{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

Many of us use Google Analytics as our day-to-day analysis and reporting tool, it's provided enterprise level analytics to everyone, and turned a legion of website owners into quasi-statisticians.

However, it's not without its flaws and weaknesses. As I've been a Good Boy this year, here are the ten things I'd love to have from Google Analytics for Christmas. 

Now, before starting my list, a couple of qualifiers. Firstly, yep, I know that Google Analytics is a free tool. However considering how much money I throw Google's way in PPC fees, I think I'm allowed to suggest some ways they can improve it.

Secondly, this gets pretty heavy. I'm a statistical analysis nerd and I make no apologies for it. However, if you're at the stage where you're starting to use some of the things I mention here, then you'll reach the same frustrations pretty quickly!

Make metric & dimension combinations easier

Google Analytics Custom Reporting allows you to knock up reports pretty quickly, dragging metrics and dimensions into a report to get exactly what you want.

But, if you've ever created a Custom Report, or use the Google Analytics API, then you'll know very well the frustrating, seemingly random and illogical restrictions on which metrics and dimensions you can combine.

Often I've known exactly the report I want to write, only to be left banging my head against my desk because the desired metric is suddenly unavailable, or you get the blasted "Illegal Combination" message from the API.

Sometimes it gets even weirder, and you'll be locked out of reporting on e-commerce metrics, but goal metrics are just dandy. I've been using this system for a long time, and I still don't understand the logic. Maybe I'm just dense. It sure is frustrating.

For example, writing a report that shows Site Search Activity by Landing Page, you're locked out of e-commerce, goal & event metrics. So you have no idea how successful the each search was, which would give you indicators of how to curate the landing page. 

The only way is to create a goal conversion by landing page report, then set up some segments for the search terms. Laborious and unnecessary.

There are even separate guides for the GA interface and the API. Here, see if you can figure it out. 

The Google Analytics Interface Guidelines

The Google Analytics API Guidelines

"bangs head on desk"

Fewer betas

There's an awful lot in beta at the moment. Google does love its betas. Intelligence, In Page Analytics, Adwords are all in beta. Sometimes they work well, sometimes they don't work at all (I'm looking at you, In Page Analytics) and replace perfectly good functionality that you now have to do without (looking at you again).

Speed!

The Google Analytics interface has become terribly slow lately. Maybe it's just me, but applying a new segment or data range means sitting there with the spinning spinny thing of death (its official name) going around for a good 30 seconds. But it's not so bad, you can use the API! Oh, wait.

A robust API

Google Analytics provides a shiny API that allows you to draw down data for your own analysis. I do most of my analytics work using the API nowadays, I can product exec summaries and KPI dashboards super-quick. Except I can't because the API is flakey as all hell.

Whether it's because there's no servers to execute my request, timeouts and the threat of going over quota, it makes using the API as a reliable Dashboard or dynamic presentation tool impossible.

It's even worse in Google Docs, where if anything, service should be tiptop. The Google Analytics API functions should really come as standard in Google Spreadsheet. I'm amazed that Google hasn't integrated its business apps as tightly as it could.

Less sampled data

So instead of pulling down lots of data, I partition my request to avoid timeouts, so say 10-15 smaller requests, filtered on pre-defined segment, with maybe three metrics per request. But when I then try to pull it down for more than two weeks...DISASTER

The data returned is sampled, and therefore pretty useless to me. Sampled data is fine for looking at trends, not so fine when trying to do a 1, 4 & 13 week comparative analysis.

More charting options

So, if you can't use the API as much as you'd like, then you're back to the GA interface to produce your whizzy reports. However the reporting options are pretty limited, and you're screwed on what would be some quite useful reports. 

For example, what I'd like to see, based on a date range, is a histogram of transaction values, which would show me skew, outliers & deviation. Yum. Where i work, for security & privacy reasons, I have zero access to any CRM database, so GA is my first stop of this sort of data. Why can't it be better, dammit!

Manageable advanced segments

Advanced segments are great. Little subsets of data that you can report on. Once you start using them, you'll quickly keep adding more and more.

Until you reach 100 of them. That's all you get.

