ERIC T. PETERSON
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Eric Peterson's Blog at Web Analytics Demystified
Eric T. Peterson is the founder of Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and the author of Web Analytics Demystified, Web Site Measurement Hacks, and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. Mr. Peterson frequently presents on web analytics, is often cited in articles about digital measurement, and has been blogging on the subject since 2004.
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Today started with a flurry of communication about Adobe’s intent to start giving their Tagmanager product away to all SiteCatalyst customers at no charge. I see this change as having significant impact on the larger tag management and digital analytics marketplace, so I figured it was worth writing about.
Adobe’s news, confirmed but still not official, follows the launch of Google’s free Google Tag Manager by just over a month. This timing may be a coincidence — stranger things have happened — but it is just as easy to imagine that someone in Adobe decided that it was better to shake up the tag management market than to try and compete head-to-head on more robust, less expensive, and more widely adopted solutions. Additionally it is worth noting that IBM/Coremetrics made a similar decision months ago, essentially to provide access to their Digital Data Exchange product at no charge to customers.
For those of you keeping score at home, from the perspective of the traditional web and digital measurement vendors, here is broadly how things look today:
||$ to $$$$$
||Varies by Vendor
||$ to $$$$$
||Varies by Vendor
As you can see, three out of five of the market leaders as listed by Forrester Research in their Q4 2011 Web Analytics Wave report are currently providing their own in-house tag management product to customers at no charge. Only Webtrends and comScore at this point are left relying on third-parties, essentially forcing customers to either allocate budget, negotiate contracts, and manage another vendor or leverage Google’s tag management platform, a frightening prospect these days given Google’s continued push into Enterprise-class analytics.
What’s more, the real impact will likely be felt less in the halls at Webtrends, IBM, Google, and comScore and more at stand-alone tag management vendors like Ensighten, BrightTag, Tealium, TagMan, and others. This group, well summarized by Joe Stanhope in his recent report “Understanding Tag Management Tools and Technology”, breaks along two lines of maturity: Emerging and Mature.
By “Emerging” I mean simply platforms that are earlier-stage start-ups, built on open source code bases, or otherwise not a full-bore efforts on the part of leadership teams and investors. In this group I count Search Discovery’s Satellite product, UberTags, Tag Commander, and until recently SiteTagger (who were acquired by BrightTag this past August.) I also count the offerings from Adobe, IBM, and Google in this list — each are a great first-effort from their respective owners, but each have functional gaps relative to the mature platforms listed below.
The “Mature” platforms, at least in my mind, are BrightTag, Ensighten, Tealium, and TagMan. Each of these companies are growing, well funded, stable, and reasonably focused in their efforts to create value for the tag management market and their shareholders alike. And, while I admittedly don’t know the TagMan guys very well, the other three are all known to Web Analytics Demystified to have happy and satisfied Enterprise-class customers who are increasingly dependent on their platforms for their analytics and optimization strategies.
The challenge all of these companies now face is this: without regard to relative maturity or technical sophistication, the two biggest companies in the digital measurement space (Adobe and Google) are now giving away tag management. What’s more, Adobe’s solution is essentially already deployed as part of most SiteCatalyst customer’s existing deployments, giving Adobe PR the license to declare that “Tagmanager is the world’s most widely deployed tag management solution” if they wanted.
Touche, Adobe. Touche.
While without a doubt the usual platitudes about “rising tides” and “market education” will be brought up, as will the typical FUD about “fox in the henhouse” and “vendor lock-in”, I wanted to drill down a little and provide my personal perspective on who Adobe’s announcement helps and who it hurts. Feel free to disagree with me here in comments … I know not everyone will like what I’m about to say.
Who Adobe Giving Away Tag Management Helps …
In the short-term, Adobe’s announcement helps more or less every SiteCatalyst customer who has been wondering if tag management is right for their company. The pricing barrier is gone, the deployment barrier is gone (assuming you have the right code base deployed), and for the most part the decision barrier is gone. You don’t have to decide whether it’s right to send even more data to Google … you’re already in bed with Adobe so pull those covers up a little more and snuggle in for a long Winter’s, umm, adventure learning how to actually leverage tag management.
Okay, that analogy stunk. Sorry.
Once Adobe flips the switch, every company leveraging SiteCatalyst has the immediate green light to start to explore tag management. Keep in mind, as with everything else, it’s not the tool you use, it’s how you use it … and if you’d like help getting started with the actual process of tag management please let me know. Web Analytics Demystified is very experienced with the process of bringing TMS up within the Enterprise …
Adobe’s announcement (again, when they officially make it) will also have that “rising tide” effect I alluded to above, without a doubt. Especially considering the money that Adobe is spending on advertising and marketing lately, if Tagmanager is rolled into that it is likely that an even greater number of CEO/CIO/CTO types will be asking their analytics teams about tag management, thusly generating substantially more interest in the topic at vendors across the board.
