Google Analytics alternatives - what do you get using something else ?
October 11, 2015 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Alternatives to Google Analytics - why and what ?

When I think of web analytics I tend to think of Google Analytics (I am *not* a SEO pro).

I recently read that uses at least five analytics services and I was kind of surprised as, to me at least, the space feels so dominated by the Goog.

I'm interested to know what do you get out of "non Google Analytics" services that you don't get from the big G ?

Don't want enormous detail (although feel free if you're in the mood) just curious how you'd pitch it to the suits that you should use X and Y as well as Google Analytics.

Also curious to know which are the big players after Google ?

In case anyone cares I was reading "Single Page Web Applications: JavaScript end-to-end" (a very enjoyable book) which mentions the thing about TechCrunch obliquely in chapter 4. The book was published in 2013 so it may not be true any longer.
posted by southof40 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Just to address the framing: I guess your pitch note gets at this, but I don't know that these services are viewed as alternatives to GA. Rather, they supplement the information available. If you use Ghostery to check out the trackers that load on pretty much any major media site, that will give you a pretty good picture of the current landscape with regard to analytics.
posted by limeonaire at 6:35 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nobody big uses Google analytics, at least not exclusively or even that heavily. If you're using the free version, the stats are one step up from useless because of the sampling -- especially if your numbers are small. It does some things - like referral tracking - nicely and automatically, but is a disaster at other things, like looking at funnels after the fact (it will only track ones you already have set up, if you think of one later you're screwed). As the person who does web analytics at my company I virtually never look at it. The marketing team does occasionally just because our internal referral tracking system currently has some bugs.

Tools I've used in the past include Omniture and KISS metrics, as well as a lot of internally designed things and Snowplow Analytics, which is gaining traction in the startup community (partially because it's also free/open source). Anything I can get the data out of and into a database so I can query it myself is much preferred to anything where I can't. I want to be able to correlate web behavior with the other things I know about my users and visitors. I need to filter out bots. I need to write my own reports and make dashboards. I need to do a lot of other stuff that is just not possible without my fingers in the data.

We actually have a lot of trouble with some clients who use GA on their sites because our (accurate) numbers don't match their (inaccurate) ones, and it's hard to just say like "well, yeah, that's GA for you"
posted by brainmouse at 6:41 PM on October 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

Put another way, if all you need to do is see web analytics, and your needs are pretty generic and you're OK with the numbers being more "directional" than accurate, GA will get you there. If you want to do web analytics or it's important to trust your numbers, you have to use another product.
posted by brainmouse at 6:55 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

What you can get out of alternatives to GA are primarily a) a more accurate numbers, and b) raw data. But 90% of people have no use for those things. Most punters are interested in trends rather than finite numbers; are the page views going up or down, are the uniques going up or down, are the conversions going up or down, is the bounce rate going up or down, etc. And while there is a lot of power to be extracted from raw data, the average user doesn't have the know-how so it doesn't matter.

One key advantage of GA is that it's very widely used, so it provides excellent comparative information. It is very useful to be able to tell a client "look, your bounce rate is double that of all our other retail clients in this sector; you need to get on board with fixing this." It doesn't matter that the numbers are broken, since all the clients are using GA so they are all broken in the same way.

Essentially, you are comparing rotten apples with rotten apples, which actually is much more useful than comparing rotten apples with gloriously fresh, healthy and accurate oranges.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:17 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The thing is, no monitoring system is ever going to be 100% accurate. People block your script, network oddities happen, stuff gets misconfigured, etc. I would never keep my books with the ecommerce data in my analytics system, for example. (Though I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to say that.)

We started to use Heap Analytics a little bit ago, and it's kinda interesting. You can totally do retroactive funnels but there is a ton of scutwork to figure out what you want to track.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:00 AM on October 12, 2015

The company I work for uses Clicky. I've also heard good things about Mixpanel. I've never directly interacted with either, but they're names I know, which probably says something.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:11 AM on October 12, 2015

Other systems I have used in the past: (I don't work for any of them, these are just my personal opinions)

Why it's different from GA: You track events and then chain them together to create funnels. Google chains funnels by pages. Google also has a limit on the number of events you can track, unless you upgrade your service level to an eye watering amount.

Why it's different from GA: Specifically for apps. GA does do app tracking as well, but Flurry handles a lot more events and does more cohort analysis (although GA has just started supporting this as well)

Why it's different from GA: Specifically for apps and it's mainly crash reporting. However, I also appreciated the monthly/daily/weekly active usage reporting in it. Super simple and clear.

Why it's different from GA: Owned by Adobe and called something else now

Why it's different from GA: Owned by IBM and called something else now

Why it's different from GA: You can mix events and pages and create endless segments. Funnels are a bit more difficult. It's also way more "code-y", so very customisable to any particular system although does take people who are pretty adept at creating data queries. edited to add: No sampling.
posted by like_neon at 10:12 AM on October 12, 2015

For what it's worth, GA is blocked by all the big adblockers out of the box, so your numbers will be lower than actual serverside reporting. I use it, but don't pay very close attention.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:46 PM on October 26, 2015

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