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I've used Google Analytics for a while now, and it's pretty good for a high level view. But when I want to dig into the numbers a bit more, everything gets kind of vague. I also don't like that it takes so long to update. Are there any better options?

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Yeah good quesstion coz here in Turkey Youtube's IP addresses are banned and when Google switched to dynamic IP address serving many Google services like Analytics were not reachable. –  ilhan Jul 8 '10 at 19:22
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12 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Better is relative to what you are looking for. Google Analytics is pretty feature rich but there are a lot of alternatives. I would break them down into the following buckets with an example of each:

  • Paid hosted: This will generally be a lot like Google Analytics but you will get the added bonus of things happening in closer to real time and a lot more bells and whistles that may be important to someone in a marketing position. An example that falls into this bucket is Omniture.
  • Paid installable: A lot of these guys have gone to the hosted model as well but still allow you to buy what amounts to a self hosted version of their product still. At one point it seemed like Google might re-release Urchin (the start of what turned into Google Anaylitics) in this form but I haven't seen anything recently. Going this route is going to give the ability to track people based on logs as well in most cases and that can be an advantage. An example that falls into this bucket is Webtrends.
  • Free installable: This group won't be nearly as feature rich as the first two but will get the job done. Most of these will use your server logs to generate the stats and that can be both good and bad. An example that falls into this bucket is AWStats.
  • Other: These are where things are probably headed in the analytics realm. Both real time and more visual. Examples that fall into this bucket are Crazy Egg and ChartBeat.
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An additional way of partitioning the available solutions is by the way they measure and how good that makes the measured information. I've written a summary on this on stackoverflow a long time ago: stackoverflow.com/questions/938650/… –  Niels Basjes Jul 14 '10 at 5:39
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Clicky sets itself apart from Google Analytics in some very intriguing ways.

  • Real-time analytics: Site getting hammered? Google is no help in finding the source with data taking a day to show up. Clicky can show you very quickly where all the traffic is coming from.
  • Easy to use: Google Analytics is pretty easy to see basic data, but Clicky is even easier to derive value from the data.
  • Mobile version: They have an iPhone-optimized version of their site and another for any other mobile device.
  • Social: See twitter and bit.ly sources.
  • Ajax & flash tracking: A bit more work, but you can track any event through their API.

These are just a few highlights - it is a very nice tool! It's only free for a single site, but very affordable for to add more.

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+1 for clicky, been using it for about a year now and nothing but good things to say about it. –  Jesta Jul 9 '10 at 15:48
    
Clicky has a referral program that goes towards paying for a premium account, then pays you. –  Dan McClain Jul 22 '10 at 11:35
    
re: Ajax & flash tracking wouldn't/couldn't you do this simply through your own server-side code? –  Talvi Watia Sep 17 '10 at 7:26
    
There's also Chartbeat in the realtime analytics space. I've flirted with both Clicky and Chartbeat on the same site without a clear winner. Chartbeat sent me an email when traffic surged because I hit Slashdot, which is a nice feature and is generally cleaner, but I like Clicky's API more. –  Dave Apr 26 '11 at 20:15
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Piwik: Open source real time analytics. I don't use this, but I have a friend who does and he really likes it. It does look pretty nice and with something like this you can do all sorts of other things with the data (such as your own real time stats on the website).

Also, here is a list of alternatives. It has log file analyzers, like Analog or AWStats, remote services, like stat24 and Yahoo Analytics, and self hosted, like Open Web Analytics and FireStats.

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Some folks like http://haveamint.com/ too.

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You missed the #1 alternative: mint analytics

haveamint.com

Most of the aftermarket tools available for iOS, for example, support GA or Mint

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There are anothers, but everyone has its limitations. i remember xiti from http://www.atinternet.com/ omniture from adobe, and there are some open source solutions that will work if you don't have a very large site like piwik.org

Someones do something better than others, but in my experience google analytics outperforms the other in price/cost, because it's almost free (you have to have a linked adword account with a expenditure of at least 1 euro a day to remove some limits) and you can do almost anything that you wan't to do with an analytics tool. The only thing that bugs me in google analytics it's the 50.000 thousand limit in every dimension, that it's that if you have more than 50.000 diferent pages in your site, just the first 50.000 are going to be tracked with the page name, and all the others are going to be in a "(other)" clause.

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I use awstats and munin. They are both on my server and hence avoid issues with privacy problems that outside solutions can bring.

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awstats can be a resource hog in some situations, unless its just basic logging. ...course I don't use it anymore since I wrote a custom-built analytics module combined with geoip lookup. –  Talvi Watia Sep 17 '10 at 7:28
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www.mixpanel.com is free for low volume. If you put their badge on your site, you get the $50 plan free

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Another good service would be reinvigorate (reinvigorate.net). They used to have a free plan available, but since they were bought by Webtrends a couple of days ago the free plan disappeared. Their tracking is awesome though and it's not as expensive as other paid services.

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Picking the right tool for you is harder than finding a wife / husband!!

...to cite Avinash Kaushik.

Whenever it comes to questions like your one taking a look at Occam's Razor, the blog of Analytics legend Avinash Kaushik (currently @Google) is really helpfull.

There is an older but still good article you might benefit (even if you accepted an answer): Web Analytics Tools Comparison: A Recommendation

Avinash lists some questions "10 Questions to ask Vendors" or "Three Questions to ask Yourself" that get you even more ideas.

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Google's Urchin is available for purchase, and might be useful because of the log file based nature (no problem if the client has JavaScript disabled, or the site is entirely internal with no provision for accessing the Google servers, etc), but whether it is worth the cost compared to Analytics is up to you.

Update: Sadly Google decided to discontinue Urchin WebAnalytics Software back in March 2012

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Log file based analytics have issues when pages are cached in the same way that Javascript based analytics have issues when Javascript is disabled. Caching happens WAY more often than disabled Javascript. Neither will be 100% accurate, and both have other issues, but in my opinion JS-based will be closer. –  Bryson Jul 16 '10 at 6:10
    
Good point re: caching, but presumably the things you want to actually analyse should have much shorter cache limits than css & js files etc, and 304s will still show up in log files. –  Cebjyre Jul 16 '10 at 6:27
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