Web analytics is an integral part of any business intelligence portfolio and cannot be avoided in any decision-making phase. But it is perhaps most discussed among online marketers, who require it in order to make the best sales and marketing decisions.
These are often the same users who face a decision between paying for Web analytics tools and using free ones.
Since the time long ago when the release of the free Google Analytics tool created immense noise, significant differences between paid and free tools have emerged.
The biggest advantage of paid Web analytics solutions is the extensive support offered in terms of training, consultancy, and expert advice in measuring every aspect of your Website. Also, free tools normally just show trends and a summary-based view of the data. With paid analytics, it is possible to have much more graphical information, including a summary of data by date presented in dashboards.
The choice of free or paid depends on the intensity of your business. A personal blog or a nonprofit Website might be easily integrated with free Web analytics tools, such as Google’s or those available from BBClone, FireStats, 4Q, Grape Web Statistics, JAWStats, MochiBot, Piwik, Snoop, Woopra, Yahoo! Web Analytics, to name a few.
Free tools like these may well be sufficient for small and medium-sized businesses. And even for a large enterprise, free tools can act as prototypes to showcase the power and importance of eventually opting for paid Web analytics.
A corporate or enterprise Website, in contrast, may require data that can only be furnished by a paid Web analytics solution, such as those available from Clickstream, Clicky, Coremetrics, Lyris (formerly ClickTracks), Mint, Omniture, Unica, or WebTrends, to name a few.
Paid-for Website analytics from suppliers like these will help firms answer queries like the following:
- Which keyword(s) or referral source is giving me the best sales activity?
- Which geography is giving the best clicks and sales?
- Is organic search working well for me? Or is it the inorganic search giving more leads? (Note: Organic search refers results that appear automatically for free; inorganic search results are linked directly to ads or sponsored links.)
- Which is my best online marketing campaign?
- Who are my visitors in terms of geography, age, browsers, etc.?
- What areas of my Website are visitors most interested in?
These reports aren’t the end of what can be done with Website analytics. All the Web intelligence and insights drawn from these tools fall into the area of business intelligence. To be specific, I would call it Website business intelligence.
Users can create spreadsheets and presentations to showcase Website business intelligence. But suppliers offer help here, too. IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), for example, has partnered with WebTrends to deliver Web analytics through IBM’s WebSphere Portal Software, a corporate BI management and reporting system.
Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) and SAS Institute Inc. are in the Web business intelligence area, too: Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems has added the Sun Web Analytics Solution to Oracle’s kitty. And SAS has its own Web analystics tool.
The growing popularity of Web analytics tools is a clear indication of how important it is for any businesses to extract Web intelligence to optimize the user experience on corporate sites. Only Web analytics can help optimize online marketing campaigns while contributing valuable detail to business intelligence.
— Meer Irfan Ali is a search business analyst and strategist in business intelligence and decision support at Fidelity Business Services India Pvt. Ltd.