Why use Google Analytics?

The mainstay of free web-reporting for almost two decades, Google’s Analytics is one of those “of course we use GA” common answers to marketing questions. But why? And should you?

GA has changed shape hugely since Google bought Urchin in 2005 (side-note: we had used the original Urchin web reporting systems in the late 90s) and it’s now used by almost 75% of websites in the (non-China) world. It is ubiquitous.

But why? How is it that most commercial websites use GA4? Why do we not use GA4 on our website?

  1. It’s FREE, dummy, why wouldn’t you use it. Or just maybe there are good reasons Google gives it away free – more on that in a bit. But in a world where digital stuff is getting expensive, something for free has got to be good, isn’t it?
  2. Most digital agencies can work with GA4, some insist on it being used. A few will even surreptitiously install and configure it. Ask them why.
  3. Erm, did I mention it’s free. Oh I did. Well it’s kinda free – I know it means sending to Google every page visited on your site, every action taken on a page, every enquiry made … but it’s free.
  4. No-one really suggests any viable alternative, especially with the loss of 3rd-party cookies. And the alternatives cost money and struggle with adoption because, well, because GA4 is free.
  5. But, GA4 is a pain to use, gone is the simple to use insight tool, replaced with what is, in our opinion, an incomplete reporting tool that often uses sampling to give “definitive” results.
  6. Who really needs this data? What does it tell us that we couldn’t get from basic server logs? How often do companies dig into siteflow and get anything meaningful or real insight. Not every business needs to know about every visit to their site. In the physical world, do retail outlets usefully use total footfall data? And would they use that data if it mean’t “sharing” data with their competitors?
  7. And, it slows down the digital experience. Marketers should want to deliver the most efficient and fastest platform – slowing down this delivery is like putting a toll booth on the M25. Ever sat in the queues over the Dartford Crossing? So why make the visitor experience worse?
  8. Laziness. It requires no thought to use GA4. No one gets fired for using it. It’s seen by most marketers as a hill not to die on. It requires bravery and a clear vision to use alternative metrics and/or approaches.
  9. It’s not got a direct cost associated with it. Free stuff is appealing, but as we all know, if it’s free then someone is benefiting and someone else is losing. Companies using GA4 are (maybe) unwittingly giving away their customers data to Google who is “selling” it to their competitors and anyone else interested in engaging with their customers.

Mostly, it comes down the fact it’s free and most marketers are lazy with their customers’ data. We don’t use GA4 on our site – maybe you should rethink your policy on reporting, especially if we don’t really get good insight from it – or if you value privacy.