Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Running scared of Google Analytics

While doing my morning's parsing of web analytics feeds I read "Google's Killer App", by Bandt Dainow. Brandt is CEO of ThinkMetrics, offering the InSite reporting solution, but it looks that it will now phase it out and switch to Google.

While Brandt article make some good points about the inherent power of Google and the great improvements brought by Google Analytics v2.0, there are some other points that I'm not so sure about.

Awareness and maturity

While Google Analytics might have taken the 1st position in terms of number of installations, most industry analysts agree the biggest benefit it brought is the level of awareness of the web analytics field. Smaller vendors are suffering because the quality of GA is there, and the cost can't be beaten. While working on WASP, I have identified nearly 200 WA solutions... Some consolidation and cleanup is a necessary evil in a maturing market. VisualSciences + WebSideStory, Omniture + TouchClarity, etc. While Brandt article says WebTrends might be able to compete longer, my reading of the market tells me that WebTrends is loosing ground. Another aspect that Brandt seems to be forgetting is Gatineau from Microsoft, which, from what has leaked, should bring a new player on the checker board.

One size doesn't fit all

At the same time, we see most of the industry leaders (Omniture, VisualSciences, Coremetrics, WebTrends) continue to improve and extend their offering. Again, while it can be argued that several companies now implement GA along with another tool, industry analysts stresses the "process" and "scarce resources" are the most important elements while the "tools" are getting at similar levels of maturity.

While the "majors" are playing at their level, some smaller players seems to be comfortable offering a different set of values. For example, that's the case of iMinr, a small-scale solution built by a friend that brings an interesting twists that. He doesn't pretend to compete with Google Analytics and chose to focus on a local market with top notch service.

Innovation

The recent stream of ClickTale, TapeFailure and RobotReplay demonstrates there is still room for innovation in fields that are complementary and extend web analytics. We can also expect more performance metrics and qualitative solutions (surveys and such) to become easily integrated with web analytics.

My take

I don't think it's time yet to throw you WA solution out the window and switch to GA, as Brandt implies, especially if you haven't nailed down the process and sourcing aspects of web analytics. When comparing different vendors, you should look beyond the reporting aspects and the base cost (even if free!) and look at the complementary services that surround the core offering (campaign management, multivariate testing, back-end integration, support, training, etc.).
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