Google analytics benchmarking – not so enlightening.

Got the first installment of Google Analytics benchmark email last week. While I love the fact that they’re sending me out info, reading it produced a more of a “why?” than a “wow”.

The information is an amalgamation of all those sites which have opted in to share stats anonymously with Google. It therefor  includes all sorts of sites from retail to b2b, from small blogs to large blue chips.In other words it’s mostly pretty useless for real benchmarking.

By giving us such of an amalgam, the information raises more questions than it answers. This is a tad frustrating when we know that Google has such a lot of data which they could slice and dice and provide some really valuable information. Why this is a better solution than the existing benchmarking tool is unclear, but perhaps this is only the first foray into some wonderful emails.

PPC provides better quality traffic…

An example is the table containing the usual top level measurements that are used to denote quality of traffic; pages/visit, bounce rate and average time on site. Looking at the figures, (snip below) it seems that CPC (Paid search) drives the best quality traffic in terms of page/visit and bounce rate.  Rationalizing that on first pass you think, well that’s not really surprising since we all spend so much time honing campaigns, adgroups and landing pages to squeeze the very last bit of  marketing bang out of our clients buck.  But in truth the figures raise more questions than they answer.

google analytics traffic sources and top level quality measurements

Google Analytics Benchmarking - Traffic Sources

Or does it?

Time on site for instance points to referral traffic as bringing the most engaged traffic at 6:36 minutes with PPC at 3:57 minutes. Is this an indication of the stage in the buying process of different channels?  Is referred traffic more likely to be still searching for information than PPC?  Is PPC used more for retail and in that case how many shops have their analytics properly set up to jump between products and shopping cart?

google analytics benchmarking - operating systems

google analytics benchmarking - operating systems

Operating systems – the rise of mobile

Again information regarding operating systems was disappointing, especially when we know that 2011 is finally the year of the mobile. The +4.3 increase in “other” probably reflect this.

No Insight

Because site traffic varies hugely between sectors, objectives, regions etc, this amalgamation of information doesn’t really provide us with any insights.

The debate this week about whether Google is becoming an agency sparked by the Heineken deal has had some digital agencies thinking that maybe Google wants to position itself to providing more information directly to clients. On the whole that’s to be welcomed and agencies have long relied on the insights of channel owners when creating marketing plans – why should it be different for online, especially when digital measurements leave some marketers feeling a little dizzy.

If Google is to share more of it’s stats as well as providing the analytics platform free, then this first installment is hopefully not an indication of things to come.