The coming of Google Analytics Premium as spurred competition into defensive mode and consultants into speculative gears. The short history of “web analytics” will be remembered as pre & post GA Premium just as a big marker sits on November 2005, date of the free Google Analytics announcement.

I’ve been asking practitioners why they use Google Analytics even though their organization pay for a so called “enterprise solution”.  The truth is never – EVER – has anyone said it is because GA is free. The simple reason why Google Analytics is so popular is because it answers analysts needs and expectations today. Think of it, even a free tool that wouldn’t cut it would not survive. GA caters to the vast majority or organizations that have not achieved the highest levels of maturity. It is fast, simple, flexible, reliable and enriched with a strong ecosystem of knowledge, services and ancillary tools. But it’s not perfect either and Google has more engineers then you can think of working to improve it even further. Now, with Google Analytics Premium’s features, even the most demanding organizations can think of it as an option.

State of the web analytics market

For my GAUGE keynote entitled “Mythbusting Google Analytics” I wanted to share stats, facts and takeaways. I looked at the web analytics vendors market shares of the Top 500 Retail Sites and the Fortune 500.

Usage of web analytics tools by Top 500 Retail sites - October 2011
Usage of web analytics tools by Top 500 Retail sites - October 2011
Usage of web analytics tools by Fortune 500 - October 2011
Usage of web analytics tools by Fortune 500 - October 2011

In both cases, Google shows up as the premier solution, surpassing all other vendors combined. In both cases, about 30% of those companies are doing what I dubbed “double dipping” – using a paid solution as well as GA. Over 90% of the Top 500 Retail sites are using web analytics, way more than the 75% of the Fortune 500 – maybe the huge difference stems from retail vs pure branding of very large organizations.

My take

It doesn’t matter if GA is the “de facto” standard, if it boasts the “enterprise ready” badge. It doesn’t matter if other vendors are shown ahead of it in the Forrester Wave Web Analytics Q4’2011 report or if it doesn’t have the longest list of features. It answers analysts needs – and the most successful organizations have figured this out!

  • One thing I find misleading is the Webtrends stats.  Since it’s server side, is the 2% number really accurate? If they were that low, I doubt they would be in business. Is this all JS based or does it also include server side?

  • Anonymous

    Great comment Stephane – but then you would expect that form me 😉

  • I think the ability to do classifications (or push it any data) is still a huge miss for GA.  Market share is a great metric, but, as @minethatdata will tell you, profit > market share.  Just because many sites use it, doesn’t mean it has the ability to create more value. 

    Without the ability to integrate client side data GA still has some gaps.  I find this even more odd given the focus on GA being a marketer’s tool and yet all of the data (such as product category for a SKU) has to be set at the time of the server call which is decidedly technical and rigid.

  • Anonymous

    just an FYI – Google’s approach is for you to *export* data out of its products to allow developers to integrate it elsewhere. Therefore it is very unlikely that GA will ever import 3rd-party data. Their philosophy is not to be a data warehouse…

  • There is a problem with your data using Ghostery, as it under-reports Webtrends. I did an analysis of The Fortune 500 you can see here Webtrends has 14% share, but as you note ( and I found), Google still has a major lead.

  • Karthik Subramanian

    Hi – in the second chart, the sum does not add up to 100. Would you please be able to provide me the data? This is already very helpful!


    • Jbenavidez2

      sum is over 100% because of “double dipping”

      • The second chart only adds up to 86%. Where is the remaining 14%?

        Great post by the way. Very helpful 🙂

        • Stephane Hamel

          Each column is really independent of each other – meaning that 45% of sites surveyed use Google, 24% of Adobe, etc. A single site might very well use both Google & Adobe, thus, the sum could be higher than 100%… or less than 100% since some sites are still not using any web analytics tool 15% of surveyed sites are not using a tag-bassed analytics tool (or using one that could not be detected) or maybe they are using log-based solution which can’t be detected. Hope that helps! 🙂

  • MS Timicha

    Thanks for this really useful article