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Analytics Platforms: A Quick Comparison

20 November 2013 BY

There’s no denying the fact that digital marketing depends greatly on the use of advanced web analytics to gather accurate intelligence. Sifting through reams of data to gain insights into consumer behaviour can potentially catapult you from marginal profitability to the top of your niche overnight. Nowadays, there’s no shortage of excellent options to choose from when hunting for a quality analytics provider, even if the de facto standard tends to be the offering from our old friends at Google.

That being said, selecting a proper solution that adequately meets any given business’s is more important than you might think. Here’s a quick rundown of half a dozen of the best platforms worthy of consideration.

Google Analytics

analytics-screenshot-google

Features & Functionality
Considered the grand daddy of web analytics by more than a few, Google Analytics brings a lot to the table. Launched in 2005 as a re-branding of Urchin on Demand, it was fleshed out with technology acquired from Adaptive Path’s Measure Map in 2006. Google Analytics allows users to aggregate data, sub-group results based on a wide variety of filters, monitor up to 10 million page views per month for free and perform a variety of A/B tests using exact metrics. Using the well-documented Google Analytics APIs for 3rd-party app integration allows for a high degree of customisation.

Advantages & Disadvantages
Google Analytics’ widespread popularity is largely the result of it being free, full-featured and fairly accurate. Results come in within 24 hours, which is good enough for most. In addition, Google Analytics allows users to benchmark their results against those of competing analytics programs to see which is tool is the right one for a job. If you need more analytics power than the free version can deliver, enterprise solutions are available for a (hefty) price. Downsides to using Google Analytics are few and far between, although the fact that you’re giving all of your data to Google is more than enough to make lots of people start to bust out the tinfoil hats.

Performance, Price & Value
Considering it’s free, Google Analytics is immensely powerful thanks to a wealth of built in functionality, including the likes of in-page analytics, event tracking and multi-channel funnels. Results are fast, accurate and easy to customise to suit your needs. Considering the fact that it’s free to use for all but the largest of businesses, it’s tough to compete with in the value department. Even if it weren’t offered free of charge, knowing that Google’s considerable resources are backing up an analytics product is probably reason enough to give it a chance. Thanks to in-depth reporting of PPC and SEO metrics (although we all know what’s happening with keyword data for the latter), it’s a highly useful tool for any business looking to get going with web analytics.

KISSmetrics

analytics-screenshot-kiss

Features & Functionality
Another enticing analytics solution is KISSmetrics, a paid service that puts the focus squarely on tracking individuals rather than generic stats like bounce rates. The big selling point of KISSmetrics is its real-time reporting as well as offering bells and whistles like A/B testing, 3rd-party CRM software integration, email marketing and the ability to monitor multiple channels from one unified interface. Data-tracking caps for the Starter, Basic and Professional plans come in at 500,000, 1 million and 1 million+ events per month, respectively.

Advantages & Disadvantages
On the one hand, KISSmetrics provides an easy and intuitive way for smaller businesses to track consumers as they travel through the buying cycle. More importantly, it tracks what potential customers do in real time when interacting with your web properties. Events-based tracking allows users to filter out noise and identify a signal. KISSmetrics also boasts great support via documentation as well as email, tickets and phone-based assistance which is a good job as there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to making sure everything is set up properly.

Performance, Price & Value
Thanks to real-time reporting and an events-based approach to analytics, KISSmetrics manages to satisfy the requirements of most businesses looking to improve their e-commerce bottom lines. For those who can’t afford to wait a day for results, real-time reporting is a godsend. KISSmetrics also allows you to track individual users across a range of devices to get a clearer picture of activity. That ease of use comes at a price, however. Monthly plans start at $150 for the Starter package while Basic and Professional plans will cost $250 and $500, respectively. All plans boast unlimited consumer tracking regardless of events.

Clicky

analytics-screenshot-clicky

Features & Functionality
Long respected for its surprisingly full feature set, Clicky packs enough functionality to appeal to a broad spectrum of users. Like KISSmetrics, Clicky is all about individual user tracking. It uses exact metrics to allow customers to perform A/B tests, investigate Google Search rankings, analyse links and generate heatmaps based on said data. Available for free for tracking single sites with up to 3,000 page views per month, you’ll need to sign up for a paid version to track up to 30 goals. Assistance is available through forums, email support and a ticket system.

Advantages & Disadvantages
The biggest selling point of Clicky’s service is affordable real-time data tracking. Add to that a roster of capabilities comparable to Google Analytics and you’ve got one powerful analytics engine. In addition, it allows you to track individual users to compile a history of behaviour and interaction with your web properties. The UI isn’t quite as slick as those of its more notable competitors, though it’s not impossible to wrap your head around with a little effort. Clicky also publishes a fairly versatile iOS app as well as a generic mobile website for Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone users.

Performance, Price & Value
Considering its real-time reporting and decent price points, Clicky makes for a compelling alternative to Google Analytics. Their Pro plan costs $9.99 per month and supports 10 sites with a total of 30,000 page views. The Pro Platinum plan will cost you $19.99 per month and supports 30 sites with a total of 100,000 page views. Alternatively, a Custom plan can be created that supports up to 1,000 sites and upwards of 1 million page views. Ultimately, Clicky is a good solution for SMBs who need accurate reporting on a budget.

Moz Analytics

analytics-screenshot-moz

Features & Functionality
Considered by many to be one of the best all-inclusive SEO tools on the market, Moz recently launched their analytics option. In addition to reporting on typical performance metrics like bounce rates, total page views and keyword popularity, it also allows you to create striking reports from the results. Moz pulls in data from multiple sources, including their own rank tracking, allowing users to form a more complete picture of the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. On-page performance metrics are highlighted in detail and suggestions on how to improve conversion rates are provided.

