Google has made enormous inroads into the Web analytics community. Their free analytics product has changed the landscape for analytics vendors. Even at large enterprises, Google Analytics is deployed in numerous ways — either as a control, a corporate sandbox, or via the wildcatting efforts of a single marketer trying analytics on for size.
But does Google fit the bill for your company?
Choosing an analytics platform (or switching) bears careful consideration. Here are some well-known situations where Google may not be the right choice for your organization’s Web analytics effort:
1. You’ve got a significant investment in another tool
Whatever the size of your organization, you may already have invested in a robust analytics platform for which you pay a licensing fee. This tool may not be configured properly, and its impact may seem underwhelming. If you are comfortable with your level of investment and want to maintain continuity of data, don’t switch. Instead, make sure the tool you have is properly deployed and that access to it is properly governed. Fixing this tool’s deployment will be a cleaner solution than starting from scratch with Google.
2. You’re too big
Even at large organizations, Google Analytics is kicking around somewhere. In some environments, it can remain that way. You can allow folks to get a taste of what analytics can do quickly, then graduate them to the enterprise tool that is probably already in place. Google Analytics is a great answer for small-to-midsized companies, but with the huge importance placed by large enterprises on accountability, reliability, security, continuity, unity of data, and overall corporate oversight, Google makes a relatively poor choice. Don’t banish Google from the corporate campus. But don’t switch over. You’ve already grown well past it.
3. You care about data security
There are three levels of Web analytics security awareness: high, in which all data stays inside the firewall; medium, in which your data goes to a paid, secure third party that processes the data and protects it for you; and minimal, in which you are not at all concerned whether data stays inside your firewall or is even owned by you. Google Analytics takes your data, provides no guarantee of security and owns the data they collect from you. For most larger organizations, this alone makes Google unacceptable. For many others, knowing that your data might be sold to a competitor should give you pause. If it does, GA may not be right for you.
4. You need advanced analytics
Google does a great job of allowing you to drop a simple tag on a page and track basic reports. For folks who know little about how analytics really drives strategic marketing decisions, these simple reports may be adequate. But the basics don’t often enough answer business questions. An expert can push Google to go almost as far as the more robust tools will go, but at a certain point, it will max out. If you are deep into custom measures, calculated results, multivariate testing, integration, or simply need data that requires extensive parameter definition, Google probably will not get you to the big show.
5. You need a “neck to choke”
It’s a terrible phrase, but one we are all familiar with. It means you need to be supported by a team you are paying to provide a level of service. This service is critical enough to the organization that it cannot be allowed to fail. The only way to gain an acceptable level of security is to use a tool supported by a company that cares about your success. They know that if they don’t live up to the service level — if their service goes down, for instance — you will hold them responsible. Google Analytics is free and does not provide a guarantee. If you need a neck to choke, use a paid solution — not Google.