I used to adore Google Analytics. I would spend hours digging around in the statistics and parsing the data six ways from Sunday. It bordered on an obsession. But sadly I don’t do that anymore. Why? Because the data lies, and I can’t trust it.
Wait, what? Google Analytics doesn’t lie! It’s the gold standard! I’m sorry, but it does, and there’s no easy way to remove the lies from the truth.
The lies? A recent thing called “ghost referrals”. These guys show up in your Google Analytics data as referral visits, but they’re not real. They’re lies. They’ve never even visited your website. Unlike referral spam, which show up on traffic logs of websites and can be blocked, these ghost referrals only show up in Google Analytics. And they show up in numbers that can very easily skew your visitor data to the point of uselessness.
As you can see from the screenshot above, taken from the Google Analytics referrals page of my flagship website, fully 78% of referral traffic is from ghost referrals. That means that only 22% of the data might be reliable. Or it might not. There’s really no way to know. Which has stripped all the usefulness, and fun, out of Google Analytics for me. I mourn its passing. And I’m saddened that Google has apparently done nothing to fight this.
I suppose I should be happy to have all those hours freed up for other jobs, but somehow, I still have an empty corner of my heart where my Google Analytics data used to live.
Are there other options out there? You betcha! Some of them are really good, too. What am I using instead? Well, that’s a topic for another rant. 😉