Interview: Bill Gassman (Gartner) on Google Analytics
Bill Gassman from Gartner is one of those guys that just “gets” what we’re trying to do in the web and digital analytics industry. Perhaps because he’s been covering this space for nearly as long as I’ve been around, or perhaps because he has a deep business intelligence background and sees where all this is going. I dunno, but Bill gets it.
Recently Bill, who is incidentally coming to the 2009 X Change and leading a huddle on organizational issues and co-leading a huddle on technology with John Lovett from Forrester, published a short brief on Google Analytics that I thought really hit the nail on the head. Clear, honest, and fully taking the Enterprise into account, Bill’s report clarified a lot about how companies should be thinking about Google’s analytics solution.
Since I could not get permission to republish Bill’s report I did the next best thing — I came up with some questions and put them to the man himself. The following are my questions and Bill’s responses. Incidentally, if you want to follow-up on this interview Bill graciously said he would monitor the comments and respond there (so comment away!)
Or, you could just come to San Francisco on September 9, 10, and 11 and debate the goodness of Google Analytics with Bill in person.
Regarding your recent note on Google Analytics, can you characterize how the companies who are asking you about “free” analytics have changed in the last 12 months? Is any one thing driving that change, do you think?
Since Google Analytics improved last October, most client inquires about Web analytics touch on Google Analytics. That is why I published the note “Is Google Analytics Right for You?”. (Gartner account required to access) Marketing departments ask if it is all they need, purchasing agents wonder why they should spend money on commercial tools and corporate lawyers wonder about Google’s terms and conditions. The economy and budget constraints trigger the questions, but the major driver to Google is its simplicity. Many organizations do not have the processes in place to make use of the high-end products or have Web sites that do not need the sophistication they offer. They perceive Google Analytics as good enough and “free” is a tempting offer.
If Google asked you which three things were most important to add to their functional set to be considered “Enterprise” what would those three things be?
On the subject of “Enterprise-class” analytics … Google appears obsessed with this designation, regardless of their clear dominance from a deployment standpoint and the gains they’ve made within larger companies. What do you think is behind their obsession?
Google appears to be fighting an asymmetric war with IBM, Microsoft and others, investing relatively little yet forcing competitors to take notice. We see this especially for office applications and cloud computing. Google is looking for products that give them credibility at the enterprise level, and Google Analytics is part of that story. Other parts of the story include the recent news about the Chrome OS, Google Search Appliance, Google apps (premier edition), Geospatial Solutions, and Google App Engine for cloud computing. While many large organizations are using some or all of these offerings, with few exceptions, only the Search Appliance has gained strategic status. Google still brings in 97% of its revenue through advertising. They might be showing obsession because of where they want to be, but then again, they could be throwing up a smoke screen to keep the competition too busy to attack Google on advertising.
What do you consider the single greatest risk to Google’s analytics business in the next 24 months?
There is no threat to Google’s analytics business, because Web analytics is not their business, yet. Out of 72 million active Web servers (as reported by Netcraft), about 20,000 organizations pay for Web analytics. Google gives away Google Analytics so that millions of Web site owners can see the impact of AdWords and buy more Google ads. If there is a threat, it is Yahoo Web Analytics, who is using a similar tactic to go after Google’s advertising revenue.
Are you now, or do you see in the near future, a situation where as a Gartner analyst you are advising your clients to actively consider free solutions from Google and Yahoo alongside “traditional” web analytics solutions like Omniture, WebTrends, and Coremetrics?
Running two sets of tools on the same Web pages can be a recipe for trouble, because reported numbers will not match, reducing respect and therefore value for both tools. There are situations however where two tools make sense. It would be great if all organizations had the leadership, investment, skills and processes to use commercial tools to meet everyone’s needs, but for too many, it has not worked out that way. When analytic resources are limited, it is pragmatic to focus commercial tools on the high-value parts of the site and let other site stakeholders use free tools. Analysis is a critical part of a customer centric Web strategy. If some departments are happy with the free tools and a central group cannot support them, it is OK to let chaos reign until the business justification, investment and leadership are available to do things right.