Saturday, May 17, 2008

Analytics tools like strawberries and oranges

There is a fascinating discussion going on in the Yahoo! web analytics forum.

I haven't seen such a heated discussion in a very long time, especially in a forum about web analytics. Aren't we passionate or what!? :)

The whole thing started with a comment that GA data could be lost or delayed and how this would impact analysis, reporting to upper management and the resulting decision making. Then the debate heated up with comments about GA being good or not, benefits of free tools vs paid, etc.

My take

Google Analytics (or other low-end solutions, some of them very good) and high-end tools are like comparing strawberries and oranges... still fruits and you can still get pretty good juice out of them, but not quite the same. Some will even mix both juices to make pretty good cocktails... In fact, around 10% of the sites use both GA and another solution.

And somehow, sometimes for unknown reasons, people are allergic to strawberries...

Are you of legal age?

If you start by looking at your web analytics maturity level, and consciously decide where you want to be on that scale, you will pretty easily find out if GA is a good fit or a high-end tool such as Omniture would be better.

I'm referring to Gartner's web analytics maturity model presented by Bill Grassman at eMetrics San Francisco last year:

Google Analytics is a level 1, most of level-2 and some of level-3 type of tool. Omniture will cover you up to most of level 4 if you use Test & Target, Discover, Genesis and imports/exports. Level 5 is serious BI that go beyond web analytics (think Davenport's "Competing on analytics").

GA, Coremetrics, Omniture and a bunch of others each have very unique characteristics that makes them better fits in some situations. The market research I'm doing clearly shows that some tools are better suited at some types of businesses and different levels of web analytics maturity.

Google Analytics has significantly increased the awareness about web analytics, which is a very good thing. The problem we now face is setting the expectations for companies aiming at the higher levels of the scale with a tool that is appropriate for some of it, but not all. As a consultant, it is my role and my responsibility to recommend the best solution for each situation. In some cases, it might be more profesional to let go a client that aim for the sky but simply won't understand the differences and limitations between the tools because all they see is the "free" aspect of Google Analytics...

An orange juice in the morning is fine, a Pina Colada in the afternoon has a little more power!