Is Free Easy?

On from Regular

As you readers of Web Analytics blogs all know by now, Google released new functionalities to Google Analytics on Friday. I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to play with them, but the new Custom Reports and Advanced Segmentation capabilities are pretty impressive for a… free product! I will have the opportunity to write more about what I think of those new additions soon.

One of the reasons I’m excited about the new features doesn’t exactly have to do with them. No. I’m excited because finally Google Analytics got more complicated. Say what? I can hear you think. Yes, more complicated, or at least, more complex. Take segmentation, which constitutes by far the core of analyzing any marketing data; you need real work to squeeze out the benefits from it. Brain juice, i.e. people spending time. Same with custom reports: all that slicing and dicing means time investments in order to find the gold nuggets.

Again, so what? GA is getting closer to products that have demanded such efforts for a long time. Yes, and the reason why I think it’s good, besides the added power, is that many organizations will now have to pay more attention. Among all the talks about how good Google Analytics is to Web Analytics awareness, which of course represents a good thing, I couldn’t help but noticing that many organizations out there are just not really paying attention to their data.

Meeting and talking lately with literally over a hundred companies about Google Analytics, it struck me how so many among them had it installed but were not doing much with it, or thought there was no learning curve really. Yes, the general sentiment seems to be that GA is a very simple product. Why invest in training, configuration, analysis? Isn’t everything to know just there in the numbers at their face value? Sure, there are many companies pushing the application to its limits, trying to apply the arcane advanced custom filtering to get more juice. But it has been my impression for some time now that, in general, we were back at caring about basic traffic numbers, when we care at all.

I haven’t been convinced that Google Analytics was, at the end of the day, solving the acute adoption problem.

Not that I am now convinced the new additions will change that, but I think more organizations will be in a much better position to appreciate the complexity of truly rich Web Analytics. GA can no longer be just another application plugged in by the webmaster to spit out reports.

Hopefully, more people will now realize that this free thing deserves way more focus, because it’s got plenty to tell them.

And put people to work!

8 responses to “Is Free Easy?

  1. I can’t agree more! Great post Jacques, and it’s refreshing to see someone share his opinion instead of just doing “me to” posts about the new GA feature release!

    Your comment goes along pretty well with the latest post from Bryan Eisenberg on about “7 deadly sins of web analytics”…

    See you on Thursday for the WebEducation conference! 🙂


  2. I agree with you. There is still a long way for GA to reach the sophistication where major Enterprise Analytics solutions are. But it is still great product as it is free. I am very happy using GA for all my needs.


  3. Hello Bhupendra,

    Thanks for your comment.

    In fact, I was not really making a statement about whether or not GA is an enterprise-wide application (**boring** debate) as much as saying that its getting more complex would make more people realize that they need to invest more (i.e. money, peopl, whatever) in web analytics. I can’t help bu notice that the majority of organizations I have talked to who use GA tend to *not* invest in human resources. They use very much use it to spit out basic traffic reports…

  4. Good points , good points. Me too I am impressed and frankly surprised by the investment that Google made. Like many others (apparently) I wouldn’t have thought they’d consider that a priority. Wonderful for the users that they did though.

    But with you I agree that there is not only more to enjoy but also more to learn. And as I work of course for a commercial vendor can I be forgiven for making the argument that the UI has reached a degree of business that seems quite cluttered now? It is very awesomely verbose. But boy there is a lot to figure out vs. some other solutions.

    Hey, but thanks to the report-level API, anyone who wants can build an Apple style, hip UI if they wish, no?

    Kudos to the Google team!

  5. Hello Akin,

    Thanks a lot for your comment.

    Now that you are bringing it up, it’s true that the new functions now require more head scratching.

    I don’t have access to the API yet, but you can be sure there’ll be hundreds of applications using it in the coming year.

    Hopefully (disclosure, I make a living as a consultant), more organizations will be now willing to invest in services, since they didn’t pay anything for the application. It’s quite interesting to see, as I stated in my post, how many companies don’t see the need to consult and train with GA, since it’s “easy”.

  6. I’m very glad they’re adding more and more features to it. Since I’m not really in the client/agency relationship line of work anymore I hadn’t played around with GA in a while, but I recently did some work for someone and I was pretty impressed with all the changes.

    While not 100% intuitive, MOST of the information I wanted was where I expected, and a lot of the “I wonder what..” questions were answered easily and where I thought I could find the data.

    And then I created some custom reports which were immediate and pretty awesome if not at least convenient.

    I completely agree with your statement about services vs tools. Getting a free tool is easy, making any sense of it still takes brainpower – thoughts that certainly aren’t free, but usually tend to pay for themselves quite a few times over. If anything, new functions in GA have shown even the most basic user that there’s quite a bit of complex data to be analyzed, and you might need some help to make sense of it all.

  7. Hey Bryan! How are you?

    I certainly think that GA allows cool on the fly slicing’n dicing in probably a more flexible way than several paid products. I find using it for exploratory analysis quite nice. And the new CR ans segmentations apply right away! Wow!

    Thanks for commenting.

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