There’s a long list of web analytics tools available out there: some are free, others come at a price; some are basic and they do the job just right, while others take a 360-degree approach and offer a lot more than just web analytics.

When people ask me for advice on which web analytics tool to go for, I always tell them this: the best web analytics tool doesn’t exist, but what does exist is at least one tool out there that’s perfect for you, and ultimately it really depends on what you want/need it to do.

Having said that, I usually recommend one the following three tools:

  • Google Analytics
  • Adobe Analytics
  • GoSquared

Here’s why I recommend these tools, and why I’m fairly certain that one of these is a good fit for you – starting with Google Analytics.

Google Analytics

google analytics logo

Google Analytics is often the go-to analytics tool for people who want to get started with web analytics. This is mainly because (A) it’s free (with the option to upgrade to Google Analytics Premium, if you have large volumes of traffic coming to your website) and (B) it’s a really powerful tool with lots of features and options. It goes beyond just web analytics, and it offers analytics for eCommerce, SEO, demographics and psychographics of your visitors, and a bit of social media too (although at a basic level).

Google Analytics is easily customisable and really easy to use. Their app (available on both iOS and Android platforms) is just brilliant, and I regularly use it on-the-go to check my stats, and to be aware of what’s going on. What’s missing from the app is the ability to get push notifications when you reach a goal or when something happens that needs your attention (e.g. unusual volume of traffic on your site), but until then I’m satisfied with what I have.

Implementing Google Analytics on a website isn’t at all difficult – I managed to set it up on this blog and get going in a short time.

Although Google Analytics is great for beginners and intermediate users, you do need to step up when your demands get bigger and more intricate. Once you’re ready to take web analytics to the next level, it’s time to move to a more sophisticated tool, like Adobe Analytics.

Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics is the tool to go for once you’ve decided to take your web analytics seriously. Its main aim is to get all your data in one place – web analytics, social analytics, search and paid traffic analytics, revenue and ROI, and so much more.

One of the biggest advantages of Adobe Analytics over Google Analytics is the ability to create multiple advanced segments, if you want to analyse and better understand a subset of your traffic to see their behaviour, preferences etc. (e.g. how does your social traffic behave differently from traffic from search engines? Do visitors from Facebook buy more than visitors from Twitter?).

Adobe Analytics is just a big tassel in the Adobe Marketing Cloud suite. If you choose to get the whole suite, you’ll also get:

  • Adobe Web Experience Management, to tailor the web experience of your site regardless of device and medium your customers/visitors choose;
  • Adobe Social, a social media management and analytics platform (+ a social application builder, as a replacement of the now defunct Wildfire);
  • Adobe Media Optimisation, to make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to search, display and social ads, thanks to intelligent algorithms that can predict the impact of your ads;
  • Adobe Testing and Targeting, an intuitive way to quickly create A/B tests, optimise and target on desktop and mobile;
  • Adobe Campaign, to create campaigns across mulitple channels seamlessly.
    • One practical example of this comes from Blinkbox, in the wake of Google pulling support of Silverlight in the Google Chrome browser (more on this here).

Technically speaking, if you want to see more than web analytics, you need to get the other components of the Adobe Marketing Cloud. So, if you want to see if a spike in mentions of your brand on social media resulted in a spike in site traffic, you need to subscribe to both Adobe Analytics and Adobe Social. Once you’ve done that, you can see all of that data in one place.

Having said that, you can also get Adobe Analytics on its own. Sure, you won’t benefit from an integrated view of everything you’re doing online, but at least your web analytics is totally covered.

Going beyond web analytics, Adobe Analytics offers the most and strongest options and features for mobile analytics, to better understand how people use your apps. As if that wasn’t enough, Adobe Analytis can give you analytics arouns GPS positions and Beacons proximities. (More on this here.)

There’s so much more that Adobe Analytics offers, and it’s really no wonder why Adobe was nominated a leader in web analytics in the Forrester Wave.

Adobe Analytics is a premium tool, and you definitely get what you pay for. However, it doesn’t come cheap. That aside, you do need a team of people to maintain it – maintain the various segments, the campaigns, the reports you’ve created etc. If you’re struggling for budget and/or you’re aiming for simplicity, there’s one tool you should consider: GoSquared.

GoSquared

gosquared

The usual question I get when I mention GoSquared is, “isn’t this just another version of Google Analytics?”. It really isn’t.

Simplicity, real-time analytics, and responsive customer service puts them way ahead of Google Analytics.

I use GoSquared as my go-to analytics dashboard: I can see who’s on my site, where they’re from, how engaged they are, what device and browser they’re using, whether they came through social media and if so which network and exactly where in that social network they were linked to my site (so if they’re coming from Reddit I can see exactly which subreddit and which thread that visit comes from).

One of the biggest points in favour of GoSquared is its real-time analytics capability. I’ve tried using both Google Analytics and GoSquared side by side, and I noticed that GoSquared is always faster at identifying real-time traffic.

Another feature I find very handy is the Twitter Search: I can see who’s talking about my blog or referring traffic to it in real-time from Twitter. (Unfortunately this is a basic Twitter search, so I can’t use the operators I’d normally use in Twitter Advanced Search; however, for a basic search it certainly does the job.)

One of the many things I like about GoSquared is their open and transparent pricing: you know what you’re going to pay, and you know exactly what you’re getting for your money: gosquared.com/plans

Unlike a lot of web analytics tools out there, GoSquared has an eye for detail, and I’ll mention 3 examples:

  • People > Pageviews: GoSquared focuses on people, not just pageviews. GoSquared can tie up multiple pageviews, sessions and devices into one unified profile, so you can see clearly how many people are on your site;
  • Engagement > Pageviews: while other web analytics tools only tell you if someone was on your page, GoSquared uses a smart pinging technology to accurately track what visitors are doing on the page: are they browsing? Are they scrolling? As soon as the visitor leaves your site, GoSquared stops counting how long that person was on your site, so you can see a precise time spent on page. Using this technology, you won’t have to use approximate metrics for your expected ad revenues or server allocation;
  • Granularity: GoSquared shows you a minute-by-minute view of your traffic. Imagine you’re managing a sport website and you’re tracking traffic: it’s pointless to know that you had a spike during the main hour of a match, you need a more granular breakdown to make sure you don’t miss out on the details that matter.

GoSquared is also developer-friendly thanks to their open API, which lets you build on top of an already reliable and robust analytics tool.

Lastly, they also offer analytics around eCommerce, so if you’re used to that in Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics (or whichever other analytics tool you’re using), you don’t have to sacrifice that if you choose to convert to GoSquared: gosquared.com/software/ecommerce

There are so many other reasons, but GoSquared details all of their benefits in one handy page on their site, mainly revolving around accuracy, simplicity, privacy, speed and support.

Recap

In a nutshell,

  • if you’re just starting up and you need a robust tool to fall back on, you should definitely check out Google Analytics;
  • Adobe Analytics should be your go-to tool if you’re looking for a one-in-all tool that takes analytics seriously;
  • if you’re looking for a reliable, easy-to-use analytics tool with the premium features but without the premium price tag, GoSquared is your friend.