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January 15, 2007

Interview with Brett Crosby, from Google Analytics

Stone Temple has an interview with Brett Crosby, co-founder of Urchin, the company behind Google Analytics. Brett explains that he and his team decided to focus on improving the product and to offer professional services through third parties.

What we have done is focused a lot of effort on making our products extremely easy to use, easy to set up, and we've tried to get rid of integration hassles wherever we can. For example, by pre-integrating with products like AdWords; and we've also done some stuff with Google Checkout. We hope to make these things a kind of one button "click and it works." That's the model we tend to go toward when we can.

I don't think Google Analytics is that easy to use, like Brett says. For example, it's not possible to get a complete list of your top referrals. If you go to "Referring source" you get a list of sites, and for each site you can see all the pages that sent you traffic. But there are no links and you have to manually build the URLs to be able to check that pages.

Instead of having an expensive product, like most of the rest of the market, we have a free product. Many analytics products come with a pre-determined set of professional services, and then if you want additional things the analytics vendor will up-sell you. For a lot of analytics vendors, professional services is a big piece of their revenue stream. Google has used a really different approach. It's a free product that anyone with a website can use.

It's a nice feeling to use the same product like a big corporation, even if you only have a small site. You'll also be happy using Google Groups or the online help.

Brett explains the reasons why web analytics tools report different numbers:
"(1) the first one is how you define unique visitors and
(2) how the analytics package handles the length of time between visits, and
(3) whether anti-spyware is blocking cookies for one vendor and not another."
One of the priorities for Google Analytics is to count traffic from users that disable cookies or JavaScript. They also want to handle AJAX applications better, as the page views are irrelevant.

1) Is Google Analytics easy to use?
2) How would you improve it?

{ Via Search Engine Watch. }


  1. There are a few parts of Analytics that may be easy, but just this weekend I bought a book on Google Analytics just for the reason that I want to go deeper than just the front page, that shows how many page views and a map of your readers. If I'm buying a book for anything, it's not easy and/or not for everyone.

  2. Google Analytics is cool. It has helped us a lot to analyze better. There are some occassional issues with data etc. But on the whole a neat product.

  3. I figured out a hack to get the full referring URL using the urchinTracker function. You can read about how implement it in my blog:

  4. Im having a weird problem with blogger. When I log in to my blog, I get into somebody else's dashboard. I think it's a bug in blogger.
    I have two posts about the issue
    I have contacted blogger support regarding this.
    May be U can get this in to the attention of relevant people faster.
    Thanks in advance...

  5. It's extremely easy to set up.
    It provides you with an awful lot data.

    But it's definitely NOT easy to use. A week ago, I had to print some charts for possible investors, but wasn't able to do so directly, because the whole damn page was black, so I had to make a screenshot, of it, crop it, and then print it. This is not the way this should work.

    They use Flash way too much for their product. I think that's the main flaw.

    They should take a more static approach, with the charts just being images (eg svg, for firefox-browsers)

    I still suggest it, because it's free. But this is because it's a product that should convert companies to use AdWords, which is a business model that most analytics companies can't have.

  6. How to improve it?

    Before anything, convince me that the entire Google Analytics concept isn't flawed -- from a business owner point of view.

    Specifically, convince me that Google won't (and can't) use the insights gleaned from knowing my conversion rates and profitability data to affect its fees.

    If you were on a week-to-week lease of a retail shop, would you announce to your landlord how amazingly profitable you were? It'd be an invitation, of course, to have your rent increased.

    My concern is the same: what's the proof that they will systematically resist the temptation to leverage this data in pursuit of higher cost:click minimums and/or other fees? | online advertising archive

  7. good interview, but the best part is the homework.

    It makes me think that Google Analytics is "not-so-easy" to use, but is easy enough to professionals of the medium.

    Besides that, some features could be included or modified to improve Analytics. The first think I always complain about the interface is: "Why can't I navigate in this map?"

    The other thing is "Why it takes so long?" We all know... Google Analytics is a little slow. With all the resources that Google have, they could improve that too, don't you think?

    This is what came from my mind right now, but if I think a little bit more, I'm sure that a few more things could be said.

    one more time, great interview, congratulations

  8. They also want to handle AJAX applications better, as the page views are irrelevant.

    We use Google Analytics at Virgin Radio (indeed, used Urchin before) - and we monitor all Ajax requests with it, as well as all outbound links. It's quite easy when you've a crack team of JavaScript developers: but it's very cleverly written and extendable.

    My personal gripe with it? Compare two dates using 'Top Content' for example, and you're given percentage changes for each page... but not for the total website visits/impressions in the totals at the bottom. A quick fix, but one I'm still waiting for, over 18 months after using it.