It could be argued that Google Analytics is probably the most well-know extension to any website. Once you’ve setup your website or app, the next item in line is usually to get your Tracking id and plug in that javascript blurb in the header.

Then the magic starts.

Not only are you seeing the number of visitors, but also how you acquired them, the pages they’ve visited, the events they triggered, the goals they’ve converted, the journey they took towards that goal, etc. It’s a very powerful tool to evaluate the efficiency of your website.

But that’s just it. Google Analytics is perfect to evaluate the performance of your product. But it cannot be used to evaluate the validity of your business model, nor does it let you dig into your customer’s profiles and journeys to better understand their behaviours.

Macro – Validating a Business Model and Growing your Online Business

At Cyclope Labs, when working with online businesses, we use the Lean Startup framework as well as the Lean Analytics principles to evaluate the validity of a business model and the effectiveness of its growth strategy.

Analytics guides the development of your product, your acquisition channels, your engagement increasing strategies, etc. But it also mostly provides the indicators that bluntly tells you if your business model is a viable investment of time and ressources, or if a pivot is in order.

As the excellent Lean Analytics book shows, this requires the capturing, the aggregation and the visual representation of very specific data generated by your visitors and your customers, within and outside your platform.

The definition and tracking of OMTMs (One Metric That Matters) and their underlying Lead Indicators requires a lot of flexibility that Google Analytics does not provide. For example, if you want to track the monthly variation in the ratio of registered users that engaged in high-value activities vs the other users, you might have difficulty generating this in Google Analytics. And even if you did, you might have difficulty generating a dashboard that tracked all OMTMs and Lead Indicators for all stages of business growth, on a single page.

Micro – Knowing your Customers and Understanding their Behaviours

Google Analytics is an analytical platform that monitors the performance of your web product. It’s not an analytical platform that helps you better understand your customers. Meaning that it doesn’t provide much information on your users and why some of them behaved in a way and others behaved in another way.

To give an example, it’s the difference between an HigherEd institution administrator that cares about how to increase the number of students graduating, vs the advisor that works with an individual student to help them get the proper help to persevere and graduate.

In that sense, Google Analytics gives you the aggregated overviews of how your customers behaved. But it doesn’t let you look at individual profiles, journeys and behaviours. Without that understanding, it’s harder to define the right strategies to influence the behaviour of your customers and push the right personalized intervention to each one of them.

And when deploying an online business, you should focus on the individuals instead of the aggregated results.

You need to understand the many personas that are behind your customers. Those personas probably have different profiles, and/or use your product when being at different stages of their journey, and/or have different patterns of engagement.

For example, think of LinkedIn users and how they may differ based on their journey. Some are starting out in their career, some just started their business and are looking to build their clientele, others are now at a point where they want to increase their influence. Same product, different uses. Google Analytics might tell you that in aggregate users spent 8 minutes on LinkedIn on average, but think of how that is probably different between our 3 user segments defined above.

Different profiles that are at different stages of their journeys results in very different behaviours.

You need an analytical infrastructure and exploration tools to really start undertanding the behaviours of your customers, to start fomulating hypothesis on their needs and how you can better serve them. Afterwards, when you put those ideas to production, Google Analytics will allow you to validate how effective those new insights were on your overall results.

Also the power to build your own segmentations is limited in Google Analytics. It is hard to segment your customers based on custom attributes such as the quality of their engagement, their demographic attributes, the stage of their journey, etc. Or to segment your customers based on outside platform behaviour, such as their level of influence on social media networks, their use of your support services, their response to an email campaign, etc.

To repeat myself once more, Google Analytics provides the aggregated results but not the insights to understand those results from your customers’ perspective.

The Limits of Google Analytics

Google Analytics is mostly a tool to fine-tune an online product. But when starting out you need to focus first on validating your business model and then understanding your individual customer’s behaviours to better serve them. Once you have those aspects locked in, Google Analytics is necessary to get your money-making machine to optimal speed.

Google Analytics is an essential tool to any online business that wants to rely on analytics to grow. It gives you unmatched insights into how your platform is performing. It is a very powerful web analytics solution, but that’s it. It’s not a business analytics solution, nor a customer analytics solution.

Growing an online business is more than building an efficient product. It’s about validating a business model and providing the product that’s the best fit for the needs of multiple personas within your targeted customer segment.

It doesn’t provide the macro nor the micro levels of understandings that’s necessary to guide the growth of your online business.