Recently, my friend Andy Hughes pointed me to a blog post by Tristan Denyer describing why he is turning off Google Analytics. It all kicked off with this tweet by Jordan Moore.
Analytics are now off (http://t.co/PyftLa5i), feeling a sense of liberation. Happy New Year!
— Jordan Moore (@jordanmoore) January 1, 2013
Mr. Moore describes that his small blog has no need for Google Analytics, that keeping it had the potential of destroying the honesty of his writing. I admire that. Mr. Moore recognized that his blog’s goal was not based in tracking and optimizing his traffic.
Tristan Denyer followed not too long after with the same conclusion.
— Tristan Denyer (@tristandenyer) January 6, 2013
Again, I admire his decision. However, I can’t agree with his reasons, at least not all of them. Following are Mr. Denyer’s reasons he is getting rid of Google Analytics and my reaction.
It slows down page load
Well, yes, it does. However, the amount of bandwidth it sucks is barely anything. Get rid of the social share buttons, they’re a far bigger issue.
Some people don’t want to be tracked
Again, he is correct, although it is worth noting that GA does not track personally identifiable data. In fact, if you do, they have the right to terminate your account.
Tracking can be good for visitors. If the website owner uses it in a way to improve their experience, everyone benefits.
The data is overwhelming and highly subjective (if not suspect)
It seems this is where we differ the most. Firstly, the point of analytics is not to show 100% accuracy, but to show trends. Also, improving SEO is not the only reason to use GA, it helps you track your websites goals, figure out where people are getting lost, provide insight into types of content that your current audience is looking for, and what channels are helping you achieve those goals best.
Mr. Denyer’s example of a local bar that will never glance at it’s Google Analytics is a good point, though. There is no way a client like that would use that information. There’s a good reason for that, it’s not their job. The bar owner, as a small business owner, probably hired his website done because he does not have the expertise or desire to do it himself. It is our job to use that data to improve their website and help them accomplish their goals. Business goals are website goals that are measured by Google Analytics.
The reward of ‘hitting the target’
This particular section has mostly to do with SEO and landing on the front page of Google’s results. There definitely are benefits, as Mr. Denyer stated, but for some sites (such as his) that didn’t matter. That’s fine, but search is only one channel for achieving your website’s goals.
It’s more for Google’s sake than my own
I understand this, and perhaps they could use my own data against me, but if we’re not concerned with SEO as above, then why worry about this?
The other point Mr. Denyer illuminates here is this, “And seriously, how much usage data do we need to help Google collect? I could understand if they were paying me to help collect it, but they don’t.”
However, Google is paying you by providing a premium product for no money. And not only that, they continue to improve the product releasing new versions frequently.
The data can affect your goals
I definitely agree. This is something you must watch for. When used correctly, though, the data can shed light on your goals rather than outshining them.
Mr. Denyer talks about how, in the past, he used analytics to support the inclusion of tutorials and free downloads because they brought in more traffic. This was a problem because it didn’t actually bring in more profit. It seems to me that GA should have helped see that problem and suggest solutions about what activities were making profit. Another option may have been to tweak how the free downloads or tutorials worked to permit better marketing touchpoints going forward.
This isn’t really a problem with Google Analytics, as it’s primary use is to analyze trends in data. However, it may be a good time to look in to Cloud Flare or something similar.
At the close
Thanks to Mr. Moore and Mr. Denyer, I do see good reasons to rid yourself of the venerable Google Analytics. Among these are dangers such as letting the data unduly affect your writing and simply not needing it on some websites. However, I cannot agree with all the reasons put forth. I simply believe that Google Analytics has too much to offer to switch off. Keeping it on, I can make my website more useful to my visitors.