The Blind Spot of Google Analytics

Google Analytics captures a lot of data by simply adding the tracking code to a website. However, there are some areas where the standard tracking of Google Analytics does not paint the entire picture. I’d go as far as arguing that the insights that will boost your website and online presence the most are hidden behind custom configurations and disciplines outside of hardcore data analysis.

I use quite a bit of psychologically-based methods in my work, especially with CRO, and for this post, I have borrowed the term “Blind Spot” to describe some of Google Analytics’ shortcomings. Google Analytics is a great tool in that it can give a lot of insights on what is happening on the website. You can also find out where the users are coming from both in terms of location and traffic source, and which users are entering your site. Furthermore, you can dig into how users are spending their time on your website, and the journey they take.

But, and this might be the single-worded question I hear the most from clients; WHY?

The burning hot question of why when working with Google Analytics

It’s a fair question because it is the answer to the “why?” that will improve the business. Basic Google Analytics data will not bring you closer to answering this “why?”.

Qualify data with customized tracking

Some custom tracking will help understanding user intention to a higher degree. If you have a content heavy site, event tracking setup for scroll interaction and content consumption can help qualifying the data, but it will still not answer why one piece of content had higher engagement than another piece of content. The same goes for an e-commerce site. You can set up tracking to monitor how internal campaigns on the front page are performing, and which are driving the highest conversion rate. It will become evident which campaign element assists a higher amount of conversions, but it will still not answer why.

You can make assumptions as to why certain content or elements perform better than others, sure, but we need to go past making assumptions. We need to actually hear out the users. It is when we know why we will be able to proactively create and push better pieces of content and internal campaign elements.

It’s a process

Where Google Analytics excels is when it gives the bigger picture. Through analyzing data you will become aware of where you need to focus your time and effort on improving the website. Once you’ve found the page or area of the website that needs attention, you go to tools like Hotjar or methods like user research to uncover the “why”. Hotjar, and tools alike, enables you to set up polls and surveys to directly ask your website’s users directly for answers. The below example is quite generic, but it should give you an idea of the power it holds actually being able to ask your users.

A user has been browsing a clothing e-commerce website for 15 minutes and is about to exit the website from the category page. We have identified in Google Analytics that the category page holds a higher than average exit rate. Here is a perfect opportunity to pop the question!

  • Website: Did you find what you searched for?
  • User: No
  • Website: We are sorry to hear it. Why did you not find what you searched for?
  • User: I got frustrated with the lack of filtering options.

This is awesome knowledge about why a user leaves the website and gives a clear course of action in terms of improving the website. The user did not convert but did something far more valuable in voicing a problem that has an effect on a larger scale.

I cannot praise Google Analytics enough, even if it has some flaws, but including these insights of “why” is invaluable and can see your business’ conversion rate go through the roof! Hotjar is a great tool to ask users on the website based on behavior, and there are other tools out there that can do the same. You can also get a lot of great insights from simply asking people. Go to your local coffee house, bring your laptop, and buy people coffees. They will be happy to tell you what they think of your website.

Feel free to comment below or contact me through the contact page, on LinkedIn or on Twitter, if you want to know more about my favorite techniques when doing user research, including their pros and cons.

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