The launch of a free, comprehensive (more so than other free tools) analytics solution by Google Analytics in 2006 meant that web analytics could be utilized by everyone who chose to do so.
Good thing or bad thing?
Personally (odd though this may sound), even as a direct competitor of Google Analytics, I happen to think this was a good thing. Why, you might ask, would a supplier of a paid-for analytics service think this, let alone outright say this?
The answer lies in the difference between reporting and analysis. Free analytics solutions provide users with functionality that allows them to report on the performance of their web properties. Paid-for solutions naturally provide you this too, but in addition impart advanced functionality to the end user allowing them to monitor and perform advanced analysis on their data at a remarkably granular level.
So reverting back to the question of why I believe it's a good thing to have free analytics services. What is the disconnect between a paid-for service and a free service? The answer is simple: Questions
What do I mean? I believe it's good because a free service helps to educate users entering into web analytics. They get the overview, begin the understanding and start low level analysis. It's when they start to ask more advanced questions that help them see the potential limitations of a free service.
E.g. I can view a standard report in my free service that informs me of my top performing organic keywords and how many visitors have come to my web property using each. This is a good starting point, but what if I want to go further, what if I want to ask for a more detailed analysis? I want to segment this report by viewing only those visitors coming from Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester who have visited my web property two times or less. At the same time, I want to see which of these organic keywords has the highest conversion rate in terms of revenue, site registrations and catalogue requests; also showing me which out of my five catalogues the user opted for. Importantly, I need this emailed to me, in one report, on a weekly basis for my SEO meeting with my marketing director.
At this point a user begins to:
- understand the difference between simple reporting and the ability to perform more advanced analysis
- realise that their initial analytics requirements have changed somewhat
- observe that they cannot get the necessary data from the tool
Unsurprisingly this is the point at which paid-for analytics solutions come in. It is sometimes the case that I pitch IndexTools to potential clients relatively new to the world of analytics. On occasion it is hard for them to comprehend the differences between a paid and free solution and why they should pay for something they 'see' they can get for free. My response to this is usually a polite "see you in six months" , not because I think we're the best, but I know that more often than not the user's requirements will change. As a user's knowledge grows so do their demands, especially in this industry. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that every user will eventually upgrade to a more advanced service, a significant portion will be very content with what they have but plenty will continue asking questions. With complex questions comes proper analysis, leading to actionable insight of your web property.
Over the coming months I'll dip into the IndexTools Enterprise Edition and discuss areas such as KPI monitoring, custom reporting and advanced segmentation that will endeavour to show how you can easily analyse, monitor and create actionable data sets. Moreover with the imminent release of Version 10 (Q3 2007) I will detail what new functionality and enhancements can be expected.