Web Analytics

The US-based WebTrends is synonymous with the subject of web analytics and offers one of the most comprehensive range of services and products on the market.

It has both a hosted on demand service and a self-hosted solution for customers, with the latter using as many as six servers that need to be optimised for the tracking software. At the very least a standalone dual 2.8GHz processor is recommended for the reporting server.

The more likely option for all but the largest enterprises, however, is likely to be the hosted option. And even big businesses will be tempted by the redundant data collection, multiple co-located data centres and the staging environment promised by the on-demand service.

Both the hosted and self-hosted services are based on the firm's WebTrends Analytics 8 software. This can be used in conjunction with a variety of data acquisition methods, including standard JavaScript tags, server log analysis and Clickstream's cookie technology, to analyse site traffic. When using acquisition tools other than server logs, the cookies issued are first-party, although it's possible to configure the system to run cookie-less.

The on-demand service is recommended for use only in Internet Explorer and Firefox. Although other browsers are able to use the service with only minimal layout problems in most cases, certain tools did break in other browsers, making this a requirement, rather than just a recommendation. In the compatible browsers charting is good, however, and uses Java applets for graphics capabilities offering choices of graph type for each chart, rather than via a default preference.

One particularly strong element here is the table-chart type, which allows for sorting by column and searches by wildcard. Equally, the AJAX-based dynamic query tool, which uses drag and drop to allow users to create custom queries using field values and standard operators, is impressive. Export formats for reports include Word, Excel, CSV and PDF, which was the widest available in this test.

The default range of reports is extensive too. For busy executives, there are several overview screens that give a reasonable understanding of the site's performance. Despite the emphasis on marketing and sales - unsurprising given that is WebTrends' stated focus - the site design reports were the best of all the products we looked at, offering a far greater range and depth than with other services, but still remaining user-friendly. Click path reports were also more extensive than with other services, although WebAbacus's reporting system offered better visualisations.

Within the sales and marketing reports, there are the usual scenario analyses, purchase conversion funnels and campaign analysis reports as you'd expect from a high-end reporting tool. But drill-downs are far more user-friendly and graphically-rich than those in competing tools.

Search engine reporting also proved to be strong, even without the addition of WebTrends' additional WebPosition 4 software. A particular useful function of the reports was the additional data provided for each search result, detailing not just the keywords and search engine used, but who had gone on to stay at the site the longest and the revenue generated by each keyword or phrase.

Unfortunately, WebTrends didn't provide us with access to their report configuration service, so we weren't able to test it. But even without this element, Webtrends' offering is one of the most powerful and flexible around.


A high-end product with only a few areas for improvement

Requirements for tracking server: Processor - dual 2.8GHz or higher, memory - 2GB or higher, hard disk space - 450GB or more