But, that isn't the worst part. Long before you reach 100, you'll realise how completely unmanageable Advanced Segments are. 

You can't sort them, you can't group them, you certainly can't have subfolders of segments (ooooh, advanced segment folders with parent inheritance, wouldn't that be cool!). You can search, but I'm a bugger for not having a naming convention for these things.

More major contributors in Intelligence

Google Analytics Intelligence is great. From what used to be the world's tardiest alerting system, by now reporting on the major contributors on alerts, GA has built a sneaky multivariate analysis engine under our very noses.

How about a few more variables now?

I would love to see contributors on Conversion Rate & ATV. Revenue's nice but you've then got to work backwards from it. Yes I can work these out (and indeed I do using a Metric Investigation Framework Google Doc that draws that alerts data down from the API, when it works), but to have it at a glance would be great.

Calculations in reports

Custom reports sounds great in theory. You can build up a report, set a distribution list and schedule, and have GA send out regular Exec Reports to your top brass. Sadly, Reporting system isn't Exec ready.

In custom reports you don't have access to calculated fields, which means you can't report on a lot of important statistics, like Conversion Rate, but instead have to download, manipulate (Google provide a handy reference guide for its calculations) and distribute which is a real shame.

No more URL hacks!

Right, leave the best to last Matty. Occasionally, you'll find yourself limited by the Google Analytics user interface, you've come across some silly restriction or random behaviour of the interface.

The two most common ones are:

Downloading more than 500 rows of data

Removing All Visits from Selected Segments (GAH!)

But, don't worry, Google has actual authorised "workarounds" that involve diddling with the URL. Here's how to get more rows.

Right, the All Visits "feature". This is probably the single most annoying thing about Google Analytics. I've complained about it until I'm blue in the face, but to no avail. You're selecting some advanced segments to report on. You untick All Visits, and tick two others. Look! All Visits becomes ticked, and you can't untick it!

Even if the segments aren't exhaustive, so Segment A and Segment B don't cover the entire data set, you will always have All Visits in your report. Fine and dandy and you can ignore it. Unless you want to see a graph, where All Visits makes the other plots pretty useless.

But, hey, you can hack the URL. Look for a bit that says "seg0=-1 and delete it. Huzzah, it's gone!

But wouldn't it be better if you didn't have to?

So there we go, my Christmas Wishlist for Google Analytics. Hopefully Santa Kaushik is listening. Whilst we've got his ear, anything you'd like to add?

Matthew Curry

Published 14 December, 2010 by Matthew Curry

Matt Curry is Head of E-commerce for online sex toy retailer LoveHoney. He spends a lot of time working on user experience and customer satisfaction is his highest priority. He frequently has to be penetration tested. You can follow him on Twitter, although he does often talk about dildos. He also has a LinkedIn profile, where he has to act professional.

19 more posts from this author

Comments (22)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Will Dymott

Will Dymott, Head of Data & CRM at Practicology Ltd

Multi currency please – that is all…

over 5 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Cripes! That was quick Will!

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Andy

I'm sorry, but this is just a list of complaints about GA not being advanced enough. You said it yourself - it's a free tool. There are paid solutions out there which offer most of this functionality.

In the words of Oasis, you can have it all but how much do you want it?

over 5 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Oh I don't think GA is free at all, certainly if you consider it as an adwords tool. There are other systems out there, but they're not head and shoulders above in terms of functionality. Indeed Omniture is tightly tied into the rest of it's offerings, that you end up having to buy more and more, and the last time I used Coremetrics ( about a year ago ) the interface was horrifying.

And if no-one complained, how would it get better, eh?

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Bob

If you're just adding reports to the dashboard it would be nice to name them, as if there's a lot of them it can look a bit cluttered and confusing. Still Analytics is free so can't complain too much!

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Richard Joyce

How about enabling more than 50 profiles to a URL?  The workarounds of setting p new accounts etc becomes a real headache to manage.

Also there is a restriction on the number of URLs you can view from a single account.  Aaargh! Having multiple Google accounts so that you can add analytics to all of your sites might be good for Google's new account metrics but a bit of a pain to manage..

