Watching the Web Watchers

This article originally appeared in the February 2010 edition on the Marketing GPS Newsletter. This article was co-authored by Tom McClintock and Kathleen McBride.

Special Invitation:  The authors invite you to join them for a full discussion of this topic at “How Google Analytics is Turning the Webstats World and Your Site Upside-Down” at ASAE’s Technology Conference and Expo 2010. The session will be on Friday afternoon, February 12, from 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Conference cancelled due to snow.

In November 2005 the web analytics industry, then valued by Forrester Research at approximately $350 million, was turned upside-down when Google decided to offer its very robust Google Analytics free of charge. Four years later, Google Analytics is now the dominant provider in the industry, despite privacy concerns due to Google’s access to individual web site data. Fee-based software providers led by WebtrendsUnica’s Netracker and Lyris HQ (formerly Clicktracks), which were considered the gold standard for tracking, are left to offer information and data that Google Analytics fails to cover. Google Analytics’ growth trend is expected to continue as multiple surveys indicate that organizations are increasingly open to alternatives to fee-based web analytics software.

Despite an enormous and growing volume of clickstream data, millions of investment dollars, training and over ten years of practice, few organizations truly leverage the information. In fact, research indicates that approximately 60%–70% of analytics users employ clickstream data only for basic Web site management activities. [1]

Adding to this complexity are factors that discourage information sharing, hindering the ability of software users to pool knowledge and benefit from collective experience. Analytics software is necessarily complex: it sorts through large data sets, relying on abstract theories to translate millions of tiny, disparate inputs into behavior patterns of a complete market segment. Analytics software is a proverbial “black box.”

But as web analytics is expected to rise to nearly a billion dollar industry by 2014 [2], accurate assessment and clear explanation becomes more important than ever, and that’s the promise of each of the top software providers. Having completed a cutting-edge website redesign, Volunteers of America, partnering with Syscom Services and NSI Partners has looked into the top ways of harnessing today’s—and tomorrow’s—web statistics and finds that the answer is not so much in the software itself but in the goals, workflows and accountability of the staff using it.

After all, the most ingenious algorithm executed by the most elegant code is no match for a well-orchestrated, goal-driven team. Organizations may do better over time by investing fewer resources in software and more in defining business objectives, training and infrastructure to implement needed website changes.

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    1. Creese, G. E-channel Awareness: Usage, Satisfaction, and Buying Intentions.White Paper, Aberdeen Group, 2003; www.aberdeen.com, quoted in “Current Trends in Web Data Analysis” in Communications of the ACM, Volume 49, Issue 11 (November 2006), pp 86 – 87.
    2. John Lovett, Forrester Research, US Web Analytics Forecast, 2008 To 2014, Executive Summary.

Michael is responsible for client SEO work, reporting, FB ads, and web hosting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Michael received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management Information Systems from Liberty University, and worked at the school’s Network Operations Center. Michael resides in Lynchburg, VA, with his wife, Megan. His hobbies include gaming, watching Atlanta Falcons football, and reading.

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About NSI Partners

A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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