As a web developer I usually set up Google Analytics on sites I build for clients. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. And I've rarely questioned it. I mean, it's a seriously robust analytics package that you get for absolutely free. And it's pretty much a standard these days. So why not, right? Maybe.
I vaguely remember trying other analytics packages before Google Analytics (GA) became the norm (shout out to Mint by Shaun Inman). Looking back though, that seems like a long time ago when the Internet was a hell of a lot less filled with trolls and wide open for innovation. Ah, those were the days...
Anyway, I recently came across a couple of articles/blog posts (which you can find here and here) going over why you should or shouldn't use Google Analytics. Granted it's just two opinions, but I found the topic interesting enough to question my own practices.
Truth be told, I see good reasons on both sides of the discussion. On the one hand, GA can really help your website marketing efforts, provided you know what to do with the data you're given. That much data can be empowering. And there's a ton of data!
On the other hand, GA can be a huge collection of rabbit holes and may not bring much value for some people or certain types of websites. I certainly have not been immune to just mindlessly clicking around in my own Analytics data and before realizing it, half an hour has gone by.
Google Analytics gives you a lot of very detailed data, and while I certainly understand key metrics, I'm no expert. The thing is, the value you can get from GA is almost entirely dependent on what you do with it. Despite my somewhat limited understanding of all of the various data points you get in Google Analytics, I know enough to have experienced actual usefulness with it. Information that becomes particularly important when deciding how to improve your lead generation or site goals.
So what's the answer here?
After thinking things through quite a bit, I've concluded that having Google Analytics installed on your site is a good thing. At the very least you'll be able to tell your web designer about browser usage or other key data when it’s time to redesign or add new functionality.
But there are definitely the few scenarios where leaving GA out of the picture is totally fine. One of them is if you just plain don't care. If you don't care about your website’s traffic or visitors, don't bother. If you're really not going to do anything with the data GA provides, skip it. No harm, no foul. Really.
For 99% of sites though, there's not really a compelling reason to not have GA installed. Even if you only peek at the data every quarter, it can provide some great insights on your visitors and site pages. This is valuable data almost no business should skip out on. Almost.
But like I've alluded to, you have to know what to do with that data. More importantly, you have to know what your goals are for your site in order for the data to give you answers. That's a topic for another day, but if you're interested in that, get in touch!