It’s interesting how a product or service that dominates a market becomes so familiar to consumers’ minds that its brand loses some of the cachet that motivates purchase.
We often say “Excel” without ever saying “spreadsheet,” let alone “Microsoft.” And do you say “tissue” or “Kleenex” in your neck of the woods? The more ubiquitous something becomes, the more likely it is to be taken for granted.
Google has such a challenge. Its successful domination of the search engine market has created a corporate directive to seek new growth opportunities and avoid losing marketplace buzz; Fortune magazine published a cover story on this buzz concern and Google’s strategy to expand beyond its core business. The end result has been new offerings and incremental services like Caffeine, Chrome, and a little ol’ phone operating system called Android.
Interestingly, one offering, Google Analytics, has similar dominance issues. It is on more than 62 percent of websites, yet its potency to manage marketing campaigns for small business owners is lost because many neglect to use its full capabilities.
Enter Justin Cutroni, Director of Digital Intelligence at Webshare. A veteran among analytics consultants, Cutroni gets to the essence of marketing with Google Analytics , a new O’Reilly guide for Web analytics users. I met Justin years ago through a Google Analytics Boot Camp training at Epik One, a Vermont-based analytics company. A wonderful strategist, he provides the right experience level in this book for those looking to know more than “What is a bounce rate?”
Better Web experiences through measuring data
The book is structured in a similar informational vein as Dennis Mortensen’s Yahoo! Web Analytics . Eschewing the basic how-to process — Google already provides a number of online videos and starter presentations — Cutroni’s Google Analytics offers techniques and topics for advanced usage without being overly theoretical or recommending actions that can only benefit an enterprise.
Cutroni tries to avoid bogged-down text — and succeeds. Google Analytics is a solid guide for small business technical workers who need a refresher on analytic technicalities, as well as an enlightener for business owners who need to understand how GA works and how the features link to your business. Cutroni covers it well at the beginning of Chapter 2:
“Google Analytics is a business intelligence tool and, because every business has different data needs, your implementation may be very different from someone else’s. Do not believe that you can simply slap some tags on the site and collect valid data. It is very rare that an implementation involves only page tagging. There are many configuration steps required to generate accurate, actionable data.”
Admittedly Chapter 2 is ultra-brief, but subsequent chapters offer distinct applications of Google Analytics features that will enlighten long-time users and new practitioners alike, such as reviewing the evolution of the tagging script and providing an overview of mobile tracking code in Chapter 3. Cutroni highlights integrated uses of the features, such as an explanation of marketing campaign tagging. There are also a few discussions you won’t find online, such as incorporating Google Analytics into CRMs and explaining of how tracking code functions on the server versus the browser. Topics such as the mobile tracking code expand on the functional impact to a site and give useful guidance such as the following comment:
“The mobile tracking code collects data at the server level rather than at the browser, or device, level. Because the mobile tracking code collects data at the server level, you must implement it in the language that you used to build your Web application. Google provides four mobile tracking libraries to make the process easier: PHP, Java, ASP and Perl.”
The segments on advanced techniques should be especially helpful for e-commerce companies and businesses with multiple domains. Here, Cutroni explains how analytics should work with existing systems, not just be a sole influence of decision:
“You should not use Google Analytics e-commerce tracking in place of an accounting or order management tool package. While the tracking is fairly accurate, there are too many external forces that can affect the data quality. It is best to analyze larger sets of e-commerce data and look for trends that provide insight into customer actions….”
What You Will and Won’t Get From Google Analytics
If a user is looking for more integration knowledge, the book does offer a number of excellent plug-in suggestions such as a code debugging tool, a regular expression diagnostic, and a keyword trend checker. There is a chapter dedicated to enterprise-level application that may not fit most small business needs, but it’s worth the page turns if your business is growing and more advanced measurement is on the horizon.
Cutroni’s experience and honest tone comes through at every turn, so readers can rest assured that they are receiving digestable information. One note: Google Analytics does not cover the subject of APIs, so developers looking for coding development information should stick with the Google Code site for how-to instruction. There is also some script discussion, but only a bit more compared to Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0 .
Overall, Google Analytics  is the right book that can guide businesses that are beginning to create more elaborate websites or encountering e-commerce measurement concerns. Get this book to overcome analytic gremlins, and your business will certainly benefit.