Trends in Web Analytics Software

In the most extensive comparison of the various website analytics software products I’ve seen, Econsultancy London penned an 168 page report (Web Analytics Buyer’s Guide 2012) comparing 14 different products including the big four, Adobe SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics, IBM’s Core Metrics, and Webtrends. Many pages are devoted to feature set comparisons, self reported by the software companies. As a Google Analytics Premium reseller, I waded through pages of product attributes only to find that it’s very hard to differentiate these products based on features and capabilities.

Currently, all of the top four products share 90% of the features a web analyst might require although they differ widely in the amount of customization and set-up that might be required to enable those features. Adobe’s Site Catalyst had historically led the field in analytical capabilities, although the product set-up is time consuming and each webpage receives custom JavaScript that enables much of the advanced reporting. Webtrends and Google Analytics are much easier to install and configure, although the ease of use comes at some expense in terms of reporting capabilities. Adobe claims that Site Catalyst offers as many as 500,000 different reports, which explains why companies using it often have a “priesthood” of analytics specialists that need to translate the information requirements of the business unit managers and marketing team in a set of regular, reoccurring dashboards and reports.

As a student of web analytics since the early days of the Open Source Webalizer, – which debuted in 1997 – for several years I was limited to the most basic website information collected from parsed served log data. Omniture launched around the same time and rapidly staked out the high end of the market, providing vastly more information by pixelating web pages. Most of the top 100 websites in the U.S. are currently running Omniture’s (now Adobe’s) Site Catalyst. Urchin, which also launched circa 1995, was aimed at the smaller and middle sized websites with a flat pricing model of $5,000 per year per physical data center, allowing many web hosting companies to provide analytics across their client base.

Google purchased Urchin in 2005 and launched the new, free web analytics software called Google Analytics. By 2007, consolidation in the web analytics market was well underway as Omniture bought a major high-end player, Visual Sciences, as well as several other analytics companies. Omniture was later acquired by Adobe in 2009.

Currently, three technology giants dominate web analytics – Adobe, Google, and IBM – while the much smaller, privately held, Webtrends hopes to hold on to what we imagine is a shrinking customer base. According to Google Trends, searches for the keyword, “Webtrends”, has declined 80 percent over the past 10 years. Searches for “Core Metrics” and “Omniture” have declined by 60 and 50 percent respectively since 2007. “Google Analytics,” which launched in 2006, is up 250 percent during the same period. In raw search volume, “Google Analytics” is searched 673,000 a month in the U.S. while “Site Catalyst” and “Core Metrics” trail far behind with only 720 and 390 searches respectively.

Clearly the wind is at Google Analytics’ back and, while brand awareness isn’t the final word in terms of product selection, it’s a pretty reliable indicator of how hard it will be to find analysts well versed in the products. It’s also an indicator of which company is likely to keep investing the millions a year required to keep up with increasingly digital savvy CMOs who are demanding accurate assessments of their marketing and advertising investments, both online and offline.

Jarod Caporino
Managing Partner
Jarod Caporino
Managing Partner

Jarod Caporino has managed ad sales, strategic planning and media buying for major brands in nearly every industry vertical, including Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Major League Baseball and the NEA. He has over 12 years of experience as a sales director at agencies specializing in digital services and search engine marketing and optimization. Jarod frequently speaks at universities and industry panels in the New York area.

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