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The Ultimate Comparison between Google Analytics & Yahoo Web Analytics

At Insightr Consulting we are big fans of free web analytics products for our clients. Free used to mean less capability, less reliability and less confidence that the product would be able to service the needs of business. But not anymore..

The last 12 months have seen the Google Analytics (GA) product evolve into a serious contender for a do-it-all product for most businesses, a period that has also seen Yahoo! get serious with analytics through the purchase of the not-so-well-know European product called Indextools - the decision by Yahoo! to make the Indextools product free with a rebrand into Yahoo Web Analytics (YWA) has turned the free market into a rich, dynamic, competitive space that’s seeing incredible product innovation.

Insightr Consulting are certified in Google Analytics through the Individual Certification programme as well as being a pioneer member of the Yahoo Web Analytics Consultant Network (YWACN). Our clients use a mixture of Google Analytics, Omniture Site Catalyst and Yahoo Web Analytics, with the majority of new businesses adopting either GA or YWA. In Singapore where we are based (and indeed across Asia) budgets for analytics are not as formalised as they are in markets like the US and Europe, so free tools are very popular here.

This article is the outcome of over 5 weeks work carrying out a feature by feature comparison of the Google Analytics and Yahoo Web Analytics products - a project that required a large overhaul after Google announced new features on the 20th October (more examples of the product innovation we’re seeing). Yahoo Web Analytics is still a largely unknown product to business and analysts alike as the product is only available through the YWACN or via Yahoo! advertising sales teams - this comparison should give you a pretty good feel for what you’re missing.

As our friends at Yahoo would say, this is perhaps an unfair comparison - as Indextools always liked to think of the old product as 80% of Omniture at 10% of the price. They weren’t wrong. In fact as an Omniture Site Catalyst user for over 7 years (how many of you can recall SC7?) the Yahoo offering is in many ways more powerful than Site Catalyst; especially when it comes to ‘advanced’ features such as segmentation which for Site Catalyst are only available with an additional “Discover on Demand” license.

Some of you will disagree with our analysis, and particularly with our scoring system - we’re hoping that the comparison is a thought starter and something that will lead to your consideration of the YWA product as a tool worth considering. We feel the scores are fair based on our usage of products and the way our clients will use them.

So, here’s the presentation - it’s best if you view it in full screen otherwise the screenshots will be too small. We apologise for the low quality of some of the screenshots - this was required to keep the file size down. It’s also a long document, over 50 pages - but that’s because both of these tools are powerful and are feature packed! We hope you enjoy it and get value from our work:

We have a version of this document that’s much more text heavy and verbose on features if you’d like to download as a reference over on Slideshare.

If you like the look of Yahoo Web Analytics, and in light of the fact that you’ll need to go through a Yahoo! consultant to get access we’re offering a Google Analytics to Yahoo Web Analytics migration package for a fixed US$2,500 project cost. Here’s what we’re offering:

If you’re interested, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.


Testing and Analysis is what clients want to improve conversion (but agencies don't think so)

In a report published on eMarketer yesterday (sourced from eConsultancy) highlighted the processes and methodologies clients and agencies think are “highly valuable” at driving website conversion.

The differences in the way both think is startling. 

I’ve taken the data published in two separate tables and combined into a single table that shows the delta in responses from clients and agencies to make the interpretation of the responses easier:

The data tells us that while clients are putting A/B testing, journey / path analysis and Multivariate testing at the top of their wish lists, the agencies aren’t thinking the same way - especially when it comes to testing.

That’s a shocker.

Perhaps the most surprising difference is the importance agencies place on expert usability studies, only 25% of clients see this as highly valuable, whereas 41% of agencies think its highly valuable. 

At Insightr we agree with the client view, and will always leverage our Insite process to ensure we’re collecting and analysing data effectively to drive results. This process is also driven by our “Analysis to Action” approach which makes use of institutionalised testing (we prefer multivariate to accelerate learnings). Please get in touch and see how we can help optimise your digital business.



Coremetrics offers money back guarantee for Omniture customers (with a couple of white lies)

Joe Davis over at Coremetrics published a video blog article yesterday offering Omniture customers a 100% money back guarantee with free implementation and consulting for Omniture customers who are concerned about the Adobe relationship to sign with Coremetrics. It’s a common tactics, I recall Webtrends offering a similar deal to WebSideStory customers when Omniture acquired them.

