How Much is 'Google Analytics' Costing You?


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!