There are a number of analytics packages out there. Some are free (many hosting companies include web statistics in their package) and some have fees (like Webtrends and Omniture), but by far the most popular and easily accessible service is Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics/). Google Analytics has become the industry standard. It has the benefit of being powerful and integrating effortlessly with AdWords (Google’s pay-per-click ads), e-mail marketing, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and more. Oh, and it’s free. Google Analytics is limited to five million page views a month; however, users with an active Google AdWords account are given unlimited page-view tracking.
No matter how large or small your website is, the smartest place to start tracking web marketing is with Google Analytics. The data tells you how people use your website and where your traffic comes from, which advertising (if any) works, how many visitors you have, how well the website design works, where visitors are located, and so much more. Many organizations think they need to buy expensive web statistics technology to have web marketing success.
Although fee-based web analytics companies offer very robust add-ons and stellar advisory services (the art of analytics on top of the science), it is best to cut online marketing teeth on a free service like Google. You could spend years mastering and taking advantage of all the options available. Why learn web analytics on a pricey package when you can learn on a superior free version?
If you don’t know what drives your web marketing, your web marketing may drive you. With good web analytics tools, you have high sensory vision to see what is making your site tick, leverage what is working, and optimize what isn’t.
Still, there are many businesses that don’t trust free software. They feel that you get what you pay for. Often the features of a free product are limited in function or expire after a set period. Most “freemium” software is served up free so that a small taste of it whets your appetite to buy the full package. Web analytics software seems to be the exception. Because most analytics software makers want the maximum number of people to use their products, they make the free version as fully featured as possible. Since the free packges like Google Analytics are so robust, most web marketers would do well to start there and then consider paying for more advanced analytics when their site gains very high levels of traffic.