Web Analytics: Exciting Times Ahead

Last month, I encouraged marketers to take the next step in Web analytics — and you came through. The last few weeks have been a virtual head spin of activity in the Web analytics industry. All of it is pretty good news for the future of online profits, and the art and science of improving site effectiveness with analytics.

Cookie Panic

The ball got rolling with the release of Jupiter Research’s (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) report on cookie deletion. Many are alarmed at the high number of Web users (almost 40 percent) who delete cookies on a monthly basis, particularly marketers who want to track conversions over time. Some question the report, while others question the accuracy of their own cookie-based analytics. In the end, calmer heads prevailed. My cofounder of the Web Analytics Association (WAA), Jim Sterne, said it best:

Cookies have never been a perfect measuring tool, and now the spyware scare has a surprisingly large portion of the public deleting them. As a result, Web analytics practitioners must recalibrate their figures for reach and frequency.

Given the numbers from the Jupiter Research study, we are left with a better than 50 percent sample from which to extrapolate reach, frequency, etc., onto the rest of the population. That’s a statistically significant sample in anybody’s book.

The Web Analytics Association is very pleased that Jupiter Research carried out this research and believes more and continuous research is required to keep an eye on this issue. As more cookie deleting and blocking data comes to light, the Web Analytics Association can better help our members understand the impact this behavior has on their calculations.

Francisco Partners Buys WebTrends

On Monday, we learned WebTrends would spin out from the NetIQ family to once again function as a standalone operation. Many believe WebTrends will be able to act more nimbly and be more responsive to an increasingly competitive Web analytics landscape.

The move will improve the marketplace for Web analytics consumers. Consumers benefit when analytics vendors compete for their minds and hearts by improving both their applications and customer relations.

Google Dives in Headfirst

Before WebTrends’ news had cooled, Google announced it will acquire Urchin, and thus enter the Web analytics space. Considering Google’s recent forays into many areas of our online lives, this makes sense. Greg Drew, WebTrends’ GM, chimed in:

WebTrends has been a Google customer since the launch of AdWords, and we’ve relied on our own solution to optimize our SEM [search engine marketing] spend for years, so this announcement doesn’t come as a surprise. As marketers become savvier, their need to understand the return on every dollar of every campaign is mandatory. Google’s acquisition is a yet another validation that Web analytics is absolutely critical for marketers today, which is why our rebirth as a standalone company couldn’t have been timed better. Google will expose thousands more companies to the value of Web analytics, and many of them will eventually mature to wanting a complete solution.

Personally, I’m thrilled Google is investing its energy and brand in Web analytics. This will cement awareness and involvement in using analytics for site and online marketing effectiveness. Continually improving sites to achieve maximum return on investment (ROI) is on the verge of becoming mainstream. That’s good for our industry, and our customers.

Five-Year Forecast for Web Analytics Industry

Another recent Jupiter report confirms the buzz and excitement and points toward a bright future. “US Web Analytics Forecast, 2004-2009” predicts the U.S. Web analytics market will increase 20 percent annually over the next five years, reaching $931 million in 2009.

It also predicts a shortage of qualified, capable analytic experts. That’s good news for those of you who analyze site numbers and help a team interpret them for better ROI. And if the cost of analytics solutions was standing in your way, you’ll be happy to know Sane Solutions now offers a freeware version of its NetTracker software.

The Web Analytics Happy Dance

I’m tickled by all this news as someone who’s always evangelizing Web analytics’ value. Our superior ability to measure and interpret exactly what customers do (and fail to do) on our sites is what makes online businesses so exciting. As I do my happy dance, I’ve got two big questions for you:

  • What do your Web analytics tell you?

  • What are you going to do about it?

Meet Bryan at Search Engine Strategies in Toronto, Canada, May 4-5, 2005.

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