This is a fair deal, and with the strength of the Coremetrics platform is something worth considering, perhaps more so if your digital strategy is focussed on eCommerce, media based aqcuisition and email driven relationship marketing (for me, these are the strengths of the Coremetrics platform) with the following services. However, selecting and choosing any digital vendor (CMS, analytics, adserver, email) is something that should be considered very carefully and driven by business requirements not whims. Coremetrics are hoping customers are worried about Adobe:

The recent $1.8 billion acquisition of Omniture by Adobe has no doubt created uncertainty about the future of your analytics.

So, here’s Joe Davis describing the Coremetrics money-back deal in a nice infomercial style:

Unfortunately there is misinformation in the video

As I said above, Coremetrics is a great platform - so when I saw some claims in the video that seemed a little incorrect I think it’s worth leveling the playing field. Here are the claims:

1. Coremetrics is the only vendor to offer a simplified, universal approach to tagging


Universal tagging is a hot topic, and I think given the number of recent discussions around the subject theres increasing consensus amongst consultants and vendors that the tagging process needs to change. With this in mind I expect lots of change in the coming 6 months, but to draw immediate comparisons here - only last week did Unica announce their new “Interactive Marketing” suite, which amongst other services offers a ‘fast and flexible integration with Unica Softtags’.

This sounds remarkably similar to a simplified universal approach?

2. Coremetrics is the only vendor to offer benchmarking against competitors


Everyone wants benchmarking right? It’s the first question I usually get asked on a new engagement - how do we compare with our competitors. For most digital analysts, especially in the US, there are plenty of resources available for competitor analysis - companies such as Compete (being integrated with Omniture), Quantcast (recently integrated with Webtrends) and Comscore offer panel and pixel based competitive research. Google goes a step further (though I’m not convinced this is a useful features) to offer a benchmarking service though a data sharing opt-in process.

3. Coremetrics is the only vendor to offer lifetime profiles of your customers


This is an interesting one, as far as I am aware all the analytics vendors (except Google Analytics) offer a data import service:

  • Yahoo Web Analytics offers (unsupported) a feature called “EDS” (External Data Sources)
  • Omniture offers DB VISTA in Site Catalyst, or full CRM/ Database integration with Omniture Insight 
  • Webtrends offers Visitor Intelligence.


In Conclusion

Why not talk about the truly innovative features of Coremetrics, including the powerful campaign attribution features (discussed in the recent Forrester article on Media Attribution) that none of the other competitors offer (ok, Yahoo offers a form of basic attribution analysis) where Coremetrics was described:

Coremetrics has an impressive road map and a track record of delivering on its promises, so look for an increasingly sophisticated offering in the near term.

If the Coremetrics offer sounds tempting for your business, please make sure you fully evaluate the Coremetrics solution, and ensure that it is your own research on your own requirements from which you benchmark performance and capabilities and not based on sales / marketing materials from the vendors.



IBM says you can't squeeze knowledge from a pixel!

This interview from the team at ReadWriteWeb with Jeff Jonas one of IBM’s leading scientists shows how isolated data points don’t provide insight and how connected and segmented data helps to tell a story but don’t provide actions and how low power algorithms could be used to analyse data and provide recommended actions. 

The story is very interesting and well put together - the question will be can web analytics vendors leverage this insight to develop smarter tools that process (a) more data and (b) draw better conclusions. I would argue that Google Analytics Intelligence is a starter to this - it helps with the analysis - but actions and next steps are not there. In a similar vein, the marketing suite offerings by Omniture are starting to take us down this road, with tools like Recommendations, and the Intelligent Offers from Coremetrics are helping to streamline some of the digital production processes. It’s early days, but we can be sure to see continued innovation in workflow automation (both in terms of analytics and production / optimisation).

You can’t squeeze knowledge from a pixel (IBM & ReadWriteWeb):



Omniture is a "hot company" according to IPO Dashboards

It took Omniture 11 10 years to hit $50m in revenue, after which we’ve seen an explosive hockey stick shaped growth in revenue for the last 5 years. The team over at IPO dashboards have published data on the top 100 entrepreneurial businesses in a public tableau dashboard - this puts Omniture firmly in the middle ground (for me this highlights the stability of the business, and hence the appeal for Adobe).

I wasn’t able to embed the dashboard here (as the Tableau dashboard required a much wider website than this one) so please go and checkout the dashboard on their site.

Incidentally, Interwoven was considered a Rocket Ship prior to its acquisition by Autonomy!



