Social Optimizers
7Aug/13

Picking The Right Analytics Tool – The Free Platforms

Web analytics have become such a key platform in today's online ecommerce businesses. If your business model revolves around your web site, it is very important to understand how your visitors behave as they navigate your various pages and offerings. It helps you identify who your customers are and quickly react, and even be proactive, in optimizing your site for your main business goals. Our article will help identify which free platforms that makes sense for what you need.

Where do your visitors come from? What is the number one thing they do on your site? What are the most viewed pages amongst your product pages? Did that recent a/b test really provide a huge ROI for the money spent on the redesign? If you are unable to answer these important questions about your business, then it is time to invest in a web analytics platform. These tools help you monitor your main KPI's such as your sales funnel, understanding your site flow, detriments to conversion and other pressing items.

As data becomes more and more important in making business decisions for all organization types such as SMBs, major corporations and various charities, it can become quite a panic inducing moment to select which platform will work for you and your needs.

To make the decision easy, based on my experience working for all types of verticals and companies, I have made this list that can help make you come to a really good decision, aiding you in this daunting task.

Google Analytics - The top preferred choice by many organizations and individual professionals. Not only is the tool free but it keeps your historical data for free, unlimited and for life. Do not take my word on that last part just yet but for now, it seems like Google is providing these main perks al dente. What also makes this tool ideal is that there is a huge community of professionals supporting the platform, either on the official Google Analytics forums or a number of blogs and forums run by experiences web analytics professionals. The reporting console is indeed extensive and highly insightful, implementing the basic tags will already give key stakeholders data that can be immediately understood and (hopefully) action can be taken to further improve the business.

google analytics logo 100wThe two main drawbacks for GA is that, since it's free, Google reserves the right to use whatever public data your account collects to improve their services. What does this mean? Google has their eyes under the hood of your business 24/7, their hands underneath your skirt, the unwanted third party in your data date. Now you can opt out of your data being used but who's to really say that Google actually will never use that data to help improve their other official products, especially Search? It also becomes an unwitting trojan horse for your business, especially if Google decides to go into the same vertical where you are in (ie. mortgage leads, house prices, etc.). I know a couple of lead gen companies in the the mortgage lead vertical that has stopped using GA because of this. For the small business, it should not be a big deal but for medium to large ones, it is a big deal breaker to consider. It will be hard to compete with a company that almost prints money on a daily basis.

Piwik - This platform is an open-source real time analytics reporting tool. It touts itself to be the open source alternative to Google Analytics, and considered to be the Google Analytics killer at one point. Like most digital analytics platforms, it follows the standards and measures set by the industry and also has an extensive suite. Boasting of 1.4M downloads, it has a number of really great features an extensive set of reports that can empower your business. It also has an involved open-source community that provides valuable extensions in the form of plugins that makes Piwik compatible in a number of popular environments. If you do not want to share your data with Google, Piwik definitely is a good choice for you.

Piwik LogoNow the drawbacks to the platform is that it is a software platform, meaning your organization will have to build the infrastructure to host the reporting service and collect the log files needed for data interpretation. Now this may not be a big deal as well with small businesses but, if you receive around 60K visits on the daily or 9M pages a month, you will have to invest heavily in equipment to make sure that Piwik is collecting everything and that the reporting server is processing the data properly. Now one good thing about collecting your own log files is that, you can analyze it and break it down line per line, which comes handy whenever you need to validate your own data.

Open Web Analytics - Very similar to Piwik, in fact I consider this the "other" brother, no frills, it's all about reporting the basic metrics for the user type of platform. Side by side, it seem to have almost the same features and the same requirements. It is a software service you have to run, collect and setup your own reporting and data collection services.

Open Web Analytics Logo 100wDrawbacks are almost the same as well with an additional, "where is the community" support for the tool? Compared to Piwik, it's hard to search and lookup answers to common questions as well as get additional feedback from actual users from the OWA community. Also not a lot of extensions when compared to Piwik, development of new features appear to be solely the responsibility of Peter Adams and his team.

Final Notes
Now since all these platforms are free, regardless if there's a huge support from the community or not, you are left to your own devices to know and understand how to do the technical implementation of the platform, as well as report configuration, setup and data analysis and interpretation. If you are serious about deploying these platforms to your site, contact us or our sister company, Buzz Starter and we would love to hear from you.

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