This post will compare the various features and capabilities of the Omniture SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics, and Yahoo Web Analytics applications, and determine how appropriate each is for the measurement and analysis of website traffic. This post is likely to get quite wordy, so I apologize in advance. This analysis is intended to be comprehensive for evaluating analytics solutions.
While writing this I will attempt to show no bias towards one application over another, and if I am presenting my opinion, I will be sure to point this out.
Omniture SiteCatalyst has long been a major player in the analytics market, meeting the needs for many large, corporate clients. Google Analytics emerged just over 3 years ago after Google purchased the analytics solution Urchin, and as of the date of this posting (1.7.2010) Yahoo! Web Analytics is still in a beta stage, only allowing access to certain small business customers and News Consortium members.
The Omniture SiteCatalyst application is extremely robust, providing expansive and expandable measurement capabilities, but such features do not come cheap. It is not uncommon for corporate clients to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to gain access to the Omniture SiteCatalyst system.
While initially not nearly as robust as Omniture, Google Analytics became instantly competitive by offering their analytics solution free of charge, provided that a website stays within the set limit of 5 million page views. For sites that have in excess of 5 million page views per month, Google Analytics is free as long as the site has an associated, active AdWords account. Since launching the solution publicly in November 2005, Google has made significant improvements to the application. Improvements and limitations of Google Analytics will be discussed later in this post.
Like Google, Yahoo Analytics is also a free solution, but Yahoo differs from Google’s application in that the page view limitation per-site is much greater (250 million page views per month vs. 5 million per month for Google Analytics.)
Advantage: Yahoo Analytics
Dashboards / Customized Reports
SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics, and Yahoo Analytics all provide extensive capabilities for custom reporting and automated reports. This has long been a feature inherent in SiteCatalyst, and Google Analytics made numerous upgrades and interface improvements in the last 12 months which allow for this capability. In each of the applications, users can easily create and download customized reports which show traffic data alongside other important metrics. Reports can be downloaded from all systems, and automated emails can be scheduled to send reports in numerous formats.
Google Analytics can email reports in the following formats: PDF, XML, CSV, and TSV. Where Google falls a bit short, however, is when it comes to having multiple dashboards for various purposes. Currently, Google Analytics only allows users to have one default report/dashboard for each site (per login.) The default dashboard can be customized on a per-site basis within the same user login, however if a user wishes to have multiple dashboards for the same site, a separate login must be used. In my opinion, such limitations of Google should not greatly affect the final recommendation for one product or the other. Dashboards can be scheduled for delivery in reports that are well-formatted, informative, and easy to read.
Reports in Yahoo Analytics can be downloaded or scheduled for delivery in HTML, Excel, PDF, or CSV. Scheduled reports in Yahoo Analytics can be configured for delivery daily, weekly, or monthly. An enhancement request has been in made for hourly alerting/reporting, and this is currently in the Yahoo queue. For daily reports, Yahoo allows for configuring delivery at any hour of the day. Downloaded and emailed reports can be configured to display up to 200,000 rows in Yahoo Analytics.
Omniture SiteCatalyst allows for emailing reports in Excel, PDF, HTML, and Word. When downloading reports, all of the same options are available except HTML. Unlike Google or Yahoo, Omniture SiteCatalyst is able to schedule hourly reports. Omniture also has “Data Extract” functionality which enables delivery of an unformatted report in .csv format for very large data requests. The caveat to Omniture’s custom report capability is that during periods of very heavy traffic, delivery of automated reports may be delayed. In my experience, some reports may fail altogether during periods of heavy traffic.
Advantage: Omniture SiteCatalyst*
*Omniture gets the edge because of the expanded capability for ‘hourly’ scheduled reports. If/when Yahoo Analytics implements hourly alerting/reporting, I believe Yahoo may have the edge here, though it is a tossup.
Omniture relies heavily on a support network known as Omniture Client Care for answering support requests and enabling additional features. As part of the support system, Omniture also makes available documentation for virtually every piece of functionality and common questions. Included with acontract are “supported users”, those allowed to contact Omniture Client Care. Omniture also has a Twitter account for support that I have found extremely helpful and responsive.
Because it is a free solution, there are no guarantees of support when using Google Analytics, however there is a very large community of power users and Google support personnel that regularly monitor the Google forums to assist with issues. In fact, the Google Analytics help forums and other instructional documentation are extremely helpful, perhaps more-so than Omniture SiteCatalyst documentation, but this is only my opinion. In addition, there are Google-Certified consulting companies which provide professional services for a fee. The key difference between both applications is that with Omniture Client Care, a supported user can get immediate access to personal support using the 24 hour support line.
