A Decade of Google Analytics

By December 5, 2017Food for thought

August 14, 2017 marks Firefly Digital’s tenth year of Google Analytics experience. While browsing through reports from the past decade, we noticed that our site’s data reflects aspects of global data.

2007: The internet’s awkward teenage years.

Browser Wars

In the first year (Aug 2007 – Aug 2008), 60% of people visited our site using IE (Internet Explorer), which is in line with IE’s overall usage at that time. IE had over 90% usage share by the early 2000s. It  became so popular, the US government had to step in. Now in 2017, the share is closer to 4%..

The 2nd most popular browser for visiting our site that year was Firefox, which brought just under 30% of our traffic. Safari comes in at number three, followed by Mozilla (presumably Mozilla Suite, not a mislabeling of Firefox). But clearly something was wrong: sessions had a 92% bounce rate, an average view time of 12 seconds, and 99% new sessions. Opera rounds out the top 5. A little further down the list, we see Netscape clinging to life in 2007, with 0.17% of people using the 90’s internet staple.

Chrome doesn’t show up until September 2008, jumping up to the number 5 rank in our data almost immediately. Now Chrome is king, displaying our site to ~60% of users over the past year (Aug 2016 – Aug 2017) and less than 10% of sessions for FireflyDigital.com came through Internet Explorer (with a single anonymous vapor-wave enthusiast visiting the site using IE version 5.5).

A New Batch of Browsers

In total, people came to our site using 19 different browsers in the first year of tracking. Outside of the top 5 browsers and Netscape, the others are almost unrecognizable: Galeon, AvantGo, and Konqueror. None of them brought more than two dozen users to the site and the bounce rate was over 90%.

Technically the first mobile visit to our website!

While checking the data for this past year, I thought that the number of browsers would have exploded. But surprisingly, our site got hits from just 31 different browsers. Some of these browsers are the younger sibling versions of major browsers (Safari In-App, Opera Mini). The smaller browsers performed better in 2017; with a larger number of users and bounce rates.

A More Connected World

There is not a lot of data of people visiting our site in the first year. Google hadn’t begun reporting demographic information like gender and age until mid-2015. The main information noted about users from 2007, is their location and language. That data alone is enough to see the world wide web undergo changes. The top two top 10 countries that visited our site in that first year are US and Canada. The other five are western European countries, Australia, India, China, and Malaysia. This year, Canada ranks 5th, and the only country in Europe to remain in the top ten is the UK. The Philippines, previously 13th, now ranks 6th.

Ten years of data on visitors from India to our site tells the story best. The Indian economy has been on the rise for decades, but in the last 12 years its growth was the sharpest it has ever been. The clear upward trend in sessions reflects the modernization and growth of India’s economy over the past decade.

New to the top ten are Russia and Kyrgyzstan. The data here reflects stories that have made headlines over the past few years. It has become evident that traffic from these countries is almost exclusively bots. In contrast to India, there is no gradual build up of sessions. Traffic starts suddenly in mid to late 2015, and drops back near zero in early 2017.

Russia and Kyrgyzstan are the only countries in the recent top ten with bounce rates above 94% (the next highest bounce rate is Malaysia with 77%). Language data, (the only other demographic data available for all of the last ten years) reveals five strangely named “languages” meant to deliver a message to analytics users:

  • “Secret.ɢoogle.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!” (109 sessions)
  • “o-o-8-o-o.com search shell is much better than google!” (5 sessions)
  • “Vitaly rules google ☆*:。゜゚・*ヽ(^ᴗ^)ノ*・゜゚。:*☆ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯(ಠ益ಠ)(ಥ‿ಥ)(ʘ‿ʘ)ლ(ಠ_ಠლ)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)ヽ(゚Д゚)ノʕ•̫͡•ʔᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ(=^ ^=)oO”   (3 sessions)
  • “Google officially recommends o-o-8-o-o.com search shell!” (2 sessions)
  • “Congratulations to Trump and all americans” (1 session)

95% of this traffic came from Russia and all sessions happened in November and December of 2016.

Acquisition

A peak into past acquisition data reveals Google’s search engine monopoly. In 2007, Google accounted for just 80% of organic traffic and was one of twelve organic sources counted in analytics as having directed users to our site. It was almost nostalgic to see that people found our site through Ask in 2007, even if it was only 11 sessions.

Like the browsers, there were a few I didn’t recognize.

In 2017, Google was only one of 6 search engines people found our site through, which accounts for 96% of organic traffic. The non-Google search engines brought in fewer total sessions than they did in 2007.

After A Decade

After digging through a decade of Google Analytics – it is apparent that analytic data not only gives us a story of our site, but also gives us a glimpse into the internet beyond our servers. Take a look into your data and tell us what you find by tweeting us at @fireflygadet or using the hashtag #DecadeOfData.