Analytics is a massive market, and Google Analytics is in many senses the market leader. It’s free, relatively easy to install, and has a big trusted brand behind it. It has, in many peoples eyes, been neglected. To understand why you need to think about the role Analytics plays for Google. Analytics supports and drives Adwords. The majority of the recent additions to the software have been, in my opinion, to satisfy larger companies with many large websites. In short they’re looking after their big spenders. This is what is known as the Street Performer Protocol. He who pays the piper gets to call the tune. The problem is that, in the world of web apps, and start-ups, we don’t like the tune we’re hearing. So many start-ups are writing new tunes. The world of web analytics is changing.
A new era needs new products
Google Analytics and others like it were designed for a time when page views and visitors were all that mattered. For some sites this is still the case. Every graph in G.A. defaults to visitors and views. Features like Goals, Events, Conversion rates have been baked on rather than built in, and this leaves the product vulnerable in certain areas. In addition Google Analytics hasn’t coped well with the growth of social networks. Telling me that twitter.com sent me thousands of visits is no longer enough, especially compared with how others are doing it. Three main areas were G.A. is vulnerable are loosely as follows…
- Real Time: G.A. can’t compete here due to the scale of their product. I’d guess that any analytics tool will have eventually have this problem. It’s one of those “nice problems to have“). No doubt Google will get it working eventually, but right now the Contrast blog could be on fire with links from all the top sites and it’ll be 6 hours before the stats catch up.
- Useful referral information: G.A. struggles with proper referral tracking, and still requires customization to get the real details. For example, show me the last 50 different people to link to my site, sorted by how many new visitors they sent. In addition G.A. is painfully unaware that often companies have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in and lacks the ability to join the dots.
- Blogalytics: G.A. can’t tell the different between a site and a blog. Despite also owning Feedburner, they don’t do anything with subscriber information. Ideally a blog analytics tool would show you, at-a-glance, your popular posts, how many new subscribers, tweets, retweets, likes, trackbacks etc. What posts were popular on what networks, with what people, all those key questions. Sidenote: I still believe there is an opportunity here, even after researching for this post.
It’s clear that as I describe these areas, they’re not something that can easily be dropped into Analytics as yet another area to navigate. Nor should they be. They’re not for everyone. Goolge Analytics is evolving to compete with Omniture, not Mint, which makes sense when you consider their strategy.
For these reasons I believe there’s a new age of analytics tools upon us. Lets look at some of the competitors in the area. (Note if you’d like yours listed here, please let me know, des at contrast dot ie)
Event Driven Analytics
The idea that user actions are more interesting that the amount of pages loaded in has caught on. Every worthwhile analytics tool now supports user identified actions, helping you track areas of interest that don’t have their html file.
Chart.io is offering a similar type of business intellgence focussed more on end result and less on interactions. Chart.io captures the end goal very well, by looking at your database and visualising the tables. If you want to see how sign-ups are doing, just point it at the users table and chart it by date. This means that business owners can get the data they want without hassling anyone else in the process. The trade off here is that chart.io doesn’t capture all the interesting little events (i.e. pause, play, show, hide, etc) along the way, but doesn’t require that you add tagging to your code. Mixpanel can capture everything, but at the cost of inserting Javscript everywhere. It’s quite possible a mixture of both tools is most valuable.
Google Analytics is blissfully unaware that a website is just one aspect of a companies online presence. Many aggregation tools are being built to tackle this. The main argument being “APIs let us pull numbers from everywhere, lets put them in one place”. There are a few interesting ones…
Geckoboard aims to be a slick executive dashboard (leaving me wondering was it named after Gordon Gecko). Like most in the area Geckboard lets you pull in all sorts of stats set conditions for how they’re displayed.
Statsmix takes a lighter visual approach in the same area. Less used for a wall mounted dashboard, and quite good for arranging many views of your companies online presence.