Being a relatively new solution, Yahoo Analytics is still in the process of establishing a support network. It is not clear if Yahoo will have a personal level of on-demand support, or if a support “network” will exist, similar to that of Google Analytics. In the meantime, Yahoo has extensive documentation that appears to match that of Google Analytics in quality and scope.
Advantage: Omniture SiteCatalyst
User & Access Management
Omniture SiteCatalyst provides extremely robust user management tools, allowing administrators to assign access at many different levels. All contact information is within the Administrators interface, and passwords can be reset easily. Access to reports is setup using “Groups” in SiteCatalyst. Groups are granted various privileges, and one or more report suites can be assigned to individual groups. This level of organization can be both helpful and cumbersome, depending on circumstance.
Access rights in Google Analytics differ from Omniture SiteCatalyst in that users can only be given one of two levels of access/privileges (read-only or admin) to each website profile. Further, users can only be given access using a Google Account (as of this posting), and user contact information (phone number) is not stored on Google Analytics.
The Yahoo Analytics application makes user management fairly easy. Like Google Analytics, regular users are granted access to view reports on an individual site basis, rather than groups. Yahoo Analytics have four different levels of user rights:
- Administrator – Unrestricted access to reporting, account and user management features.
- Power User – Unrestricted access to reporting, account and user management features, except for editing or deleting Administrators.
- User – Unrestricted access to reporting, but they do not have access to account management or user management features.
- Restricted User – Access to select reports and dashboards on an individual basis. Restricted Users have no access to account or user management features.
Unlike Google Analytics, a separate email address from the solution provider (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) is not required to setup access in Yahoo Web Analytics.
Advantage: Tie – Omniture SiteCatalyst & Yahoo Web Analytics
Google Analytics allows for traffic filtering in a variety of different ways, including filtering by domain, IP address (or range), site section, geography, referrer, client browser settings, page title, etc.
Omniture and Yahoo Web Analytics do not have nearly the filtering capability of Google Analytics, but in both applications traffic can still be filtered by IP address or a range of IP addresses. The Omniture SiteCatalyst filtering options are sufficient for most website needs.
In addition to IP filtering, Yahoo Analytics also has the ability to exclude the current browser of an Administrator using cookie-based filtering. While this feature is admittedly pretty neat, I do not see it being used often as many ISPs use IP pooling.
Advantage: Google Analytics
Known within the SiteCatalyst system as “Data Sources”, Omniture allows administrators to import data from various different sources, provided that the data is formatted correctly. As data cannot be removed from the system, there is inherent risk associated with such capability. Example usages of this feature include importing newsletter information to correlate with subsequent page views, as well as importing video usage data or mobile traffic (if not already tracked in SiteCatalyst).
Google Analytics and Yahoo Web Analytics currently do not have any way to import data into the system, so any external data must be analyzed separately.
Advantage: Omniture SiteCatalyst
Rollup / Multi-Suiting
The ability to easily aggregate and analyze traffic across multiple websites is a very important consideration for corporate clients who must administer many different sites. There are two different methods that can accomplish this task: Rollup Accounts and Multi-Suiting (double/multi-tagging). The ease with which aggregate data can be analyzed is also an important consideration.
Omniture SiteCatalyst provides features for both options for aggregating multi-site data. Via multi-suiting, SiteCatalyst tracking code can be configured to report data to more than one website profile (report suite.) Doing so allows SiteCatalyst to track overall page views across all tagged sites, determine unique visitors [not limited to one domain], and perform drill-down correlations for various traffic segments. The disadvantages to such an implementation are that each additional account ID that is tracked results in an additional server call to Omniture, and subsequently greater overall cost.
The alternative to multi-suiting in SiteCatalyst is to use rollup accounts. In Omniture, rollup accounts can be configured to report many of the same basic metrics as standard single-site reports, however there are a couple of significant limitations:
- Correlations cannot be set up to report on specific traffic segments, a feature that is possible in standard (non-rollup) report suites.
- Data in Omniture rollup reports is always delayed approx. 2 days, as Omniture simply does not have the ability to aggregate data from all accounts in real-time.
Google Analytics does not have any rollup capability that will automatically aggregate data from selected sites, short of a multi-tagging option similar to Omniture’s multi-suiting. A similar feature that Google Analytics does have, however, is the ability to view some basic site metrics for a specified group of sites alongside others. Further, Google will display the data based on Day, Week, Month, or Year, and show the % change from the previous time-period. See screenshot below:
As previously mentioned, Google Analytics has the ability to use multi-tagging to gather traffic data across multiple sites. Resulting data can be analyzed in the same way as a single-site report, but unlike Omniture, Google is a free solution that does not charge a fee based on individual server calls (page views.)
