There are various web analytics tools available to help you measure how people are using your service. Be sure to assess how well a particular tool meets your needs before deciding on which tools to use.

High-level requirements

It’s essential that your chosen analytics tools provide an open Application Programming Interface (API) with no restrictions on exporting data.

Also, when deciding which analytics tool is most appropriate for your service, consider:

  • the total cost of ownership, as well as the cost in comparison to turnover of service
  • the volume of data being sampled
  • who owns the data (it should be your organisation!)
  • the cost of additional profiles and/or custom variables
  • the admin system users have access to
  • whether it is hosted by the vendor or in-house
  • whether it tracks offline channel usage
  • whether it provides a comprehensive set of standard reports (including social interactions and multimedia capturing)
  • if it can measure transactions through funnel analysis and measure goals
  • support and training
  • the cookies it requires

For each of these criteria, identify which ones are fulfilled as part of the standard quoted package and what is charged for any additional features.

Privacy

The privacy and security of data is of absolute importance, so review your vendor’s privacy and security policy.

Make sure your analytics solution and processes:

  • won’t collect and process any personal information (the terms and conditions of your analytics provider will probably expressly forbid you from doing this)
  • turn off any data sharing (some suppliers may collect data anonymously for internal benchmarking)
  • anonymise IP addresses that your analytics provider collects by removing the last octet of the address
  • meets the EU privacy directive and the European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection
  • has data centres that meet EU/British data security standards
  • allows you to restrict your vendor’s employees access to your data as appropriate – also make sure there are adequate administration tools to control appropriate access for your own staff
  • allows you to own export analytics data (pay attention to terms and conditions for any free products)

As part of keeping your users’ data secure, find out:

  • where collected data is held
  • how long data is held for?
  • what happens to the data on termination of the contract - can you export it?
  • if your vendor mines data (analyses data from different perspectives, turning it into useful summaries of information) for cross-customer benchmarking/trends or to provide usage data to any advertising channels

Vendor comparison

There are many digital/web analytics vendors in the marketplace, along with open source solutions.

A search for ‘analytics tools comparison’ provides a number of useful resources where you can compare the capabilities and strengths of different services. See some more examples.

Configuring analytics tools

Install and configure analytics tools that meet your needs. Where possible, use platforms that enable the data to be piped automatically into other systems.

Use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) as they will stop you from having to input data manually and allow the grouping of data across multiple platforms.

You will need to answer the following:

  • have you installed web analytics software?
  • have you configured your web analytics software with the appropriate conversion funnels?
  • do you have the capability to run user satisfaction surveys?
  • do you have the capability to do A/B testing and multivariate testing?

Further reading

Sites that provide vendor comparison information:

Sites that provide information on digital analytics:

Sites that provide information on funnels (important for transactions):