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Is There Room for Another Free Analytics Tool?

Mike Grehan
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Get your free analytics tools here. Here... Or here.

As I've said on a number of occasions, never have search and analytics been so closely aligned. Which is probably the reason that Yahoo recently purchased IndexTools (Disclosure: My company has been a long standing partner of IndexTools). Quite a lot has been written since the announcement was made at the beginning of the month. But this is the first opportunity I've had to give it any thought.

I'm currently living in New York where my company is headquartered. And I'm spending a lot of time in the office acquainting myself with a whole range of software and tools developed in-house. There's no doubt in my mind that my colleagues are certainly data-demons.

This is good, because when you're working with clients that are truly global, you end up with a huge demand for different types of reporting and analysis. So we have a team of specialists dedicated to working stuff out.

I'm proud to be chair of the search analytics track at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit. In a couple of weeks I'll be heading to the San Francisco show to hang with the analytics elite. And I'm sure this Yahoo acquisition will still be a hot topic.

Why should it still be such a big deal?

Google rolled out its own analytics package a few years ago, and gives it away for free. In my previous ClickZ column, "A Deeper Dive Into adCenter," I talked about the free package from Microsoft. So, do we really need another free analytics package?

Well actually we do... sort of. If it's IndexTools, that is.

The problem is, it likely won't be IndexTools. Well, not as we know it. In much the same way that Google bought Urchin and branded it up as Google Analytics (GA), Yahoo is likely to do something similar. But it's not just a change of name and a lick of Yahoo paint that it gets. Yahoo now gets ownership of the data.

When Google rolled out its analytics package there was much skepticism about the privacy issue. Now I'm not suggesting the likelihood of anything improper going on with private data from huge, reputable companies such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo (all of whom take privacy very seriously). But there's just that niggling doubt that seems less of a threat when partnering up with an independent third party provider.

Assuming that you did rid yourself of that niggling doubt. So what? Now you just have to choose between the three free gifts we're being offered to provide to our customers.

Wrong!

Google's launch was a rip-roaring success to a huge customer base where one-size-fits-all seems a perfectly acceptable solution. But once you get into the realms of hugely complex, international organization structures (both centralized and decentralized), one size most certainly does not fit all.

However, experience with IndexTools has proved time and time again just how flexible and adaptable it can be. Add to that first-class support, and you have a very reliable solution for a wide variety of customer profiles.

While Google certainly provides the standards in terms of essential analytics (specifically for paid search it can be auto-tagged to pull in your AdWords campaign data) they do not support other engine APIs to pull in the data automatically.

For organic traffic, GA also provides the basics in terms of visits, bounce rate, page views, unique visits, conversions, and revenue on an engine and keyword level. The largest drawbacks are really that the data is not real-time, and customized reporting and segmentation reporting are non-existent. For sophisticated organic or paid search efforts, it really may not be enough.

IndexTools, on the other hand, provides many of the bells and whistles that GA doesn't at this time. They currently provide API/bid management capabilities, as well as an extremely sophisticated custom reporting functionally. Plus their data is provided in real time.

And with conversion data, GA can only track 4 goals, whereas IndexTools is unlimited.

Of course, we use the term analytics for these tools. But as much as they're gathering data, our own company analytics guru mentioned to me: "The analytics comes after you've captured the data. Having the right people who know what to do with the data is the real key to getting insights into the success of your online marketing activity."

And back to the support issues. If you're paying your vendor for more sophisticated/granular analysis and reporting, then you're likely get the support to go with it. But when you're paying nothing, you can figure what you're going to get when it comes to the support issue.

On the upside at Google, their Web Optimizer product came out of beta last week. And this is one heck of a free tool (although I have heard that support there is virtually non-existent).

The combination of Yahoo's new IndexTools product and Google's Web Optimizer product is mighty potent. The problem is, they're on different sides of the same fence.

Now there's a thing! Doesn't this mean that, given that you'll accept the privacy niggle, a company which can extrapolate data from all these free sources and suck them into one place would be a real winner.

Now that's something free I'd probably quite happily pay for.

Mike Grehan is global KDM (keyword-driven marketing) officer with New York based Acronym Media. He has been involved in online marketing since 1995 and is recognized in the industry as an expert in the search marketing field. He has written multiple books and white papers on the subject, and is a long-standing ClickZ columnist.


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