In the recent article at Google Analytics Blog author tries to bust several myths circulating in the public. You can find few half-truths and (intentional?) deceptions there that I simply can’t ignore.
As each product has its own audience, I won’t question anyone’s decision to choose one type of solution or another, but some things simply must be said, regardless of how many people will read this compared to the original article. 🙂
MYTH 1: “You get what you pay for.” Google Analytics is free, which means the system is down a lot.”
I do agree that GA system is not down very often (if ever). Why it would be? They have more than enough resources to keep it alive, and imagine how much data they would lose in just one minute of downtime. But no matter how powerful their servers are your website will inevitably be slower. I doubt that you’ll find this particularly alarming, but still…
MYTH 4: Google Analytics is not really accurate
Ouch. This one is a main motivation for me to write the article. I’ll just comment phrases in bold (in the order of the appearance).
MYTH 6: With Google Analytics you can’t control your data
Yes, you can control your data… at some degree. Google promises to resists the urge to analyze your data for own purposes (if you don’t forget to explicitly say so), but the fact is that they already have your data, right there. In this information era knowledge is a big asset. Sorry, but I don’t buy that they won’t ever “peek”, just a little. Probably under the excuse of “serving better search results” (or more likely, “serving better advertisements”). And I’m not talking about analytics only: they have search queries, e-mails, documents, appointments, instant messages, etc. They predicted Eurovision 2009 contest winner based on what people search and I should believe that they won’t silently use all the information they can for profits? Right…
Even if you do trust Google (and every its employee), you still can’t say that you fully control your data as it’s still on their servers. Anything can happen in the future. What if Google goes to bankruptcy? Okay, not likely, but possible. 🙂 Therefore, you can’t fully control your data, but don’t get me wrong: I admit that there are few pros. For example, you don’t need to think about backup – the data is much safer on Google servers than on your computer. 🙂
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Disclaimer: the purpose of this article is not to persuade anyone to use server log analyzer instead of Google Analytics (I wrote another article for this 🙂 ), but to point out few things that are too easily overlooked these days, intentionally or not.
Glad to hear some debate around the article! To respond to some of the points above:
1) Latency – “your site will be slower” … placing the snippet at the base of the page mitigates this issue considerably. In the vast majority of cases, any difference in speed is not noticeable.
2) Server logs – It’s true this method is still around. In fact, Google still offers Urchin, a log-file analyzer, to customers who would like to keep their data onsite. In general though, server logs have many many problems of their own, which is why the method is on the decline. You’re right that these tools don’t face the same specific limitations, but they are still limited.
3) Every Google employee absolutely does not have access to your data. There are very strict guidelines around this. In general on this issue, I think the financial system (for all its failings) is a good analogy. Back in the day people kept their money under the mattress until we developed a financial system that gave them greater convenience and flexibility in exchange for a certain level of trust. The same evolution is happening now with information.
Thank you for finding time to submit a response.
1) Sorry, I wasn’t clear enough – I also think that speed difference is not considerable in most cases, but it exists. Putting a code at the bottom of the page makes things better but then you risk losing some page hits.
2) It’s still around and I expect it will be for at least some time, if not forever (whatever that means). Both methods have pros and cons, and I just don’t like to see that log analysis is ignored. GA is great for marketing purposes (tracking conversions, segmenting, more detailed client data), but technical analysis is impossible without server logs. And if log analyzer does a decent job in the marketing area, even better. 🙂
3) I’m glad to hear that, and, to be honest, I’m not surprised. Personally, I’m not concerned about employees, but I know a guy who never buys at Amazon because of similar issue.
Anyway, your financial system analogy is very interesting, and you are probably right. Still, we should be careful – leaving our money (information) in the wrong hands could cause troubles. I hope that Google will prove trustworthy in the future.