You Call That Analytics?

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by: Joseph Mann

In it’s December 12, 2005 issue, BtoB Magazine highlights Google’s latest freebie: Google Analytics. Don’t get me wrong: I love free and this would be a great way to get some stats for a low/no-budget web site, but for the sake of precision I have to take issue with the name Google chose for the services formerly offered by Urchin. Calling it Google Analytics is a misnomer because this offering has little to do with true analytics.

Let’s back up a bit. Web servers produce log files of raw data based on site hits — the who, what, where and when of visits to a web site. Reporting tools crunch those huge log files — lines and lines of obscure code — and group the data into related sets for human consumption (often with eye-catching charts and graphs). Most of the companies out there calling their software products “analytics” packages stop at this stage.

True analytics are the end result of human professionals examining the computer-generated reports (and quite often going back to the raw logs) to look for trends, unusual spikes, and other nuances of intuition that computers can’t duplicate (yet anyway). This is the Why of visits to the web site. Without the Why, everything else is useless. Combined with offline market, customer and competitive knowledge, web analytics forms a greater whole of business insight to enable company leadership to make informed decisions.

Call me a marketing curmudgeon, but Google should have called their tool “Google Reporting” instead. The chosen name sounds more like slick marketing rhetoric than truth.

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