When picking a web analytics platform for your site, or as an investment opportunity, what questions should you be asking and which services lead the pack?
In an earlier post on 'Big Data: Picking a Horse' we discussed winners and stragglers in the Big Data space. Closely related is the burgeoning Web Analytics sector, which comprises companies dedicated to finding and analyzing value in data produced by and collected from websites.
Web analytics tools are used to monitor and measure a number of details about websites, such as their numbers of total visitors and unique visitors, how visitors arrived at sites (did they search, follow a link, enter a URL?), and what they did while on the site (for example the keywords they searched, links they clicked, and amount of time spent on specific pages or the site as a whole). In addition to this usage data, web analytics services can also monitor sites' functionality and alert administrators to potential issues regarding broken links, missing pages and other snafus.
When used diligently the information provided by web analytics can help administrators and developers streamline their sites and create better, more effective overall user experiences. Companies that aren't using web analytics for website maintenance and optimization are inexplicably sailing blindly, and are at an undeniable competitive disadvantage.
So naturally if you aren't already doing so, you will want to use a web analytics service or tool to monitor your website's performance on multiple dimensions. And you may have an interest in investing in this critical sector. So let's take a look at the current state of the industry to try to understand the players and products in this space.
The Web Analytics Market
The market today is saturated with companies offering subscription-based services to analyze and manage website data. Clicky, ClickTale, and Kissmetrics are a few such companies offering subscription-based web analytics tools for the start-up and small to-medium-sized business space.
For the power user, familiar software giants have entered the arena. Companies like IBM have been steadily acquiring smaller web and social media (a topic for another blog post) analytics companies and packaging their products to offer extremely powerful tools based on years of development of other industry-specific products. By integrating their existing software with new analytics tools, companies like IBM, Adobe and Oracle have capitalized on the power of these tools. There are also a host of free, open-source applications from companies like Google (Google Analytics), Open Web Analytics and Piwik that are enabling administrators of smaller startup company websites to understand how their customers use their site and even make predictions for future use and expansion. To further explore the Web Analytics industry use the link at the bottom of this page to access our public DataFox watchlist.
The comparative trajectory of leading web analytics platforms [from our watchlist]:
If you have decided to harness the power of web analytics for your site and have an understanding of the current market, there are a few questions you should ask to help you decide which tool or service is right for your site....
What information are you most interested in? And what do you want to measure? It is important to asses the needs of your company so that you can pick a tool that isn’t too powerful (read: overwhelming) for your intended application while still receiving relevant, timely data. After you have pinpointed what you intend to measure, decide which form of web analytics tool is right for your company. If you have a large IT department and the ability to implement software updates then consider a software package to monitor your site. This option allows your team to customize the product to your specific needs and based on your current and projected hardware capabilities. On the other hand, if you currently utilize ASP-based solutions within your organization and feel comfortable expanding its use on your site, you can use an ASP-based web analytics tool.
Next consider ease-of-use, customer support, scalability, access to source code, training, and company history. These are all important issues to consider when implementing any new type of software, and the same holds true for Web Analytics.
The following watchlist includes some of the leaders in the Web Analytics sector. Check back for an in-depth discussion on Social Media Analytics, a branch of Web Analytics with the potential for high near-term growth.
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