Originally answered on Quora: What does Mixpanel do that Google Analytics is incapable of doing?
I’m answering this question from the perspective of a long time Mixpanel and Google Analytics customer. I use both of them concurrently in the development of a social game and have a fairly good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each tool. I’d summarize it this way: Google Analytics is the swiss army knife that can do almost anything (with some effort and a few regular expressions) while Mixpanel is a tool focused on visitor-level event engagement. As with many things in life, however, it’s not that simple. While I’ve used the API from both tools, I’m sharing an opinion based on experience with each of their web-based reporting interfaces. This is my take on what Mixpanel does that Google Analytics can’t.
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The CloudFlare solution in this post isn’t trivial to set up. Would you be willing to pay for a solution that allowed you to run Google Analytics on WordPress.com if it was simpler, full featured and hack-free? View poll results here
Like many people looking to start a blog I initially found myself drawn to the WordPress platform. The fully hosted and free solution provided by wordpress.com is especially attractive if you don’t want the overhead of managing a self-hosted WordPress blog. Unfortunately, one of their many restrictions is that you can’t use Google Analytics. Instead, you have to use their built-in WordPress analytics tool.
New to cohorts? Check out the Introduction to Cohort Analysis for Startups.
Clearly cohort analysis is a great tool to track retention and user engagement but how do you set up your blog, game or web service to track cohort groups? Google Analytics doesn’t support cohort tracking as a standard feature. The service primarily targets traditional site navigation metrics such as visits, pageviews, traffic sources and bounce rate. In the past, most companies relied on in-house solutions to get visitor-level data – and many still do. But for those unable or unwilling to create a custom analytics application for their product there haven’t been a lot of alternatives.
Sometimes, when you’re buried in data, statistics, graphs and reports, analytics work can feel a tad dry. Personally, I tolerate creating reports (generally by automating them) but find analysis (identifying why the data is the way it is) rather compelling. In this first of several posts on cohort analysis I’m going to explore why dividing your visitors into cohorts is the fastest path to the insight you need to answer the tough “why” questions about your data.