Search engine marketers rely on Web analytics to tell them which key words are working -- and which ones are not. So when Yahoo launched a "Full Analytics" option within its new Panama search-marketing system, it turned a few heads.
Despite the buzz, however, there is still plenty of marketplace confusion surrounding Yahoo's analytics platform and how it compares to and contrasts with what Google Analytics has to offer. In fact, some Search Engine Marketing (SEM) consultants interviewed for this column were unaware that Yahoo even offers anything beyond the simple metrics it has historically made available to online marketers through its Advertiser Web Services program.
Although some experts might not think of Yahoo as a big player in the Web analytics game, Yahoo would beg to differ.
In case you haven't been keeping an eye on the blow-by-blow competition between Yahoo and Google on the analytics front, here's a little history to bring you up to speed.
When Yahoo acquired Overture in 2003, it inherited Keylime Software's analytics and paid-search management tools. Overture had snapped up Keylime for $9.5 million just before Yahoo closed its $1.63 billion buyout of the popular platform. And now, Keylime's deep analysis is being used as the foundation for the analytics capabilities included in Yahoo's Panama search-marketing system.
On the other side of the board is Google who acquired Urchin Software, a Web analytics firm that measured to thousands of popular Internet sites, in March 2005 for an undisclosed amount. Google said its motive for acquiring Urchin was to provide Web site owners the information they need to optimize the user experience and generate greater
ROI on their advertising spending.
The Yahoo Approach
Paul Apodaca, who is the director of program management for Yahoo Search Marketing shared his insights with us about Yahoo's strategy.
"Our Web analytics program," he explained, "was developed from the standpoint of someone trying to understand their Web site's performance, whether that be a marketer or an IT person. But our Full Analytics program doesn't show all of those reports. We have tailored the display to suit the specific needs of search engine marketers."
Apodaca just hinted at the first major difference between Yahoo's Full Analytics offering and Google Analytics: Yahoo isn't giving search engine marketers information it deems unnecessary to their online advertising mission.
The Google Way
Google, by contrast, uses its Urchin roots to track and display all visitor data, from visitors and pageviews to conversion funnels and so on. In short, Google Analytics offers a more comprehensive view of a Web site's activity -- not just search engine activity.
Brett Crosby, Sr., manager for Google Analytics, said as search has become more relevant and more people are using it, Web analytics has taken on a more important role in helping advertisers understand not only how customers are finding the site, but also what those visitors are doing when they get there. "Google Analytics helps advertisers get higher margins because they can use the data to create a better experience for their customers," said Crosby, who was one of the co-founders of Urchin.
Google Analytics allows for cross-segmentation of data in 18 different ways, including by keyword, location and browser. In all, there are 82 reports from which to analyze the data, such as by geographic location, site overlay (which allows Web site owners to see the Web site with analytics data overlaid on the site), and e-commerce tracking to measure the value of conversions.
"Google Analytics offers geotargeting," Crosby explained. "That means customers can not only identify new opportunities to advertise online, but they can also measure the impact of print campaigns by seeing if they get geographic bumps in regions where they advertised."
Too Much Information?
That's all well and good, but from where Yahoo's Apodaca sits, 82 reports are just too many for Internet marketers. That's why Yahoo Full Analytics offers only 14. According to Apodaca, Yahoo has streamlined its offering based on two principles: don't give search engine marketers information they don't need and don't give search engine marketers information they won't understand. "The marketing guys just want to know which five reports to look at," he explains. "They want a snapshot of how the campaign is performing."
To put it another way, they want to know how much money they spent on a given day and how many conversions it got them. Beyond that, search engine marketers can drill down into more detail and see the number of impressions and clicks on specific ad campaigns to see which are performing the best. They can also manage keywords and use filters that narrow the data field based on specific questions, such as the performance of banner ads or sponsored search. Yahoo Full Analytics can measure visitor activity all the way from the inbound click to the conversion.
"The way we deliver information to search engine marketers is different from Google," Apodaca said. "We aren't reporting on natural searches. We only report on campaign-related activity. We have the ability to provide something similar to Google Analytics but our philosophy is to arm advertisers with appropriate campaign information."
The Price To Pay
Users of Google Analytics and Yahoo's Panama Full Analytics have their own views.
Yahoo's Panama is not nearly as robust as Google Analytics, according to Tom Bianco, CEO of Atlantic Consulting and Sales, an e-commerce consulting firm. "Google Analytics is graphically superior, with more charts, geo maps, [and] the all-important site overlay so you can do multivariate testing," he says. But, in Bianco's opinion, neither Google nor Yahoo does a good job of segmenting the opposition's pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
Another difference between Google Analytics and Yahoo's Full Analytics option within Panama is the price. Google Analytics is free whereas Yahoo is charging a premium for access to its Full Analytics. Apodaca declined to disclose the fee, but Cindy Krum, a senior Search Engine Optimization analyst at Blue Moon Works, an interactive marketing agency with clients like Timex and Bluefly, noted that the Full Analytics option is only available to gold level users who spend more than $6,000 on SEM per year.
"It has yet to be seen if Yahoo will parlay advances made with the Panama update into a more universal and sophisticated free Web analytics software that tracks and reports on all site traffic, like Google Analytics," Krum said. She noted that Panama offers robust event and conversion tracking that is similar to the pay-per-click tracking available in Google Analytics, though she said it's not much better than the PPC tracking Google currently offers in AdWords.
At the end of the day, analytics beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. Clearly, Google Analytics and the Full Analytics option in Panama are two entirely different programs, yet with a common goal: to track Web site activity. Your choice of programs, really, depends on how much of that activity you want to track and on which search engine you choose to deploy your advertising spend. Google Analytics though, may have an offer search engine marketers can't refuse: it's free.