Longer-term, Adobe and Google’s announcement will help all companies. Trust me here, tag management is the future of digital measurement, analysis, and optimization. Based on work with our clients in the past two years, tag management is Pandora’s box — once it’s opened you can never, ever return to the way things were. And while I certainly don’t want anyone reading this to think that “tag management is easy” — it’s not — with the right people, process, and technology in place, tag management is enabling a whole new type of digital analytics. Again, contact me directly if you’d like to learn more about how tag management might be able to transform your company.
Who Adobe Giving Away Tag Management Hurts …
Much the same as I opined in my Good Guy/Scumbag Google blog post on the same subject, the Adobe announcement is not all good news. While Adobe customers can certainly bask in the altruism of their vendor — regardless of the reason they decided to make Tagmanager free … free is free — not everyone can be happy about this. Here are a few companies who I think are going to be hurt by Adobe’s decision:
- Adobe’s competitors in the digital measurement space. Within the Enterprise market I certainly consider Adobe the market leader. While they are certainly not perfect, post-acquisition I have seen a steady increase in the focus and commitment the company exhibits towards the analytics market and, while I can never be entirely sure if they are actually leading the way or just following very quickly, the result is the same and Adobe continues to log impressive wins in the market. Giving away tag management — even if they have been doing it all along as a practical matter — only makes them a stronger competitor in the RFP process up against the likes of IBM, Google, Webtrends, and comScore. Seemingly overnight, free tag management has become “table stakes” in the digital measurement arena.
- The Emerging tag management vendors. Here the pain is equally inflicted by Google and Adobe. To me it is not clear that companies will continue to pay for a solution that has, in the blink of an eye, moved from the hottest technology out there to a commodity market. Yes, Adobe and Google’s solutions are emerging themselves, and yes, each has as many limitations as they do advantages, but the one thing that Google buying Urchin years ago has taught us is that “free” is very compelling, especially when the final value proposition from the change being considered is not 100% clear.
- The Mature tag management vendors. I suspect that today was one of those “ugh, f*ck” days at Ensighten, TagMan, Tealium, and BrightTag … a day that is sadly increasingly common. The competition among these four is fierce, and I suspect the last thing that any of the executives and investors at any of these firms wanted to see on the heels of a free Google entry was a widespread and automatic deployment of a no-cost tag management from the platform (Adobe) that, honestly, benefits the most from tag management in the first place. To be fair, each of these vendors has a technological and methodological advantage over both Adobe and Google — each in their own way — but again, I consider it likely that at a minimum sales cycles will lengthen, prices will be forced down, and future rounds of investment will be somewhat harder to come by.
- Tag management investors. Tag management vendors of all types have seen substantial investment from venture capitalists around the globe. Given my writing about tag management I have spent countless hours on the phone with investors considering getting into the sector and, on every call, I was inevitably asked “do you think Google or Adobe or IBM will get into the space?” Now we have our answer, and what’s more, each of these three companies see a greater advantage in having their code deployed than they do trying to use TMS to drive revenue. Unfortunately revenue and adoption is the name of the game for investors, and that game just changed.
I suspect that there is some argument to be made for “this decision by Adobe (and Google) hurts everyone” given that if I am right about points #1 through #4 above it is likely that innovation in the tag management space will slow. Here I am not so convinced — knowing the leaders at most of the Mature TMS vendors moderately well I rather expect them to respond to Adobe and Google by making even better, even more sophisticated, and even more compelling offerings for as long as the market will let them. These guys are a smart bunch, and not a one of them to my knowledge is a quitter, so I expect them all to put up a good fight … driving innovation.
Again, for at least as long as the market will let them.
What do you think? Are you using SiteCatalyst and ready to give Tagmanager a try? Are you more likely to consider SiteCatalyst because they’re giving tag management away? Or does Adobe’s decision not really change your approach towards TMS … and if not, why not?
As always I welcome your comments and thoughts.
Posted Thursday, November 1st, 2012 |
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The good guys at Google announced today that they are giving away their own Tag Management System, Google Tag Manager. Since I’m not at Emetrics (where the announcement was made) I have been watching the news and responses over Twitter and I have to say it has been quite interesting. Responses seem to fall into two broad camps — “Good Guy Google” and “Scumbag Google” (with respect to /r …) — and since we have been covering and supporting TMS deployments for the past few years I figured I would offer some thoughts on both.
