Google Analytics Struggles With Popularity

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Google's hosted Web analytics service Google Analytics suffered serious performance problems earlier this week, after the company announced the service would be available free of charge, but seemed to have stabilized by Wednesday.

"They clearly underestimated the number of people trying to sign up on Monday," said Alan Gahtan, an attorney based in Toronto, who spent hours on Monday trying to sign up for the service, which used to cost $199 per month.

Google Analytics, formerly known as Urchin on Demand, lets users monitor visits to their Web sites. The users can track, for example, the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns and to determine how to modify Web pages to improve sales conversions.

Sluggish Start

After Gahtan managed to register, he again faced much difficulty logging in, and, once logged in, found the service extremely slow and repeatedly got kicked off to a page saying Google Analytics was down for maintenance and to please try back later.

He couldn't look at usage data gathered by the service until Tuesday afternoon, and even then the data wasn't precisely fresh, but running more like 24 hours behind, he said.

By Wednesday, the service seemed stable and working properly, said Gahtan, who is using Google Analytics to track usage of his Web site, which he uses to market his practice, a boutique law firm specializing in IT and e-commerce matters.

Eddy Kawira, general manager of Extreme Software, had no trouble signing up for Google Analytics on Monday, but he faced major difficulties setting up the four Web sites he wanted to track. Like Gahtan, he found the service slow and kept getting redirected to the page saying Google Analytics was down for maintenance.

By Tuesday, he could get on to the service without major problems, but there was little for him to do there: Google Analytics wasn't showing him any data. He finally saw data on Wednesday morning for three of the four Web sites, said Kawira, whose employer, Extreme Software, is based near Oklahoma City and develops and sells customized software for furniture manufacturers.

Returnees Have Hassle

The problem wasn't limited to those trying to sign up for the service for the first time on Monday. Ethan Stock, founder of local events search provider Zvents, ripped into Google on Monday in his personal blog after he encountered various performance and sign-on problems when he accessed Google Analytics.

"Right now, I feel like Google doesn't care about me enough as a customer to tell me that they're changing a product I pay for. They don't care enough about me as a customer to make sure that my login doesn't change, or that they at least ask or warn me before changing my login. They don't care enough about me as a customer to make sure that the re-launch of their product doesn't dramatically impact the people who are already paying them lots of money," Stock wrote. He didn't immediately return a call seeking further comment.

"The demand for Google Analytics was much higher than we expected. The service is now completely restored and full service is available to everyone," a Google spokesperson wrote via e-mail when asked for comment on Wednesday.

That Google fumbled the launch of this service is hard to believe, given the company's profile and resources, Extreme Software's Kawira said. "They should have known they were going to have a huge amount of people sign up," he said.

Despite the subpar performance of the service so far, Kawira isn't ready to give up on it. "I'm definitely going to stick with it because I'm confident they will iron it out," he said.

In the meantime, Google has been cleaning pie from its face. "Needless to say, the criticism of Google Analytics is not without merit--they flubbed the launch in a big way," wrote Jupiter Research analyst Eric Peterson in a posting on the company's official analyst blog.

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