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Webtrends Ups the Analytics Ante

Webtrends Analytics 9
Click on the graphic for a larger view. Source: Webtrends

Webtrends aims to broaden the appeal of its pioneering Web traffic analysis tool with the release on Tuesday of Webtrends Analytics version 9. The company says its more visual interface, narrative translation and RSS overlay features offer a more accessible, comprehensive view into what's driving Web site traffic.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) shook up the Web analytics market a few years ago when it brought out Google Analytics for free and quickly gained the lion's share of users. Webtrends, which has been in the Web analytics business for 15 years, readily admits to Google's rise, but insists it's been good for them and the industry.

"We feel in some ways the Web analytics market is at an inflection point," Casey Carey, vice president of products at Webtrends, told InternetNews.com. "Google Analytics has had an impact in a lot of positive ways as a basic tool for the masses, so SMBs have tools they couldn't afford before."

But Carey argues free tools are more about reporting Web stats than analysis whereas Webtrends fee-based, SaaS-based analytics tool delivers both. He said Google Analytics' popularity "forced us to figure out how to create more value on the enterprise side."

In Analytics 9, "data is the interface," Carey said. A "click-to-crunch" feature pushes analytics results into an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis, sharing or graphing options. "Storyview" automatically converts data and metrics into non-technical, English language narratives that can be shared in PowerPoint, Word and other formats.

"The use of the written language as a form of data visualization is a unique piece,' Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Webtrends vice president of marketing, told InternetNews.com.

For example, a typical column and row set of analytic results would translate in Storyview to:

"Pages in this profile were visited 1.78 thousand times (down 12%). Each day, an average of 53.2 people visited pages in this profile (down 15%), viewing pages 5.56 thousand times over the selected period (down 9%) …."

Attracting new customers

Forrester analyst John Lovett credits Webtrends with trying new approaches like Storyview that he thinks will go a long way towards broadening its use within its established corporate base and help attract new customers. Webtrends says it has 7,500 customers in 60 countries.

"The ability to overlay RSS feeds on top of the data is a pretty interesting way to look at the data and a very forward thinking approach to handling social media. It can help explain spikes in traffic you weren't able to identify because you'll be able to see the buzz associated with traffic from an influential blogger or some other site," Lovett told InternetNews.com.

"It's a deeper level of insight that gives context to the data," he added.

Carey said the changes in version 9 were driven by customers who said the more casual users at their companies found the Webtrends tools too complicated.

"Our core users have had to defend the product to this outer group that said, 'this sucks, it's too hard to use'," said Carey. "Now they're quite relieved because the new version offers every day, powerful data visualization. A very interactive experience with no instructions required."

As for Google, Carey said there's no reason companies can't use both products. "I've seen figures that indicate 25 to 30 percent of companies that use a paid analytics service also use Google," he said. "They might use it for a micro-site and then move up to a paid service for greater value."

Analyst Lovett said Google Analytics is broadly deployed and "the analytics are good. It raises the bar for all the fee-based vendors. Webtrends acquisition of Widemile shows one way they are trying to augment their services."

Lovett refers to the announcement last week that Webtrends had acquired Widemile, a leading provider of multivariate testing and site optimization technologies and services.