Comapring past and present in google analytics

Ok something is bugging me…

Went on an SEO training course with a large London based company and when I asked:

“Imagine a client wants to look at long term growth in terms of visits on their site. More specifically they wanted to compare Q1 Jan - March 2011 to Q1 Jan - March 2010”

In the visits dashboard you then compare the two date ranges.

“Is this accurate considering visits are measured by cookies and cookies are device specific”.

Consultants answer: “No you’ll get a meaningless comparison. Only compare month adjacent to another ie May to March.”

Help I’m confuesed and a client has just asked me to see how total visits in 2010 fiffered from 2009.

Any insights,

I’m not too familiar with Analytics. Even though I have it, I still gravitate back to AWStats (via CPanel). The stats are much clearer, and it’s easy to compare months and years in very clear bar graphs.

Its your choice to compare by quarter or monthly. I guess he meant its easy to compare by month. If I am not wrong you cannot compare quarters on GA side by side; whereas with GA intelligence you can do months.

To be honest no analytics software would be 100% accurate. GA does the job reasonably well IMO.

I don’t get that logic at all. Many websites have cyclical patterns and seasonal highs and lows, so comparing with the same period will give you a better analysis than comparing with an adjacent period. For example, one of my websites is around local transport services – traffic on this site peaks during the winter when there is lots of transport disruption, and during the summer when it’s very popular with tourists. Comparing June–August with September–November would see a drop-off in visitor numbers every year, but year-on-year the numbers are increasing.

You can’t compare stats if you’ve changed stats packages between the periods (eg from AWstats to The Mighty Goog), or if you’ve changed the way that GA is implemented on the site. But apart from that, I can’t see why comparing the same periods each year wouldn’t give you meaningful data.

(Disclaimer: I am not a GA expert!)