Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 10 years and 272 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.
If you want to inspire confidence, give plenty of statistics. It does not matter that they should be accurate, or even intelligible, as long as there is enough of them.
I have listed below my favorite website analytics software packages. I must give the disclaimer that learning stats packages is not a fun experience. If a package is slow or frustrating, I generally don’t stick around too long. I value my time pretty highly, and I don’t want to spend it waiting for information that is only marginally important a large majority of the time. This is one reason other providers (of any software really) should take a page from Clicktracks and study usability first.
The below list is fairly biased from my experiences with stats packages. It’s also based on the criteria of needs I have an an analytics software. I won’t name the handful of packages that I have used that were brutally slow, unreliable, or difficult to interpret.
Statistics tracking is *critical*. For most companies, it’s not important in the sense that you dropped two spots in the rankings, or that a certain product does not convert as well three days before Columbus day. That level of granular reporting is sometimes a cause for the lack of usability in packages. Beware of “paralysis by analysis”. The more time you spend looking at your stats, the less time you are spending developing relevant content and links, which what will help to make you feel much happier during the time actually spent viewing your statistics.
What *is* absolutely important is consistency with reporting. To gauge improvement and trends, you need accurate data that is reliable. The integrity of the data needs to be high. If you switch packages too often, you will not have a good level of consistency and will be comparing apples to oranges due to the various idiosyncracies in each package.
Paid Web Analytics Tools
- Clicktracks Demo – Hands down my overall favorite. I am definitely an evangelist for their products. Any areas they COULD have been faulted on they have listened to their customers and improved. Not only a good stats package, but a good example of how to run a business.
- Net Tracker – Played with a demo and had a booth next to some of their friendly folks once. Nice product with some handy path analysis. Check out their free lite edition
- Visitorville – I haven’t used this extensively, but you gotta give them credit for a fun interface
Free Web Traffic Tools
- Webalizer About as basic as it gets, but very free and easy to use
- Analog Stats Again very basic but free and easy to use.
- Relax – quality referral tracking, thanks to Web Professor
Yes, there are probably many more tools available, and I’m sure some of them are even good. In this case, however, there are lots of CRAPPY tools that I’m always amazed that people have spent money on. Many of the web analytics packages are slow and clunky and don’t really assist with running a business (no wonder so many websites STILL don’t use their statistics more effectively). If you have a package that you’re adamant about (and are not a company rep or someone trying to use your affiliate code) please let me know.
Critical aspects to consider when purchasing Web Analytics Software
Speed of reporting
If I have to wait 5 minutes (or even 2 minutes) for my report it is too long. Initial parsing time is fine, but keep it snappy. Most times, statistical data is needed to backup a brainstorm. Waiting is not very conducive to good creative thinking.
Breadth and depth of reporting – Make it scalable but not overwhelming
You don’t need to know that record cleaning fluid doesn’t sell to Poland on Canadian leap year if you’re a record shop in NYC. You definitely CAN go overkill with setting up your stats packages. Try to start with a scalable product that will cover lots of areas of your statistical needs. Focus on the statistics that will HELP YOU TO IMPROVE ROI. Try to break out each area of your marketing campaigns when possible to get the best and most accurate return on ad spend for each.
Accuracy of reporting
Does the package track visits from your company netowork’s IP address (where everyone’s default start page is your homepage)? How does it determine “unique visitors”? Does it count search spiders and bots as visitors? Every stats package handles things differently, so if you change packages it is important to understand the data interpretation discrepencies, otherwise you might have BIG trouble when going to interpret the data to your BOSS (of course you could look like the HERO if you do it the right way).
Ease of use – Keep the learning curve low
Many people may potentially have to use the program. Probably at least several people should. They all need to know how to use and interpret the data. When a program is difficult to use, or difficult to remember it is very frustrating and counterproductive. You have 73 other things to do, pick a package that is going to make your life quicker and easier.
Know what you need
Your website technology architecture will play a role in which package you pick. I like LAMP myself because it’s less expensive and reliable. Linux/Apache/MySQL/Pearl – PHP – Python. Find out your web platform and how compatible all your elements are. Strategically reducing retrofittings saves lives.
Best Website Statistic Tracking and Logging Resources:
- Which stats package is right for you?
- How to track visitors
- Referral strings – most suspect data on the net
- Stat recognition – valuable information
- How do you improve ROI
- The difference between “above the line” and “below the line” tracking
- Run Webalizer on a local machine
- Tracking and Logging forum at WMW
- ROI and Tracking forum at SEW