Author: Nick Ezzo
Since Google announced the release of their free analytics service earlier this year, Web analytics has become a more recognized tool for Website owners and online business sites. To Google’s credit, their announcement helped spread awareness of the analytics concept, especially as applied to today’s businesses and online advertising.
The importance of understandable site traffic reporting is apparent. Knowing what your visitors are doing, what pages they frequent, where they come from, and other such relevant data, has become vital and necessary information for growing and surviving in today’s Internet market. Web Reporting and Analytics has become much more than a log file filled with endless lines of data meant for IT specialists.
Today’s reports are far richer than merely “page hits” or simple visitor tracking numbers. They have become a core tool for e-commerce, and are seen as a valuable companion in marketing everything from a “fan site” to a corporate blog.
There were several analytics services before Google’s, and these were predominately aimed at hard-core e-commerce or large corporate sites. Now there are a few new services making their marks. These new, or “next generation,” analytics companies are focusing on a more user-friendly approach.
Who is the best among them? Which one is right for you? The first thing to consider is, what one is easiest for you to analyze and use…which one saves you time, money and headaches while providing in-depth information on your site visitors? This review will look at a few popular services and compare their pros and cons.
ClickTracks – http://www.clicktracks.com – Hosted and software options
This service provides four “package” options. The first three are offered as hosted and software choices. Their variety should suit almost anyone who is familiar with Web analytics reports and interested in extensive e-commerce data. ClickTracks is a professional, very polished service, with levels designed to reach a broad customer base. I liken them to being a “superstore” of analytics, with good features, detailed reports, and almost anything the shopper could want, with many demos, trials and examples. Once you get through all the options and find what you want, the service is solid. ClickTracks could be a good choice for larger e-commerce sites and those with a need for very detailed product analysis that do not require current, immediate (real-time) data.
Highlights: Very good click path detail and ROI reporting; very nice interface. I like the search engine reports, especially being able to see the site how a search engine “bot” sees it – very helpful from an SEO perspective. Their graphics are nice and quite interactive – a few rungs above boring pie charts and graphs.
Lowlights: So many choices that it takes awhile to look them over, and every package and option has its own price. Reports will require some learning for small businesses that are just venturing into web reporting and analytics. Also, several reports are based on log files only, which can be useful for those with some IT experience, but again, will take some education for non-tech staff. Reports run slowly at times, and they do not offer real-time data.
Price: Starts at $25.00 per month for the most basic hosted package (ClickTracks Analyzer); charges a $40.00 set up fee for each additional domain in the account. The software version costs $495.00. They charge for training and consulting, but offer free tutorials and manuals.
Google Analytics – http://www.google.com/analytics/ – Hosted solution; no software to download
The analytics “shot heard around the world”, this service centers its value on being a support for Google AdWords. It is easy to get started, and requires no downloads. It works through the insertion of a small “snippet” of code placed in the HTML of your site pages.
It is not really fair to say, “You get what you pay for,” because this service is filling its niche. There were many much-publicized problems with it in their beginning, but those have been remedied, and now I would say the “price” makes it a real bargain. I can’t say it is enough on its own; I would want a more appealing and broader service, but it makes a good secondary analytics service or companion to another service for those who like the PPC details contained apart from their site details.
Highlights: Great for pay-per-click tracking and reporting. They have a clean layout. Ideal for IT-type users and other techies.
Lowlights: Being IT slanted in their reporting, they are not as appealing to non-technical users. Data is definitely not current and not real-time, so no up-to-the-minute reporting ability with Google Analytics. For those who want to tie in their Google services, but it isn’t very comprehensive or quick to use.
VisiStat – http://www.visistat.com – Hosted solution; no software to download
Their newest release reveals a definite vision and direction for this popular newcomer. With version 4.0, VisiStat’s maturity is showing. Their highly user-friendly model is more “Website Performance Management” than strictly traffic analysis, and they are well suited for analytics novices as well as IT professionals.
They offer good online help information and have exceptional customer support. I found VisiStat to be fresh, innovative, uncomplicated and very easy to use… what I would consider the poster child of “next generation” analytics. It is services like this that will define the future of analytics, and if VisiStat continues to develop as it has, it could easily become a model for analytics to come.
Highlights: As a service geared toward business users of Web traffic data, I was quite impressed with VisiStat’s dedication to keep the reports simple and very easy to understand. I like the graphical layout and the departure from the standard graphs and pie charts of many of the other services. I was won over by the live data feed they call a Statcaster, and their advertising campaign manager (AdCaM) is an easy and logical way to track advertising online. The individual LinkTracker allows you to monitor links (outbound and internal), as well as onsite downloads of all types. VisiStat impressed me with their attentive, dedicated customer service, and the fact that they really listen to their subscribers.
Lowlights: There are several reports that are still in beta versions, but they are functioning and pretty bug free. Enterprise-level e-commerce sites might need more intricately detailed product statistics, but VisiStat makes a solid companion service along side other, more complicated analytics services, and for small and mid-size business and e-commerce sites, they serve very well.
Price: Their pricing is affordable and very competitive, beginning at $19.95 per month, with discounts for quarterly and annual subscriptions.
WebTrends – http://www.webtrends.com – Software and hosted options
Their powerhouse reports are designed for enterprise-level businesses and Web marketing and analytics professionals. They offer several package options with reports targeting various industries. For large e-commerce and multi-national corporate Websites, WebTrends is the reigning ruler.
WebTrends is among the higher priced, and has complex reports. It would not be the service of choice for smaller businesses or analytics novices. or for those who want to go in, get a quick look at their site status, and get out. But for large corporate or e-commerce sites with a marketing department that needs very detailed data, they are a popular choice.
Highlights: Great consideration has been made to provide very specific industry focus within their service packages. For full-on, hard-push, dedicated marketing, their reports provide good detail and valuable reporting. Focused on marketing strategies, they provide a white paper and guide information area with helpful pointers and educational tips.
Lowlights: Many small business users will find the reports overwhelming and a lot of information that is not needed, especially for the price. It is difficult to find pricing information on their site, and demos and tours cannot be accessed without registration first. Frustrating to find answers readily for those on a budget or new to analytics. Also, data is not real-time.
Price: Starts at $35.00 per month for the hosted (on-demand) small business package and $699.00 for the small business software version.
About the Author:
Nick Ezzo is Marketing Director for TuVox (http://www.tuvox.com). He has a great bit of experience with Web analytics and how it supports sales and marketing, and is currently enjoying VisiStat (http://www.visistat.com).