For years, we have all pined over the lack of a comprehensive comparison of analytics platforms from Omniture’s SiteCatalyst, Coremetrics, Visual Sciences’ Hitbox (previously WebSideStory), and Google. Online marketers and web designers have to sit through cumbersome sales pitches and wade through confusing RFPs to decipher which solution is best for them.
No more I say!
Months ago, SEOMoz posted a request for assistance with just such a comparison and they have yet to complete their report so, most importantly, understand that this is no small task. I encourage comments, opinions, and criticisms as my experiences are dated and incomplete. You’ll notice in particular that I’m a little in the dark on Coremetrics so I’m depending on you to help transform this into an accurate report.
Like the previous, highly scientific comparison I’ve done here, this may not be well formated as this is as much a random walk along with my train of thought as it is a structured opinion. As such, you can skip ahead to my very brief conclusion here or brave on! To organize it some way, I’ve been thinking about only the following considerations: Setup & Installation and Features.
Setup & Installation
Expect setup with Omniture, Coremetrics, and Hitbox to take 4-6 weeks. Google is notably faster if tracking only a single domain: add the script to your pages and you’re done. You have no options to consider and are only left with setting up a dashboard of pre-existing reports.
- Omniture – Analytics related to the hierarcy of the site depend on the tags. You have to plan ahead recognizing that the hierarchy of your site and the comparisons you’d like to draw between content are not necessarily the same thing. You MUST clearly organize and structure your content in a such a way that you expect to ask questions. This is best and already explained in this discussion of paid search structure so give that a read and you’ll understand how important this is.
- Coremetrics – I’m not certain so this is open for feedback.
- Hitbox – Same drawbacks as Omniture.
- Google – Unless tracking multiple domains, you have one tag to apply to all pages.
Let’s go with a list:
- Web based interface: ALL
- Tiered access and permissions: Omniture and Hitbox (Google and, I think, Coremetrics are very limited, really only to admin access or not)
- Support for multiple domains: ALL though setup with Google is challenging
- Dashboards: ALL
- Demographics: Omniture, Coremetrics, Hitbox
- Geo reporting: ALL
- Clickstream: ALL though Google is limited and the tagging considerations I mentioned above come into play here
- Email and subscriptions: Omniture, Hitbox, and Google it has annoying bugs
- Export to excel: ALL (Hitbox is known to have the most flexibility)
- Tracking of actions (registrations, conversions, posts): Omniture seems to have more options/capabilities, Coremetrics, Hitbox (Google has very limited capabilities: it does work well for conversions)
- Site overlays (“heatmap” though it isn’t really a heatmap but a click map): ALL
It should be noted that Omniture can be packaged with Search Center which is an exceptional paid search bid management tool and a wonderful enhancement to search analytics.
Clearly, the two topics I avoided are costs and accuracy. Well known amongst those of us that have used web analytics is that no two platforms provide the same answers. An article worth reading which helps explain the issue of accuracy is Bart Gibby’s Omniture SiteCatalyst vs. Google Analytics while StoneTemple Consulting has a deeper review with their 2007 Web Analytics Shootout.
I’m not touching costs other than to remind you that Google is free.
Okay… I’ll gently touch it. Hitbox has always struck me as a more complete package with reports others provide as incremental and optional already setup; with that, and the included training, expect to pay more, upwards of $100k per year. Omniture is a good example of the opposite of Hitbox, initial costs are much lower as you have to pay more for training and customized reports. Don’t be mislead that their costs seem lower, at $25-$50k per year you are getting a bare bones installation and very limited support.
In all cases your costs will depend on your needs and the size of your organization and site.
- Google Analytics – FREE goes a long way and it has just about everything you might want. Be sure to read this.
- Hitbox – A more complete package with support and training that comes at a price.
- Omniture – The enterprise solution that understands the value in pitching the low cost solution: You get what you pay for which isn’t a criticism but a compliment that Omniture can do more, but you have to pay for it.
- Coremetrics – You tell me.