Is it time to look beyond Google Analytics?
There is little doubt that Google Analytics (GA) provides a wealth of invaluable features. With it, we can check traffic, which channels traffic came from and how many conversions are being made. We can also measure which the best and worst performing pages are. These features come courtesy of Google and the tool is FREE, so it comes as little surprise to discover that over 50% of all websites use Google Analytics.
Does GA solve problems, or are we being complacent?
Many analysts and marketers may have become too reliant with Google Analytics as their sole reporting tool, believing it to be competent enough to help make sense of website data. But is this true, or do analysts and marketers still use their best assumptions to interpret data from GA and make website changes rather than using cold hard facts?
Whilst the free version of Google Analytics has allowed many analysts and marketers to see their data in statistical form via tables and charts, does GA really help provide enough level of insight, or just the first step towards solving problems? Is this data alone enough to convince clients or internal stakeholders to make important website changes?
With websites becoming increasingly advanced and required by Google to be optimal across all device types with great levels of usability, reporting is becoming more complex. Google Analytics simply doesn’t have the scope for marketers to paint a full picture of how visitors are engaging or interacting on websites.
With data sets getting bigger, is it time to think outside the box?
Whilst many analytics tools such as Google Analytics provide a great foundation for reports, many marketers are still often left scratching their heads, asking themselves questions such as who, why and how? Who is visiting the website, why are users bouncing, why is exit rate so high and conversions so low? How is this issue still occurring after multiple website design tweaks and changes have been made.
The value of behavioral insights
We would all love to simplify big data into visual form, providing real user journeys which show levels of interaction and engagement with websites. Real on-page engagement is what is currently missing from the free version of Google Analytics, other than the very basic ‘In-Page Analytics’ which is a frugal version of a website heatmap.
Marketers should all be looking towards bridging the gap between analytics and ways in which to optimize websites and improve landing page performances by using readily available web tools to support hypothesis being formed. The insights accrued combined with the data you get from Google Analytics tools will then allow for real user testing or A/B testing to be conducted, again using data above and beyond analytics to optimize websites.
Behavioral insight tools aren’t designed to replace Google Analytics, but to compliment the data provided. These tools can save marketers a considerable amount of time on guesswork, by presenting the facts through easy to understand features, whether by form of heatmaps or real visitor replays.
In the wake of Google now favouring websites in their search index which are mobile optimized, analysts and marketers need to become more au fait with broader issues now affecting website performance beyond search engine optimization (SEO). Equally as crucial is conversion rate optimization (CRO) and website user experience (UX) which can only be measured effectively by using behavioral insight tools.
The key takeaways
It is not just the biggest companies with the biggest resources that need to start looking at behavioural analytics tools, it is every organization with an online presence, providing services or products.
Not having tools beyond GA limits the chances of truly understanding how customers behave, resulting in rash website changes (without any hypothesis formed) and therefore endangering website performance and conversion rates.
Innovation is crucial when it comes to big data, so not taking advantage of all of that innovation in the form of tools outside of Google Analytics results in marketers missing an important opportunity to gain real website insights and failing to understand the visitor behaviour.
In simple terms, Google Analytics should always be used to gain a top level understanding, but isn’t it time that marketers looked at behavioral insights beyond GA to truly understand factors such as who, why and how?