Adopting Google Analytics Benchmarking

Well, if you haven’t heard yet Google Analytics has launched a much needed new feature called “Benchmarking”. The feature is designed to allow site administrators to compare their site to that of the industry verticals (a least as Google sees them).

First things first let’s persuade administration that they don’t have to fear the new benchmarking service. The following comes from the FAQs on Google and answers administration top questions:

What does it mean to share my Google Analytics data anonymously with Google and the benchmarking service?

If you only choose the anonymous data sharing option, Google will remove all identifiable information about your website, then combine that data with hundreds of other anonymous sites in comparable industries and report them in an aggregate form. Google will use this anonymous data to improve the products and services we provide you and enable benchmarking in your account.

Key point to notice is the anonymity of your site and the collective category combination. Therefore, no one would be able to directly compare University A to University B.

How many sites are in each category?

There are a minimum of 100 accounts in each benchmarking category. The number of actual websites can vary since a single account can contain multiple websites and we are always in the process of accepting more participants for our benchmarking service. Therefore, each category can have anywhere from 100 to hundreds of thousands of websites per category.

So basically you cannot do benchmarking comparisons unless there is at least 100 other sites (that assumes the minimum of one site per account – and I’ll tell you that I have more than one site in my account) to compare against.

How do I choose which industry vertical to compare my site against?

To change the industry vertical you want to compare your site against, navigate to the category picker from the Benchmark report.

Yes, although you might be in the Educational industry you can compare to other vertical industries of “sites of similar size”. Although, I’m not sure what good it would do.

What does “sites of similar size” mean?

Based on the number of visits each site receives, sites of similar sizes are grouped together under three classifications: small, medium, and large. This way, you can compare yourself to other similarly sized sites. You are not able to view benchmarking data for sites in other size classifications.

Well there has to be some limitations in beta! So now we come to the first and biggest down side – we cannot compare to “larger or smaller” sites currently. At least we have something to look forward to.

Why does my benchmarking data appear to refresh over time?

We regularly adjust the benchmarking data to help ensure that it is representative of participating sites and relevant for its users. Some of the factors we take into account when we reclassify the data are changes in the site’s content and number of visits. We group sites with other similarly sized and categorized sites, so we check the latest number of visitors for each site to adjust the benchmarking data accordingly.

Benchmarking data is also affected by the number of sites that opt in to the service over time. As more sites participate, a wider variety of categories is available for you to compare your site against.

All in all Google plans to make this service grow and improve over time. This leads to the last question…

How much does Google Analytics cost?

Google Analytics is absolutely free! We’re very pleased to be able to offer this web analytics solution for no charge, allowing anyone with a website to track conversion data, analyze the flow of visitors through their site, and identify elements of their site that could be changed to improve visitor retention.

This free version is limited to 5 million pageviews a month – however, users with an active Google AdWords account are given unlimited pageview tracking. In addition, Google Analytics is completely integrated into the AdWords front-end and with your AdWords campaign, making it easy to track your AdWords ROI.

So why do I suggest the free version? Well when you think about it if you are actually getting over 5 million pageviews a month then you probably already have a good marketing mix and if it doesn’t include AdWords why not just add it. Plus the free hosted version offers faster updates and less recourse (staff & server) on your part.

I’ve got administration behind me; what next?
Understanding Google Analytics Benchmarking

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