The Less Talked About, But Most Significant, Hidden Cost of Google Analytics

Since storming on to the scene in 2005, Google Analytics has turned a lot of heads and has garnered some serious consideration from some large companies who would have previously only considered the top tier vendor solutions.  Given that it is a feature rich solution and it’s free, the value proposition seems to be difficult to dispute.

Yet, despite it being free, there have been a lot of ‘buyer beware’ articles written describing some of the hidden costs and risks associated with using Google Analytics.  Some of the costs/risks cited, for example, are the lack of customer support and training, data ownership issues, and despite its rich set of features, it does not provide the depth of analysis that a high-end analytics solution does.  And unfortunately you have to invest a lot of time with the tool to really identify its limitations.

So while these hidden costs are certainly relevant and should definitely be taken into consideration when evaluating analytics vendor options, I do believe Google Analytics is a compelling tool that can provide enormous value in evaluating the effectiveness of online marketing initiatives, understanding web site visitor behavior, and optimizing the performance of a web site.

But here’s the rub, the decision to use Google Analytics frequently conveys an implicit devaluation of the importance of the analysis of the data that actually provides the real value to the organization.

The use of Google Analytics is often a reflection of the diminished importance an organization places on obtaining the actionable insights that can provide extremely high returns.Of course there is no doubt that organizations are frequently guilty of not investing the time and energy necessary to take advantage of a tool even after making a fairly significant investment in the tool.

However, there is an exponentially higher risk when no investment has been made. No one in the organization is saying, “we invested all of this money in the tool and we are not taking advantage of it,” because there was no investment.  In fact, to most it would seem almost ridiculous to suggest that a company should hire someone full-time to analyze data derived from Google Analytics.

Yet more and more firms are adding full-time analysts to their web optimization teams because they recognize the dividends it pays. Unfortunately many companies are now asking, “can’t we get as much from Google Analytics for free instead of paying for our current tool” instead of asking “shouldn’t we be doing more and better analysis to gain actionable insights from our current tool?”

I believe this is by far the most significant hidden cost of Google Analytics and it has nothing to do with the quality of the tool.


This entry was posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2007 at 8:19 pm and is filed under Metrics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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