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Why Google Analytics Is Useless For Most Startups

adam   •   June 18, 2012   •   15 Comments
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“Analytics are extremely important for any business, if you can’t measure it, did it really happen?”

The Problem

Most people I know use Google Analytics to track all their visitors behavior and referrals. You can do some amazing things in this platform, track where people drop off in funnels and everything people do when they get to your site. However there is one HUGE problem I came across when I wanted to start tracking actual conversions.

Delayed Purchase

With anyone who offers a freemium model or offers a preview before they purchase there is no way to link a person who signs-up and the details in the analytics platform to get things such as referral source. Google Analytics actually prohibits this behavior and explicitly tells you that you can not link personally identifiable information to its analytics information.

People who sign up to Binkd might not purchase for 2 weeks. Telling me how many converted into sign-ups, then looking at how many convert from sign-ups to paid customers is not enough for me. I want to track exactly which campaign generated revenue, so I can run it again and again. This way I can run multiple advertising strategies at the same time and not get confusing statistics from people who sign-up from other sources.

What Did I Do?

Developed my own. Not an entire analytics platform, I still use Google Analytics, but just enough to track referral source and landing pages where possible. (Not all pages or browsers pass the referral source and not all browsers are set-up to accept cookies, which is what my new tracking code uses)

I did what they call pixel tracking. Load a small 1×1 px transparent gif that is loaded off another website and tracks the referral source and landing page in a cookie. If they sign-up, I store this information with the user.

I also created a tracking code as a query string “?campaign_id=x” that is appended to any link I use to do paid campaigns and this is detected and recorded in my database. As a result, here is a quick example of a few quick and dirty Google campaigns I ran, taking note I also added an additional cost of $10 per contest as overhead to get the true ROI based on profit.

As you can see the ROI was in the negative. The values also took a while to increase as purchases came in 1-2 weeks after they signed up.

Results

I can now see EXACTLY how my campaigns performed in monetary value and I successfully account for the variance in user behavior from the different places they signed up. This also successfully tracks sign ups and purchases from PR work that isn’t a paid campaign. As such Binkd now has the information to successfully track marketing campaigns.

Update: More advanced analytics software such as KISSMetrics.com and Improvely.com can track users and provide metrics that are very useful to start-ups.

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  • http://twitter.com/devinTrix Devin A. Brown

    Technically you don’t track individual users, but if you use Google UTM coding of your links, then you get campaign tracking.  The cookies in GA don’t expire on session — they last for 30 days.

    • binkd

      UTM tracking is great on tracking campaigns and if the action is completed with 30 days, which the initial ones are. However it falls down again as there is the need to track repeat business. You would lose the ability to say, people who signup through this campaign are 10x more likely to purchase again, type of analytics.

      Google Analytics is great, it just seems to fall that little bit short of that perfect solution of combining leads and sales to user behavoir after the sale in which there is very powerful information.

      • http://www.improvely.com/ Dan Grossman

        Not sure why you think you can’t do exactly this kind of tracking with KISSmetrics and virtually every other multi-touch tracking platform out of the box. You can. More than 30 days too.

  • http://twitter.com/devinTrix Devin A. Brown

    Technically you don’t track individual users, but if you use Google UTM coding of your links, then you get campaign tracking.  The cookies in GA don’t expire on session — they last for 30 days.

    • binkd

      UTM tracking is great on tracking campaigns and if the action is completed with 30 days, which the initial ones are. However it falls down again as there is the need to track repeat business. You would lose the ability to say, people who signup through this campaign are 10x more likely to purchase again, type of analytics.

      Google Analytics is great, it just seems to fall that little bit short of that perfect solution of combining leads and sales to user behavoir after the sale in which there is very powerful information.

  • binkd

    As far as I am aware you can’t tie back sales histories from your site to analytics. How would an analytics company know that a user that moved to another computer, or cleared their cookies and changed IP’s logged back into my system and purchased again?

    • http://www.improvely.com/ Dan Grossman

      You tell them. You pass the customer’s identity to the analytics tool (their e-mail or username, etc) when an event/conversion occurs and that lets the tool connect the anonymous profiles of the various systems together, even if IPs or cookies change. You should really TRY these tools before writing them off.

      • binkd

        Last I checked KISSMetrics didn’t do this, Google Analytics certainly doesn’t do this. Do you know of services that do provide what you mentioned and I will certainly try them out.

        • http://www.improvely.com/ Dan Grossman

          KISSMetrics does this, tracking people like this is the core USP of the company. _kmq.push([‘identify’, ‘identity’]); MixPanel does too. Improvely does too.

          • binkd

            Thanks for the information. I admit I was wrong about services other than Google. I will change the article accordingly. I also added a link to your site.

  • binkd

    As far as I am aware you can’t tie back sales histories from your site to analytics. How would an analytics company know that a user that moved to another computer, or cleared their cookies and changed IP’s logged back into my system and purchased again?

    • http://www.improvely.com/ Dan Grossman

      You tell them. You pass the customer’s identity to the analytics tool (their e-mail or username, etc) when an event/conversion occurs and that lets the tool connect the anonymous profiles of the various systems together, even if IPs or cookies change. You should really TRY these tools before writing them off.

      • binkd

        Last I checked KISSMetrics didn’t do this, Google Analytics certainly doesn’t do this. Do you know of services that do provide what you mentioned and I will certainly try them out.

        • http://www.improvely.com/ Dan Grossman

          KISSMetrics does this, tracking people like this is the core USP of the company. _kmq.push([‘identify’, ‘identity’]); MixPanel does too. Improvely does too.

          • binkd

            Thanks for the information. I admit I was wrong about services other than Google. I will change the article accordingly. I also added a link to your site.