Table of contents
- What are website analytics tools?
- Compare the top website analytics tools by feature
- Top website analytics software
- Major features of web analytics tools
- Choosing a web analytics tool
Leading website analytics software to consider
What are website analytics tools?
Website analytics tools help companies understand how traffic moves around their websites, interacts with the on-site elements, and ultimately convert by purchasing a product. Web analytics software is a type of marketing software, although it’s most often used by SEO and technical marketing professionals or user experience (UX) pros.
The most widely known and used website analytics software is Google Analytics. This tool is industry-standard because it is both free and useful for understanding many of the metrics that a marketing team will track on their website. However, many companies find Google Analytics insufficient to fully understand how people use their site and what causes them to convert (or not). For that reason, companies who are ready to make a serious investment in their websites will often look for a paid website analytics software that suits their needs.
Compare the top website analytics tools by feature
|Realtime Analysis||Metrics based on Customer Behavior instead of only page visits||Installed on own server/data ownership|
Top website analytics software
Google and Analytics are almost indivisible in the online performance metrics marketplace. The main advantage to using Google Analytics is that you have the programming resources and reach of the world’s most popular online search tool at your disposal.
The downside (if you want to call it that) is that it’s somewhat biased towards Google’s other products like page SEO (search engine optimization) and advertising performance. Primary metrics include session duration, pages per session, bounce rate of visitors and geographic location of traffic sources.
Like Google’s other products, Google Analytics isn’t as focused on customer behaviour as much as simple page or site visits, so while it’s incredibly broad and responsive, the pool of knowledge it will gather isn’t as deep as other services.
Unlike several bigger players (including Google Analytics), Mixpanel does things a bit differently by measuring actions visitors take on a website or app. It tells you a lot more than just who visits, how long they stayed or where they’re from, painting a picture of what they did to interact with you.
MixPanel’s Funnel feature lets you know not just the number of potential customers who’ve visited but those who followed up on purchases or quit mid-interaction, then connects to other services like automatically dispatching emails to entice them back, and it’s all easily controlled from your mobile device.
Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s among the most user friendly of all analytics platforms, and the means to email queries rather than write and insert SQL commands is a good indication that’s so – querying the visualization lowers the technical barrier to access features considerably.
Matomo comes in three main forms. First is a plugin for your WordPress site, which you then access and control from right in your dashboard. It’s self hosted, so it attracts the associated risks and responsibilities, but you can’t get many analytics platforms that are closer to your site and data in realtime as it happens.
Matomo On-Premise is a standalone, fully self-hosted version. You need a little more programming and server architecture knowledge than the average person to complete the initial set-up, but it contains more features than the WordPress plugin version.
Matomo Cloud is a hosted version of Matomo On-Premise, so you have no control where your data is stored, but it offers the advanced security and data sovereignty architecture any big data company should. If you’re something of a beginner or don’t have access to a suitable self-hosting environment it removes the more complicated set-up of the self hosted versions.
SAP Analytics Cloud
Coming from one of the leaders in the business intelligence and big data field, you can be sure the makers of SAP Analytics Cloud know what they’re doing, and while most of their other products are targeted at enterprise companies, SAP has made an effort to appeal to the SME market. If you’re familiar with the company’s other products there are also a lot of standardized terms and ways of working you’ll be familiar with.
It contains R language scripting, an industry standard toolset for higher-end data professionals using advanced methods like machine learning.
The iOS app synthesizes very complicated metrics into an easy-to-digest dashboard, and it connects to the latest versions of SAP’s own proprietary database formats (although it can still connect to non-SAP sources in hybrid cloud environments). Finally, you can connect to over 400 extensions and thousands of partners and developers the world over.
Kissmetrics starts from a philosophical standpoint that every metric you measure isn’t a click, bounce rate or page view, it’s a person. Kissmetrics starts a visitor profile for every visitor to your site, taking note of all their activity and interaction no matter what their device – when they signed up, what they bought, which features they used, etc.
The platform then combines all those profiles to reveal what’s going on. Your most successful revenue streams, campaigns or product channels are all revealed not just from a mass of clicks and page loads but what real people are actually doing when they interact with you.
You can then segment the results into given activities so the information overload doesn’t paralyze you. They include deeper insight than more surface-level tools like Google Analytics, like the number of people who added a product to your cart without buying, the average number of visits a customer made before signing up for your newsletter and more.
Major features of web analytics tools
A website analytics tool will collect information from across your web products into a cohesive whole. In the case of Google Analytics, they’re the default standard search tool on the web and command large market shares in other systems like email (Gmail), advertising (Google Ads) and operating systems (Android), so they capture a huge amount of the activity your visitors and potential customers perform online.
Taking all that data and presenting it in a digestible form gives you a wide view of your performance from almost the entire digital spectrum of communication and connectivity technologies.
If you have an unexplained traffic spike, a sudden dip in click-throughs or a lot of abandoned shopping carts, you want to find out why. But first you need to know it’s actually happening, which is where anomaly detection features can help.
The analytics engine automatically selects a period of historical data activity to train the algorithm’s forecasting model. Then it watches that particular metric with the historical data as its baseline, so if there’s a sudden spike, drop or errant reading, it flags it for your attention.
Outliers might be a malevolent script in your shopping cart, which you definitely want to correct. But if a Hollywood celebrity tweets about your product and interest goes through the roof it’s just as important to know about it so you can capitalize on the attention.
