When choosing the right web analytics tool for you, you need to consider both your budget and which features you will need. Tools can be divided into three general categories:
- Open source - these are generally offered free, although functionality may be limited. You can develop the software yourself or use new features created by the open source community.
- Proprietary - paid for software that you use under a licence. Most proprietary software comes with support and upgrades provided.
- Hosted or cloud solutions – provided over the internet and hosted on the provider's server: you access the data through a web browser.
If you work with an online marketing agency, they will be able to help: they may offer analytics as part of their service. Bear in mind, however, that in order to get the most value out of web analytics, you should have access to the data itself, and not just the agency's analysis of it.
For more information on software types see computer software for business.
Criteria for choosing web analytics tools
Which type of web analytics tools you use will depend on various criteria, including:
- whether you want someone else to host it, or to have it installed on your network
- what kind of reports you want, and what content/media you want to track
- whether you want to integrate it with other tools and reports
- whether you need the tool to provide additional information as your business grows
- how much support you will need
- set-up and running costs
You need to think about the impact on your internal resources - eg if you host the analytics yourself, you will need sufficient IT expertise in-house to run it efficiently.
Cookies are text files that monitor browsing preferences of users, eg types of goods searched for, pages visited and length of dwell time on each page.