I find it interesting how misinformation can widely spread and at times remain uncontested. You might have seen a recent webinar and a guide by Omniture about “The Cost of Free” and the analogy of “Free analytics tools are much like free puppies” and that “free can turn into a lot of responsibility!” Well, while the analogy is cute, the premise and the details are misleading.

The problems with Omniture’s argument are that they are irrelevant and out-of-sync with the challenges that exist in the web analytics industry. When was the last time technology/features were the main issue in analytics? Also, the argument of cost is extremely misleading. So what if a Google Analytics solution isn’t free? That plain and simple ignores the fact that Omniture’s solution is priced well above what a Google Analytics “total package” would cost. When you criticize your competitor for a point that you’re not particularly strong at yourself, the argument loses all credibility and respect.

The biggest challenge facing all of us in the web analytics industry has little to do with the tool; the real challenge is creating an analytics culture. Getting the right people with the right processes to think “measure, analyze, take action” is way more meaningful. Google Analytics is more capable of facilitating this because:

  • Google Analytics allows you to stretch your marketing dollars. According to Forrester: “Enterprise companies must ask themselves if they are paying too much for capabilities that they simply do not need. In some cases, gaining fewer seldom-used capabilities is a worthwhile trade-off if funds can be reallocated to hire more resources necessary for analysis”
  • Google Analytics ease of use (GA has set the User Interface standard really high)
  • Google Analytics support eco-system (see details below)

There have been many articles, posts, comparisons, etc. between GA and other solutions, so I won’t bore you here with repeating the details. I’ll just shed some light on two areas of misinformation:

  • Over-emphasis on Technology
  • Customer Support & Consulting

Over-emphasis on technology

You don’t have to be a CMO or a CFO at a Fortune 100 to realize that tools and software alone don’t get you the intended results. This applies to project management, accounting, Sales Force Automation and other aspects of running a business, and not just web analytics. For example, if you are looking for a sales force automation or a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, you can invest all the dollars you want in a solution like SalesForce.com but until you train your sales personnel and build the in-house processes for lead management and client communication, you can’t claim that you have a CRM system in place. So whether you use SalesForce.com or use an open source CRM, the investment you should be prepared to make is NOT just in the software, it is in people and process. It’d be gullible to think otherwise.

  • The often repeated messages we keep hearing from fee-based analytics vendors is the over-emphasis on technology and feature-set.
    • Features are indeed important and Google Analytics is definitely feature-rich. Yet what matters is not the long list of features, but what’s important to the customer. Who cares if your solution offers a gazillion features but your customer’s business only needs 7 metrics/features and your solution doesn’t give them what they need!
    • Analytics industry experts across the spectrum have said it over and over, it’s not just about technology. Consider: people (in-house staff, consultants, professional services organizations), process, the organizational analytics maturity, among other factors. We are aware of Avinash’s 10/90 rule, and Eric Peterson reminds us of the staffing and process chasms.

Customer Support & Consulting – Investment in People & Resources

  • If one listens to some of the fee-based vendor claims, they’d think that Google Analytics has no support or at max very limited support. This is far from the truth. Google is a unique company and does things in a unique way. Instead of establishing a professional services organization, Google Analytics opted to create an open, global and collaborative eco-system, which as a model, is more superior than a traditional, centralized, and closed professional services organization.
  • As an enterprise manager/business owner, you have many options to establish and nurture your in-house team’s expertise and/or leverage the Google Analytics eco-system resources. Education, Training, Customer support & professional services are available through the following channels:
    • Professional Services & Paid SLAs: Google’s worldwide network of authorized consultants, known as GAACs offering:
      • Technical Implementation
      • Validation & Configuration
      • Consulting & Best Practices
      • Ongoing Optimization
      • Testing
    • Training
      • In-person through the Google Analytics seminars
      • Regional Summits, Conferences & Webinars
      • Industry Conferences (workshops at eMetrics, SES, etc.)
      • Certified Training Programs (GAIQ)
    • The GAAC partners go through a rigorous vetting process, have direct access to Google Analytics technical team members and are required to maintain up to date product know-how, including training at the Googleplex. The GAAC global network is 100+ strong and provides professional, local (and personable 🙂 ) services in these regions:
      • North America: USA, Canada, Mexico
      • South America: Argentina, Brazil
      • Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands,
      • Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK
      • Middle East & Africa: Israel, South Africa
      • Asia Pacific: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka
  • In addition, fee-based solutions providers do have “professional services” organizations and they do sell these services (last I checked, these services weren’t free either!). Here’s a quote from Omniture’s services: “Omniture Engineering Services provides both standard packages as well as custom solutions. Specialized solutions are priced hourly on a per-project basis. Please coordinate with your assigned Omniture Account Manager to discuss your needs. The Engineering Services team will then engage with you and your Omniture Account Manager to scope the project, provide timelines, and deliver your specialized solutions.”

One final thought on technology/features. While there is always room for improvement and the product can benefit from additional capabilities, Google Analytics’ commitment to innovation is evident by the on-going enhancements including:

  • Last year’s features: advancement segmentation, custom reporting, on-the-fly analysis capabilities, etc.
  • Data Export API (and it’s network of developers and innovations), and
  • The recent announcement at the D.C. eMetrics , including: “intelligence”, custom alerts, mobile tracking, and multiple custom variables.

So here you have it. Don’t get distracted by the misleading information, and stay focused on building your expertise in analytics and nurture a team (in-house and/or outsourced) that will utilize all the “free” resources to save you money and improve your returns!!!

Related posts:

About the Author

Feras Alhlou
President & Co-Founder
“Work Hard. Play Hard.” This personal motto sums it up for Feras. When he’s not consulting and spearheading E-Nor’s growth, you’ll find Feras speaking at a conference, writing an article, or learning a new tool or helpful tip. Outside of work (yes, Feras eventually learned to unplug), he enjoys volunteering, listening to audiobooks, skiing, training in Aikido, in which he earned a 3rd degree black belt, and spending quality time with his wife and three children. Feras received a Master of Engineering Management from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Tulsa University.