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Pros and Cons: Using Google Analytics and Tag Manager

Google provides powerful tools that are often (and usually) implemented wrong. Here are some pros and cons to using Google Analytics and Tag Manager (GA/GTM) .

Pros

  • Both GA/GTM are free: The only cost to you is all of your website activity data, your advertising budget, and your ROI per customer.
  • GA is extremely easy to set up in less than 15 minutes. Basic GTM reporting can be set up in less than 15 minutes as well.
  • There is a wealth of information and resources available to support GA and GTM.
  • GA/GTM gives you visibility and insights without creating your own reporting infrastructure.
  • GA/GTM gives you the ability to customize as needed.
  • GA/GTM gives you the ability to easily integrate to Google’s Big Query and other cloud services for reporting.
  • GA doesn’t require any custom code to implement. In most scenarios you can just copy/paste the code provided by Google into your website code. Content Management systems such as WordPress and Wix enable you to do this quickly and painlessly with plugins.

Cons

  • While GA is easy to set up, GTM is harder to set up to get accurate tracking. Often, the insights that GTM promises actually require a lot of custom coding and integration to support.
  • GTM can be error-prone if the code is not implemented correctly. For example, if a user refreshes a specific page or clicks a back button on a tracked page, then this will result in duplicate tracking.
  • GA/GTM allow you to 'track' the value of a conversion, however the default implementation of this is a hardcoded number without actually assessing the quality of the lead based off the information that you have about them. For example, if someone fills out your lead form, you can track that with a value of $100, however, it doesn’t take into account if someone enters a junk email address, never opens your email, or isn’t a qualified lead
  • GA/GTM tend to inflate the value of their own SCO and advertising. For example, if you have an ad campaign on your brand-name search to protect competitors from jumping ahead of you, then the cost per add and lead is significantly lower than other types of keyword driven campaigns. Basically, it cost you less for someone who is searching for you by name
  • GA gives you broad-based information and overall picture of your website performance and results, however, it misses a lot of the detailed nuances that can help you better create and manage content. For example, if high quality leads usually view three specific pages on your website and complete your lead form after viewing one of these pages, then the conversion is related to the last page they visited, not necessarily correlated to the combination of the effectiveness of these three pages specifically. With this level of detail, you can create recommended articles pointing to the other two pages that help you guide people through the consideration process on your product or service that has a statistically higher probability of conversion
  • GA focuses on the 99% of what isn’t working on your website. If you are generating traffic and pushing people to your homepage, you’ll see huge numbers for abandons for people who found you by the wrong search keyword or found you through bad keyword set up. These people go to your homepage and then immediately leave. In GA, it’s hard to see which specific keywords, articles, and ads are driving conversions across campaigns.
  • GA/GTM do not work if you’re customer is using tracking blocking plug-ins or using private browsing solutions such as Duck Duck Go, or using Proxy Servers that block ad tracking
  • To get accurate reporting across multiple advertising campaigns, you have to provide that information to Google. Basically what this means is that you have to send your Facebook ad campaign and budget to Google in order to accurately track ROI on your campaigns. Talk about having perfect information to sell you more Google ads!
  • Without GTM installed, you can’t actually link website activity to an actual prospect or conversion. With GTM installed AND set up correctly, you can see this information, however, it’s easy to get duplicated and inaccurate results here.
  • It is a violation of Google's terms to store PII (personally identifiable information) such as email or name in GTM, so you have to integrate your GA/GTM data to your CRM system in order to link a person to a website experience.
  • GA doesn’t filter out traffic generated by bots and scrapers.
  • GA/GTM (and other tracking such as Facebook Ad Conversion Tracking, Bing Ad Conversion Tracking, etc.) has to be the first content loaded on your page to work correctly and can often come at the price of performance for your end-users
  • There are a lot of nuances in how GA tracks and attributes referral traffic and campaigns. Campaign attribution also follows the rules of sessions so if a potential customer comes in on one blog article then comes back later through either a brand-name search or retargeting ad, then the last article is attributed with the lead source, not necessarily the first interaction with the lead.
  • Tracking customer information across multiple domains is challenging to set up and report on accurately.
  • GTM requires a high-level of technical expertise to use this tool effectively and requires a lot of care and feeding to keep it up-to-date as your website and content changes.

Other Solutions

We evaluated integrating Google's APIs as part of our MVP, however, we found that the data that Google gives you is highly limiting and cannot be traced back to actual customer activity. 

Our Website Analytics use raw website data in order to accurately identify which pages correlate to conversion, identify which advertisements are bringing in quality leads, and quantifying the ROI of every marketing asset and collateral you create.

In addition to Atlas AI, there are other open source website analytics solutions available on the market. It's a good idea to evaluate what's available before giving all your data to Google, who gives you very little in return.

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