A brief history of web analytics

As part of a MBA assignment, I had to summarize the history of web analytics.  I thought it would be nice to share it with you:
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The official definition of web analytics by the Web Analytics Association is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage.   This standardized definition was not proposed until 2006, which reflects how young the field is.  Only until the early 1990s did the use of log files become popular among nontechnical persons, particularly with the creation of Analog, one of the first log file analysis programs that was widely available on the Internet, by Dr. Stephen Turner in 1995 . Commercial web analytics started with the founding of WebTrends in Portland, Oregon in 1993, even if they didn’t start selling software until 1995 .  Other important companies are NetGenesis (established in 1994 by MIT graduates), Accrue, Omniture, and WebSideStory (all founded in 1996). By the year 2000, web analytics vendors were struggling with web server logs as optimal sources of data and JavaScript tags emerged as a new standard for collecting data from websites.  JavaScript log files are easier to maintain than web server log files and their use shifts the responsibility of collecting and processing data from internal company IT departments to web analytics vendors in most cases.  Currently the three big vendors are Coremetrics, Omniture, WebTrends.  Mid-market vendors are Unica, Yahoo! Web Analytics and ClickTracks.  Consolidation is common in this industry, for example Omniture acquired the previously fourth big vendor, Visual Sciences (better known as WebSideStory), and Yahoo! Web Analytics was born out of Yahoo!’s acquisition of IndexTools.  Finally there are several basic solutions such as StatCounter and Webalizer.  Google reshaped the web analytics industry in 2005 when it purchased Urchin and, subsequently, released it as a free tool under the Google Analytics  name.  This made first-class web analytics tools available to anybody for free.  The key to success in this industry is constant innovation such as the use of heat maps (cluster of clicks on a web page and their density using colors) from CrazyEgg .  The latest trend in web analytics is moving away from prepackaged key performance indicators (e.g. number of pageviews) towards key actionable insights (e.g. visitor’s primary purpose of visit).  The key trendsetter in the web analytics industry is Google with the Google Analytics tool and Analytics Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik.

Damian Davila

Ideas and concepts from Damian Davila, Ecuatoriano thriving in Hawaii. Pro marketer and blogger. Find him at @idaconcpts on Twitter.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks Damian for the information. The info helped me out in the presentation I am taking :-)

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