Is Google Analytics the Killer App? No.
For the past two days readers and friends have been writing me asking my opinion of Brandt Dainow’s recent iMediaConnection piece on “Google’s Killer App.” Most of the questions run along these lines:
“Is this guy insane, or did I completely miss the revolution?
I am so impressed with Omniture I have a hard time believing that Google Analytics beats it. I have been in a bit of a bunker trying to keep the magic going here, but can you hook me up with a reality check?”
The reality check is this: Yes, Brent Dainow has apparently gone completely insane. Too bad too, since I kinda liked some of the stuff he’s written in the past.
Let’s consider some of the bizarre statements he makes in his article:
Google has killed the web analytics software industry with the release of the new version of Google Analytics. The new version was released just under two months ago and is simply a quantum leap above any other analytics product on the planet.
This is his opening statement, and I don’t know where to begin. Statements like “killed the web analytics software industry” and “simply a quantum leap above any other analytics product on the planet” are bizarre. Is Dainow paying any attention to the web analytics market? Omniture continues to accelerate, WebTrends has released a great new version of their application, Microsoft is about to release their own free offering, …
And don’t get me wrong: I really do like Google Analytics, and I use it regularly, but there is absolutely no possible justification for saying that Google Analytics is a quantum leap better than other available applications. Google Analytics has some pretty visualizations, a slick UI, and does a good job of integrating with Google’s search marketing products, but a “quantum leap?” I think not.
“Google Analytics version 2 is not revolutionary. It does not extend web analytics software by providing new forms of analysis. Neither does it extend our understanding of websites by offering new approaches. What Google has done is simply take every feature in every product on the market and put them all into one system, and then make it available for free.”
Google has “every feature in every product on the market”? Really? Are you sure? Because I can think of dozens and dozens of useful features that I’ve seen in solutions like ClickTracks, Visual Sciences, Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics, Unica, … basically every other solution on the market today that aren’t in the version of Google Analytics I’m using. Features like:
- Real visitor segmentation (multidimensional, ad hoc, etc.)
- Custom variables at the visitor, session, and page view level
- The ability to produce custom reports for automated delivery
- The ability to define custom metrics and customize reports in the interface
- The ability to import metadata as an input for analysis
- Commerce-related reports like browse-to-buy ratios
- A browser-overlay that can be customized
“I am surprised by the range of features Google has added. I would have assumed some had been patented by the companies that created them. I can only conclude this is not the case. The range of features Google has borrowed from other products suggests the web analytics software industry managed to do 10 years of research and development without registering even one patent. This must be unique in the history of computing. If Google has stolen patented ideas, then I can only conclude they simply don’t care and will rely on their massive cash reserves to sort it out later.”
Daniow then gets a little more personal:
“I say this as someone who, until this month, ran a company that produced web analytics software and directly competed with Google Analytics. No more. There is simply no way my organization can produce the range of features Google offers and make them available for nothing. We will keep the consulting arm going but use Google Analytics as the reporting system.”
This is perhaps both the most confusing and most telling statement in the entire article. His statement is confusing because one would have thought that as the CEO of a web analytics software company Dainow would have had a more refined understanding of the features available in the market today, the patent market, and the overall utility of free software.
His statement is telling because it sounds like ThinkMetrics is about to become a GAAC (Google Analytics Authorized Consulting) partner, in which case the bizarre pro-Google rhetoric in this article begins to make sense.
[UPDATED: Brett Crosby from Google wrote me and said that ThinkMetrics was not currently nor was about to become a GAAC partner. Which really only makes Dainow's post that much more bizarre!]
At least, it makes sense that Dainow would want to write a bizarre cheerleader piece like this, I still cannot come up with any justification for iMediaConnection to publish something so strangely biased, poorly researched, and obviously wrong. Perhaps they too have decided that the rest of the vendors are dead and thusly unlikely to buy advertising on their site. I know I wouldn’t be sending a check to iMediaConnection anytime soon if I were Tim Kopp at WebTrends or Gail Ennis at Omniture.
Dainow then makes an even more confusing comment:
“I have been converted to Google Analytics version 2 purely by the strength of the product. It is not just the range of features that is impressive, it is the integration and flexibility.”
If by “integration” Dainow means “with Google’s products only”, and by flexibility he means “a total lack of flexibility” then I suppose I agree. Call me crazy, but I think integration means the ability to pass a variety of data automatically into and out-of the application using defined APIs, not just being able to see Google AdWords impressions and costs. And I think flexibility means the ability to collect multiple custom data, to define new data schemas, and to reprocess data if necessary.
