Does a Perfect Web Metrics Tool Exist?, Part 2
Deciding what application to use to crunch your numbers is nearly as mind-boggling as the data itself. Which tools work for marketers? Which don't? Part two of a three-part series.
In my last column, I began to share reader feedback in response to a column requesting your input on the best, and worst, analysis tools. Let's dive deeper and look at specific products and tools you use. Cut me some slack on grammar... I'm quoting you directly. Not everyone had Grammar Check on!
Let's start with what may be the most well-known e-reporting tool: WebTrends.
WebTrends is a log-file analysis tool that's been around since the early days. Nearly every reader who wrote mentioned using WebTrends at some point in his or her e-careers, although many have switched to other tools. User Rodney Howeedy says the WebTrends Intelligence Suite is "superior at the price point they strike to other alternatives on the market... It has formed the cornerstone of our reporting structure."
WebTrends is so well known in the log-file analysis realm nearly everyone who mentions any other tool starts with, "We used to use WebTrends...." Frustrations include long report run times, delays with large log files, and a dependence on the IT department to configure and run reports. Users with lower traffic levels and smaller log files reported fewer problems.
On its site, WebTrends says of its Intelligence Suite:
Data and statistics become meaningful when used to interpret user experience, determine marketing effectiveness, understand self-service needs and analyze e-commerce performance. Armed with this information, you will have a complete view of your e-business in order to maximize the return on your web investment.
The WebTrends site does a fabulous job of making the Intelligence Suite sound as if it will solve a myriad of problems, and the suite has gotten favorable reader reviews. This leaves me wondering where the disconnect is between the satisfied and dissatisfied users.
Pricing for the Intelligence Suite starts at $30,000 and is server based. A representative from WebTrends points out the Intelligence Suite is one of the company's high-end products and lower-priced products are available -- starting as low as $35 per month for basic stats.
Readers wrote such enthusiastic reviews of ClickTracks I went back and verified the respondents didn't work for the company nor were they compensated for their testimonials.
The differentiator from other log-file analysis tools, according to readers, is the way in which data is presented. ClickTracks allows users to browse their own Web sites as it superimposes statistics about each link right on the page. Click a link and you are shown statistics for the resulting page. Users say this method of presentation is invaluable for illustrating strong and weak page elements.
Readers raved. "ClickTracks wins hands down." "Log-file analysis on steroids." Mike Bradley said, "Within minutes, I can see where people are going, how long they stay there, how they got there, and where they went next." The only complaint regarded to large log files. One reader said he's limited to five days worth of data at a time, due to the size of his log files.
ClickTracks claims you can install the software and see user behavior patterns on your site in under 10 minutes. Reader comments support the ease of getting started. It worked "right out of the box" and "within minutes of downloading." ClickTracks describes its product as "a new way of seeing website user behavior. ClickTracks graphically presents each page of your site together with behavior patterns -- where people click, how long they stay, when they leave the site, and much more." Listed price is $495. If the product is as straightforward as the sales approach, this could be a winner.
RedSheriff won user accolades for accuracy, speed, and near-real-time results. It's an alternative to log-file analysis tools, though it does not actually utilize log files. Users report more accurate accounting of "real people [who] actually visit your site and what they do," including tracking a user from how she arrived at the site through to the time she leaves. Rita Aquilina likes that "it is almost real time. No need to wait until tomorrow to read log files."
Mark Garner uses RedSheriff. He wrote:
The service is very comprehensive and has... an e-commerce module that allows you to measure the actual sales from any specific email or banner campaign.... This also allows you to measure exactly how many and which steps a customer took from entering your site to completing the sale.
RedSheriff explains on its site it improves accuracy over log-file analysis through:
a patented quantitative activity measurement technology, known as instrumentation, which allows activity to be measured from the browser.... [I]t doesn't count misleading activity from bots or spiders.
The data appears to be stored on RedSheriff's end. Reports are accessed online, anytime. My attempts to obtain pricing were frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful.
We've got a lot more tools to cover, so check back for part three.