By Manoj Jasra – October 17, 2006
I first came to know about VisiStat when I read their press release about automating web analytics implementation on PR Web. Intrigued by that idea, I wrote a quick blog post talking about it and was quickly contacted by a marketing rep wondering if I wanted an extended trial version. Naturally, I took advantage of their generous offer. VisiStat has now been collecting data on my blog for about a month and a half and I thought, rather than simply talk about VisiStat’s product features and its pros & cons, it would be better to compare it to another reputable product in the industry: Google Analytics. I have been using Google Analytics for about 9 months and therefore have sufficient data in order to start making comparisons.
The comparison is fairly high level but gives you a quick indication of what each vendor has to offer.
Usability/Look and Feel
Google provides their traditional simple and clean interface with AJAX integration, so navigating from report to report is seamless. When a user logs in, he/she is immediately presented with an Executive Overview, which displays both colourful and easy to read charts showing visitor and referral data. Google also offers a few other summary dashboards targeting conversions, marketing (referring sources, campaigns, and keywords) and content (top content, exits, and entrance points). Google has left hand navigation where reports are logically grouped into a tree/node menu system. The date range selector is simple to use and makes it very easy for users to select a given day/week/month or apply a custom data range. However, something I noticed with Google was the fact that my browser’s “back” button was useless because of their use of AJAX.
VisiStat’s interface relies heavily on icons and graphics to best represent their reports. Their interface is somewhat unconventional, in that it uses both top and left side navigation, where the top navigation consists of 10 different icons representing the various types of reports, and the side is an expandable menu which lists the reports vertically. The side navigation is effective in saving real estate but I wish it would follow me down the page as I scroll through a report. The reports are clear and are easy to read by a user – no matter what their level of expertise is. Another small option that would be nice to have is once a user has selected a date or range, to hold that value for every report thereafter.
[Google Analytics: 8/10]
Reports and Data
I’ve heard that Google’s numbers (page views/visitors) are slightly lower compared to other analytics vendors and I notice this almost consistently when I compare my Google numbers to that of my StatCounter’s. VisiStat in July was 10% higher in page views and 2.5% lower in Unique Visitors than Google. This being said, no analytics software is 100% accurate – in many cases probably not even 70% accurate so you have to take all data with a grain of salt and measure metrics in terms of percentages (and watching for trends) rather than using them for hard numbers.
I find that Google’s reports appeal to different users in an organization because of the customizable views its reports include (Executive, Marketer and Webmaster). I also like the accessibility of the segment feature which helps further break down metrics such as top pages and referring domains. I think I have been a little spoiled by using SiteCatalyst’s and HBX’s path analysis so Google’s and VisiStat’s pathing reports really don’t stack up. I know I am comparing Google Analytics and VisiStat but SiteCatalyst and HBX make it much simpler to see abandonment rates and determine pathing trends. Having Google AdWords reporting with in the rest of the analytics is a nice bonus when having to compare organic vs. PPC performance.
VisiStat offers many different reports all with easy to read charts and numbers. When viewing summary reports such as their “Visitor Totals” report I am able to segment to see visitors by hour with a single click and then further segment that hour down to Referring URL, ISP information, Geo Location and content viewed with an additional click. A standard piece of functionality that they need to add consistently to all their reports is the ability to see data for a selected data range, rather than just the top X or a summary of all-time data. However, unlike Google, VisiStat’s reports are always in real-time, in fact they have a report which shows visitors’ activity as they are browsing through your site.
[Google Analytics: 7/10]
Bang for the Buck
It’s difficult to compete with something that’s free of cost, such as Google Analytics, but with starting prices of $15-19/month, VisiStat comes pretty close. Google’s product is free and now can be setup within 15 minutes, how’s that for “Bang”. Once you’re all setup you will have access to an excellent analytics solution which includes the ability to track up to 5 different sites, user management and over a dozen quality reports. Version 4 of VisiStat comes with some pretty cool add-ons geared towards measuring user behaviour such as: Click Path, Custom Page Tracking, Link Tracking and Live Page Visits. VisiStat’s ad-ons, such as their AdCam (campaign management trackers) and PageAlarm (website monitor) can be added for less than $10/month each.
[Google Analytics: 9/10]
I would recommend VisiStat to users who need up to the minute tracking, need to know specific detail about every single visitor and want the ability to expand their product with different modules down the road. Users who are more graphics oriented will also prefer VisiStat.
I would recommend Google Analytics to users who need to determine the true performance between PPC and Organic performance. Users who need to provide quick snapshot summaries to different levels within an organization should also take advantage of Google Analytics (pre packaged dashboards).
On the topics covered, Google has an edge regarding ease of report usability and quality of product for the price. I feel that both of these analytics solutions are robust enough to help a company make educated marketing decisions when segmenting and analyzing user behaviour. It is impossible to get 100% data integrity with any solution and I have heard complaints that Google’s traffic data is at times much lower than other vendors but I personally haven’t noticed a big discrepancy in my site’s data. There are Pros and some Cons of both but if you have an individual who can make sense of all the statistics, can provide insight with the metrics, can segment everything and understands your company’s goals your organization can definitely take advantage of either product.