Good Guy Google
In one camp we have, well, most of the companies around the globe who have been considering an investment in tag management. In one fell swoop, Google has made their lives easier by far, at least when it comes to cost-justifying an additional investment in analytics … by simply eliminating the cost all-together. Whereas Google could have brought Tag Manager to market as a revenue generating service similar to Google Analytics Enterprise, Good Guy Google (“GGG”) opted instead for rapid adoption via their tried and true “trade you for data” model which has served the analytics offering so well.
What’s more, Google made the “trade you for data” very transparent in the sign-up process, giving users an easy to identify checkbox that allows them to deny Google the ability to use their data as part of the exchange. How cool is that?
GGG is truly being good in this regard, and although they do indicate under their Terms of Service that they will be using Tag Manager data to improve the tag management service, they explicitly state they will not share collected data without the user’s consent.
Good Guy Google for thinking about our privacy!
While I am still exploring the service it is clear that A) this is a pretty good first effort and B) that Google Tag Manager is lacking much of the functionality and sophistication of the established market leaders in the space, Ensighten, Tealium, and BrightTag. Des Cahill, Vice President of Marketing at Ensighten, posted a nice welcome to Google and a brief summary of some of the limitations the Google product has relative to Ensighten and others that is worth a read if you have five minutes …
That said, given Google’s demonstrated history of rapid application evolution and their long-standing commitment to Google Analytics, I suspect that Google’s TMS will quickly evolve beyond a good “entry point” into tag management to the same type of business-viable solution that Google Analytics itself has become. If I’m right, and hell, even if I’m not, Good Guy Google has changed the adoption curve for tag management forever by putting TMS into everyone’s hands, not just those companies with enough pain or enough money to make the leap.
Inevitably not everyone is happy to see Google come into the Tag Management space. As Cahill points out in his post, the handful of tag management options out there that are targeting the lower-end of the market likely just got the wind taken completely out of their sails (or sales, FTW!) And while these very few companies will point to more mature products, better user interfaces, more well defined SLAs, and whatever other FUD they are able to think up, it is far more likely that these companies are about to undergo a “forced pivot” … which is never that much fun.
And that sucks. Scumbag Google.
What’s more, this potential pain isn’t limited to vendors targeting the lower-end of the market. The “big dogs” have taken in over $50,000,000 in venture funding in the past twelve months, and I suspect that most of that was predicated on an assumption of the continuation of the same type of hockey-stick like growth in adoption and revenue acquisition we have been reading about. Now, even if Google’s service doesn’t meet the requirements of an Enterprise-class offering, it is likely that the TMS buying process for a great number of companies just became as complicated as … well … paying for web analytics when their is a widely adopted, powerful, free solution provided by Good Guy Google.
Scumbag Google, indeed.
Good Guy or Scumbag … it Depends!
Whether you consider Google a Good Guy or a Scumbag really depends on where you work and what your vested interest are, and honestly it’s probably too soon to say for sure exactly what impact Google Tag Manager will have on the TMS space overall. Still, I have long commented that the evolution of the TMS sector is much like the web analytics sector, only much compressed, and Google’s announcement will only accelerate that compression.
Now, instead of having five to seven years to build a great company and work towards the kind of million (or billion) dollar exit appreciated by Omniture, Coremetrics, Unica, and Urchin, executives and investors at the marketing leading tag management firms need to be thinking about twelve to twenty-four month exit plans. And, instead of having the luxury of time and a natural growth and adoption curve, the smaller, lower-end firms need to quickly evaluate their commitment to a sector that is about to be overwhelmed by Good Guy/Scumbag Google.
What do you think?
Do you think Google is a Good Guy for making TMS free? Or are you skeptical, thinking that this is the ultimate Scumbag move on their part? I welcome your comments, and to make weighing in even easier I have posted to comments below that you can up-vote or down-vote based on your own, anonymous feelings.
Posted Monday, October 1st, 2012 |
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Wow, I cannot believe that October is almost upon us and that the expanding team at Web Analytics Demystified is about to deliver another ACCELERATE event! We are pretty excited about what we have to offer this time:
Good stuff to be sure, but the thing I am most excited about is the generosity of our sponsors. Thanks to Ensighten, OpinionLab, ObservePoint, and Tealeaf/IBM we are able to present a jam-packed day of content in a way that is affordable to everyone. ACCELERATE is 100% free for everyone who attends!
In a day and age where conference costs seem to continually rise so that promoters can have the most lavish hotel, the most fancy meal, and the most incredible sunsets we at Web Analytics Demystified have opted to buck the trend. We have decided to put on a conference that is accessible to all, truly an analytics event for the 99%.
While others choose to differentiate on luxury and a “spare no expense” mentality, ACCELERATE differentiates on quality content, reasonable locations, and a price that everyone can afford. We do this because our excellent sponsors allow it, and, frankly, because we truly love what we do.