I guess we just have different definitions.
Dainow continues to blather on and on (his “Blather Index” is very high in this article!) about the greatness and wonderfulness and amazing beauty of Google Analytics. For example:
“All the tables are clickable so that I can instantly drill down on the elements that stand out. For example, I recently analyzed the performance of a tourist site’s listings in travel directories. I was able to drill down on specific directories and see which pages and descriptions were working and which were not. Within the same directory, I could see some listings that had a bounce rate of 9 percent and others with a bounce rate of 70 percent.”
Well no wonder Brandt’s so in love with Google Analytics: The tables are clickable and he can instantly drill down on elements that stand out! That is certainly a feature not found elsewhere in web analytics …
I’m getting snarky so I’ll wrap this up. Dainow concludes with the following:
“But despite its failings, the overall range and flexibility of Google Analytics, combined with the price (free), leads me to expect the new version to totally dominate the market and drive most competitors out of business. You need an extremely good reason, or three, to continue staying with any other product.
If there is to be any future in web analytics software for any competitor, that company will need to rapidly expand the scope of reporting available and seriously enhance flexibility and drill-down capabilities.
Industry consolidation is sure to follow, and I expect WebTrends to be one of the few companies with the pockets to pursue such a strategy. It is surprising that Microsoft has not produced a product to compete.”
In these three short paragraphs, Dainow demonstrates a near complete lack of understanding of web analytics and the web analytics marketplace. Google Analytics already dominates the market in terms of total domains coded, but dominance isn’t defined by the breadth of your coding, it’s defined by the success your customers have using your application!
I’m not saying that GA customers aren’t able to be successful, but the data suggests that they still have a long way to go before the value of Google Analytics, or any free analytics application (sorry Ian!), can be assumed. Web analytics is hard and “pretty”, “free”, and “Googly” don’t make it any easier. Dedication and commitment make web analytics easier, not free and click-able.
There are hundreds of good reasons for any company to continue to use an alternative to Google Analytics: Dedicated support, “Enterprise-class” (sic) product features, and a company-wide commitment to customer success, not just to gathering all the world’s data, are three that come to mind.
Most of the licensed solutions on the market today have significantly greater reporting, flexibility, and drill-down capabilities than exist in Google Analytics. Visual Sciences, Omniture, WebTrends, ClickTracks, Coremetrics and others have all spent years working on these kinds of issues, and I think their customers largely agree that they’ve done a pretty good job. Visitor segmentation, custom reporting, and data warehouse analysis are all fundamentally important to “real” web analytics and are all basically absent in Google Analytics.
No disrespect to the management team at WebTrends, but don’t you think that Omniture and their $1.16B USD market cap would qualify as “having deep pockets”? Not that Omniture is likely worried at all about the competitive threat described in your article — plus they’re going to save a bundle by not advertising at iMediaConnection!
Regarding Microsoft and Daniow’s desire to sell Bill Gates his discarded web analytics solution … I think Dainow is the only person in the world who didn’t read last week about Microsoft Gatineau!
The comments at iMediaConnection basically all ask Daniow the same question–What planet are you from, dude?–and are best summarized by this comment:
“oh please….. it is lousy — we are now going to move to Omniture because of all the deficiencies in 2.0 — this kind of post must be paid by Google because people who use it for major adspends (Over 1m for us) know what a lousy move this was for us.. hey but I know the bloggers are excited.. while it has a few nice additions the removal of so many key features and the inability to see metrics together that previously were easy to compares are serious detriments.. plus it is not nearly as sophisticated as it once was.. stop drinking the kool-aid ..” (Elxiabeth schachin)
Well put, Elxiabeth.
In summary: I’m sorry to hear that things didn’t work out for Daniow’s company, especially with the great success that almost everyone else in this industry has been having for the last 24 months. And I wish him all the best as a GAAC partner — the world definitely needs more GAAC partners and smart people able to provide technical support for Google’s wonderful and amazing free application. But the kind of biased, self-serving, and poorly researched rhetoric published in Daniow’s piece has no place in the market today, at least in my humble opinion.
What do you think? Is Google Analytics going to destroy the web analytics marketplace? Is GA2 the best web analytics application in the entire universe? Are you calling your licensed vendor today to cancel your contract, and calling your broker to divest your holdings in OMTR and VSCN now that Daniow has made such a compelling case? I’d love to hear what you all have to think.