Web Analytics Tools Comparison — Columbus WAW Recap Part 2
[Update: After getting some feedback from a Coremetrics expert and kicking around the content with a few other people, I rounded out the presentation a bit.]
In my last post, I recapped and posted the content from Bryan Cristina’s 10-minute presentation and discussion of campaign measurement planning at February’s Columbus Web Analytics Wednesday. For my part of the event, I tackled a comparison of the major web analytics platforms: Google Analytics, Adobe/Omniture Sitecatalyst, Webtrends, and, to a certain extent, Coremetrics. I only had five minutes to present, so I focussed in on just the base tools — not the various “warehouse” add-ons, not the A/B and MVT testing tools, etc.
Which Tool Is Best?
This question gets asked all the time. And, anyone who has been in the industry for more than six nanoseconds knows the answer: “It depends.” That’s not a very satisfying answer, but it’s true. Unfortunately, it’s also an easy answer — someone who knows Google Analytics inside and out, has never seen the letters “DCS,” referenced the funkily-spelled “eluminate” tag, or bristled at Microsoft usurping the word “Vista” for use with a crappy OS, can still confidently answer the, “Which tool is best?” question with, “It depends.”
And You’re Different?
The challenge is that very, very few people are truly fluent in more than a couple of web analytics tools. I’ve heard that a sign of fluency in a language is that you actually think in the language. Most of us in web analytics, I suspect, are not able to immediately slip into translated thought when it comes to a tool. So, here’s my self-evaluation of my web analytics tool fluency (with regards to the base tools offered — excluding add-ons for this assessment; since the add-ons bring a lot of power, that’s an important limitation to note):
- Basic page tag data capture mechanics — 95th percentile — this is actually something pretty important to have a good handle on when it comes to understanding one of the key differences between Sitecatalyst and other tools
- Google Analytics — 95th percentile — I’m not Brian Clifton or John Henson, but I’ve crafted some pretty slick implementations in some pretty tricky situations
- Adobe-iture Sitecatalyst — 80th percentile — I’m more recent to the Sitecatalyst world, but I’ve now gotten some implementations under my belt that leverage props, evars, correlations, subrelations, classifications, and even a crafty usage of the products variable
- Webtrends — 80th percentile — I cut my teeth on Webtrends and would have put myself in the 95th percentile five years ago, but my use of the tool has been limited of late; I’m actually surprised at how little some of the fundamentals change, but maybe I should
- Coremetrics — 25th percentile — I can navigate the interface, I’ve dived into the mechanics of the different tags, and I’ve done some basic implementation work; it’s just the nature of the client work I’ve done — my agency has Coremetrics expertise, and I’m hoping to rely on that to refine the presentation over time
So, there’s my full disclosure. I consider myself to be pretty impartial when it comes to tools (I don’t have much patience for people who claim impartiality and then exhibit a clear bias towards “their” tool — the one tool they know really well), but, who knows? It’s a fine line between “lack of bias” and “waffler.”
Any More Caveats Before You Get to the Content?
My goal with this exercise was to sink my teeth in a bit and see what I could clearly capture and explain as the differences. Ideally, this would also get to the, “So what?” question. What I’ve found, though, is that answering that question gets circular in a hurry: “If <something one tool shines as> is important to you, then you really should go with <that tool>.” Two examples:
- If enabling users to quickly segment traffic and view any number of reports by those segments is important, then you should consider Google Analytics (…or buying the “warehouse” add-on and plenty of seats for whatever other tool you go with)
- If being able to view clickpaths through content aggregated different ways is important, then you should consider Sitecatalyst
These are more of a “features”-oriented assessment, and they rely on a level of expertise with web analytics in order to assess their importance in a given situation. That makes it tough.
Any tool is only as good as its implementation and the analysts using it (see Avinash’s 10/90 rule!). Some tools are much trickier to implement and maintain than others — that trickiness brings a lot of analytics flexibility, so the implementation challenges have an upside. In the end, I’ll take any tool properly implemented and maintained over a tool I get to choose that is going to be poorly implemented.
Finally! The Comparison
I expect to continue to revisit this subject, but the presentation below is the first cut. You might want to click through to view it on SlideShare and click the “Speaker Notes” tab under the main slide area — I added those in after I presented to try to catch the highlights of what I spoke to on each slide.
Do you see anything I missed or with which you violently disagree? Let me know!