I'm generally a believer that you get what you pay for. But with Google Analytics (GA) being free, you certainly get a lot more than you pay for.
I've been using GA on a variety of sites for over a year now. While I'm certainly no expert on it, I have gotten my hands dirty enough with it to appreciate all it has to offer. We recently launched a new pro selection service for Washington state at http://search.porch.com. In the ramp up of launching that site, I did an evaluation of the different web analytics offerings out there. I won't go into the details of what I found. But here's the summary of my findings.
You should just use Google Analytics until the time that you hit GA's traffic volume limits. If you have a need for capabilities beyond GA, then get a second package to cover that need.
Now Google Analytics isn't free for everyone. You do need to pay for it once your site exceeds 5 million PVs per month (a metric that I am looking forward to exceeding).
Here are some of the reasons that I think you should just use GA:
- It's the standard out there. It's the most used web analytics package today. Now I'm not saying that you should use it just so you can be a lemming. But because it is so pervasive, you get a lot of integration for free. For example, WordPress has modules that make using GA with your WordPress site brain-dead easy. Additionally, we implemented call tracking with March Ex recently. And they have GA integration built into their service.
- Tons of depth. It has the standard PV and UU type stuff. Some of the more interesting features include:
- Events. You can define events throughout the experience and track them as desired.
- Goals. You can define the business goals you want to track. We have the concept of Valuable User Actions (VUA). This is when a user actively inputs data into our system. We want users to do 5 or more VUAs. So we set a goal for 5 VUA and can now easily track it.
- Site search reporting with some pretty cool search specific reporting attached.
- Realtime. Who doesn't love watching their web stats in real time. At our office, we're kind of addicted to the stats and have a TV on the wall showing it at all times.
- Page flow analysis.
- Campaign tracking. Just add some simple code to each link in your social efforts and see what efforts are bearing what results.
- there are more features to GA than I've used so far. So it goes beyond the things I've described here. For example, I haven't used any of the ecommerce features.
- Integration with Adwords and Google Webmaster tools.
- Customizable reporting.
Now, not all is perfect. My biggest complaint about GA is about usability and learning curve. There's a lot of functionality here. But discovering it and mastering it can be a challenge. And there are some settings that I still have trouble remembering where they are in the UI.
Additionally, we had some problems implementing GA in our non-native iOS app. And I'm still not happy with our implementation there.
But the net of the conversation is that Google Analytics is a great tool for anyone that wants to understand how users engage with their site.