As we just came back from Ireland where some members of the Web Analytics European Dream Team (WAEDT) followed the Google Analytics Authorised Consultant Training (GAAC), I thought like sharing what we’ve learned back in Dublin, unfortunately – to Julien’s discontent – one week after St. Patricks’ Day. Hey, Jules being allowed into those great Google offices is already quite an experience, you can’t have it all but next time, I promise I’ll buy you a Guiness!
It was a great honor to be part of the 30 or so members of the European GAAC training in order to discuss best practices and optimal uses of Google Analytics. It’s not every day that Google reaches out to third party consultants and discussing with Danish, Italian, Spanish, Irish, German, Dutch & English representatives was really a treat, while you actually realise that issues in these countries are quite similar to what we see in our little Belgium (I know, I’m Dutch but as I’ve been here for over 15 years, one could assume I’ve been adopted, right Sieg?).
It was also interesting to see all those features explained, one after the other in order to get a more complete picture of what is actually going on with this product and how far reporting can stretch for what remains a free tool. As Brian Clifton already mentioned during the eMetrics summit in London last year about the price quality ratio of GA, it’s unbeattable. I would add to this that after Dublin, I’m actually even more convinced than ever.
But let’s start with the beginning…
GA actually stems from a company called Urchin that was bought over by Google a couple of years ago. What’s interesting is that Google didn’t only buy the product, it also convinced the entire the team to join Google. As such Alex Ortiz Rosado, who now works from Mountain View together with lovely Helen Huang, is originally part of the Urchin gang. Actually some of the other partners that were there such as Multiplica/Metriplica from Barcelona were already supporting Urchin back in those “old” days. It was thus with relief and interest that Brian confirmed to us that Google remains committed to the software version as it’s still very much on the roadmap. Very good news indeed for those clients who would prefer to have their web analytics solution inhouse and not in asp format.
Next discussion was about cookies and privacy.
I remember also some time ago to have been in a discussion about cookies and whether Google uses third or first party cookies. By far, first party cookies are used so anyone who would still have second doubts about this assertion, please give me a ring, I’ll go through the UTM_a through z together with you. Which is however true is that GA serves a number of cookies, ranging from session expirators to permanent ones, expiring in 2038. Yes, Julien we all wonder what might happend in 2038 but I suppose WA will have evolved by then so, unlike what Helen mentioned with a big smile, I doubt we’ll be facing a new Y2K bug 😉
As we all know GA offers website overlay and integrates naturally with Adwords. Logical, right?
It also allows for powerful filtering possiblities, which is great for segmentation in order to assure that the data you have in front of you is actually meaningful.
But what really blew my mind were actually 2 things: cross segmentation & the ability to track the user accross multiple domains. Thus cross domain or sub-domain tracking is possible. Yes, you are reading this right! For those who are unfamiliar with the terms, it allows you to see how visitors behave accross different domains and they are not counted twice if you want to see what the overall traffic was for all your websites. Please note that this feature does require some additional coding but nothing out of the ordinary.
Last but not least, E-commerce tracking is available and apparently, there’s an interesting work around for the Yahoo shopping cart. Well not great for EMEA but good to know.
The only thing I keep regretting is the limitation in terms of export functionalities and mostly the fact that it can’t be scheduled. Note that the fine folks @ Metriplica/Multiplica from Barcelona have a good work around for that.
As a conclusion, I’d say that Google Analytics is a great tool to start your analytics efforts with. I just hope the other vendors caught on. Believe me, it’s powerful and it’s free!
Ho, and last one, if I may. As I was searching my LinkedIn and wondered what ever happend to this clever guy called Matt Cutler I had met in Amsterdam at the beginning of this century, I found he had created a new company that is using… you’ve guessed it, Google Analytics! My inspiration for Web Analytics actually rooted there: @ the Krasnapolsky hotel where I heard him speak of another great product, at that time. Since then, water has gone under the bridge but his writings remain, for me, as sharp, clear and usable as any other guru I’m fond of so I’m really happy Eric T. Peterson pointed out last week that Matt actually worked together with Jim Sterne on his first WA White Paper.
So far for the gossip. I still have a Newsletter to write.
Please feel free to add any comments or contact us for more information. Kind regards from sunny Brussels. Spring seems to have finally settled in 😉