Ideas, musings and inspirations.

Data is cheap.  Just log into Google Analytics and see for yourself.  Awaiting you are mountains of free data points about your website’s visitors, sessions, referrals and keywords, organized neatly into tables and sortable by hour back into the dark recesses of web history.  Mountains of data.  All at your fingertips.  All free.

But you know what isn’t cheap?  Analysis.

Google rolled out a new version of Google Analytics last year, which it claimed is easier to use, with a sleeker interface and faster reporting.  After months of beta testing, the results are in: people hate it.  Cross-referencing of data from multiple reports is no longer readily available.  Data that used to be divisible by visitor or by keyword is now lumped together in inseparable totals.  Adding insult to injury, reports can no longer be exported to PDF.  Analytics gurus are clamoring for features that are no longer available, but despite the outcry, Google will soon be enforcing this new version for all users of its free product.

The question is why.  The new version of Google Analytics is certainly a step backwards in terms of its graphical user interface (GUI), but the API behind the scenes is still alive and well.  All that data cross-referencing that used to be available (and much much more) is still accessible in the Google Analytics API.  So we know that the data is still being recorded, and still available for those who know how to access it.  But why is Google making it harder to understand?

The new version of Google Analytics represents a growing separation between Analytics and Analysis.  Google Analytics is in the business of providing data, albeit increasingly basic data.  They are not in the business of forming connections between data points, discovering trends, or predicting future activity.  That is called analysis.

Interestingly enough, analysis is something else that Google does well.  This move leaves open the possibility for Google to unveil a service or product called Google Analysis: some paid consultancy or sophisticated automated dashboard which can finally monetize Google’s Analytics data.  Google’s launch of a $150,000/year paid service in September shores up the Analytics side by improving data collection and eliminating that annoying limitation called “sampled data.”  But certainly there’s more to come.

Luckily, you don’t need to wait.  The growing separation between Analytics and Analysis only asserts the need for proper web analysis services, which some companies have been providing all along.  Plenty of digital marketing agencies, like ours, have been taking advantage of Google Analytics’ API for years, exploring trends and data connections unavailable in the GUI.  Now that these trends and connections are harder to discover, API expertise is more necessary than ever.

Analytics without analysis doesn’t make sense.  Web analytics services can get you the data, but only web analysis can make it make sense.

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