If you’re part of the 99% we hope you’ll join us in Boston on Wednesday, October 24th. Don’t bring your checkbook as we have nothing to sell you. Just bring your computer so you can share what you learn and our sponsors, our speakers, and the Web Analytics Demystified team will do the rest.
Registration is still open. Join us at ACCELERATE Boston!
Posted Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 |
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(The following is a guest post from David Schuette, an active member of the Analysis Exchange. You can follow David on Twitter @TheCakeScraps or contact us if you’d like to reach David directly.)
The Analysis Exchange is a wonderful organization that I’m proud to be a member of. I’m sure you’re similarly excited about it if you are reading this blog! The fact that it is all volunteer driven makes each project so rewarding because you know the people want to be there. You can tell how much the end result of the project means to the individuals receiving it. And you can do it over and over again.
In fact, that is one of the best parts about the Analysis Exchange – there really isn’t a limit on what an individual student, mentor, or organization can get out of it. I’m extremely grateful so many individuals want to participate in this effort, but I know there are some of you out there that want to do even more. Good news: you can! And here’s how.
If you are already a Mentor, go find another coworker or friend that could be a Mentor as well. With so many new analysts entering the field there is a need for industry veterans to step up and guide this new wave of analysts. You’re already doing a great job by donating your time and you only have so much time to give. Life is busy and that’s totally understandable. The good news is that it doesn’t take up any additional time to have a conversation over lunch, mention your project on Twitter, or talk up the Exchange at the next conference you attend.
If you are a Student and are having a hard time getting a project, go local. And for that matter, if you’re a Mentor that wants to really help out the Exchange, go local. Wendy is great, but she can only do so much to bring in new organizations. Help her out; I did it and you can too! Earlier this year, after having some great conversations with the President of my local Ad Council, we worked out an opportunity for me to present digital analytics at a workshop.
The workshop was extremely basic – Digital Analytics 101. Many of the 40+ people in attendance didn’t even have Google Analytics running on their website. They didn’t know anything about it but they were excited to learn. We started with simple definitions and moved into some baseline reporting that Google Analytics could provide. The session went extremely well and I even had requests to do additional presentations! The grand finale was that they could get experienced professionals the help them through this, for free, with the Analysis Exchange. I couldn’t ask for a better set up.
My goal was simply to bring more organizations into the exchange, but if you really want to get in on a project, the best way to do it is bring in a local organization. I guarantee they’ll select you if you work with them to set it all up!
My final piece of advice is to pace yourself and set a personal goal relating to the Exchange. It is easy to keep putting off a project just as it is easy to do one after another and decide it takes up too much time. If you set a goal of 1 project every X months (whatever is right for you) you’ll find that you look forward to your next project because there’s a plan to do it and a plan to finish it. Scoping it out always makes it seem more manageable.
All of these are things you can do, outside of directly working on a project, that can provide a huge benefit to the Exchange and give you a satisfying feeling of accomplishment along the way. Take a moment to think if any of these sound right for you. Sure, it takes a bit of extra effort, but something tells me I’m talking to the right crowd.
Posted Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 |
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One of the issues we focus on in our consulting practice at Web Analytics Demystified is the relationship between page performance and key site metrics. Increasingly our business stakeholders are cognizant of this relationship and, given that awareness, interested in having clear visibility into the impact of page performance on engagement, conversion, and revenue. Historically speaking tying the two together has been arduous, and, when the integration has been completed, possible outcomes have been complicated by the fact that site performance is usually someone else’s job.
Fortunately both of these challenges are becoming less and less of an issue. Digital analytics providers are increasingly able to accept page performance data, either directly as in the case of Google Analytics “Site Speed” reports, or indirectly via APIs and other feeds from solutions like Keynote, Gomez, Tealeaf, and others allowing the most widely used digital analytics suites to meaningfully segment against this data on a per-visit and per-visitor basis.
Additionally, thanks to Web Performance Optimization and the recent emergence of solutions that allow for multivariate testing of different performance optimization techniques, business stakeholders and analysts are increasingly able to collaborate with IT/Operations to devise highly targeted performance solutions by geography, device, and audience segment. Recently I had the pleasure of working with the team at SiteSpect to describe these solutions in a free white paper titled “Five Tips for Optimizing Site Performance.”
You can download the white paper directly from SiteSpect (registration required) or get the link from our own white papers page here at Web Analytics Demystified. If you want a quick preview of what the paper covers I’d encourage you to give a listen to the brief webcast we created in support of the document.
If you’re thinking about how you can better measure and manage your site’s performance we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line and we’ll walk you through how we’re helping clients around the globe get their arms around the issue.
Posted Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 |
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