

How much of a heavy blow do you think the new release is to such players as IndexTools, Nedstat and ClickTracks?

I am afraid that I don’t know Nedstat very well, but I have used both IndexTools and ClickTracks a lot and often use screenshots from both on my blog as I am very fond of both tools.

I am not sure that Google Analytics V2 presents a particularly unique challenge to ClickTracks and IndexTools than Omniture, WebTrends, HBX, NetInsight etc.

With V1 Google made standardized web analytics free, with V2 it has raised the bar significantly with its immersive data interaction model. With 100% of your standard reports available (along with e-commerce and revenue reporting and deep Adwords PPC integration), still for free, in such a easy to use environment there are two challenges for any vendor:

1) Evolve their product to match and beat the ease of use and ease of understanding trends and metrics, most analytics tools (except ClickTracks) are not known for making it easy for people to use the tool and understand complex web data. You don’t need much training on the tool to get very deep into using the tool to find insights.

2) Differentiation, “why should I use your tool for $xx,xxx per year if I can get GA for free”. This question has been around since the release of GA V1, but it just got much harder for any vendor to provide vaporware (fuzzy / misleading) answers.

There are solid answers to this question. For example ClickTracks would say “we are modestly priced and provide you the power of deep advanced segmentation”, a real differentiation. Dennis might say “we compete on cost and provide you not just standard analytics but 100% customizable reports”, again tying it to value he brings to the table.

Overall I humbly think that version 2 of Google Analytics pushes the industry forward in a very positive way. By making the standard and more free for everyone it encourages innovation from other vendors. No matter how you think about it this is a great thing for practitioners of any tool, be it ClickTracks or WebTrends or Omniture.

Who should *not* use Google Analytics?

Ahhh a tough question. :)

Long before I had joined Google to be the Analytics Evangelist I had mentioned that everyone should start with Google Analytics, then, at no cost, and make themselves and their organization smarter and more savvy. At some point in a year or more the organization will need features that are not in GA, then they should not use GA and switch to a alternative tool. But since they are already very savvy about exactly what they need then they’ll make a intelligent choice.

So it is not so much who should not use GA, it is that at some point you’ll grow into wanting more sophistication. Few business, no matter how large, need that sophistication at day one or could leverage it even if they had it at their disposal.

But here are a couple of instances where you might not use GA:

  • If you are a 100% Flash or Ajax driven website. You can track Flash and Ajax with GA today but if you are intensive in those areas then you might want to go a tool that is exclusively built to track those formats.
  • There are some websites that prefer to have a in-house web analytics solution rather than ASP, in this case Google Analytics, Omniture, HBX, IndexTools etc won’t work for you. You would have to go with a vendor that provides software versions you can buy, such as WebTrends, ClickTracks, Urchin or NetInsight.
  • I welcome feedback from your readers as well for this question.

    You should also read Avinash’s post Do These Five Things First In V2