Put to the Test: WebTrends Analytics 8

The granddaddy in the Web analytics space, WebTrends has more customers and more data collection and deployment options than its competitors. The vendor's software- and SaaS-based offerings are robust and well supported, but they're also complex and potentially expensive. Here are a few cautions and caveats to keep in mind when navigating the 'dizzying array' of reporting and licensing options.

Reporting: Too Much of a Good Thing?

WebTrends provides a dizzying array of reports. This is why it is critical to develop report sets in advance that meet the needs of analysts, marketers and content managers so they don't have to spend time figuring out the best report to meet their metrics objectives. However, for all of the sophistication in the product, it doesn't offer real-time report capability - a potential shortcoming when compared to other vendors. This means that if you are running a promotion, such as an e-mail campaign or a new banner ad, you'll have to wait several hours to get results.

The WebTrends Reporting Console provides lots of accessible functionality, including online help, customer references, display preferences, comparative review options and access to all of the reports. It takes little time, according to analytics managers, to show their constituents where their reports are and how to access them. Report visualization is also a strong point, as you are given a choice of data display options, such as bar chart, pie chart and graphs, as well as the ability to do market forecasting with the "What If" report, a tool that enables you to create scenarios through the use of sliders and gauges. In addition, you can configure the dashboard to see any reports within WebTrends.

WebTrends' report visualizations are a strong point, as evidenced in the "What If" report, a scenario forecast tool.

While WebTrends does provide quite a bit of flexibility in designing reports, this does come at the cost of complexity. There are multiple methods for capturing data, querying data and analyzing data. You will need to understand the meaning of dependencies and how to deploy multiple page tags in order to create the reports you need. In addition to the standard reports, there are 200 Custom Reports available built using filters and parameters that you specify through a multi-step, wizard-driven process.

WebTrends in seven words: complex, robust, well-supported, and potentially expensive. It certainly offers nearly everything needed to support enterprise-level analytics – if you invest the resources to learn and deploy the modules properly.

• Licensing: Pricing can be tricky due to the number of licensing and feature options available, so it's critical to understand what features and functions you need to meet requirements. Pricing for both hosted and conventional software offerings is based on page views and starts with a Standard Package. Many firms with specific marketing, conversion analysis and commerce requirements will need Marketing, Advanced Marketing or Commerce report packages. For example, only the Commerce package offers Merchandising, Product Campaigns and Custom Segments reporting. WebTrends says the average price for enterprise-class deals is $27,000 per year for hosted customers.

Phil Kemelor is the lead Web Analytics analyst at CMS Watch, an independent analyst firm. Kemelor is the author of CMS Watch's "Web Analytics Report", which evaluates 13 leading solutions in a head-to-head comparison.