Data rollup options for Yahoo Analytics are similar to that of Omniture. Websites (projects) can be grouped together for viewing very basic information across a number of different sites. The drawback to this method in Yahoo is that the only metrics available in a rollup are visits, monthly unique visitors, page views, time on site and a couple of e-commerce metrics. This list of metrics is far less extensive than the data that can be reported in Omniture rollups.
It is not clear yet if Yahoo Web Analytics will allow for a multi-tagging option for multi-site analysis, though it does seem likely.
Advantage: Google Analytics** & Omniture SiteCatalyst
**Though it appears that Omniture has more options for multi-site tracking, in my opinion the limited rollup analysis capability for Omniture SiteCatalyst, and the side-by-side comparison ability of Google Analytics make the two products very comparable in this regard.
Segmenting / Correlations
Segmenting data, called correlating in SiteCatalyst, is a way to break down two types of data to perform in-depth analysis of user visits. An example of segmenting would be to find out how many users referred by Yahoo.com viewed the site for more than 10 seconds.
Omniture SiteCatalyst has the ability to perform correlations, however each must be manually set up, and all data is not retroactive within the SiteCatalyst system. Each report suite in Omniture also has a limited number of correlations available, depending on your contract. Omniture has a second product called DataWarehouse that allows for many different levels of segmenting and correlations. While this data is retroactive for everything except newly added custom variables, reports can take up to 72 hours to process. DataWarehouse must be added to an Omniture contract before it can be accessed.
Google Analytics and Yahoo Analytics are much more flexible when it comes to segmenting data for analysis. While custom segments and user-defined variables can be set up, most of the correlations that a user would need to perform are already built into both systems. Further, all custom segmenting is retroactive within the primary interface, meaning a breakdown of traffic by multiple dimensions can be viewed for the history of the report suite, and generation of these reports is nearly instantaneous.
Advantage: Yahoo Web Analytics, Google Analytics
System & Account Limitations
- Users – The Omniture contract dictates how many user logins are available for an account, and for large corporate clients it can be very easy to hit this limit.
- Correlations – Each non-rollup report suite in Omniture has a limited number of correlations. A correlation in Omniture is a way to tie two variables together for further breakdowns. Rollup report suites cannot have any correlations.
- Variable Limits (props, evars, events) – Limits are in place for Omniture custom variables (limits are per report suite). (Note: These limits may vary by contract):
- s.prop variables: 50
- s.eVar (custom conversion,campaign) variables: 50
- Event variables (custom event tracking): 20
- Others – A variety of other standard limitations exist within the Omniture system and contract, though I have found that most others do not negatively affect standard reporting capabilities.
- Page Views – Currently, free usage of the Google Analytics application is limited to 5 million page views per month, per profile (each site generally has its own profile.) Google accounts that are associated with an ‘active’ Adwords account do not have the 5 million page view restriction. An active AdWords account is defined by Google as spending a minimum of $1 per day.
- Site Profiles – Called “report suites” in Omniture SiteCatalyst, a site profile in Google Analytics is the name given to each individual site/rollup where data is aggregated for analysis. Google Analytics has a limit of 50 profiles per analytics account, however users can have multiple analytics accounts per overall Google Account. (An administrator would only need to login to a Google Account once to manage each analytics account and site profile.
Yahoo Web Analytics*
- Site Projects & Multi-tagging – As mentioned previously, it is not clear whether or not Yahoo will allow tracking of data for multiple “projects” on the same page.
- Variable Limits (props, evars, events) – The following limits are in place for Yahoo Analytics custom variables (limits are per tracked entity):
- Non-categorized custom variables (action, campaign, etc): 38
- Custom Event/Action variables: 15
*As Yahoo Analytics is still in a beta state, it is not yet known what other system/account limitations might exist within Yahoo Web Analytics.
Advantage: Yahoo Analytics
Performance of the application UI is much faster and more seamless in the Yahoo and Google offerings than in Omniture SiteCatalyst. The two most noticeable points of delay in SiteCatalyst are report generation and the total clicks to reach a report.
Google Analytics recently launched a new AJAX-based interface that allows for most reporting features to be loaded inline, without refreshing the entire page. As a result, items load much quicker and it is an overall better user experience.
While Yahoo Web Analytics does not make use of AJAX functionality to refresh reports inline, the overall UI appears to respond very quickly to most report requests. Still, Yahoo can’t quite match the speed of AJAX-based Google Analytics.
Advantage: Google Analytics
Custom Variable / Event / Link Tracking
With Omniture SiteCatalyst, tracking code can be configured to track multiple different types of variables (listed previously in the Account Limitations section.) This ability makes it possible to break down traffic metrics and dimensions by various other custom metrics. Also available in SiteCatalyst is the ability to perform custom event and link tracking, both of which become useful when tracking actions that do not necessarily refresh a page or lead to a page that has tracking installed.
