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The Case for Excellent Analytics

Business analysts, I’m sure you’re tired of having to manually go through Google Analytics reports and segments to update your daily/weekly/monthly reports. All that time spent on gathering data leaves little to no time left to actually analyze the data, which is, of course, the key part of your title and role at your company!

You might recall your day yesterday or last week where you spent HOURS piecing together separate Google Analytics reports and dumping them into one (or more) spreadsheets for your boss or clients. You might start asking yourself “Isn’t there something that could do this all for me for free?”

I’ve been there with you. There were days where updating reports took 30 minutes to 3 hours due to how small or extensive the project was. And generating those reports should have taken less than half that time with an automation tool.

So one day our team was fed up with forgoing precious analysis time for mundane data gathering. We wanted the reporting-analysis time management struggle to end, or, well, at least to not be as bad. We researched numerous Google Analytics API tools and plugins to end up on Excellent Analytics. While this Excel plugin has saved us numerous reporting hours, it isn’t a complete replacement for Google Analytics’ website. So let’s go into more detail about why you should look into using Excellent Analytics!

What is Excellent Analytics?
Excellent Analytics originally was created by the founders of Outfox back in 2009 as the first Google Analytics plugin for Excel. While Outfox’s site says the last update to Excellent Analytics was back in 2012, this open source program has been updated and maintained by the public fairly regularly since then. As you can see in the image below, the last update was made around late August 2014.

Excellent Analytics is essentially Google Analytics at your fingertips while navigating in Microsoft Excel. This Excel plugin pulls in most of the dimensions and metrics directly from Google Analytics, but typically the dimensions and metrics are recognized by their older names (such as visits instead of sessions). Despite the name discrepancies in Excellent Analytics, the plugin allows users to log into one Google Analytics account at a time to recreate Google Analytics reports within Excel. Now, the good thing is you don’t have to recreate everything in Excel. With Excellent Analytics, you can pull in your segments from Google Analytics directly (as seen below), but all the dimensions, metrics, filters, sorting methods, dates/time frames, number of results listed, and profiles associated with your login all have to be added manually. It seems like a lot of manual tasks to set up, but think about how much manual work you already have to do for every report you update.

As you’re working your way through Excellent Analytics, you might not see every metric or dimension on the list. Don’t worry. There’s a way to update it in Settings. The key is to have an XML list of updated metrics or dimensions available on your computer or cloud drive. Unfortunately, you can’t just manually match those one or two metrics that are missing with an Excellent Analytics pop-up. You have to append your XML list and apply the new list to Excellent Analytics.

Yes, so far Excellent Analytics seems like a day or two project already, but trust me, it’s worth the initial time investment.

How will Excellent Analytics help cut my data gathering time?
After you’ve recreated as many reports as you can in Excellent Analytics (we’ll get into why you might not be able to recreate all of them later in the post), updating your reports is as simple as adjusting the time frame, the number of results (if it’s past your initial max results), and pressing the “execute” button.

You’ll need to give the program a few seconds depending on how complex the query is, but if you take a few moments to look away from your desk and at your wall clock and then look back at Excellent Analytics, you can see your completed update.

So now you might be thinking, “Great. I have all the data in one tab in Excel, but I still have to copy everything and paste it into a new tab to sort and add functions and pivots and so on!” Actually, no. The great thing about Excellent Analytics is that it doesn’t take up the entire tab. You can add additional columns with functions pointing to the data from Excellent Analytics. You might not want it to be for only one cell, as the data is reorganized every time you update your query.

But overall, the plugin saves you time from recreating the report on Google Analytics’ website, adjusting the date/accuracy/segments, downloading the report, and copying the new data into various tabs of a working spreadsheet. Just those little tasks alone save minutes if not hours of your time. All you need for Excellent Analytics is an internet connection, Microsoft Excel, and your Google Analytics credentials to do all the information gathering without opening your internet browser.

What are the downfalls of Excellent Analytics?
Excellent Analytics is a tool that seems like a Google Analytics replacement, but it is sadly not. If it were, then Google would have created an offline tool itself for you to use (and maybe pay for). So why isn’t Excellent Analytics the tool to use for every case? There are some problems with it. I’m not going to go into the details listed on Outfox’s site about potential lack of requirements that aren’t fully tested (Note: I use Windows 8.1 and Excel 2013/Office 360 and haven’t had any compatibility problems…yet). But the two major pitfalls of Excellent Analytics are the lack of multiple segments and date comparison as well as the lack of metrics and dimensions.Lack of multiple segments/date comparison tool
If any of your Google Analytics reports require multiple segments to show the variations of activity on (for example) Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, keep in mind that Excellent Analytics will not allow you to gather all three segments’ data in one go. You will have to create three separate queries in three separate tabs in Excel to see Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn data even though all three segments are referencing the same report. The same rule/problem applies to week over week, month over month, year over year reports. You’ll have to create two separate queries based on two separate timelines even though the same report and segment is being referenced.

If your job requires you to report mostly comparisons, Excellent Analytics might save you some time but not as much as you hoped for. You might want to look into NEXT Analytics to take Excellent Analytics a step further to allow you to do the comparisons Excellent Analytics by itself won’t allow you to do.

Lack of Updated Metrics/Dimensions
One of the frustrating things about Excellent Analytics is that some metrics and dimensions don’t exist in Excellent Analytics that are available in Google Analytics. And to top it off, these metrics and dimensions aren’t organized in the same way as the Google Analytics dashboard and aren’t always called by the same name! Not only might it take longer to find that one metric because it’s not in as intuitive as a spot as Google Analytics has categorized it, it might be a different name (visits instead of sessions) or not available in the plugin if you haven’t updated the XML dimensions file (dimensions like full referrer weren’t available when I downloaded it in November 2014).

Final Thoughts
While there are some kinks in Excellent Analytics, it is an amazing tool that can save analysts valuable time. Besides the Excellent Analytics connection to NEXT Analytics, if we come across any additional solutions to Excellent Analytics’ current problems, we’ll update this article or create a new post about an even better analytics tool or plugin.

As always, if you found this article helpful or if you have another analytics solution that is your favorite, let us know in the comment or on Twitter @Amplytics.

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