My responses to “My Google Analytics Christmas wishlist”

December
16
2010

by

One of the best blogs that you can subscribe to (other than our SEM, SEO, Social Media, and this Analytics blog, of course) for all things online marketing is Econsultancy’s “Internet Marketing – News, Blogs, and Press Releases“. They do a really great job with their articles, and I enjoy the readings from their multiple authors.

One post that popped up and caught my eye from a few days ago was “My Google Analytics Christmas wishlist“, by Matthew Curry. What made it an interesting read, other than the title of the blog having the words “Google Analytics” in it, was that Mr. Curry lists ten wishes for the improvement of the product. Clearly, he is an experienced user of the product, and has specific needs to fill.

So, I thought that it would be a fun exercise for the holidays to summarize Matthew’s ten wishes and provide some comments about each one. Enjoy!

Wish #1: Make metric & dimension combinations easier
When you are building a Custom Report, you will more often than not experience dimensions and metrics that are “greyed-out”, and unavailable to be moved in to your Custom Report. Quite a few dimension and metric combinations simply are not allowed to be dragged over and dropped into the same Custom Report. This happens in the web interface, as well as when you use the Google Analytics API (although in the API you receive warning messages instead of “greyed-out” dimensions and metrics).

This is definitely something that I’d like to see improved upon as well. If it were up to me, all possible combinations of dimensions and metrics would be available for a Custom Report. However, despite this limitation, Custom Reports – in my opinion – are still very good and very useful.

Wish #2: Fewer betas
The words “Beta” and “Google” have gone hand-in-hand for a long time. Any new feature in Google Analytics (AdWords Reports, Intelligence, and In-Page Analytics) will have a red “Beta” tag slapped on, and it will remain there for quite a while. Heck, it was only a year ago that Gmail, the worldly-popular E-mail service, had its beta tag lifted.

This doesn’t bother me, but I understand how it can be a nuisance.

Wish #3: Speed!
Matthew hasn’t been the only one who has brought up the issue of interface / report call-up speed. If you apply a really long date-range with four advanced segments in your “All Traffic” profile (that gets thousands of visits a day), then you’ll probably have to wait 10-15 seconds for your report to be called-up and displayed to you.

Personally, I haven’t found the report loading times to be problematic, and I expect there to be some wait time for longer date-ranges combined with advanced segments. But, who doesn’t like an even faster interface, right? I’m all for more speed!

Wish #4: A robust API
The Google Analytics API is a great tool for developers to download web analytics data, which can then be integrated and “mashed-up” locally into pretty dashboards, reports, and databases.

It’s free, just like regular Google Analytics, but it’s not full of pomp and circumstance. Nick Mihailovski, of Web Analytics TV fame, heads up the GA API initiatives, and does an excellent job. I know that he and his team continues to work hard each and every day to make the API better and better for developers everywhere. I’m quite confident that it won’t be too long before your robust needs are met.

Wish #5: Less sampled data
Google Analytics sometimes shows your data as a sample, depending on your in-table filters and date-range. Sometimes, you tend to see that little yellow warning box that alerts you about the sampling of your data a bit too often.

However, what a lot of folks aren’t realizing is that Google Analytics data is already a sample of your website’s visitors, without applying any filters or segments. So, you’re already analyzing a sample the second you log-in to your Google Analytics account, and, decisions and insights are derived from that sample daily by thousands of marketers and analysts everywhere.

I know this doesn’t directly address this wish, but I truly believe in what Avinash says about Accuracy vs. Precision. Essentially, it’s all about focusing much less on trying to collect and report on every single piece of data, and all about focusing much more on analyzing and taking action from the good, precise data that you already have.

Wish #6: More charting options
I’m not sure about this wish. Google Analytics has five in-table views (including pivoting and comparison to site average views); trending graphs that can be customized to show any metric, any two metrics together, and a comparison to site average; vertical histograms on individual metric reports; an Intelligence report section (in “beta”!) that allows you to pivot by dimension or by metric; and, motion charts, which not many people use to begin with.

The charting options are there. Are they fully customizable and editable? No, but the data can always be downloaded in a spreadsheet, and edited locally.

Wish #7: Manageable advanced segments
To access an Advanced Segment, look at the top-right of almost every report in Google Analytics. From there, you can select a default (pre-created) advanced segment, or, create your own advanced segment. They are accessible via this window, and can be toggled on and off at will.

They can’t be sorted, alphabetized, or grouped at present. This is a feature that I’d love to have as well.

Wish #8: More major contributors in Intelligence
Recently, Google Analytics introduced the concept of major contributors for any custom alert that you create, which appear on the Intelligence report section. They’re essentially the reasons why your Intelligence alert is being reported to you.

Major Contributors including conversion rates and other computed metrics are fine, but I like the fact that GA limits this to the top five.

Wish #9: Calculations in reports
Many metrics in web analytics are calculated from a small formula. Stats like Bounce Rate, Conversion Rate, Average Time on Site and $Index are all calculations deriving from other metrics.

I don’t want to see formulas in my analytics reports – and I’m a math major. I want to have the work done for me already.

Wish #10: No more URL hacks!
Google, as well as prominent bloggers, publish from time to time ways that you can “hack” Google Analytics by editing the URL in the address bar of your browser, whether you want to be able to download more rows of data or remove the “All Visits” segment from your multi-segment comparisons.

I can’t agree more with this wish than I already do. I like the creativity and the coolness of URL hacks, but we shouldn’t have to do them. More precisely, it would be very nice if we didn’t need to do them.

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