Ways Google Analytics Can Be Misleading

September 24, 2008 at 1:36 pm (Analytics)

Like all analytics options, Google Analytics does not provide a completely accurate picture of who is visiting a website.

One problem with Google Analytics is that it tracks internal visitors of the site without differentiating them from external visitors. This is problematic for companies whose CSRs use their website to find the answers to customer’s questions. The data collected can become skewed as CSRs look up new information that they do not know off the top of their head, making it appear as though more customers are interested in the new information than actually are. Internal visitors can be excluded from the statistics using their IP address, even if it has been dynamically assigned. The “Excluding hits from a proxy with dynamic IP address” blog entry provides instructions to exclude internal users from the measurements.

Another problem with Google Analytics is the way the information is sent to the server, as outlined in the blog entry “Google Analytics – Flawed and Misleading?”. One of the reasons for this inaccuracy is due to the use of javascript. If multiple scripts are used on the same page they can conflict and the information will not be sent. Also javascript can be turned off within a browser’s options to protect the user from malicious scripts. Another problem is the script is at the end of the page, so if it does not load completely then the visitor is not recorded.

Google Analytics can also mislead is by having titles that are confusing to its users. A full analysis of this topic is provided in the blog entry “Google Analytics: Worst Titles Ever”. The titles that are used do not accurately reflect the information on the page. One example is that the information titled “Visitor Loyalty” is a measurement of how many times a visitor returned to the site during a time period, which is not necessarily the equivalent of loyalty. For example I have been known to visit the websites of my favourite Jr. A Hockey Team’s opponents in order to get information about away games. If the two teams play multiple games in a time frame the analytics would insinuate that I am a loyal visitor when it is likely the only time of year that I visit the site.

Despite the problems that Google Analytics has it is a good solution for websites to track the visitor trends and behaviours.

Google Analytics Example Image from Robin Good

Google Analytics Example Image from Robin Good

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