Every SEO I have ever spoken to thinks that Google Analytics is the bee’s knees. Most of the time stuff from Google is. I love gmail and Google Apps. Google Docs has kept me from the nasty presence of MS Office rotting on my desktop. Google itself is an amazing search engine. I can’t remember how I ever used the Interweb without it. I mean I’m no Al Gore. I didn’t invent the thing. Then there is Google Maps. Google Earth. Google Talk. All of their cool code libraries and APIs. I can’t wait for the upcoming release of Google Farts, their venture into what we used to call “Smell-a-vision.” That’s going to be big. They are the most fascinating company in the world. For the most part, everything Google does is great, just not their Analytics product.
Before I get going too much here, I must admit, I am a dumb user of Analytics at best. With that said I have yet to meet a smart one. Perhaps I am jaded by the so-called experts who have tried to sell me on it in the past. The funny thing is when you ask these experts to explain what all the numbers mean, and how it is affecting you, they start spinning in circles of confusion. Is it because they have no idea what they are doing? Perhaps for some, but I think the real problem is in the tool. It really lacks clarity in some areas. The absence of instant feedback disconnects you from experiments you are running and the traffic that results from them. If you are happy with your data being a day late and a dollar short, feel free to continue using this tool and stop reading here.
Ok, I’m being a little harsh. To be fair Google does give analytics away for “free.” Additionally I think there is some integration into “Adwords” for when you are spending big money with them.
When I started this blog, I had a desire to see my traffic in real time. I wanted to know if I was wasting my time with things I was trying, or if my efforts were bearing fruit. I was never able to really gauge this using Google Analytics for the reasons I stated above. Because this blog is built on WordPress, you can all to easily hop over to the plugins section and search for anything you want. I found Hit Sniffer when I was searching for stats. It’s very simple to install and I’m very happy with it. It gives you information in a more understandable and useful fashion that Google Analytics, and more importantly it’s real time. Sure it’s requires a large investment of $4.99 per month, but I really feel like it’s worth it. I have to be honest, I’m not an expert in the field of website analytics and stat tracking. I’m sure there are better tools out there. This post isn’t about that though. This is about me not finding Google Analytics helpful. Most people like it because it is free. Isn’t there a saying that you can’t argue free? Most think free is good, but generally there is a trade-off. In this case I wasn’t willing to settle for the inferior product, just because I didn’t have to pay for it.
As a matter of fact I would say costs me money to use Google Analytics. Why? Not knowing the immediate effects of time spent posting links, comments, tweets, and status updates makes it feel different when you look at the numbers the next day. If you post something on Twitter, using a certain wording or hashtag and it was very successful, you know it immediately. With Analytics, you have a harder time feeling this. You lose the affirmation of success or failure. You miss out on learning something. Being that marketing experts have always told me that what they do is an experiment, I would think that learning is the most important thing you can take away from your efforts. If I’m wasting time, I’m wasting money. Will Hit Sniffer keep me from wasting time? No it won’t. I just think it will keep me from wasting as much time as I did when I just used Google Analytics.
To give you a great example of what Hit Sniffer can do, I can see that right now there is a visitor on my site. They are from Norway and found the site from a link on the Basecamp website. It’s their first visit to the site, they use a Mac, Chrome 8 is their browser, and they have Flash 10 installed. They have been on my site for 5 minutes. Within the next month I will be able to know how many kids they have, their SSN (only if they are a US resident) and what their blood type is. Ok I’m just kidding about the blood type part. But you get the point, the tool is very effective if you want real time feedback. You can see the current online summary below:
By the way, I was kidding about the number of kids and SSN part for those of you stalkers out there who were getting excited. Settle down now.