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It’s been a rocky start for the newly-free Google Analytics. I guess there are worse things that can happen than to be overwhelmed with demand, but Google was forced to stop accepting new sign-ups and has apologized to customers whose stats have been delayed. Google will straighten it all out soon, they say, but what about the burning question of whether companies using fee-based Web Metrics solutions should switch? I spoke with John Payne, the Manager of IBM’s SurfAid Analytics service, to answer that question.

Payne admitted that he was at first concerned when he learned that Google Analytics is now free, but he quickly realized that this would be great for the Web Metrics business. Some analysts are hailing Google as great for businesses that can’t afford analytics today, but wonder about its features. Payne rattled off a series of features where SurfAid tops Google Analytics, including:

  • Data updates. SurfAid updates its database within 30 minutes of collection but Google won’t commit to less than six hours, and “early feedback over the past week indicates that it’s taking upwards of 3-4 days to actually see updates,” Payne asserted.
  • Data retention. SurfAid retains data for 13 months and reports forever. “I’ve not been able to find anything on [Google’s] site that speaks to how long they will retain reports,” said Payne.
  • Data analysis. SurfAid allows data to be categorized while it’s “not clear that [Google has] a concept of content categorization,” according to Payne. SurfAid offers the ability to perform ad hoc analysis with an unlimited number of goals while Google offers no ad hoc capabilities and four goals per account.
  • Data integration. Payne believes that SurfAid “can integrate virtually any set of data that can be linked to a Web transaction” but that Google requires tagging to integrate anything.
  • Data interpretation. Google offers no consulting or services to augment their basic offering, while SurfAid provides enhanced support and professional services.

Payne’s analysis obviously focused on his own product, but other vendors could tick off a similar list. Payne’s analysis seemingly puts Google at the low end of Web Metrics packages—a good choice for small businesses on a shoestring budget but not flexible enough for businesses serious about their Web metrics. Time will tell whether Google will try to move up-market and compete with fee-based vendors. In the meantime, SurfAid and other vendors will be explaining their value above what you get for free from Google, and will be hoping to up-sell Google Analytics customers that outgrow what they get for nothing.


Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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