While Google Analytics meets most custom reporting needs with the out-of-the-box implementation, one key difference from Omniture is that Google Analytics only allows for 5 custom variables to be tracked on any single page. As a result, some level of compromise – or a different method of analyzing data – might be necessary. Google Analytics provides custom link and event tracking comparable with SiteCatalyst.
For custom tracking needs, Yahoo Web Analytics appears to combine the best of the Google and Omniture solutions. Yahoo has 39 built-in variables of various types that can be customized to fit tracking needs. In addition, Yahoo’s product allows for custom breakdowns (correlations) and custom report generation using any available metrics and data groups.
Advantage: Yahoo Web Analytics
Site Overlay Tools
Both Google Analytics and Omniture SiteCatalyst have site overlay tools that can be used for viewing content popularity relative to surrounding items. Such tools are very useful for analyzing the effectiveness of ad positions, as well as user focus based on content placement.
Omniture’s site overlay feature is called ClickMap, and using the tool requires that a user download the installation file to their computer and install the application in the browser. One ongoing issue with ClickMap is that retrieving data for date ranges larger than one day can often take a very long time or time out completely. Compatibility has also been an issue with Omniture ClickMap, as new browser releases often disrupt the tool’s ability to accurately portray site overlays. Nonetheless, ClickMap is an effective way for web editors to view content popularity.
Google’s site overlay tool is often referred to as “heatmap” (or sometimes just “Site Overlay”). Unlike ClickMap, Google’s tool is opened in a new window and runs through the Google servers, so there is no installation required. The tool is relatively new and many in the analytics community are excited about what it can offer, however personal experience has shown that it is incompatible with my setup (I have not yet determined whether the issues are with the tracked website or my client.)
At the moment, Yahoo Analytics does not have any site overlay tool(s) available.
Advantage: Omniture SiteCatalyst*
*There are many reasons why Google’s site overlay tool could have the advantage over Omniture’s ClickMap, however Omniture’s product has the advantage in this criteria simply for being around longer and proven effective.
One very useful tool that is available from Omniture is the ExcelClient plugin for Microsoft Excel. With the tool, Omniture users can download data directly into Excel for analysis. This tool has proven to be very useful for creating custom-formatted reports, as well as running a standard report across multiple websites in a short period of time. Omniture also has a new API that can be used for exporting data.
An application similar to Omniture ExcelClient is available for Google Analytics. Called the Tatvic Excel Plugin, the tool utilizes the Google Analytics API to pull data into Microsoft Excel. Additionally, VBA Macros are available on the Google Analytics blog to further streamline data import to Excel.
Additional information regarding Google Analytics/Excel Integration can be found here: http://analytics.blogspot.com/2009/08/analytics-data-in-excel-through-our-api.html
At the moment, Yahoo Analytics does not have any application similar to ExcelClient that can be used for exporting data. However, the Yahoo Analytics application does have an API available, which will likely lead to eventual Excel integration.
Advantage: Omniture SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics
Tracking Tag Performance
In general, Google Analytics and SiteCatalyst tags do not appear to have a significant negative affect on page performance. From my testing with Gomez tools, the most obvious difference is that the Google tags appear to be much more consistent and reliable than Omniture tags.
Omniture SiteCatalyst Tag:
Google Analytics Tag:
Yahoo Analytics Tag:
In regards to performance of the tracking tags, Yahoo Analytics holds the clear advantage over Omniture and Google. The average response time, measured over a 3 week period, was 0.025 seconds, faster than Omniture’s 0.061 seconds and Google’s 0.064.
Advantage: Yahoo Analytics
Ads / Conversion / Goal Tracking
Because of the seamless integration with Google Adwords, Google Analytics provides a number of features for analyzing how ads affect page views and other conversion goals. Integration with Google Adwords is free with Google. Goal/conversion tracking can also be configured with Google, so that users following a certain path through a website can be counted and grouped together.
Omniture has an application known as SearchCenter which allows for integration with Google Adwords (and other PPC providers), however usage of this tool is at additional cost in the Omniture contract. Conversion tracking can be enabled in the Omniture interface, though the process within SiteCatalyst is much more tedious and confusing than in Google.
Yahoo Analytics can not only track the performance of Yahoo PPC ads, but can also pull in Google Adwords data for measuring performance of Adwords campaigns. This feature is available for free, making it the best option for PPC tracking between, Google, Yahoo, and Omniture.
Advantage: Yahoo Analytics
So there you have it. Of course there are many other things that may be taken into account when evaluating analytics solutions, but I’ve attempted to cover most of the basics here. If you have any questions/comments about the data here, please let me know!