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Matt Wilkinson, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Gatwick AirportEnterprise

Multi currency please... ill second that!!

over 5 years ago

Will Dymott

Will Dymott, Head of Data & CRM at Practicology Ltd

Matt W - You can convert the value before you pass it to GA but it's not ideal.

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

mike

I began doing seo for our company about 4 months ago so yes i am a newbie, (However i really enjoy doing this and look forward to learning more) however i am wondering how much GA leaves out i f i do similiar studies elsewhere i find data that id didn't fing in GA. Any feedback?

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Matt Wilkinson, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Gatwick AirportEnterprise

@Will  - good call, but for me that will be difficult due to current system limitations

over 5 years ago

Marie Page

Marie Page, Director at Musicademy

Multi currency from me too. Makes no sense not to offer that functionality and skews all our reporting.

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Ian Lockwood

How about allowing admin access at profile level instead of just account level? I've lost count of the times I've had a conversation about linking a new Adwords account to an existing Analytics account only to be told by a web developer that "we can't do that because you'll be able to see all our clients' accounts".

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Jacob Kildebogaard

This night i dreamed that I could segment data on pre-made segments; weekday (choose to months data, and compare mondays to tuesdays), and time of day (morning, efternoon, evening, night). Scary to dream about, but it would be nice.

Other wishes:

- Better automized reporting - to be able to choose graph type etc.

- Please please - track download, mailto and exitlinks with event tracking by default.

- Be able to use event tracking as goal (event-goal)

- Make multisite tracking easier. Skip the need of tagging of cross links ;-)

- Greater options to make path-analysis

- And finally - show us where the user clicked on the in-page analysis.

over 5 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

hi, Jacob,

one little cheat for 'event tracking as goals' is to set up advanced segments for your events.

eg, you want to see how many people interacted with your (event tracked) video, but you can't set up a goal for it. Instead - set up an advanced segment on the event, and you can get the same information.

Has some disadvantages, but also has a few advantages over goals.

Hope that helps in some way!

dan

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Victoria Archer, Ecommerce Operations Manager at Heal's

haha - enjoyed reading this. that 'spinning wheel of death' is one of those bits that frustrates me most.

Agree with multi currency. and Jacob's wishes are similar to mine.

vx

over 5 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Multicurrency can't be that hard, it'll be exchange rate thats fiddly - I'd say go down the SAP route of defining say the currencies that you work in, you then specifying the exchange rate that you work to (it might be not the official exchange rate, depending on whether you have international business units)

Then you tell GA what you want the default reporting currency to be, but you can drill down into local currencies if you want to.

over 5 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Also, Jacob, if you're looking into path analysis, try playing with the API, since it give you more path variables than the reporting interface does

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Mike Sullivan

Love the list!  FYI - it's nice to be able to create advanced segments dynamically with the API - gets over the limits of the web interface!

It sure would be nice to be able to get unique visitors through the API; makes it real hard to reproduce reports you see online if the data isn't even available! 

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Luke Maxwell

From an analysis rather than usability perspective, providing visitor level data and full page flows via the API would be huge. Understand how users are interacting with campaigns and content over time? Yes please. People are tired of analysing campaigns on a last click basis, the Adwords Search Funnel analysis goes some way to helping, but it's single channel. No need to even figure out a good visualisation - release via the API and users will work it out for you.

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Anthony Bosio

Regarding improved charting options, I would love to be able to chart a few specific rows of data over time.

i.e. I've never understood why I can can't chart a few (2-4? 6?) of the most popular screen resolutions over time. I can do them individually, but the main Screen Resolutions page will only show a sum of all the visible rows which is completely useless. It is just a chart of visits (or page views or whatever) at that point. It doesn't really have anything to do with resolutions.

There may be other ways, more or less manual, to end up with in the same place. I just think that would be easy and valuable. (This should be possible with almost any report.)

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Markus Vollmert

Nice Job Matthew! I would like Email-Reports in HTML and integration of webmaster tools would be great. But any wish from your list would make our life easier :)

Merry christmas!

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Andreas Moser

I examined the economic effects of Christmas and wish-lists are in fact a very important thing: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/economics-of-christmas/

over 5 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.