Google Analytics – There is always a price

I track the hit count of this Blog with Google Analytics. It is the first time I am personally using the service and so I will share my thoughts thus far about it.

Firstly it is simple enough to add to your website. Just register on the Analytics web site, add a bit of Javascript to your site and you’re off. There is a simple WordPress plugin that I have used for this site that adds it for you and thus all you have to do is specify the unique identifier that Google gives you when you register.

It seems to take a while to kick in but before you know it all the collected data can be viewed on the Google Analytics web site. When you log in you are confronted with a control panel (more like a reporting/statistics panel … thing). You are able to view all sorts of metrics – such as the location of your visitors and the time the spent on your site. You can track which other sites have provided the web traffic to your site. There is also a handy little tool (in beta at the time of writing) which allows you to view real-time statistics of your site.

There are however some things that I am unhappy with (which is expected – you can’t please everyone). First of all the default date range never seems to include the current day. You can of course select different pre-defined date ranges such as “today” but this is all unnecessary clicking that could have been avoided. Another problem is that there are many…and I mean many different metrics that can be customised and added and removed and changed – it is all a little overwhelming especially considering there are no clear guidelines on how to use some of the metrics or what they even mean. However the most irritating thing to date is trying to filter your own traffic from being logged. In some cases in can be simple, such as simply excluding an IP address. This is however South Africa – all us home internet users have dynamic IP addresses assigned to us by our ISP and this makes it very difficult to try and filter the traffic. Other methods include dabling with the Javascript and adding cookies to the machines that you expect to access the site from – not at all ideal.

Today however I had an idea and searched for a browser extension that could block Google Analytics scripts from running. First it was Hallelujah as Google makes there very own “Opt Out” plugin from Chrome. I never got round to installing it though since the most voiced complaint was that you cannot specify which sites you want to block – it is the all or nothing approach. I expected more from Google at this point. However I didn’t give up and continued the search. I quickly came across another plugin (Analytics Blocker) that did exactly the same but (drum-roll) – allows one to specify the sites. I had a little bit of trouble with the wild-card specifications since it didn’t always seem to work, but I think I have it sorted. I have been viewing my real-time statistics on Google Analytics and it now seems to work.

I think I have ranted enough now (feeling much better)