Analytics: the cost of information


Analytics: the cost of information

A Grand Uncle, a long time ago, asked my wife once what company she was working for. She began by explaining it was a market research institute, and that she was developing panels for the retail industry. Nothing he could understand. “But what?” he asked. “You’re just selling information? This can’t be…”

This would make smile now, of course, except maybe when you have to think about what you are ready to spend to get valid vision about who accessed your communications.

Of course it’s first a question of industries. To caricature a little bit, the B to B industries will need to focus on the behaviors of the happy few leads that could benefit their products or services; B to C will have to get analytics out of the crowded audience to detect how to attract their future best clients.

That being said, you get to the point when your boss asks you: now ok, but where to start with?
Everyone has heard of Google Analytics – my preferred one. But is this the right tool to use? And how to use this to track my PRs impact?

Well to answer this question you should probably first think about the significant difference between user-centric tracking and site-centric tracking. User-centric tracking stands for data collected by Google Analytics, Coremetrics, Nedstats, Omniture, etc., these tools being tracking the behaviors of your visitors. Site-center tracking stands for data collected by your hosting provider, this one being able to tell the server’s activity.

Both user-centric and site-centric analytics are valuable. On one hand user-centric analytics are more accurate (they are not fooled by caching), flexible (numerous reporting options), and … available in real-time. They will give you insight on your visitors, their geography, and the content they go through, the time they spend on your PRs… Yes but… But these analytics suffer from being based on cookie-dependant data, they do not give any idea on the networks / bandwidth impacts, and they rely on technical tags which must be inserted properly on your digital communications web sites.

On the other hand site-centric analytics give you information on the individual IP addresses of your visitors, which help identifying precisely who (what company) accessed a given document, picture with external tools like So really my advice would be – if you can – to combine both user- and site- centric analytics.

That being said, the other big decision will be to choose one of the user-centric tools you can find on the market. These tools have all advantages, but they diverge in two domains: industry-specific certifications, and community sizes. In some industries specific certifications are worth: when you’re selling drugs, knowing that your visitor is or is not a health journalist is valuable. Of course this first point is a key point to choose your tool. But if not, well the only point to take care of is their users community. Using the same tool than numerous other companies has at least two advantages: it helps when you’re wondering what a given figure means, and it ensures the tool is used to face very different web sites visitors… including your dear ones!