I wanted to spend a bit more time on the subject of web analytics data usage per my post last week, or rather spend some time discussing the comments I received from Stephane Hamel and Jacques Warren.
Jacques makes the point about lack of transparency into “free tools”:
The fact that I can't have access to the raw data, the logs, has bothered me everytime I came across a problem. I just cannot accept that the only validation criterium of the numbers I'm seeing is... the brand! “It's right, because Google says so.”
Now, it is true that Jacques, who is one of the smartest web analysts out there, probably understands the intricacies and nuances of web data more than most people, but what I find ironic is that issues around data trust are common to many organizations, and it is often articulated by managers who have no background in web analysis. They simply don't understand how web analytics works. So, if you use Google Analytics, how do you address core data accuracy questions? Is it easier or more difficult to do than with a tool that has more apparent data transparency?
I also find it interesting that many organizations use Google Analytics to “audit” their fee based tool. I don't quite get the logic in this. How about doing an audit of the data collection for the fee-based tool that has already received investment?
In an odd turn of events, I have to wonder if companies' dual deployment of Google in addition to the fee-based solution has actually helped perpetuate poor implementations of fee-based solutions. Perhaps it is coincidence that it used to be that when organizations got frustrated with their analytics solutions, they'd be more prone to switch solutions, but it now seems that they simply use Google Analytics in tandem. I've got nothing other than anecdotal evidence to prove this, as well as using Stephane Hamel's WASP, but I'd be curious to hear what you have to say about this.
Stephane's comment makes a good point regarding the concept of web analytics maturity within an organization and use of the “right” solution. This is something we've sought to educate readers of the Web Analytics Report through the use of business and resource commitment scenarios. I also share Stephane's concern that “as the power of Google increase, the options are becoming scarcer.”
Then again, while this economy may impact companies well recognized in the analytics space, I think that there will be a growing number of organizations and analysts who will mature into appreciating the value of fee over free.