Peder 3:08 pm on Aug 16, 2012 Reply
Tags: , Omniture, , web analytics tools,   

Since the London games just finished, you’ll have to excuse the sporting references. Who’s the fastest man in the world? Well, it depends. Over 100 and 200 meters it’s obviously Usain Bolt. But lengthen the track or throw in some hurdles and you’ll have a different winner. Same applies for web analytics.

Not all products made it to the Web Olympics final. In our “competition”, we opted to look at Adobe SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics and Webtrends (jump to comparison matrix below). Combined, they enjoy by far the largest market share, and Unilytics is certified in all three so we are very familiar with them. Each of these three main products has special strengths and weaknesses. We have tried to make this analysis as unbiased and vendor neutral as possible. In all cases, Unilytics consulting recommends whichever solution best fits our clients’ needs.

When comparing product functionality, checklists offer the most visual differentiation, but can fall short when judging comes into play. Consequently, we have used colors to identify the degree of meeting a capability. Additionally, in many cases we have added comments to further explain ratings.

Webtrends led this market for many years but lost ground to Omniture (now Adobe) SiteCatalyst starting around 2005. While Webtrends has been playing catch-up, their products still lag behind Adobe. The improvement in the Webtrends UI has been tremendous, but the underlying architecture and reports remain largely unchanged. SiteCatalyst now enjoys an 84% market share for web analytics hosted services. Webtrends is also offered as installed software for clients wanting to control location of collected data, so this analysis includes both options from Webtrends.

Google Analytics continues to gain new customers. Not only because it’s free, but also because it’s easy to implement and delivers good functionality. Some people contend that Google Analytics is just as functional as Webtrends and SiteCatalyst. Not true. Still, many clients don’t need greater power than what Google Analytics delivers, so for them it’s perfect. However, many clients do have requirements that go beyond Google Analytics and are willing to pay for that extra integration, data control, ad hoc reporting or unique visitor tracking that paid services can offer.

Price has not been considered as a factor in this comparison. Each vendor’s pricing model differs depending on a variety of factors and start at a minimum annual commitment of around $8,000. The cost comes down quickly as volumes increase. Google Analytics is free but often requires more professional service to accomplish the same analysis as can be done with SiteCatalyst and Webtrends.

Ultimately, we use web analytics to optimize web sites to ensure they deliver value, and we make necessary site changes as we learn deficiencies through our analysis. But that brings many other tools into the equation such as data warehousing, A/B testing tools, campaign management and so on. Consequently, part of our evaluation was to consider how well the three tools play with other vendors and how complete and integrated their offerings are when considering the entire infrastructure. We find that Adobe has done a much better job in these areas.

Analytics is not only about the data collection and analysis tools, but also the human resources available to use the tools and analyze the data. The traditional budgeting rule of thumb is 20% spent on the tool and 80% spent on human resources. In other words, a business with a cheap tool and powerful analyst will see much greater return on investment than with a powerful tool and cheap analyst.

This evaluation is likely not as comprehensive as some people might want, but we believe it provides valuable insight into the differences of each offering. As always we welcome your questions and feedback and will update the table as needed.

Click to view the Analytics Vendor Comparison