Over the last 6 years or so of working in the field of web analytics, and I’ve found the following tools to be very helpful. They run from free to very pricey, simple to complex, so there should be something here for you no matter your budget and needs.
Importance of Analytics
There are several reasons why analytics are important but it boils down to this: performance. In other words, how good are your social media campaigns at generating conversations? How well is that new landing page converting? How well are your SEO efforts bringing in new traffic? What’s the lifetime value of your customers? Web analytics can help you answer those questions.
When it comes down to it, these three issues are why analytics are so important:
- Resource allocation – Whether it’s loading up on people to run a massive Facebook Fan page campaign or amp up your SEO efforts, these things cost time and money, so it’s important to track the results so you can plan properly.
- Optimize campaigns – The intelligence you gather from your web analytics can help Marketing make better decisions about their programs.
- Overall brand impact – What is the impact your campaigns are having on your brand and business from top to bottom? Web analytics can help you answer that question.
Why Redundancy of Analytics
You might be tempted to shop around for different web analytic products, looking for the right one. Well, I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t necessarily the right one.
Some offer real-time data while others break it down into tiny historical chunks. So, it depends on your needs. But I do recommend that you consider using two different web analytic products.
Let me explain.
Aaron Wall at SEO Book makes a good case for using two analytic products…a primary one and a backup. When looking for a backup Aaron recommends you look for one that has these four features:
- Lightweight – The load an additional analytics tool can put on your servers can slow down the speed of your site.
- Low cost – The backup analytics tool shouldn’t set you back another grand or two. It’s not a bad idea to use one that is free.
- Provide overview – This backup tool should give you an over-arching view of your analytics, something you can compare with your primary tool.
- Flexible – Every website has different needs, so you’ll need a solution that can fit with yours. Make sure the solution is customizable as nothing will be perfect out of the box.
Why the redundancy? Well, it’s not just because if primary analytics goes down temporarily that you’ll have the other one in place. But instead different analytics tools solve different problems and in most cases you won’t be able to get everything you need in one tool.
Plus, you can make comparisons with the data when you have a large event like the Panda update sweep through the web. That update might affect Google Analytics differently than it would your back up analytics.
Primary Web Analytics
When it comes to using a primary web analytic service, Google Analytics can’t be beat. For starters, it’s free and includes a massive amount of the reports that paid products offer.
There are some disadvantages, like statistics are sampled and support is limited to a help center and user forum. You have to hire a certified partner for support if you really want it.
But the ability to track multiple sites, monitor social networking activity, track mobile phone users and measure video, on top of tracking typical analytic metrics like bounce rates, makes it a good tool for just about anybody.
Clicky, unlike GA, can be your primary web analytics tool because it collects data in real time. However, the robust programs for larger sites will set you back about $25 a month.
Urchin, which Google picked up in 2005, has a hefty price tag. Google released versions in 2008 and 2009, the last one incorporating AdWords. Urchin analyzes log files or does what’s called a hybrid, that allows you to get more accurate web information.
Another option is Omniture. Their analytics product, Site Catalyst, will give you multiple reports for video tracking, reports on mobile phone users and social media outlet reports. It does not collect bounce rates, and it’s pricey.
Customer Loop Analytics
If your site has is built on a complete customer loop, like a sign-up process, or you need to make decisions on individual behavior then KISSmetrics is a product to consider.
KISSmetrics will take all of a person’s activities on your website while they’re just visiting and tie them to their email address once they become a customer. Then you’ll be able to capture the actions that a customer takes on your site, as well as how they interact with your email campaigns, your banner ads, and your mobile or desktop apps. And best of all it will give you information on things like lifetime value of your customer, churn rates, and cohort reports.
Back Up Analytics
Now that we’ve covered some primary web analytic tools, let’s discuss what you should use for back up.
Piwick is an open source alternative to Google Analytics, so it provides many of the same reports, but has some advantages. For instance:
- Reports in real time – For high traffic websites, you can choose the frequency for reports to be processed.
- You own your web analytics data – Because Piwik is installed on your server, the data is stored in your own database and you can get all the statistics using the powerful Piwik Analytics API.
- Built in-plugins – You can add new features and remove the ones you don’t need.
- Vibrant international open community – There are over 100,000 active users, making it a good community for support and answers.
Open Web Analytics is another open source product worth considering. OWA also comes with built-in support for tracking web sites made with popular content management frameworks such as WordPress.
For only $30 per single site license, Mint will allow you to self-host your website analytics. It’s got a simple interface with robust metrics on visits, referrers, popular pages and searches. It’s another good choice for a back up analytics tool.
Web analytics doesn’t have to be confusing. As long as you understand what you need to measure, the time and frequency you need reports and how much you can spend, then you can select products that will help you improve your websites success, which is the name of the game.
What other web analytic tools do you like and recommend?