Advantages & Disadvantages
Basically, Moz Analytics takes much of what made the ‘old’ SEOmoz so highly respected, adds a few new features and refines the experience. It allows users to grade URLs based on a variety of metrics, making it a great way to check up on the competition. Displaying scores for things like Page Authority, Page MozRank and Page MozTrust in addition to traditional metrics like bounce rates, time-on-site and search volumes, Moz leaves few stones unturned. That being said it’s very much in its infancy and I’ve personally found some of the current functionality to be slightly limited. New and enhanced features are being rolled out though so it’s definitely one to watch.

Performance, Price & Value
Moz more than holds its own against its rivals in terms of performance. It can track rankings for potentially hundreds of keywords per campaign. Pricing is quite competitive considering the plethora of capabilities you’ll get with a monthly plan. The Standard package costs $99 per month and provides reporting for 5 campaigns and up to 50,000 crawled pages. The more robust Large plan provides support for 25 campaigns and 250,000 crawled pages. Thanks to robust integrated tools such as On-Page Grader, Keyword Analysis, GetListed and Open Site Explorer, it’s a fantastic deal for the money.

Piwik

analytics-screenshot-piwik

Features & Functionality
If you’re looking for a free analytics tool that’s infinitely configurable, Piwik is an intriguing choice. This Open Source analytics tool can keep tabs on an unlimited number of campaigns since you’ll be hosting it on your own server. It draws data from hundreds of search engines, boasts A/B and multi-variate testing capabilities, can import data from Google Analytics and features up-to-the-minute results in real time. Location-based visitor data reported by Piwik will tell you everything you need to know about your web traffic including time-on-site, pages per visit and repeat visit per user.

Advantages & Disadvantages
The most common reason why many choose Piwik over options like Google Analytics is its opensource heritage. With Piwik, you own and control your data. Even better, the platform doesn’t cost a dime. Filtering by geographic region is robust and responsive. In addition, Piwik can track users on systems that don’t have Javascript enabled. For international users, it conforms with the European Union’s cookie laws. On the flip side, hosting costs can be surprisingly high depending on how many campaigns you need to track. Furthermore, you’ll get a lot of results that include “Keyword not defined”, though that’s a problem plaguing everyone thanks to recent Google changes.

Performance, Price & Value
Written in PHP, Piwik isn’t quite as efficient as competing options, which factors into the value proposition somewhat since it’s a self-hosted program. Even so, it’s tough to beat Piwik when it comes to overall cost. One thing you’ll need to consider is how much time you can afford to spend configuring the software to meet your needs. How much your time is worth and how quickly you can get up to speed with the platform will dictate whether or not Piwik is a sound choice. For seasoned analytics professionals, this shouldn’t be that big of a challenge.

StatCounter

analytics-screenshot-statcounter

Features & Functionality
Available in free and paid versions, StatCounter has been providing millions of customers with reliable, real-time analytics monitoring since 2006. Like most analytics suites, it covers all the basics such as traffic volume, bounce rates and time-on-site that you’d expect at this point. Beyond generic stats, StatCounter provides users with the ability to examine numbers for Popular Pages, Entry Pages and Exit Pages. In addition, it gives users the ability to “Drill Down” into user-specific data to see where traffic is originating as well as which keywords are being used within queries.

Advantages & Disadvantages
Regardless of the specific plan you opt for with StatCounter, you’ll get your results quickly thanks to real-time reporting. Individual user tracking with StatCounter is as good as any other analytics program you’ll find for the money. Even more important to many novices and SMBs is the fact that it’s incredibly easy to set up and works with pretty much every popular CMS on the market. The free plan offers a healthy page view cap at 250,000 per month, though you’ll only be able to see detailed statistics on 500 of them at a time due to logging caps.

Performance, Price & Value
Reasonably accurate and fast for a real-time analytics service, StatCounter gives consumers a fair amount of choice in terms of pricing. They don’t force you to choose between a handful of rigid plans like many competing providers. For $5 per month, you’ll get 500,000 page views and logging for 5,000 of them. If you need to tackle a lot of data, $119 per month gets you 60 million page views and logging space for 1,000,000 of them. If you don’t mind exporting your results once in awhile, it’s a terrific bargain.

Rubber, Meet Road

Sooner or later, you’ll need to make a decision as to which analytics program is right for you. For a good 50% of SMBs out there, Google Analytics or Clicky will deliver everything you need for free. Businesses that need something a bit more precise should opt for Kissmetrics. If cheap real-time reporting is a must, StatCounter is a good option. In any event, the platforms profiled here are some of the best available and each is an excellent choice in its own right – the key is to working out what’s best for you and, most importantly, using it consistently.

AUTHORED BY:
h

Matt is the Director of Hidden Pixel - a UK based agency offering SEO and Social Media campaigns to businesses of all shapes and sizes. He's also a dog lover, self confessed geek, and loves motorsport.
  • John Abbott

    Perhaps visual analytics tools like Decibel Insight should be in this list as well ? The ability to see ALL the data along with the most comprehensive and modern suite of heatmaps available seems compelling ?

  • Richard

    Well written article. I however have to disagree about your evaluation of google and data with this sentence: “the fact that you’re giving all of your data to Google is more than
    enough to make lots of people start to bust out the tinfoil hats”. Recently it has become less paranoia, and more sound business sense – don’t give data away about your customers and acquisition. Especially to an advertising “gatekeeper” like google who profits at your expense.

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