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As (currently) the only Urchin Authorized Consultants in Canada, we’re frequently asked about the difference between Google Analytics and Google Urchin. When people call they seem to think about the relationship as a standard freemium model, with Google Analytics being a limited “demo” and Urchin being the “premium” product.

This is not the case.

Google Analytics (GA) IS the full fledged product, the difference lies in Urchin’s role as an in-house analytics tool with log file analysis. Urchin is a hybrid solution that can use both javascript tagging and server log files, adding richer details to its reporting, and it stores all information on your servers—great for companies who can’t risk allowing information into the hands of outside sources, while GA is an externally hosted solution, without log analysis, but with additional features. One is not necessarily a better version of the other, instead they serve two different roles.

So, what are the differences between Google Analytics and Urchin?

Urchin vs. Google Analytics

Free Vs. Three (grand)

GA is, of course, free and available directly from Google. Urchin Software by Google is $2,995 US and available only through Urchin Software Authorized Consultants. If you have Urchin 5, Google will discount the price you paid for it from your Urchin 6 cost.

More report Profiles

While GA only allows 100 report profiles, Urchin provides 1000, as well as 1000 log sources (despite Google’s claims on the urchin website that it supports unlimited numbers of both). These can be extended by purchasing another license.

Hosting on your servers Vs. Hosting on Google’s

Many organizations—for instance, governmental institutions, universities and banks—are typically required to store their web analytics data on their own servers behind a firewall. Urchin 6 provides for this and is very competitively priced compared to other self-hosted solutions such as WebTrends ($10,000+) and is far more robust and detail rich than most log-file analyzers.

If your company isn’t mandated to protect its data behind firewalls, then this shouldn’t be a deciding factor for choosing Urchin over GA. If you have concerns over how Google stores and uses your analytics data with GA, take a look through their privacy policy. Google Analytics is very good about keeping your information private.

Log files Vs. Javascript tagging

GA collects data using the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) which is a snippet of javascript code that must be installed on every page you want to track. Urchin, while still using a similar (and if configured correctly, the same) tracking code, includes a log file analyzer, which will allow you to view the specific page requests each individual visitor has made on your site. It then embeds user activity gathered through its javascript tracking together with specific log file information to provide you with per-visitor information. While it is possible to get information about unique sessions with Google Analytics (location, browser, platform, path etc), Urchin’s per user data provides a whole new level of detail.

Data Reprocessing and Warehousing

Thanks to Urchin’s use of log files it is also possible to reprocess data about your website. Urchin will allow you to dig up old log files and reprocess them according to any new metrics you’ve started using. For example: if you just started tracking a particular form submission as a conversion, by reprocessing historical log files you can see how many visitors converted through that form even through you weren’t tracking it previously.

Further, since you are in control of your own data, there is no risk of Google deleting your website analytics data after 18 months. Though this has yet to happen with Google Analytics, Google does reserve the right to prune data from the GA servers in order to free up space and bandwidth. And if you wanted to follow three year trends in your site, finding out that you only have a year and a half of info left on your account would be a serious bummer.

Reports on spider activity

Another thing that Urchin can do that Google Analytics can’t is track web crawler (spider) activity on your website. Because these spiders don’t execute javascript when they’re on your site, Google Analytics has no way of knowing they’re there. Urchin, on the other hand, is logging each page request on your site and can pull up the log files for each spider visit. This can result in a discrepancy between pageview reports in Google Analytics and Urchin.

Per-user drill downs

Since Urchin reads logs, and thus can compare user behavior to IP address, you can dig into many of the same reports from a per-user basis. That said, all information is still anonymous, as it will not let you identify individual users by any recognizable information.

Non-Page related information

Urchin, due to its log file analysis capabilities, can also provide information on non-page related files, such as images, file downloads, and server errors. This can allow you to track non-page related activity without the use of fancy redirects or javascript hacks.

Although our “Google Analytics error page tracking” method works pretty well…

Richer Custom Reports

With more data available, richer custom reporting solutions are needed. Urchin provides even more customizable reports, allowing you to gather even more insights from your analytics data.

Urchin limitations

Google Analytics is still Google’s flagship analytics product, and while Urchin provides a lot of features that GA can not, GA still features several key reports that have not made their way into Urchin yet. These include Advanced segmentation, benchmark analysis, and event tracking.

Finally, and as we suggest (to companies that aren’t mandated to protect informational privacy, of course), if you’re running Urchin Software by Google you can run Google Analytics beside it, using their combined data to give you the best of both worlds.

For an even larger comparison of differences between the two you may find this comparison chart useful.

Buy Urchin 7

An Urchin 7 license costs $9,995 for new users, $7000 for upgrades. This is a one-time, non-recurring cost. The license provides:

  • Unlimited data sources
  • Up to 1,000 report profiles
  • Unlimited users, groups, and accounts

To upgrade to Urchin 7, or buy a new license, contact us