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Google Analytics May Be the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, but It Has Its Limits

No one in B2B marketing can deny the importance of monitoring website traffic. It can tell you the number of unique visitors to your site, how these visitors got to your site, what they did while they were on your site, and the length of time spent on any given page within your site. Then, you can use this information to develop content geared specifically to your customer base, improve the user experience, and better target your marketing efforts. 

For many marketers, this tracking is left in the capable hands of Google Analytics — and for good reason. This robust tool is highly customizable. You can literally measure almost any visitor action taken on a site. It’s also constantly in development and seamlessly integrated with AdWords. Up to a point, it’s even free.

Despite all these great benefits, Google Analytics still has its limitations.

Where Google Analytics Falls Short

First and foremost, we have to remember that Google Analytics is a complimentary offering. It’s used to sell Google’s real bread and butter: AdWords. As a result, its depth of analysis only goes so far. If you want to capture statistics on complex funnels, retention, or conversions through social shares, Google Analytics can come up short. You’ll likely need to make trade-offs in usability to get the answers to these questions.

Google Analytics also defaults its tracking. Unless you set up custom variables to account for unique visitors, the system defaults to counting sessions. So a unique visitor who converts after three sessions would be counted as three different people (two who did not convert and one who did). This can skew your conversion rates and prevent you from identifying why a returning visitor failed to convert or took so long to become a customer.

Lastly, the free service limits tracking to 10 million hits per month. This may seem like a lot of traffic, but if you’re launching a series of events or promotions, it won’t take long to reach this threshold. After that, Google samples your traffic, which probably won’t give you a clear picture of your visitors.

If you opt for the free service, you’re also limited to five customer variables per visitor, which limits segmentation. This can be a problem for anyone targeting multiple audiences with distinct characteristics. The premium service (which starts at $150,000 per year), on the other hand, allows for 50 variables per visitor.

How Google Analytics Can Add Value

Does this mean Google Analytics isn’t useful for B2B marketers? Of course not! It’s still the default standard of measurement for website traffic. However, you do need to look at your business to determine how well it fits by asking a few simple questions, including:

1. Is AdWords part of your marketing strategy? If so, your life will be much easier with Google Analytics. It may not be the only method for tracking and analyzing your traffic, but its seamless integration makes it an enticing option.
2. Are you running an ad-driven business on your web properties? If the answer is a resounding “yes,” some of your ad inventory will likely come from Google. Google Analytics will help you track and analyze revenue associated with it.
3. Is your business in its infancy? In the early days of starting a business, there isn’t a lot of data or money to throw around. This can make it hard to justify additional spend on any tools. But given the power and “good enough” functionality that Google Analytics offers, it’s a great place to start.
4. Are you using another analytics tool? Although it may seem counterintuitive, Google Analytics can serve as a backup to your other analytics tool, especially when AdWords is part of your marketing strategy.

Even with its limitations, Google Analytics does have its advantages. It just comes down to deciding whether to go with the free or the premium option. However, if neither of those choices fits your company’s needs, there are plenty of alternatives that can provide similar information about your website traffic. It all depends on your personal preferences and the analytics that make the most sense for your business. 

For example, if you’re using AdWords and Salesforce, Bizible might be a better option for you because it helps tie your pay-per-click spending to actual transaction values. Inside Social, on the other hand, allows you to look at your conversion rates through social shares by setting up custom URLs across your site that track visits.

If you’re using content marketing, Google Analytics is great at showing content consumption on the web. However, if you’re using other forms of content, such as email, gated content, and webinars, my company, Pathful, would meet those needs. It pulls everything together to show the impact of content on your business and the ROI.

Regardless of which tools you use, monitoring traffic allows you to become more responsive in the marketplace. You can make informed changes to your site based on visitor behavior and find new ways to attract and convert consumers. It’s all about getting them to come back, and analytics makes this possible. 

Campbell Macdonald is the founder and CEO of Pathful, a content marketing intelligence and analytics tool that identifies the ROI of content and information to increase sales conversions. Since founding Pathful in 2012, Campbell has revolutionized content marketers’ ability to understand how consumers engage and interact with their website at every step of the sales funnel.