The Trouble with Threshold Goals in Google Analytics

(or be careful with your interpretation of data)

This article is based on the new Google Analytics (GA) threshold goals and some warnings on analysis problems you are likely to encounter when analysing your web content.

If you’re new to Threshold Goals (most likely you are as they are new!) here’s the introductory video from Google:

These limitations are not terrible, but can cause confusion when analysing the data especially when using the new threshold (time on site and pages / visit) goals.

How did goals used to work?

In prior releases of GA users were limited to 4 goals per profile, this meant if your website had more than 4 conversion goals (eg watch video, download brochure, comment on article, sign up for newsletter, view ‘about us’ page) you were required to either create an additional profile to capture goals or to use eCommerce tracking to set up goals as products. Some users weren’t happy with this limitation.

What’s changed?

Google have extended the goal functionality to enable up to 20 goals per profile now, in order to organise the goals for reporting purposes the 20 goals are organised into what are known as “goal sets”, which are essentially buckets or folders each containing 5 goals.

What’s also happened is that new types of goals have been introduced with what are now known as “threshold goals”. Threshold goals on first glance appear to be very useful - we can now track goal conversion (eg) for visitors who spend, say, more than 3 minutes on the site or view more than 4 pages / visit. The idea behind this is that perhaps your site is about content - like a YouTube for example - then one of your goals is to get visitors to view more content and to spend longer on the site. Not bad, right? So, the threshold goals allow you to set conversion thresholds - multiple times - so (eg) you can ‘convert’ a visitor who spends 1mins on the site, 2mins, 5mins, 10mins etc.

In the example above you can see how I’ve created two sets of goals, one for more traditional content conversion (view form, submit form, view certain pages); the other set is based on time on site thresholds that I’ve set for 1, 2, 3, 5 & 10mins on site.

What’s the problem?

The ability to create these threshold goals is quite nice, but can cause quite large problems with standard reporting if you aren’t careful with which metrics you are analysing. Take a look at the examples below, I’m using a secondary dimension report (Network Location, City) to help me understand who’s coming to the site:

The problem is with the ‘conversion rate’ metric. From a logical perspective this value is correct, what GA is going is aggregating the multiple goals together into a sum value, from an analysis perspective this can cause problems. If you look at the first screenshot for Goal Set 1, you’ll notice (sadly) that none of the goals have shown any conversions – yet our goal conversion rate is 59%, this is because our engagement / threshold metrics for the 1 min on site and 2 min on site are converting very well. This isn’t necessarily providing me with a true measure – especially when the cascading time on site values aren’t de-duplicating as a visitor spends longer on the site. Let’s look at a very simple example:

1 Visitor comes to the site and spends 12 minutes and leaves. For this visitor we’re going to see each of the 5 threshold goals show 100% conversion, in other words this visitor has converted at 500%. We can argue about the inability of averages to work either, by adding another 4 visitors who see 2 pages and leave after less than a minute: now our conversion rate is 100%. That’s another issue though!

What does this tell us? Not a great deal, however at an individual goal level knowing about these engagement or thresholds is useful data - just not when aggregated the way GA currently handles the data.

In summary:

Make sure you look at the metrics that GA offers very carefully so you don’t end up drawing incorrect assumptions from your data – and if you’re using multiple threshold metrics try to avoid looking at the ‘goal conversion rate’ metric as it can be somewhat misleading, with this in mind I would recommending using only one of each of the two kinds of threshold metrics.

In order to set your thresholds perhaps you already have a model that tells you x mins on site or y pages / visit is profitable – in which case use your KPI’s, otherwise take a look at your averages for these metrics and add (eg) 1 standard deviation above the average to help you identify the top ~15% of visitors. Through application of the central limit theorum you can adjust your threshold metrics to select different populations.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if GA intelligence helped you out with these calculations!

It’s worth remembering that you can apply these same threshold metrics in advanced segments as an alternative way of determining your threshold limits.

Something also worth considering at the moment, is that the 20 goals are not currently available in custom reporting, this is likely to be a release for future – but the new goals as implemented won’t be available for (eg) creating revised traffic source reports with custom threshold goals (excluding the overall goal conversion rate).

The new goals also aren’t available yet in advanced segments which is also worth considering for future analyses.

What should Google do?

I would recommend two courses of action:

  1. Remove the overall goal conversion rate metric, or
  2. Replace the overall goal conversion rate metric with a new ‘goal set conversion rate’ to make the metric column appropriate to the tab of the report

I’m also assuming that Google will rollout the new goals to custom reporting and advanced segments.

