Eric Peterson has published a report which draws on some of the data he got from his web analytics practitioner survey a couple of months back to highlight that organizations who use free tools tend generally to be:
- Less committed to web analytics
- Less strategic in their user of web analytics
- Newer to web analytics
Eric uses these conclusions to argue that organizations who standardize on free tools are in danger of under-investing in web analytics. The argument sounds alluring - if you're too cheap to invest in web analytics software, you're probably too cheap to invest in all the other things you need to do to make a success of web analytics - but I worry that Eric has his reasoning backwards. For me, use of a free web analytics tool is likely to be a symptom of a lack of ability (or desire) to invest in web analytics, not the other way around. A lack of ability to invest in this area is particularly pronounced in smaller organizations, of course.
Eric makes a great point in the report that just because a company is small it doesn't necessarily follow that the web isn't important to that company. This is true, but lots of things are important to a small company - paying salaries, keeping creditors at bay, unblocking the toilets, making sales, doing tax returns, keeping the website running, and so on. it's no great surprise that web analytics comes some way down the list, even to small companies who are primarily web-based.
It's true that larger organizations should have more resources to devote to web analytics, including perhaps paying for a tool (and, more importantly, paying for the all-important service capability that comes along with such tools), but even here there is a wide spectrum of importance of the web to an organization: an online travel site that transacts close to 100% of its business through the web is going to take a different attitude to web analytics (or should do, at least) than a concrete manufacturer whose website is primarily informational. Though to be fair, Eric's poll was amongst self-defined web analytics professionals; you'd expect to find them in organizations that take the web reasonably seriously.
Interesting to see the debate on this stirred up though, particularly considering my day-job. Nice work, Eric.