While there’s no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to choosing an analytics framework, the more familiar you are with the differences between Google Analytics and internal programs, the better equipped you’ll be. And remember: lots of sites embrace both simultaneously. Though you run the risk of some conflicting data, you’ll never suffer for lack of insights.
Google: It’s A Freebie
Perhaps one of the biggest draws of Google Analytics is that it’s free to use. Pair that with the name recognition of Google and it’s no surprise the program is popular. On the other hand, despite its ability to see across the web, Google Analytics doesn’t have the inside view of your site, and that can lead some of the data awry.
What does that look like in practice? One of the prime examples is that the program consistently thinks that your own activity on site is a page hit. While that can offer a nice spike in your numbers, it’s not exactly accurate. Luckily, you can hide your own IP address, but for many of those who are new to the analytics game, that’s an advanced strategy.
A Not-So-Optional Add-On
Compared to Google Analytics, internal programs tend to be more reliable because they read activity from your point of view, with full access to the platform’s inner workings. This is a powerful advantage, but it’s one you typically have to pay for.
In Sitebuilder.com’s pricing framework, for example, analytics are an upgrade only add-on, but if you’re already building an ecommerce site, then you should shell out the extra money for the data it will provide. As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money and with analytics, that’s absolutely the case. You do get SEO support such as keyword and formatting guidance as part of the basic package, allowing you to drive search traffic, but without the analytics add-ons, you won’t be able to measure much traffic or use data to improve your performance.
So if you can pay for internal analytics or use Google for free, why spend the money? Let’s draw a comparison from another industry.
In the world of building and industrial design, built in analytics have become a must-have. Why? It’s all about data.
Data-driven analytics, when built in, offer real-time insights into a product’s function. iPhone users, for example, can set up their phones to send real-time data to Apple so that Apple can improve the next iOS. The phone does this through an internal system, not by asking you to download third-party software. Using a site’s internal analytics data is exactly the same thing. Google can receive your data, but it’s still second hand. Why go outside your system when you can get the details right from the source?
And of course, most new analytics users are bound to make some mistakes, but why amplify the confusion by using two potentially conflicting sources? Too many site owners with minimal knowledge of statistics are out there confusing correlation with causation while also trying to figure out the difference between a visit and a view. It’s all too much, but you can be sure that your internal analytics program will be backed by serious customer service support. Google’s free service, on the other hand, will likely leave you to the mercy of fellow users.
Data is changing the website management world, but you need to know how to use it. Beginners are best off sticking with internal data, if only to be sure you’ll have the necessary support. Will it cost you a few dollars? Sure. But the potential profits it will bring in make the cost worth your while.