Enjoy making use of these new features, but please be careful with your analysis!

We’ve uploaded this article to Slideshare so you are free to download the full article.


Learn about the new Google Analytics features in a free Google Webinar

By now you must have heard about the new set of Google Analytics features that were released on the 21st October. I’m also aware (based on search queries to this site) that a lot of you are concerned about exactly when the features will be available in your Google Analytics accounts.

Creating Custom Report Filters

The features will be released over the ‘coming weeks’ meaning it could be as late as December before you see the features in your account, although for the accounts Insightr manage for our clients we’re seeing some of the features (particularly mobile reporting) rolling out already.

Sharing Advanced Segments Feature

In order to prepare you for these new features my good friend Vinny (aka @vinoaj on twitter) from Google will be presenting a webinar next Friday, the 30th October at 11am Singapore time (that’s 8pm Thursday evening if you’re in the PST time zone in the US) so showcase these new features so you’ll be better prepared to use them when you get access.


  • Topic: Learn about the New Features in Google Analytics
  • Host: Jane Beaven & Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar
  • Date and Time: 30 October 2009 11:00 Singapore Time

Learn more about the event at Vinny’s blog, and register for the webinar here. Google are also running a pre event Q&A, you can submit your questions here.


See the true marvel of marketing ingenuity with the ad-o-matic

How far away are we from a scenario that’s not too far from this…? With all our talk about measurement, analytics, optimisation do we forget the value of creativity and big ideas in marketing? It’s for this reason that I think the Adobe / Omniture deal is a winner for the left and right brain. 

With the ad-o-matic you can manage all of your creative ad needs without your pesky agency. Simply add your budget, enter your target market and add your mandatory messaging and voila - all of your ad production needs are managed with less pain:

This video was produced by Miami Ad School students (via adfreak)


Personally identifiable data in Yahoo Web Analytics?

YWA, originally uploaded by James Dutton.

So, I'm reading through Dennis Mortensen's fantastic book on Yahoo Web Analytics (recommended read for anyone who is using, or wants to use YWA) and noticed that on page 32 there was the recommendation to populate the setMemberId variable with an email address. This seems to conflict with WAA recommendations and the best practices being adopted by the industry.

Is this a mistake, or should we be capturing email addresses of members and buyers in our websites? When is it ok to capture PII data, and when is it not?


"Secret" new Google Analytics features (GA Intelligence) to be released soon?

Disclaimer Note: This article does not represent a break in NDA for my current participation in the Google Analytics trusted tester programme as the data for the article came from a YouTube RSS feed

I’m a subscriber to the YouTube Google Analytics channel, it’s a nice community facility I’ve found useful to blog about and to share with clients. To make my life easier, I’ve subscribed to the channel through a (possibly not too well known feature) rss feed of uploaded videos.

Today when I was going through my shared analytics feeds in Google Reader (here’s a link to my shared Google reader rss feed of great analytics blogs) I saw two new videos uploaded by Google. After clicking on the links I was redirected to an error page on YouTube saying the video’s were private (ie not public facing) - but the video descriptions and screenshots were enough to pique my interest:

If you want to check it out yourself - this link will take you to the raw rss feed.

The two videos appear to relate to 2 new features I’m assuming are about to be released to the public, both of which look interesting:

Feature 1: Threshold Goals

This appears to be a modification to goals allowing different rules to be applied to goals management. This feature doesn’t give me much of a clue to what it will offer, beyond an expansion of (possibly) the page view based goals features we live with today.

Feature 2: Google Analytics Intelligence

GA Intelligence?Now this one gives me a much better idea of what the features will be, the screenshot shows a new menu item above the visitors menu called “Intelligence”, with three menu options:

  • Daily alerts
  • Weekly alerts
  • Monthly alerts

So, presumably we’re getting an alerts service - the “Intelligence” name is a little perculiar, after all alerts are not much more than a copy-cat service on top of what Omniture and Yahoo Web Analytics already offer. Are we really getting an intelligence service? What kind of alerts will we be getting? 

All very interesting, and I expect this will be all over Twitter and Blogs very soon - but it’s got me interested today!

What I’m seeing here doesn’t appear to be what was discussed / released by Mediapost a couple of weeks ago under the title “Google Analytics: May I suggest this” suggesting a new uber intelligent, predictive analytics solution from Google.