I haven’t really changed my mind about this, but two things caused me to further reflect on the possible role of GA in the enterprise. First, I read with interest a post by my colleague Phil Kemelor that dealt with a very similar issue: an organization finding that many of their sites aren’t using Omniture reporting in any robust fashion (or perhaps at all). Phil examines whether GA is an appropriate solution to that problem and pretty much comes to the opposite conclusion I did. So which of us is right?
On the whole, I’m going to say Phil is. But I am too. Here’s why.
Phil’s essential point is that if a web analytics tool isn’t being used, the fault probably doesn’t lie in the tool but in the training. Training is an essential part of rolling out any Business Intelligence system (web analytics or otherwise) – and it does not end with having an Omniture trainer come out and give a big class to a bunch of stakeholders. Training for BI systems actually involves a process of comprehensive training of potential power-users to create organic structure within the organization. It requires the type of tool training that tool vendors like Omniture and Unica provide. And it requires additional business-specific training - often build around your report set - of the sort that companies like Semphonic will provide.
I’d make a further point beyond Phil’s. The report set you develop is part and parcel of the training you provide. These two are inextricably linked in ways that most organizations simply don’t grasp. First, if you don’t provide a good report set, you’ve taken away the easiest, most powerful, and almost always the first point of web analytics exposure. Second, your report set is a chance to establish a useful and well-thought out framework and language around web measurement in your company. This is critical for raising adoption rates. Third, your training needs to build on top of your report set because that’s what most people will be looking at first.
I’ve posted before on what makes a good report set – and frankly, it isn’t what most organizations build (if you're interested, ping me, I have a whole presentation on this that I think is pretty worthwhile).
Phil is dead-on that people tend to blame the tool instead of fixing the problem. And deploying GA – like using an automated tag converter - is just another way of giving up.
That’s one side of the issue. But I also started to think about a special class of sites – commonly called micro-sites – that may really be appropriate for GA and not in a surrendering sort of way.
The company Phil writes about has 2,000 stakeholders around the world – and goodness knows how many sites. We have some clients with similar issues – and for many of them there are two very distinct types of sites. There are full-fledged sites built around major products or lines of business or geographic regions. These sites are almost always large (hundreds of pages at minimum and often thousands or tens of thousands), have multiple functions, and multiple types of success. For any such site, I continue to believe not only that an automated conversion of an HBX tag is inappropriate but that GA is a poor choice for measurement.
But some of our clients also build and deploy many marketing oriented “micro-sites.” These sites are typically very small – perhaps only 20-30 pages or even smaller. They have a single function. They usually have a single success event. For sites like this, GA can provide analysis almost identical to what you could accomplish with Omniture. If you need to integrate behavior from these sites into a larger customer picture, you might still want to tag them with Omniture (and even use a base tag – but please, not one generated automatically). But if they are essentially standalone, you might be well advised to simply use Google Analytics.
For micro-sites like this, most of Omniture’s additional capabilities simply don’t matter. You won’t be coding tons of variables. You don’t need to do a lot of segmentation. You don’t need fancy pathing. Cardinality limits on reports won’t usually come into play. In short, you don’t need an enterprise tool on a site with 30 pages.
What you do need is good solid reporting on traffic, easy tracking of campaigns, and good integration with your search buys. GA can provide that.
So while I haven’t really changed my mind about anything (god forbid), I’ve come to believe that what I said initially isn’t the whole of the matter. If you’re struggling to get stakeholders to care about measurement, the wrong solution is still an automated Omniture tag. But while it’s cheaper to deploy GA, Phil is right to suggest that it’s hardly a real solution.
And while deploying GA may sometimes be nothing more than an admission that the measurement organization, the stakeholders or both don’t much care about or understand serious measurement, it may also be a very appropriate solution for a very common kind of small enterprise site.