By applying machine learning models based not just on your own performance but other websites and applications across the web, Google Analytics can actually make predictions about customer or visitor behavior.
One offering in the predictive product class is Purchase probability, which tells you whether people who visit will purchase in the next seven days. Another, Churn probability, predicts the likelihood of recently active visitors not returning in the same period. That lets you prompt customers or members most likely to buy or most likely to abandon you for a competitor in a highly targeted manner.
You can then go on to build a new audience profile in the Audience Builder tool, which lets you target potential customers in groups based on the behaviors they don’t even know they’re likely to do themselves.
Behavioral messaging and direct contact
Plenty of analytics platforms give you the best possible picture of what’s going on, but what do you do from there, hand it to a marketing agency, or sit up all night messaging everyone you’ve identified?
In some analytics tools, your reporting gives you segments of visitors based on activity and lets you send notifications from right within the UI. Analyze the conditions under which your users decide to click away from your product, tailor your message to get them to come back (or stay), and connect to your messaging tool of choice from right there to incentivize them.
There’s also a people dashboard that displays your members and connects directly to push notifications, sms and email. Just look up a member’s history or find them through filters on events or other metrics and send them an offer or incentive one-on-one.
To the uninitiated, your funnel is the series of actions through which a visitor passes along the path from interested to committed.
MixPanel’s Funnel analysis tool tracks the actions and behaviors needed to browse and purchase (in the case of ecommerce – it’s equally applicable to any other business goal you have) in fine detail and reports on the visitors who’ve performed the actions within it, the order they performed them in, the time they took and more.
The result is a picture of what parts of your funnel are the most engaging and get you the most results – revealing the steps you need to finesse or improve.
As long as you’re collecting data about your visitors’ or customers’ activity or identities, privacy laws in your jurisdiction kick in. If you don’t really know where your data is stored (and when it comes to popular cloud services that could be anywhere) a privacy issue can be a bigger headache than usual.
Even aside from the privacy concerns, hosting your analytics with a third party who might offer a competing product is a bit like asking a robber to hang on to your life savings in cash. They’ll make all the promises they want that your data is safe, but if you believe the biggest data analytics firms in the world don’t use anything at their disposal for a competitive advantage, good luck to you.
Two of the common Matomo builds are hosted on your own server – in the case of Matomo for WordPress, it’s a plugin in your WordPress site, which not only give complete ownership of your data and the associated control over storage and maintenance, you won’t be revealing the inner workings of your business intelligence to a tech giant who has an incentive to access it where they legally can.
Tags aren’t as popular in analytics platforms as they could or should be, because they can work particular magic. Tags lets you collect specific data – imagine a marketing script in a tag that’s triggered by a page view on the site. You could put a variable in that script that collects data like the visitor’s username and voila, a list ready to target thanks to a simple tag.
In keeping with the data ownership theme, it’s another example of knowing where your data lives and what you do with it and knowing nobody else has access to it, either to target you with advertising for their services or using it for their own purposes (scroll way way down in the terms and conditions you agreed to when you signed up and see if they can’t).
Tags enrich your data even more than a pure analytics platform does, and if someone else has access to your insight, you don’t want to make their job even easier when handy tags are attached to all your reports and analytics.
Customer lifecycle visualizations
From the time of a first casual visit to your site throughout the lifetime of their interaction with you, a customer’s digital activity with your company is maintained and augmented with information from across your customer base. Once built up to specific levels, profiles of visitors can be grouped together into what Kissmetrics calls ‘cohorts’ – segments you can isolate and action for more effective marketing depending on their activities.
It lets you test rates of traffic frequency, conversion and engagement of different cohorts, how ads perform for one cohort versus another, the most effective marketing channels for each and more. Want to redesign your site and see if it plays with just a particular demographic? Offer new products and see if influencers will talk about them? Design discounts or promotions for only a specific type of user? Cohorts is the way to do it.
Conversion funnel tracking
A conversion funnel tracking feature will identify the bottlenecks in the process of turning visitors to customers. These tools include visualizations that show you how many visitors are dropping off during your sign-up procedures and – hopefully – help you figure out why.
Where most analytics platforms track clicks and events, Kissmetrics’ people-centered vision puts the visitor front and centre in your analysis – even before they’ve joined up. The anonymous history it builds up in a visitor profile is maintained until (or when) that visitor creates an account or signs up.
Marrying that customer data with their historical activity on your site will report that (for instance) they visited five times before but only signed up on the sixth, which means the first five visits were failed conversions. Drill into the history of that user’s activity, check what they looked at, where they clicked and how long they stayed around and you might identify the problem that caused them to wait so long.
Choosing a web analytics tool
As with almost all online services you can use to drive business success, the idea of a ‘best’ platform is a moveable feast that depends on what you need to do and whether they have the features to assist you do that.
Sure, there are must-have core features like low barriers to entry or attractive and user-friendly data visualizations, but the ones you need depend on you, not software. Look carefully at your business from one end to another and make careful note of how you’ll measure success in deeper terms than just how many products you sell.
Save time in your research by talking with one of our unbiased Technology Advisors. Enter your requirements in our Marketing Software Product Selection Tool, and a Technology Advisor will reach out to you with up to five website analytics software vendors that meet your needs. It’s fast and free.