Should I install Google Analytics


kevinhq.com

I admit it that on every web development project I've worked since 2010, Google analytics are always there.

Either it's installed through a WordPress plugin, or was called from shared partial file (for Rails app), or even just hard coded on the HTML file, it's always there.

Sometimes, I wonder... is it really that important for all the sites? Should I really install Google analytics for all of sites I am working on?

Let's find out...

Do most of your users use ad-blockers?

According to an article from quantable (link: https://www.quantable.com/analytics/how-many-users-block-google-analytics/), the number of internet users that use ad-blockers are growing significantly. 

Not to mention that some popular ad-blockers plugins are now offering the easy way to block GA script. It is very easy even for users who are not tech-savvy. 

Some of popular ad-blockers like uBlock Origin and Purify even block GA script by default. As for uBlock Origin, I confirmed it myself that it blocks GA script on all of three browsers I used: Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

If there are significant site users or visitors are using those ad-blockers, those number of visitors won't be recorded on your Google analytics dashboard. You won't even know if there are such visitors on your site.

What's the solution? Install the analytics back up which runs on your web server like AWStats. Most of shared hosting providers which gave you cPanel, usually provided this AWStats by default. 

Because AWStats run on the server's side, it's more difficult for your visitors to block it.

If you don't want AWStats, you can even implement the analytics by yourself. 

Every framework or language always provided the way to know the number of requests which hit your server, along with other informations like:

  • User Agent
  • HTTP Header
  • HTTP Referrer. Another site or page that refer the visitor to visit your site.
  • The IP address of your users ( though this may not be the real IP of them if they are accessing your site behind a proxy or VPN )

As for Ruby on Rails, we usually use this gem to log the number of page views: https://rubygems.org/gems/impressionist/versions/1.5.1

Is your site often visited by unknown bots?

Yes, Google analytics had the option to exclude the known bots from its reports. But for there are just too many bots out there.

Even worse, there are also many spam which can mess up your GA report.

Indeed, there are some workarounds for such problems like setting up a custom GA report to filter those unwanted data generated by bots or spammers.

But if it's too much, Google analytics may not be for you.

Do most of your site visitors deactivate their Javascript?

The chance is very slim but there are still some users who's very concern about their security and privacy so they set their browser's Javascript off by default.

When your site had such visitors in significant amount, it makes sense to ditch GA script from your site since most of the time, it won't be executed.

Another alternative is running an analytics script on your server side as I've mentioned above.

Do most of your traffic come from organic search on Google?

If yes, I bet you'll see (not provided) at the top of your GA keyword report.

Google had decided to encrypt their organic search keyword so it won't ever show up on your GA dashboard.

It's true there are some tricks to unlock this, but in my opinion, most of them required you to allocate significant amount of time.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that a workaround that works to unlock those (not provided) keyword will keep working int the future.

Google will surely catch it and eventually patch it, and in the end you need to search and try for another workaround to keep up with that. It's kind of cat and mouse game. Hectic.

Instead of trying to do the unlocking, it's better if you set up and verify your site on another Google's tool: Google Search Console to get to know what are the keywords that send you those significant visitors from Google's organic search result page.

Is your site running an online store (ecommerce site)?

If it is, it's highly recommended to put on the Google analytics there, to detect which pages that converts better, which pages coverts poorly.

Even better if you added HotJar script along with GA script to get a video of how your visitors are accessing your site: which part of your site is a "heatmap", which part is not, what are the links they clicks, etc.

But if your site is just a personal blog, personal homepage, portfolio, I believe an analytics solution running on the server like AWStats is more than enough.

Conclusion

You should install Google analytics along with other analytics which runs on server if:

  • Most of your visitors are using ad-blockers (and eventually this means they hate ads). There are some easy ways to detect it using simple Javascripts and HTML element.
  • Your site is often visited by unknown bots.
  • Most of your traffic are coming from Google's organic search.
  • Your site is online store, or any kind of ecommerce site.
  • You are working as SEO staff or internet marketer.
  • You are obsessed to make your site had highest coversion rate ( that is the rate of visitors becoming a buyer )

You should not install Google analytics and use another analytics running the server site if:

  • Most of your visitors are paranoid about security so they keep their Javascript turned off when visiting your site.
  • Your site is a personal blog, personal homepage or portfolio, or any other kind of site that has rich content for reading.
  • Personally, as the site's owner, you are obsessed with performance. Your site must be blazing fast and you hate to see score less than 100 on tools like Pingdom or GTMetrix.
  • You had no idea on what to do with the data provided on GA dashboard. Even worse, you're spending too much of your precious time to check on GA dashboard to see how's your site traffic.
  • You are overwhelmed with those reporting data from Google analytics dashboard ( and yes, it's overwhelming even for a web developer )