According to BtoB Magazine the web analytics market is expected to hit US$ 953 mil by 2014, and suggesting that the pickings might be even juicier Adobe recently acquired Omniture for the tidy sum of about US$1.8 billion.

If you're on top of things Web, then you've probably noticed a growing hum of activity in the analytics space. Here's a quick scan around the field and a look at what all this Web CMS + analytics integration news we've been hearing about means.

Baby, We’ve Come a Long Way

Web analytics hasn’t always been front-page news. Excitement over the potential of basic click-stream analysis was prevalent during the dot-com boom (in 2000 the market reached US$ 400 million, doubling its numbers from 1999) but value fell significantly in the following recession.

Things started to pick back up around 2005, and feature parity began emerging among the vendors that survived the economic doldrums. By then the concept itself had matured as well -- rather than simply assessing the Web on a technical front, analytics proved exceptionally useful for engagement-oriented marketers and advertisers as well.

Today, Web optimization and presence couldn’t be more important, and proof of that is seen in the growing trend towards the integration of analytics driven intelligence. After all, if something is as beneficial as Web analytics, why not make it native? It’s a direction that several big names are moving in, Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture being one strong example.

Where does that leave older solutions? They’re still around, and there are plenty of people out there fighting to keep it that way. Meaning? You’ve got options:

  • Stand-alone analytics: These consist of analytics packages that are not natively integrated with the website’s content management system. They run on-demand (manually), with data fed electronically from the website into the package
  • Connected analytics: You can think of this category as an in-between, cheater type. Google Analytics and Omniture included, these third-party packages can be connected to a website’s CMS and other applications via page tags
  • Integrated analytics: Really and truly integrated analytics consist of a metrics tool that can get up close and personal with other Web applications because of a shared, common data set. Communication between website and analytics software is automatic, happens in real time and includes details about page author, publishing specifics, duplicate page use and hierarchical layout.

The Integration Station

Brett Zucker, Chief Technology Officer at Bridgeline Software (news, site) is just one of the many supporting the swing toward native systems in the enterprise. He claims that truly integrated analytics yield a host of benefits -- and well he would since Bridgeline offers a SaaS WCM and commerce platform with integrated analytics (more here).

Zucker's favorite benefits include:

  • driving persuasive content
  • reducing the gap between metrics measurement, and report-driven decisions
  • saving marketers time
  • making companies more money

And, while he has some good points, it's important to consider other reasons that the solutions we’re used to (third-party) might not be living up to their full potential. After all, providers like Google and Omniture seem to be doing something right, right?

While difficulty using the tools certainly frustrates many marketers, the need for more resources and expertise is also recognized. In fact, a whopping 72% of respondents to the Unica survey "The Web Analytics War: Reader Survey" had no full-time worker devoted to analytics.

Learning Opportunities

Moreover, when WebTrends surveyed worldwide marketers in January of this year, they asked about how to close the gap between data analysis and business action. Their top answer? More knowledgeable staff (42%), followed by more training and awareness (23%). Only 8% of respondents cited more comprehensive data and only 6% thought better analysis programs were what they needed.

Hot Potato!

So where does this leave us? From a marketing perspective, Tomer Tishgarten, vice president of development, Engauge, suspects that unless a Web CMS (WCM) vendor offers an integrated analytics capability, most marketers will be happy to continue relying on third-party offerings.

“Marketers understand that the digital channel offers a unique medium that can be used to measure the interaction between the user and digital content,” he said.“To manage the digital channel, marketers must interact with more than a WCM solution.”

Though not in total opposition, Phil Kemelor of CMS Watch and Semphonic (who disagrees with who actually benefits from integration) isn’t exactly cheering for it on the sidelines either:

While a 'baked in' approach could make sense if it alleviates the need to tag page elements, such as links and events, I have yet to see any WCM analytics solution that gets beyond a high level of reporting. As it is web content that would be the natural focus of WCM based analytics, these tools would likely be of more value to content editors and writers, rather than online marketers.

Analytics in 2010

In any event and direction, we can say with certainty that 2010 is going to be a big year for Web analytics. Not only has it survived the economic crisis this time around, it has flourished in it. However, we’re not going to bet on a doubling in market value this time. There’s just too much indecisiveness around what the next best plan of action is.

For example, the Adobe/Omniture deal suggests that integration will be the new black, and comments from Tishgarten imply he agrees:

“For the enterprise market, I see an increasing demand for more powerful data mart capabilities that tie back to analytics packages,” he said. “Marketers know that online users typically interact with a brand multiple times, say via email, website, mobile apps, social and home media platforms, in order for them to convert into a customer. They are actively seeking a single platform that allows them to aggregate these interactions and combine that data with 3rd party information to form a complete profile of the user so that they strengthen the relationship with the customer.”

But Kemelor suspects other things are in the works. When we asked him to guess at the top trends of analytics in 2010,he took it back to the workplace, calculating that the establishment of a Chief Web Site Research and Analysis Officer position is on the horizon.

“Enterprise organizations will be taking a more planned and deliberative approach to deploying web analytics throughout the organization,” he added. "Rather than providing either ‘free for all’ access to the web analytics solution, or tightly managed access in which all report development goes through a few staff, organizations will concentrate on developing trained Power User groups who can fulfill web analytics reporting and analysis needs more directly to individual business units."

Batten Down!

Exciting times are brewing, and we'll be here to weather whatever storm is on its way -- after we've exchanged gifts and made new resolutions. Care to add your two cents to the pot before the year is up? Please do so below and let's see how this baby plays out.