Google Analytics is pretty much it, when it comes to data about your visitors. However, Google Analytics is just that: a tool that provides statistical data about your visitors, based on which you can improve your website.
While it can do many other things, it pretty much sucks at them. So, what shouldn’t you do with Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is not a financial tool
Yes, there is eCommerce tracking but it is only meant for adding revenue data to your traffic data and do correlations between them. I’ve seen hundred of eCommerce implementations and I am yet to see one that fits exactly the reality.
Why isn’t it 100% accurate? Chargebacks, plugins that block Google Analytics, pages that load slowly and are abandoned are just a few reasons.
However, financial reports need to be 100% accurate. Don’t base your financial reports on Google Analytics as it will only cause frustrations.
How big of a frustration? I once had a fake payment of 2 billion screw up all my eCommerce data. A user placed an order of $2.000.000.000 on a customer’s website. Luckily we were able to delete the transaction from Google Analytics, otherwise the eCommerce data would’ve been compromised.
Google Analytics is not a stalking tool
Second, it won’t do you any good. It’s like judging a huge crowd of people by just analyzing one person, or 2 or 10.
Google Analytics is not for analyzing individual behavior. It’s for analyizing what impact your website is having on segmented groups of traffic.
Google Analytics is not a tool for calculating CTR
Ok, maybe in some particular cases it can be used for this, but most of the time you’ll get into trouble. There is a Google Analytics limit of 500 requests per visit and a limit of 10 requests per 5 seconds.
If you are going to track every impression of every banner on your website, the chances are you are going to hit that limit of 500 requests pretty soon, and you won’t get the rest of the valuable data of your visitors behavior.
As conversions usually happen at the end of a visit session, you might loose the most important part of a visit.
Google Analytics can’t calculate the real time spent by visitors on your website
The time spent on your website by visitors (as it appears in Google Analytics), is always smaller than how much time people actually spent on your website, even as an average.
If somebody visits a single page on your website, Google Analytics won’t be able to calculate how much time she stayed and will report 0 seconds, even if she spent 3 minutes on it.
The real bounce rate hack helps you get a better estimate of how much people spend on your website, but still, it won’t give you an absolutely accurate number.
But does it really matter if people on average spend 5 minutes or 5 minutes and 40 seconds? Would you take a different optimization decision if you would get the real number? My guess is no.
If you send a request to Google Analytics every second or even every 10 seconds of somebody’s visit, you’ll just hit the 500 requests limit so fast that Google Analytics will fail to log other actions done by a visitor on a website, and the time spent will be even more inaccurate.
Google Analytics is not a product database
Ok, this is something I actually tried to do a couple of times, but it ain’t a piece of cake. I’ve seen cases where people use it as a product inventory database. While they considered the implementation a success, and I have to agree I loved it, in the end I think it looks better as an experiment to try out your skills than a real solution.
If you are a geek and really don’t have another solution for it, ok, give it a try. Just do it in a separate profile as you might impact the rest of the data in an undesired way.
Can you think of any other Google Analytics misuses?