Why Google Analytics Is Useless For Most Startups
adam • June 18, 2012 • 15 Comments
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.
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.
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.