Today I finally ditched Google Analytics. It’s something that’s been kicking around my to do list for a while. But as I got into it? I realised that the rise of ad blockers has rendered Google Analytics pretty much useless. Sure, I could have massaged Google Analytics around the Ad Blockers, but that’s a dick move. It’s almost on par with those websites that try to shame you and your choice of browser extensions. Nah buddy, you and your shaming site can get stuffed. Do you have any idea how many other things that are competing for my attention?
Whoa. I was on a slippery slope to a rant there. So anyway, I nixed Google Analytics.
The way I figure it, people who don’t run ad blockers should have a similar experience to those that do. I mean, why penalise those who don’t run an ad blocker? Why make them use a more bloated website that takes longer to download? Oh and that penalty gets worse if you’re from Madagascar or something where bandwidth is super expensive compared to your income. It all smells just a bit like elitist nonsense.
When I removed Google Analytics I managed to shave off 18KB (~8%), 3 requests (18%) and 0.2 seconds (~10%) from the load of this website. It might not seem like much, but it was enough to make a bit of a dent in the cost of viewing this place in parts of Africa.
I guess I’m a bit of an outlier though. I have spent a fair amount of time whittling away at this place, removing everything that gets in the way of content. Hamburger menus and website navigation plastered over each page? Gone. Comment systems clogged with ads? Gone. Bloated styling and unnecessary visual trim? Gone. And from today, Google Analytics? Gone.
I have no interest in ‘trapping’ visitors or harvesting their attention, instead I want people to whistle through this place. Often they are hunting for something specific: the solution to a problem, or maybe an entertaining opinion or some inspiration. Either way, they are busy. Not to mention all the other things clamouring for their attention. They don’t give a toss about anything other than what they are looking for. Psychologists call this laser-like focus “inattentional blindness”.
So many have turned to ad blockers and other extensions to help them filter out the cacophony of distracting nonsense. I guess it reduces the cognitive load of viewing a website. Ad blockers reduce the amount of effort you expend to view a website# - no wonder lots of people are using them. Now this is where things got a little interesting. For the last two and a half years, Google Analytics suggested the traffic to this site has been flat.
I was OK with that, and it wasn’t a deterrent. This website is just where I like to keep snippets of information - little things I figured out and decided to write down. It’s a super dooper low fidelity whole brain emulation. Grainy snapshots of what I’m trying to create, mixed with the odd opinion or two. So I just kept plodding along regardless.
When I removed Google Analytics, I spent a bit of time tidying up the logging systems on my server. I rolled out GoAccess as a way to keep tabs on the health of things. GoAccess also lets me estimate website traffic on my server in a much less invasive way. And you know what? Google Analytics was underestimating website traffic by a factor of four.
You mean 75% of the people visiting this website are running some sort of ad blocking extension? Something that prevented Google Analytics from loading? Hell yeah! Block on my friends. Or maybe you have no idea what i’m banging on about here. It’s cool bud. I got you, this place is the same if you Ad Block or not.
P.S. Google I still love you. Search, Maps, Docs and YouTube, all great stuff that I like to use. It’s just that the Internet is changing and Analytics isn’t that useful anymore.
# This isn’t a fully verified claim, it is in that dangerous territory where hypothesis collides with opinion. Mozilla has done some interesting research showing that Ad Blocking has a positive impact on user engagement. People with Ad Blockers visit more websites and spend more time on them. However just because they browsed more, it doesn’t necessarily prove that Ad Blocking made it easier for them.
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