Dear Google Analytics…

I’ve been getting lots of questions from my small business network of folks about tracking, and the frustrations that come with setting up Google Analytics correctly. I, too, have felt that frustration, so this week I’m writing an open letter to the Google Analytics folks on behalf of my small business friends around the Web. We’re getting a little frustrated with the product, and the so-called “help” within the platform.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Google Analytics — it’s somewhat user-friendly, intuitive, and free — all things small business owners like.

But don’t mistake our lack of capital as “cheapness.” We’re not cheap, and we’d pay for help in areas we don’t have the aptitude or time to figure out on our own.

Setting up some features in Google Analytics is where we have issues, and where the help section definitely falls down. We’ve tried posting questions in the Google Group area, but it’s rare for an actual Googler to answer. Honestly, quite a few people would very willingly pay someone to listen to their issue and fix it for them — or at the very least, walk them step by step through fixing it.

Here are some things I’m hearing and experiencing with Google Analytics.

E-commerce Tracking Nightmares

This is huge, so please pay attention. Plain and simple, getting Google Analytics to track revenue is not easy for someone who isn’t a Web site developer, doesn’t know JavaScript or coding, and has never done anything similar.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as checking a box and tweaking a setting. The scripts need to be manually adjusted to accommodate your variables and the pages on your site need to be adjusted to tell Google Analytics which numbers are which (e.g., taxes, product, service, shipping). How about just giving me a step-by-step “first put this here, then put that there” set of directions?

We’ve spent hours and quite a bit of dollars on books and consultation to figure out revenue tracking. We deal with multiple booking platforms and all of them are different.

When we’re talking about tracking thousands of dollars in revenue, it’s a big deal — and your help section is pretty thin in this area. I’d even go so far to say it sort of sucks. I hear this from others, and you can see the frustration when you run a simple query for “how to set up revenue tracking in Google Analytics.”

As an example, let’s look at some verbiage from your “How do I track e-commerce transactions?” page.

The second step is to ensure that the tracking code is included in the receipt page in the standard fashion. This may be done using a server side include, or other template driver, or can simply be hand-coded into your HTML code.

Huh? I’m not a programmer — what the heck is a server side include or a template driver? I bought this shopping cart and I like it, but I didn’t build the thing!

How about some wording and examples for the non-Web site programmer people? You know, the majority of the people using Google Analytics? Remember, not all of us have computer science doctorates.

Tracking Site Referrals Isn’t as Easy as it Sounds

I have some paid advertising campaigns running on other, non-Google, sites, and I’ve used your URL builder to give those campaigns unique URLs that will track in Google Analytics.

Unfortunately, I can’t see those landing pages anywhere in Google Analytics — even though I know they’re getting traffic because I’ve gone around town to different friends, hot spots, etc., visiting those landing pages from a variety of IP addresses to no avail, which leads in to my next problem…

Lag Time is Way Too Long

Why can we test reservations and purchases and not see the revenue in the tracker for up to four days?! That’s insane, even for a free product.

OK, so real time may be a lot to ask, but within 24 hours would be great. I suggest getting that fixed. It’s very frustrating when trying to do all of this setup and tweaking yourself and you have no idea for a week at a time if what you did worked, or didn’t work, because you’re not sure when that traffic is actually going to be seen.

Bottom line: I don’t expect this level of support for free — that’s not why I’m bringing this up. Free things have limited support, I get that.

I’ll gladly pay you to help me figure these things out, and so will a lot of other small business owners. Keep this in mind, please. Last time I checked you were still a for-profit company.

Submissions are now open for the 2009 Search Engine Watch Awards. Enter your company or campaign before July 17, 2009. Winners will be announced at SES San Jose.

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