How Much is ‘Google Analytics’ Costing You?

IMPORTANT: This is a historical post from 11 November 2009.

Omniture recently presented a webinar and published a white paper titled “How Much is ‘Free’ Costing You?” where they engaged research company Forrester and an Omniture client to discredit free web analytics tools.

What did you just call Google Analytics?

Forrester’s presenter tries to convince us that free tools are like free puppies. Two things come to mind, the first being that I don’t think anybody would ever assume that a puppy is entirely free (much like a free webinar from Omniture would give us something more than a sales pitch).

Here is how Forrester’s presenter describes free web analytics tools:

“Thinking about free tools you also have to consider how much work they are. What’s going to go into taking that free puppy home? Did you think about the fact that you are going to have to take it home for walks?”
Google Analytics is like a free puppy? You have got to be kidding me!

Forrester’s presenter almost completely skips the most critical piece of information in his presentation – that you need to dedicate resources to analysis in order to turn web analytics data into actions.

Now we are talking, if we invest resources and dollars into getting Google Analytics set up correctly or we invest (considerably more) in Omniture and we don’t get any value or return from that investment, then yes, we fail.

Google Analytics vs. Omniture SiteCatalyst

Presenters from follow on from Forrester’s presentation and they take direct aim at Google Analytics.

They refer to the features (left column below) that in their opinion Google Analytics does not provide. I have taken the liberty of filling in the blanks (right column below):

Omniture SiteCatalyst Google Analytics
Highly customizable reports Google Analytics has over 90 standard reports, plus Custom Reports and Advanced Segments
Visitor paths Site Overlay, Navigation Summary and Entrance Paths reports
Robust dashboards Customizable dashboard
Sharing of custom reports Sharing of custom reports and advanced segments and apply these to multiple profiles and account
Upload offline data No data upload, but you can create your own mashups with data from the Google Analytics Data Export API
Access to support Google support articles, Google support forum, Google Analytics Authorized Consultants
40 custom event metrics Track up to 500 events per visitor session
80 custom event variables Define custom event variables (with categories, actions, labels and values)
‘Large’ number of custom variables Track up to 50,000 custom variables (with up to 5 with any given request)
Custom variable attribution Only last click attribution by default, but can be customized with scripting and use of Multiple Custom Variables
Custom variable persistance Set scope to pageview, session or visitor
Create custom metrics inside the tool No mashup of metrics by default, but can be acheived with the Google Analytics API
Site sectioning and hirarcy Content Drilldown reports, create hirarcy with account and profile structure and use Multiple Custom Variables for advanced requirements
Change funnels on the fly Funnels do not apply to historical data, but historical conversions can be viewed with Advanced Segments and Content Reports
Funnels for pages, groups of pages, variables and events Funnels for pages, groups of pages and engagement metrics
Unlimited dashboards Only one dashboard, but many 3rd party dashboard solutions available
Export 50,000 rows of data to Excel Export 50,000 rows of data with slight modification to report URL

(Multiple Custom Variables, engagement base goals and report sharing became available shortly after Omniture’s webinar.)

They also take aim at the support available to Google Analytics users. They suggest that the consulting and professional services offered around Google Analytics are lacking and questionable at best. As one of over 100 Google Analytics Authorized Consultants around the world we provide enterprise level services and training specifically for Google Analytics addressing individual and shared client needs.

I won’t go through all the available support options available because Feras Alhlou of e-nor (a US based Google Analytics Authorized Consultant) has already highlighted them in his post about Omniture’s webinar. But in summary there are support articles, forums, professional services (from Google Analytics Authorized Consultants like us), Google Analytics Training (Google sponsored Seminars for Success) and many other related support and training offerings available.

Consider Your Web Analytics Investment

They also included the following graph to highlight the Return On Investment (ROI) they received from implementing Omniture SiteCatalyst. I have highlighted the inclusion of the cost of web analytics staff as a percent of the investment. Without somebody driving action from a web analytics tool you are never going to see ROI.
I have created the following graph to propose a question. What if they had invested the cost of Omniture SiteCatalyst 100% towards real people to drive action?
Really what you should be asking yourself; is how much is ‘not acting on my data’ costing me? And maybe you should think about allocating that budget you have saved by not buying Omniture’s SiteCatalyst to engage leading consultants and hiring dedicated staff.

Apparently Google Analytics is a free puppy. But what does that make Omniture’s SiteCatalyst if we are spending $50,000 or more on it a year? A really freaking expensive dog!

A big thank you to Cameron for provoking this post!

  • Stephen Scott

    Sour grapes from Omniture, no surprise there then!

  • Origin

    I’d much rather the free puppy so I can spend my money on training, food and and a great doghouse than having to buy the puppy too!

    Honestly though, any kind of analytics is going to cost you money from the resourcing side of things, I just can’t justify spending $50,000+ on a tool that I know I can get for free!

  • Anonymous

    I have worked with Omniture on a large roll out of Site Catalyst in Australia and can confirm it’s an absolute dog of a product, it costs a fortune and the service and support are just awful.

    In terms of ROI, I would say that this organisation who selected Omniture is in the hole for literally millions of dollars today.

    Most people there regret the decision, but fortunately for Omniture… it would be just too painful for them to start again with another product. Omniture’s lock in strategy works – but there will be backlash against them at some point.

    If that organisation had chosen Google Analytics, they would have not only saved millions, but the business would have got so much more out of it as GA is inherently easier to use.

  • Jason Ford

    I’ve worked with both Omniture and Google Analytics on many client websites and can definitely agree that what you do the data is the most important thing. Many people pay the big bucks for Omniture because of all of its advanced features, but don’t end up using anything that Google Analytics could not have provided for free.

    It used to be that the big advantage Omniture had of Google Analytics was advanced segmentation based on custom data sources, but Google has since added those capabilities – and done a really good job at it. I just finished implementing custom variables and advanced segmentation for my startup company’s new website ( and wrote a blog post about the experience here:

    Google Analytics FTW!

  • Anonymous

    hi all

    I just thought it would be good to introduce myself to everyone!

    Can’t wait to start some good conversations!


    Thanks again!