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6 Things Google Analytics Can’t Tell You!

Published on 05 December 16
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Whenever someone sets up a new website the first thing they do is install Google Analytics (GA) so as to monitor traffic and the relevant stats. Stats such as visitor behavior and the activities they engage in while visiting your website.

Performance barometers for different sites are different and they have more to do with your objective for setting up that site. But more or less it tells you of visitor’s average time he stayed on the site, page views he generated, the total number of visitors, bounce rate, conversion rate etc.

There are always limitations to any model and Google Analytics is no different. There are certain things it can’t tell you about.

1. It Cannot Report On Individual User Data

The idea of knowing who visited and/or clicked pages/links on your site is critical. If there were a way of knowing this, you could tell if your competition is secretly at it. Trying to see what’s so different about your website that you garner so much traffic and things of the sort.

GA can’t help you there. As per GA terms of service, it speaks of vouching for individual’s privacy and doesn’t engage in personally identifiable information. So if visitors with selected IP addresses ever utilized your shopping, there is no way of finding that out except the cumulative data.

2. It Cannot Tap Into Historical Data

GA does not allow you to process or reprocess historical/past data. You can modify your incorrectly applied filter or tagged campaign link but all these will result in future metrics of the gathered data. The blockade is that you can’t go back and (re)process previously collected data.

3. It Cannot Track Non-Web Files

By non-web files, it means files such as PDF, Word, Flash or video files etc. since GA functions over a page tagging mechanism so if you can’t tag a file, you will not be able to keep tabs on it. GA places a tracking code on files through which it is measurable and trackable. Without it, it’s a battle lost.

Hence, if were to be a PDF file, a tracking code cannot be inserted therein and resultantly no data will be reported. Although there is a workaround to this limitation or should I say of the sort, that enables users to place the code in the form of individual links within the files which can then be monitored (when clicked).

4. It Cannot Report Data From Browsers With Javascript/Cookies Disabled

GA, as previously mentioned, operated on page tagging method and so when any web browser has JavaScript disabled that tracking code written in JavaScript cannot be activated. For GA to yield optimal results, the tracking code needs to be triggered.

For security reasons, usually, JavaScript is disabled in browsers. Under such cases the visitor goes incognito to GA and thus, no data is reported for the particular visit.

5. It Cannot Report Real-Time Data

GA data reporting is three to four hours late than in real-time. As of 2011, it is said that they have installed the real-time reporting capability. The functionality was in its beta testing phase then but now in a way it has materialized.

6. It Cannot Deliver Same Numbers As Other Web Analytics Tools

You need to understand web analytics that different tools use different tracking codes to monitor web traffic and other related stats. So a similar result from GA cannot be expected as that of the other analytics tools.

Primarily because all tools have different definitions of a ‘visit’, ‘visitor’ and a ‘unique visitor’, thus it’s not an apple to apple comparison. Naturally, different tools will yield discrepancies.

So the major player in the analytics domain is Google Analytics and though it does remarkable things, certain limitations as stated above makes it fall short of being perfect!

Whenever someone sets up a new website the first thing they do is install Google Analytics (GA) so as to monitor traffic and the relevant stats. Stats such as visitor behavior and the activities they engage in while visiting your website.

Performance barometers for different sites are different and they have more to do with your objective for setting up that site. But more or less it tells you of visitor’s average time he stayed on the site, page views he generated, the total number of visitors, bounce rate, conversion rate etc.

There are always limitations to any model and Google Analytics is no different. There are certain things it can’t tell you about.

1. It Cannot Report On Individual User Data

The idea of knowing who visited and/or clicked pages/links on your site is critical. If there were a way of knowing this, you could tell if your competition is secretly at it. Trying to see what’s so different about your website that you garner so much traffic and things of the sort.

GA can’t help you there. As per GA terms of service, it speaks of vouching for individual’s privacy and doesn’t engage in personally identifiable information. So if visitors with selected IP addresses ever utilized your shopping, there is no way of finding that out except the cumulative data.

2. It Cannot Tap Into Historical Data

GA does not allow you to process or reprocess historical/past data. You can modify your incorrectly applied filter or tagged campaign link but all these will result in future metrics of the gathered data. The blockade is that you can’t go back and (re)process previously collected data.

3. It Cannot Track Non-Web Files

By non-web files, it means files such as PDF, Word, Flash or video files etc. since GA functions over a page tagging mechanism so if you can’t tag a file, you will not be able to keep tabs on it. GA places a tracking code on files through which it is measurable and trackable. Without it, it’s a battle lost.

Hence, if were to be a PDF file, a tracking code cannot be inserted therein and resultantly no data will be reported. Although there is a workaround to this limitation or should I say of the sort, that enables users to place the code in the form of individual links within the files which can then be monitored (when clicked).

4. It Cannot Report Data From Browsers With Javascript/Cookies Disabled

GA, as previously mentioned, operated on page tagging method and so when any web browser has JavaScript disabled that tracking code written in JavaScript cannot be activated. For GA to yield optimal results, the tracking code needs to be triggered.

For security reasons, usually, JavaScript is disabled in browsers. Under such cases the visitor goes incognito to GA and thus, no data is reported for the particular visit.

5. It Cannot Report Real-Time Data

GA data reporting is three to four hours late than in real-time. As of 2011, it is said that they have installed the real-time reporting capability. The functionality was in its beta testing phase then but now in a way it has materialized.

6. It Cannot Deliver Same Numbers As Other Web Analytics Tools

You need to understand web analytics that different tools use different tracking codes to monitor web traffic and other related stats. So a similar result from GA cannot be expected as that of the other analytics tools.

Primarily because all tools have different definitions of a ‘visit’, ‘visitor’ and a ‘unique visitor’, thus it’s not an apple to apple comparison. Naturally, different tools will yield discrepancies.

So the major player in the analytics domain is Google Analytics and though it does remarkable things, certain limitations as stated above makes it fall short of being perfect!

This blog is listed under E-Commerce Community

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  1. 06 December 16
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    I don't know when it comes to individual data how relevant it is to be tracked on google. The objective of analytics is to get an insight into users behaviour (users could be hundreds or thousands). There could be many parameters that could add to the distraction of an individual when he is on your website, so tracking him/her and getting some insight give you only half the picture. These are my personal thoughts.

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