SiteCatalyst and Google Analytics comparison, conceptually speaking: Part 1

SiteCatalyst and Google Analytics comparison, conceptually speaking: Part 1

Editor’s note: This is the first post in a four-part series exploring SiteCatalyst and Google Analytics. Brian Katz, Senior Web Analyst and resident SiteCatalyst and Google Analytics expert at Cardinal Path, is guest writer for this series.

This is a great time to read a post on this topic, but a tough time to write one. Three months ago I would have been comparing two very different products, but new versions of both SiteCatalyst (SC) and Google Analytics (GA) have been released recently.

Each product is in a state of flux. SC, for example, requires that each account undergo a migration process from version 14 to version 15, and the latest GA versions (v5) is still porting over features from the previous version.

Today we’ll focus on where these analytics platforms differ conceptually. If you better understand philosophical differences between the two, you’ll better understand why their features differ. Context is king.

Business models

The Google Analytics business model has always been to encourage the use of Google AdWords. The notion was that if website owners could measure the success (or failure) of their websites and marketing efforts, they would optimize them and advertise more. Rather than being a free tool, I consider it to be a tool made available free of charge, funded by AdWords.

As a result, Google Analytics is easy to implement, giving you more than enough functionality to measure and gain insights into your website to figure out how to optimize your AdWords spend. It’s also an effective conduit through which AdWords may be advertised to a highly targeted segment of Internet users.

Adobe’s SiteCatalyst is powered by Omniture (Adobe acquired Omniture and its suite of products in 2009). The Adobe/Omniture business model is to maximize revenue by selling a customer at least one product from a suite of products, then up-selling additional products, features, tools and processing, as well as professional and engineering services.

It’s a conventional business model, but some customers have felt rich functionality required more up-sell than they felt they should have to pay for. Adobe responded to those complaints with a new version of SiteCatalyst. The most significant change in SC v15 is its rich layer of reporting capability, taking the product to a whole new level. I believe the customer debate now will be narrowly centered around the extent of Adobe’s generosity. (To get that debate started, I propose the inclusion of Geo data in the full sub-relation bonanza!)

SiteCatalyst’s power is in the very wide scope of activities and attributes it can track and the sheer volume of data that Adobe’s Omniture division collects. Omniture data supports all of SC’s other tools, including Warehouse, Discover, Insight, Recommendations and SearchCenter. Your data, as stored by Omniture, translates into revenue potential for Adobe.

Until now, Google Analytics was the reporting giant and SiteCatalyst the tracking giant. However, the new SiteCatalyst v15 provides functionality previously available only in Omniture’s powerhouse tool, Discover. This represents a significant shift in the Omniture business model, in response to GA’s increasing stature as a web analytics tool to be reckoned with.

Why compare SC with GA?

In terms of ideology, let’s say that Google Analytics is about democratizing data within companies while Omniture/Adobe’s has been to serve the needs of clients large enough to afford SiteCatalyst and its related products. Consequently, it’s difficult to find a medium sized business website not using Google Analytics; in turn, finding one that is using SiteCatalyst would take a while.

Why, then, is it even relevant to compare SC and GA? Chances are you clearly need either one or the other. However, there are many business with websites that fall into a gray area, and decision makers at those businesses should compare their requirements and budget against the capabilities and cost of each product. Yes, “cost.” While Google Analytics may be free in terms of money, it has some demanding requirements—proper implementation of GA is neither trivial nor free.

That said, many companies that once would only have considered SiteCatalyst are now being more careful how they spend their limited resources and are including Google Analytics in their evaluation. And companies that require a more sophisticated tool like SiteCatalyst are finding many benefits to using Google Analytics in parallel. If you fall in the latter group, the cost of retrofitting your site with GA or including it in a new implementation is almost negligible and will likely provide significant ROI.

Next week, we will compare specific features of SiteCatalyst and Google Analytics, in the context of their high-level business model differences. Stay tuned. In the meantime, tell me: what is your analytics solution, and why?

The series



Arienne Holland

Arienne has spent 20 years in communications, ranging from graphic design to journalism to PR to marketing and formerly Raven's Director of Marketing and Education.

Arienne has spent 20 years in communications, ranging from graphic design to journalism to PR to marketing and formerly Raven's Director of Marketing and Education.