Google Analytics: Worst Titles Ever


“Remember,” John McAndrew cautioned as we started a new project for the Association of Corporate Counsel, “The GA titles are deadly.”

This is so true. As much as I love Google Analytics, their report titles and labels just suck. (I hope you guys are listening.)

There are a lot of things GA does right. But if we are going to have an analytics package that is “democratic” — that all the people in the company can use, not just the Web Analyst — we need to have descriptive titles and labels. And they need to be things that the average Joe and Jane can understand. And we have to stop calling the same thing by different words in different places. (If we are going to call paid search “cpc” on the medium report, why do we have “paid” and “unpaid” in another?) Or as one person said to me in the all-day training I did on Monday, “That’s just Google Analytics’ way of tripping us up, right?” And, the sad part was: he was right.

(Here is a little more full disclosure, or maybe credit where credit is due. Back when LunaMetrics became a Google Analytic Authorized Consultant, I started bitching about the GA documentation, for the same reason. “If we have an analytics package for regular people,” I argued, “Shouldn’t we have drop-dead, knock-your-socks off documentation? The kind that everyday people can understand?” And since that time, we are getting there, thanks to Brett and Alden and a lot of other people whose names I don’t know. So all things are possible.)

OK, let’s roll up our sleeves, and just address the Seven Deadly Names and Titles. In reverse order, so that they get worse and worse…

DeadHostname vs Network Locationly Title #7: Network Location vs Hostnames. Some way, we have got to figure out how to indicate that “network location” is the visitor’s ISP and “hostname” is all the URLs that your site goes by in GA. So, for example, “Hostnames” is the report to go to when you want to know if you have subdomains setting cookies, or if some other site has stolen your code and uses it to muddy your analytics. On the other hand, Network Location is the place to go to when you think you might be able to learn what company the visitor came from. (This last part generally only works if the visitor came from a big company, like Toyota or GM, who is their own ISP.)

Deadly Title #6: Top Content. It is ALL content, not just top content.

Deadly Title #5: CPC vs Paid; Organic vs Unpaid. I would love to say, “Can’t we just go with one or the other? Let’s just call it paid search and unpaid search and forget the other stuff here.” Reality is not so easy, though, because this one is not just about titles, it is about cookies. To get less technical than that — this door of opportunity closed years ago. We just have to live with this one, and always remember that cpc means paid search, and organic means unpaid search.

Deadly Title #4: Visitor Loyalty. We have a set of reports called Visitor Loyalty, and then under that we have a specific report called Loyalty, too. So can’t we call the whole set Visitor Loyalty, and then call the report itself Frequency? Because that is what it measures, how many times they came.

Deadly Title #3: Navigation Summary: How visitors found your content. (I am only explaining/complaining about the subtitle, “How visitors found your content.”) This report describes how visitors got from one place on your site to the page you are interested in and where they went next, and NOT how they found your content from outside of your site. “Paths visitors used to get to and from your content” might be a little better.navigation summary

Deadly Title #2: Entrance Paths: Paths visitors used to get to your content. Well, that is just ridiculous, this subtitle is perfect, but it belongs on the Navigation Summary report (Deadly Title #3), not here in Entrance Paths. If you look at an Entrance Paths report, it starts out with *your* content and shows where they went next. In fact, this particular Deadly Title gets an extra point for deadliness, because this isn’t really about Entrance Paths at all: the page you are interested in might not be an entrance page. This is a report about where the visitor went after they looked at your page.

Entrance paths

The Winner!! Deadly Title #1: “Most people visited…” This is arguable the worst label we have in GA. Here you can see it:

most people visited

It is misleading in more than one way (which is why it scored for Deadliest Title.) As I pointed out when I did my loyalty experiments, this set of charts measures visits, not visitors. But using the word “people” gives the impression that it is the other way around.

Even if we pretend that the chart says, “Most visits happened only once,” or some other way to get rid of the word “people,” it would still be misleading. “Most” just describes the bar that is the longest. And it completely obscures how great that chart can be — we have an incredible report that puts visits into buckets of frequency, and then we dumb it down by saying, “Just look at the longest one.”


Our founder, Robbin Steif, started LunaMetrics in 2004. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a Diamond Award for business leadership. In 2017, Robbin sold her company to HS2 Solutions and has since retired from LunaMetrics.

  • Hilarious post Robbin!

    I think Google should hire Lunametrics for consultancy, your tips are so good. Or maybe we could have an email chain on the Web Analytics community with a petition…

    Thanks for the post, it is very informative too.

  • What a great summary – I just walked a client through Google Analytics the other day & had to explain many of these things.

    on the “most people visited” item – it also can be factually incorrect, because most-frequently occurring number of visits is less than the sum of all the other frequencies – which is quite possible if you have a wider distribution of frequencies – then in fact most people DIDN’T visit that many times.

  • Hi Daniel! And John – great point. I see that problem you pointed out when working with content sites, where they have fewer visitors relative to the visits (i.e. strong repeat rate) so they get that curve showing addicted users and often, a big 201+ bar….

  • Tim Leighton-Boyce

    You’re so right. It’s very easy for regular users (and developers?) to forget this.

    I find that it’s only when I’m working with someone and they stop and read out one of the menu items and ask what it’s about that I actually think about the words. And then I usually end up almost apologising.

    These days, when I have to introduce someone new to GA I tend to make them a customised mind map printout highlighting the reports I think are relevant to them and explaining why and what they do. It seemed like overkill at first, but the menus names are not very helpful.

    I don’t think the situation improved as dramatically as it might have done with V2, which seems like a missed opportunity. So good luck with this campaign.

  • As always, great insights! Keep up the proselytizing. GA will come around!

  • David Miller

    I thought it was just me!

    I consider myself to know analytics pretty well. But I don’t use GA every day. Every time I do, I have to take a step back and think.

    Well done for for another great post Robbin. I too hope GA are listening.

  • Tim – that is such a great idea. I should have a translation chart – “What They Say” and “What They Mean.” Rebecca, I think my real problem is that I haven’t figured out who the right people are at GA for this sort of stuff… but I hope you are right about them coming around. I should definitely make it my next crusade. And David — no, it really isn’t just you!!

  • You’re right. Two menu items are: “Top Content” and “Content by Title”.

    An improvement would be, “Content by URL” and “Content by Page Title”.

  • rachel

    My favorite worst title currently is from the GA Help.
    “How do I create a duplicate profile in my account?

    “A duplicate is supposed to be an exact replica. I think this language gives people a false sense of security, thinking that if they made a new profile they will still have access to all previous data. Perhaps a “branch” profile would be better….Thanks for all your tips, Rachel

  • Can’t believe I have only just found your site, am glad I found it, lots of good content here. I just added you to my bookmarks so I will be back again. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the the coming months.

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