Leftronic is laser focussed on big dashboards for big screens. This is a YC company, who have yet to open up their application. This style of display is ideal as information radiators, scattered throughout large companies.
Real Time Data
Chartbeat, HummingBird, GoSquared and LuckyOrange are all chasing the realtime hotness. I’ve spoken before about why real-time isn’t the holy grail for everyone, but these products are powerful, well designed, and well positioned. I should point out that at time of writing, Hummingbird is not yet a product, it’s an impressive technology demo.
Chartbeat, features a visually compelling and responsive dashboard with some interesting choices of visualisations, ranging from the innovative to the downright odd.
Hummingbird is simply the most responsive live data I’ve ever seen in an analytics tool. I expect that Hummingbird itself will form part of an analytics package, live data by itself isn’t really a product.
GoSquared, offers excellent live referrer analysis, and a wonderful map view for seeing how quickly something like a tweet spreads. It’s fascinating to see how popularity spreads by watching pins drop on the map.
LuckyOrange, is a comprehensive analytics package offering everything from heatmaps to mouse movement replays. Curiously, although in keeping with the “real time” vibe a livechat package is also included.
Some start-ups are based purely on the premise that businesses use social networks for marketing, and they need help with that. That’s a solid premise, and there are many in the area.
Crowdbooster offers insight into how to use social media to make as much noise as possible. Ordinarily these “leverage your influence” tend to miss the point of social media, however Paul Graham swears by this one so it is definitely worth a look.
People, not page views is the mantra of Kontagent, and they offer tools for measuring virality, engagement, loyalty, events, along with all the standard metrics you’d expect. Kontagent is large piece of software closer to the enterprise than most in this list. With $5.5 million in funding, it’s unsurprising their offering is vast.
Finally, some folks are looking at Google analytics and simply thinking “What a mess“. There is much be gained by simply cleaning up web analytics presentation so that it’s understandable by all. Whilst most of these apps are also real-time, it’s their simplicity and presentation of information that sets them apart.
From what little I’ve seen of Gauges, it is an impeccably clean design, and seems to be carrying on from where Sean Inman’s Mint left off. I’ve yet to register an account and gather real data so I can’t offer much in terms of analysis. Coming from OrderedList I expect Gauges to be an impressive product as it grows.
Reinvigorate offers attractive design, real time analytics, and a clean interface. At $20 per month this is a great offering, and I hope to see it grow.
Clicky emphasizes clean straight forward analysis of the important information, at times the interface reminds me of G.A. but with the junk turned off, but that’s not to say it’s a minimal product. An impressive feature set offers rare extras such as traffic & referral alerts, Twitter analytics, goal tracking and more. Used by 37Signals amongst others.
Unsurprisingly there are many more tools out there, some of which I was aware of, some are brand new. The following are included without further comment as I don’t have time to sign-up, connect, wait and review them all
Woopra offers real-time analytics with live chat chat.
A very seductive screenshot, promising lots, from Webtrends 10 (launching in April)
Jaxified offers real-time social analytics for blogs.
Kissmetrics focuses heavily on events, funnels, user paths, rather than raw page views.
W3Counter has been reborn as an impressive web analytics tool.
Ducksboard is a dashboard display aggregation, currently in beta.
Piwik (Open source)
Piwik is a real time open source (GPL) web analytics package
OpenWebAnalytics (Open souce)
OpenWebAnalytics is about as close to a GA clone as you can get, without having the finance of Google behind you.
The Future of Analytics
My money is on Google Analytics continuing to thrive, a $0 price tag does a lot for competitiveness. To support their charge to the enterprise, is a ream of partner products that sit atop GA, filling in the blanks on things like mobile interfaces, data visualisations etc.
I expect to see further evolution of domain specific products and I’m happy to see almost all of the above products are charging fees for the product, analytics is a costly business to be in, and the worst thing that could happen for the rest of us is that Google or Adobe buy out all the interesting tools. Speaking of which, Measuremap, RIP.