Google Analytics: Worst Titles Ever

April 12, 2008
By Robbin Steif

“Remember,” John McAndrew cautioned as we started a new project for the Association of Corporate Counsel, “The GA titles are deadly.”

This is so true. As much as I love Google Analytics, their report titles and labels just suck. (I hope you guys are listening.)

There are a lot of things GA does right. But if we are going to have an analytics package that is “democratic” — that all the people in the company can use, not just the Web Analyst — we need to have descriptive titles and labels. And they need to be things that the average Joe and Jane can understand. And we have to stop calling the same thing by different words in different places. (If we are going to call paid search “cpc” on the medium report, why do we have “paid” and “unpaid” in another?) Or as one person said to me in the all-day training I did on Monday, “That’s just Google Analytics’ way of tripping us up, right?” And, the sad part was: he was right.

(Here is a little more full disclosure, or maybe credit where credit is due. Back when LunaMetrics became a Google Analytic Authorized Consultant, I started bitching about the GA documentation, for the same reason. “If we have an analytics package for regular people,” I argued, “Shouldn’t we have drop-dead, knock-your-socks off documentation? The kind that everyday people can understand?” And since that time, we are getting there, thanks to Brett and Alden and a lot of other people whose names I don’t know. So all things are possible.)

OK, let’s roll up our sleeves, and just address the Seven Deadly Names and Titles. In reverse order, so that they get worse and worse…

Dead

Hostname vs Network Location

ly Title #7: Network Location vs Hostnames. Some way, we have got to figure out how to indicate that “network location” is the visitor’s ISP and “hostname” is all the URLs that your site goes by in GA. So, for example, “Hostnames” is the report to go to when you want to know if you have subdomains setting cookies, or if some other site has stolen your code and uses it to muddy your analytics. On the other hand, Network Location is the place to go to when you think you might be able to learn what company the visitor came from. (This last part generally only works if the visitor came from a big company, like Toyota or GM, who is their own ISP.)

Deadly Title #6: Top Content. It is ALL content, not just top content.

Deadly Title #5: CPC vs Paid; Organic vs Unpaid. I would love to say, “Can’t we just go with one or the other? Let’s just call it paid search and unpaid search and forget the other stuff here.” Reality is not so easy, though, because this one is not just about titles, it is about cookies. To get less technical than that — this door of opportunity closed years ago. We just have to live with this one, and always remember that cpc means paid search, and organic means unpaid search.

Deadly Title #4: Visitor Loyalty. We have a set of reports called Visitor Loyalty, and then under that we have a specific report called Loyalty, too. So can’t we call the whole set Visitor Loyalty, and then call the report itself Frequency? Because that is what it measures, how many times they came.

Deadly Title #3: Navigation Summary: How visitors found your content. (I am only explaining/complaining about the subtitle, “How visitors found your content.”) This report describes how visitors got from one place on your site to the page you are interested in and where they went next, and NOT how they found your content from outside of your site. “Paths visitors used to get to and from your content” might be a little better.

navigation summary

Deadly Title #2: Entrance Paths: Paths visitors used to get to your content. Well, that is just ridiculous, this subtitle is perfect, but it belongs on the Navigation Summary report (Deadly Title #3), not here in Entrance Paths. If you look at an Entrance Paths report, it starts out with *your* content and shows where they went next. In fact, this particular Deadly Title gets an extra point for deadliness, because this isn’t really about Entrance Paths at all: the page you are interested in might not be an entrance page. This is a report about where the visitor went after they looked at your page.

Entrance paths

The Winner!! Deadly Title #1: “Most people visited…” This is arguable the worst label we have in GA. Here you can see it:

most people visited

It is misleading in more than one way (which is why it scored for Deadliest Title.) As I pointed out when I did my loyalty experiments, this set of charts measures visits, not visitors. But using the word “people” gives the impression that it is the other way around.

Even if we pretend that the chart says, “Most visits happened only once,” or some other way to get rid of the word “people,” it would still be misleading. “Most” just describes the bar that is the longest. And it completely obscures how great that chart can be — we have an incredible report that puts visits into buckets of frequency, and then we dumb it down by saying, “Just look at the longest one.”

Robbin