You all know that we love our Google Analytics. As a free tool that provides access to extensive data about our websites and apps and who is using them, there is good reason why Google Analytics is the world’s leading product in its space. But even our dearest friends have their flaws, and our favourite digital analytics service does sometimes leave us regretting its omissions, its faults and its imperfections. There is always room for improvement and so, as the Google Analytics brand approaches its tenth birthday in November 2015, here is a non-exhaustive wishlist of improvements that might to improve help the service as it passes the big one-oh and matures into its second decade.
Google Analytics wishlist
(in no particular order)
“Garbage in, garbage out” – so goes the famous saying that has been around in computer science since at least the 1960s. This is a timeless truth: no matter how good our analysis is, if we start with poor quality data we can hope for nothing more than poor quality results. So we do all we can to ensure that we put the very best quality data into Google Analytics.
Faster / more real-time data capability
We live in a fast-paced world, and the pace grows ever faster. There is a limited amount of real-time reporting that does exist in Google Analytics, but it is really a bit of a tease. It’s like shaking the box of kibble in front of your cats, only to then inform your feline companions that it is another several hours until their next meal time! We know that the once-daily updates to the main reporting capability in the free Google Analytics service is a result of the enormous amount of data processing required, but it doesn’t stop us wishing for more. It would be so useful to have more immediate access to reports, even if just to help us better monitor changes, make tweaks and check that things are working as expected.
Import data from external advertising platforms automatically (like Facebook, Bing, etc.)
By linking Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts, we get to see valuable data inside Google Analytics about the performance of our Google AdWords campaigns. This gives us a holistic view of the campaigns through to conversion on our websites, and ultimately the return on our ad spend. And for our campaigns on Facebook and Bing (and elsewhere) … well, if we want a similarly holistic view in Google Analytics then we have to import that data, a somewhat convoluted process that is likely to be a manual process (or at least partially so, even if we use the Management API).
Wouldn’t it be great if we could provide suitable credentials to Google Analytics and have it import the relevant data automatically?
Make no mistake, sampling is great. It allows opinion pollsters to tell us how the country is going to vote, based on the statements of a surprisingly small number of people. It allows us to make changes to our websites based soundly on the behaviours of a sample of users. And it lets Google Analytics give us all the arbitrary reports that we demand of it without consuming unfathomable resources to produce them. The problem is that we like to slice and dice our reports with segments and filters. The statistics that can work magic with a well-chosen sample can struggle to let us conclude anything meaningful, when you are using heavily biased and unrepresentative sample data. So, recognising that we can’t demand unlimited bespoke reports compiled from raw data in free Google Analytics, maybe we could at least have this: enough control over the sampling to allow us to to try to remove bias.
For now, we’ll have to settle with the basic controls that are currently available for sampling and keep our fingers crossed for more.
To help us get an overview of the vast amounts of Google Analytics data available, the service has inbuilt dashboarding capability. Essentially, this is a custom report with a collection of graphical and tabular widgets, that can easily be put together for a top-level view of our website (or app’s) performance.
However, there are limitations of the inbuilt dashboarding, with not much customisation available beyond basic changes. For more advanced selection or manipulation of data, we need to look to third-party data visualisation tools, home-brewed reporting solutions using the reporting API, or other complicated hacks outside of the Google Analytics interface. We’d be spending plenty more time within the Google Analytics interface if we could do more with the dashboarding capability – take note Google.
Move a property into a different account
Finally for this wishlist: the ability to move an entire Google Analytics property from one account to another. We’ve all wished that we could fix errors in our account and property structure, whether as a result of an oversight or changes to your business needs over time. However you ended up in this situation, the fact remains that it is perfectly possible to end up with a property sitting inside an account where it doesn’t rightly belong, and no easy means to fix the mess. A magic button to allow the property to be shifted into another account would solve many ills!