Top Limitations of Google Analytics

A couple weeks ago I attended the Advanced Google Analytics Seminar in Manchester, where Andrew Miles from Omega Digital Media was talking about Advanced features of Google Analytics. His presentation inspired me to think a little bit more about the limitations of Google Analytics, which were mentioned briefly on one of the slides.

Although Google Analytics is still probably the best free tracking tool there are some serious limitations that should be considered before you decide to use it as your main tracking solution.

What Google Analytics can’t do?

1. Data re-processing

e.g. if you change or add filters it will only affect data going forward and will not be applied retroactively.

2. Real time tracking

Google Analytics generally updates your reports every 24 hours. It is not a huge drawback but in some cases when you update your website daily that might be an issue. From my own experience I can see that Google Analytics usually updates the reports every few hours.

3. Import non AdWords data

Currently, Google Analytics only enables to import cost data for ROI analysis from Google AdWords.

4. Bid management

Only important when you spend a lot on PPC.

5. Ad hoc reporting

Need a bespoke report? Google Analytics can’t do it for you. This is a major limitation. In case you run a bigger site sooner or later you’ll be in a situation where you need to customize your reports.

6. Heatmaps

Site overlay report is not entirely accurate and doesn’t provide heatmaps.

7. Not integrated into AdSense

If you are running AdSense bare in mind that Google doesn’t allow users to track clicks automatically. There are javascript hacs available that let you to do that though.

8. Transfer account

Currently, it is not possible to transfer profiles or account ownership to another account.

9. Change time zone when linked with AdWords

If your Google Analytics account is linked with AdWords then Google Analytics will use time zone settings from AdWords. These cannot be changed though and you need to contact Google to unlink the account first, which might be a nuisance.

10. Attribute the first touch to a conversion

Google Analytics will attribute the most recent campaign information to a conversion. This behavior can be modified but requires addition of a tracking code and cannot be changed across the whole site. There are some hacks available but it should be a standard feature.

11. Lack of support

Yes there is Help center, however, if your question is not answered there chances that you get any information from Google are slim. You can either hire someone/train in-house, do it yourself or hire one of the GAACs (Google Analytics Authorized Consuntant).

More limitations?

I use Google Analytics almost every day and I’ll try to update this post in case there is something that is not on the list.

2 thoughts on “Top Limitations of Google Analytics

  1. Nice article. I am also considering the various limitations of GA and think you’ve been a bit too nice on your point 8 where you briefly mention that the site overlay isn’t 100% accurate…

    My understanding is that in the event where you have two links on page A which both point to page B, it’s impossible to know which of the two links has actually been clicked on. If one was clicked on 99 times, and the other was clicked on once, both would show 100. Is this an accurate assessment? If so – do you know of any potential workarounds to this? Obviously, developing a heatmap solution would be very helpful in understanding which links were more regularly used by users, but I was hoping there might be another (more available) solution…

  2. In terms of tracking multiple links off one page through the overlay analysis, the easiest way to get around this is by adding query string parameters to each of the links, ie. &link=1, & link=2. Google Analytics will then treat the two links separately and track their clicks individually as opposed to together.

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