ouch…is something wrong with my analytics or the internet or something this morning?

May 14, 2009


The freely available Google Analytics service has been wonderful for the Analytics Industry. It has made analytics accessible to nearly everyone whom has a website. Unfortunately, today, widespread reports indicate an international outage for Google Analytics, Gmail and possibly more services. This outage has serious impacts on websites around the world and the businesses they are in that their customers depend on. CNet’s coverage of the outage has a great quote from Twitter user Tadiera: “The Internet dies without Google. Can’t get to my bank Web site because it’s waiting on ‘google-analytics.com.’ This is made of lame.”

This isn’t the first time a Google outage has outraged users. There was the 2008 incident. And there was the 2007 incident. Interestingly, each has occurred at roughly the same time of year, but not sure if that’s anything more than coincidence.

As the old saying goes “You get what you pay for.” Thom Craver astutely points out that “I repeat what I wrote earlier this week: If you’re a large company, you do not want to rely on Google Analytics. At this point, the little guy is now suffering.”

It’s a constant challenge for small businesses to afford high reliability services. Free options are great until something negative happens. Then they are forced to do nothing but wait for the service to restore. In reality they aren’t paying for the service so an outage here and there shouldn’t be upsetting technically…try telling that to anyone using a service that goes down though.

It’s unacceptable, however, that large companies are using free software on mission critical operations like analytics. It’s not just about data loss, it’s also about a hanging Javascript that can cause a page on their site not to load, which interrupts customer facing business operations.

Google is not the only one that suffers reliability issues. Just this past January Omniture also left it’s customers in the lurch during it’s outages. As Forbes reported, “…customers of Omniture’s Web-based data services have experienced sporadic hiccups for days on end since the beginning of December, receiving data as much as two days late–long after it would be useful, in many cases.”

The fact is that both Google and Omniture sample their customers data to begin with. It should concern their customers that these providers are having outages even when they are pulling sampled data.

Webtrends has made significant investments in our infrastructure to ensure that these kinds of incidents don’t happen. Do a search on Google for Webtrends outage. The only thing you’ll find is a one hour outage from a customer that uses our software, not our hosted service. We know it’s not sexy to talk about SaaS and other backend infrastructure topics when everything is running smoothly. But, when s*%@t hits the fan, then our customers love us for our reliability, scalability, and availability. :)

Update: The best coverage of the Google outage today was from Larry Dignan on Between the Lines

Google explains what happened here on their Official Blog.


It’s an important topic, to be sure. I would just make two corrections:
1. Google Analytics doesn’t sample data by default. You can tell it to only grab a percentage of the traffic, but without that advanced customization, it tries to grab 100%, same as WebTrends.
2. If users implement the Google Analytics code correctly, it doesn’t affect the visitors’ experience.

From Analytics Market on May 14th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Thanks for the comment and thanks for the clarification:

More specifically on #1, with GA each dimension is limited to no more than 200,000 rows of data – which, anecdotaly, a total that vast majority of Webtrends enterprise customers exceed each year. When you reach that level in any dimension (segment), results are estimated from a statistical sample of site visits. To reduce the impact of this shortcoming, Google strips query information from URLs, thus reducing the value of the data to organizations that use the service.

Regarding #2, You are right, very good post. http://www.analyticsmarket.com/blog/tracking-code-slows-my-site A challenge some site deal with (like my wife’s blog) is that they are locked into a plugin that puts code where it wants to (not necessarily where it should go).


From jascha kaykas-wolff on May 14th, 2009 at 10:31 pm
From jascha kaykas-wolff on May 14th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

I had a great email exchange with Brett Crosby from Google Analytics. He read the post and provided some critical feedback generally as well as his perspective on the issue with my wife’s blog.

Brett and his team believe that the latency issues with my wife’s blog at http://www.petitcouture.com and those of GA were purely a coincidence. They know their product better than anyone and I’m inclined to believe him.

Best of all was Brett’s willingness to reach out and provide me with open and honest feedback. As a user of GA for efforts like my wife’s blog and an advocate for the open approach they’ve taken to developing their product it is incredibly nice to add good people to the list of positive attributes in the GA camp.

Thanks again for the feedback Brett.

From jascha kaykas-wolff on May 19th, 2009 at 3:21 am

Wow! Thank you very much! I always wanted to write in my site something like that

From Pamelasnup on May 23rd, 2009 at 6:47 pm

I am indebted to this blog and its comment posters for enlightening me .

From Heide Soja on March 20th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

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