Google Analytics will it DOMINATE the analytics space?

This post over at iMediaconnection by Brandt Dainow has really resonated with me.

The premise is that Google Analytics is going to DOMINATE the web analytics business, and while I do not agree with every point, there are several VERY valid ones. One great point is this:

What Google has done is simply take every feature in every product on the market and put them all into one system, and then make it available for free.

Not EVERY feature, but most of the ones that matter and/or people care about are here and are EASY to get to. Today I have logged into the following analytics systems to extranet custom data for reports: • Omniture • Webtrends • NetTracker / NetInsight • Google Analytics

When I look at the data most of our clients need to make decisions, Google analytics gets 95% of them, and it is FREE! The hard part is do you want your data stored by a company who offers a service for free, will it always be free? What happens if Google starts looking for cost cutting measures and abandons improvements on the analytics platform? Where does that leave you? Those questions don't scare me though.

While those are a few minor questions, when I look at the man & woman hours spent on licensing and implementation of the web analytics tools above, then log into Google analytics as get everything I need, it really makes me scratch my head.

Why would I pay 10-20k for data I can get for free?

I don't see why most companies (well maybe except for the BIG publishers and retailers) wouldn't first start with Google Analytics and see if they are able to get the information that they need to make good decisions. Guess what, if you find that Google Analytics doesn't get you the information you seek, then you now have checklist of things to ask the next vendor, instead of buying blind.

The web analytics buyer can also see if the 5% reporting they get through a different tool is worth the costs. The value is NEVER in the tool, it is in the interpretation of the tool. As Brandt sees, consulting & interpreting the data and helping clients trim costs or grow is where the value is, whatever tools give me the insights I need and am confident in at the best cost is the one I will use.

Marketingpilgrim author Jordan McCollum summarizes a great study done by web analytics demystified titled “ The Problem with Free Analytics” I think the issue with this approach is a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. 1 - People in general have a VERY hard time believing FREE (or cheap) can be as good as paid:

a. Ask your teenager to wear Levi jeans, they'll say NO WAY! Take the same jeans and throw Diesel, AG, or Lucky on them and you've made a best friend. Same jeans, different price point.

2 - People who are paying big sums of $$ have an incentive to discount free tools so their bosses don't ask them why they are spending real money on a tool that could get them the same info for little cost.

3 - One of the take aways that threw me a bit was: “There appears to be a very strong correlation between a lack of investment in web analytics technology and a sub-optimal use of web analytics.”

a. Remember how lack of investment used to work for perception of web technologies. Apache was FREE, Mysql was FREE, Linux FREE, PHP was FREE and people tried time and time again to make us think that “lack of investment” equated to sub-optimal performance, heck they still do. Yet IBM is has over 15,000 Linux support agreements, yes, the value is in support and people, not always in the hardware.

b. I may be one of the few here, but I think putting me in a Nascar doesn't make me a good Nascar driver in the same way that buying an expensive web analytics tool doesn't make someone a good web analyst.

c. Umm....FIREFOX?

At the end of the day web analytics is a TOOL. While I am NOT one of those people who looks at a car as just a way to get from point A to point B, I know a lot of folks who do. And to those folks the bells and whistles of the New BMW 335 just don't resonate when they are trying to get from point A to Point B. I challenge more of you to stop thinking that the company that posts the most whitepapers and has the most user conferences is the BEST SOLUTION for your web analytics needs. Start your web analytics search by getting a better grasp on what you need to know about your site to make good decisions then start seeking out the right match based on your needs. Google Analytics is not for everyone, but shouldn't you make that judgment based on what your needs are and not on some marketing brochure or whitepaper?

Here are a couple of other recommended resources on the differences between web analytics systems:

SEO Brien's web analytics comparison (Resource no longer exists)

Web analytics shootout

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President