Analytics is one of the most essential and useful tools that you will use in an online marketing campaign. But there are many out there, all with their own advantages and supporters. The following are the three that I see as the most recognisable and popular in the market, and the reasons for and against using particular analytics tools. The one thing to remember is that what works for one person mightn’t be suitable for another. Not all analytics tools are created evenly so it’s important to make sure you pick the one that works for you, not just the one that offers it all, because if you don’t use all the functionality, why are you paying for it?
Sitecore Online Marketing Suite v Web Trends v Google Analytics
The first thing to understand about these analytics tools is that they are all very useful and effective products. Saying this there are reasons why certain analytics tracking tools are used for particular applications over others.
Sitecore Online Marketing Suite
Sitecore analytics, like web trends have one major advantage over Google analytics in providing the most accurate data possible, because they operate off the server side of the site. This means that it can get exact data on the number of times a page was viewed, track individual users in their use of the sight and be to the minute up-to-date.
Sitecore also offers a number of features including A/B multivariate testing and profile creation of site visitors based off browsing behavior, IP and data collected in forms and survey submissions etc. And while these are all excellent features, the majority of these are simulated and replicated in some form or another in other Analytics tools.
The major disadvantage of Sitecore is that it costs money, not only to use the online marketing suite, but also to train users in how to efficiently use the suite of tools. To derive the most useful data possible without getting overwhelmed by the information provided to them can be a difficult task and teaching users how to understand and correctly utilize the system can be costly in itself.
Similar to the Sitecore online marketing suite, Web Trends provides a server side analytics experience. One ability that Web Trends is able to offer is providing individual custom reports without allowing access to the overall analytics of the site. This is very handy for situations where you need only specific reports provided to a user i.e. shareholders.
Again the major disadvantage of Web Trends, like Sitecore is that it is a paid service. If the service is only used properly by a very limited number of users, this can quickly become a waste of money, especially if it isn’t used to its full potential with the tracking of individual users and sessions, and instead used to derive top line results. If however careful analysis of the analytics is done regularly then it can be a very powerful tool to utilize.
Google analytics is free analytics tool for deriving analytics from websites. Its greatest advantages lie in the facts that it is a very powerful service, packing the majority of the features offered in paid services/suites, but is free; added to the fact that it operates through Google and thus is able to synchronize throughout its other services including Adwords, and has a large amount of support available online. Google Analytics is also the easiest to use out of the analytics tools, with an intuitive and familiar interface that makes it very easy, even for first time users to gain the insights they require.
There are however a few disadvantages over paid services that need to be considered. For one Google Analytics isn’t a server side operation, and thus isn’t always perfectly accurate (though will be very close) with its results.
This also poses issues in being able to track all users as it becomes possible for users to disable tracking of their visit to the website. Google Analytics also abides by Google’s privacy concerns outlined in its terms of service, and thus can’t aggregate personally identifiable information i.e. content entered into form fields.
All of these products offer very powerful analytics tools with the major defining points being; the level of detail that is required, the usability of the analytics tool and the cost.
For the majority of users and organizations, Google Analytics will provide everything that they would require as far as these points are concerned, offering a high level of detail (just not to the level that others can provide), in an interface that is simple to use, and thus are more likely to get people using it, and it’s free!
If the benefits of a server side analytics tool are essential, then the cost in both using the system, as well as the cost of analyzing the data by someone who is able to truly break it down to a granular level, can be justified.
*** One thing that should be noted when choosing an analytics system is that from experience operating more than one, side by side on a website is never a good idea. This often leads to codes sending mixed messages to the analytics systems that can create false information. It is therefore HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that only one analytics tool implemented and used.