Competition among web analytics providers is heating up. Today, at the Emetics Marketing Optimization Summit in Washington DC, Google (GOOG) announced several new features for its popular Google Analytics tool, including a customizable Google-branded in-site search box, in-site search reporting, event tracking and updates to its Urchin software — all of which should be a big help to small and medium-sized e-commerce shops. Previously at the Summit, Microsoft (MSFT) announced its own analytics platform, Gatineau.
How will these two giants compete? Here’s what we know so far…
Future Now’s Chief Scientist John Quarto-vonTivadar — who’s speaking at the Emetics Summit and spent a good chunk of last week at Google’s Mountain View headquarters — emailed me to share his opinion of the Google Analytics updates. John tells us that the in-site search is “cool,” and that it’s not dependent on Google search at all. According to John, it’s simply “a way of recording what searches are being done in-site, then relating metrics to it.” But it’s not that deep, he says. In other words, the big news isn’t how well the in-site search feature works, but that in-site search can be tracked at all. As for the rest of Google’s announcement, John says:
Event tracking is very cool and the most important feature. However, [Google's announcement] underplayed the switch from using urchin.js to ga.js. It’s a big deal. The script is more complex (e.g., more features for the developers), and my understanding is that once you make the switch, you can’t switch back. I’m not sure whether the data will migrate forward, that would have to be checked. Also, you can’t use both urchin.js and ga.js at the same time, so it seems to be very much of a jump-into-the-deep-end-of-the-pool thing.
Outbound links are an additional new feature. I think they’ve made a mistake, however, in counting anything that happens up until an outbound link as ‘zero time on site,’ and I predict they will end up being forced to reconsider that. They also never made clear — although I’m sure they are clear themselves — as to whether the new Urchin reflects all the functionality of the new ga.js, or whether one or the other is more advanced. The next questions would be, If that’s the case, when will the other ‘catch up’? So, if you do the free software, you get X features, but if you do the paid software, you get Y features — but why is Y less than X ??
The Emetrics Summit crowd also got to see a demonstration of Microsoft’s beta platform, thanks to Product Manager Ian Thomas. On his Web Analytics World blog, Manoj Jasra shares his first impressions of Gatineua :
One of the coolest features which I noticed was the ability to measure the performance of individual webpage sections giving a whole new level of granularity. Microsoft hopes to takeaway some of Google Analytics’ market share, however I don’t think this is the easiest of tasks. Looking at the initial screenshots of Gatineau you can see that they are also implementing an ajax based user interface, however it currently doesn’t have polish of Google Analytics’ interface.
Once again, it looks like Microsoft has some catching up to do — but at least they’re getting used to it.
What do you think? Can Microsoft hurry up, launch, and out-pace Google Analytics, or will the “search giant” continue beating the “software giant” on its own bean stalk?