What’s the Difference? Comparing Google Analytics and Adobe SiteCatalyst

As a digital analyst, I split my time between two primary tools: Google Analytics and Adobe SiteCatalyst. Using both of these tools is challenging because they require different mindsets and skills. Google Analytics could be likened to a chic, suave, easy-to-use product, while SiteCatalyst is the more bulky, yet powerful product. One is easy on the eyes; the other takes a bit longer to love. Distinguishing key differences between these two primary tools gives digital analysts the ability to use the best of what each has to offer.

Site Implementation

Google Analytics is a free tool and can be easily implemented on your website. Obtaining data can be as easy as implementing the Google Analytics Java Script onto your site. However, Google Analytics does permit the flexibility to do a custom implementation that allows a user to get the most out of the tool. Custom implementation allows for custom variables, cross and sub-domain tracking, virtual pageviews, and event tracking. Google Analytics offers up to 5 custom variables for free and only limits events to 500 per session. New features include custom dimensions and metrics as well as cost uploads for various paid campaigns.

SiteCatalyst implementation requires cost and more in-depth development work. The implementation is always customized and differs depending on specific needs, metrics, and goals. The upfront work and investment for SiteCatalyst is greater than Google Analytics, but if done properly, the information gathered will be more tailored to your specific metric needs. In addition to tracking web actions the Omniture suite offers various options for data integration across an enterprise’s data infrastructure.

Custom Variables

SiteCatalyst has the advantage of required custom implementation, which provides the option for the creation of custom traffic, event, and conversion variables. These variables are set in advance to give specific information about your visitors rather than looking at all visitors in aggregate. You can see the visitors who clicked through on a campaign versus the visitors who purchased a product. SiteCatalyst allows up to 75 traffic variables, 100 event variables, and 75 conversion variables, all of which can capture whatever data you would like.

Google Analytics also has the ability to set custom variables but only allows up to 5 custom variables with the free version. Like SiteCatalyst, these custom variables can be set to expire after different measurements: a page view, completion of an event, or at the visit level.

SiteCatalyst variables differ in that they can be set to expire after a specified period of time and can also be stacked on top of each other, so you can see the sequence of events taking place.

In the future, Google Analytics is moving to be more flexible in terms of custom variables. Google’s newer product,Universal Analytics will allow for 20 custom dimensions and custom metrics. These will be implemented easier than Google Analytics current version of custom variables, and they will be more similar to the custom variables we see in Site Catalyst.

Report Suites

SiteCatalyst allows for distinctive reporting suites of various data sets. If your company’s website has several sub-sites, SiteCatalyst allows the different sub-sites to have their own suite for data, which can then get rolled-up into one large suite. This allows seeing metrics broken down for each sub-site. Report suites allow you to see the different paths a visitor may take between sub-sites. These reports also allow the creation of one dashboard that can be applied with different report suites.

Instead of reporting suites, Google Analytics allows for the creation of different data profiles. Profiles are versions of your data with permanent filters applied.

Another way that Google Analytics allows a user to look at data in sections is with segmentation. A user can apply up to four segments and make comparisons across each of these segments. SiteCatalyst does not allow for the comparison of segments. In order for a comparison to occur in SiteCatalyst, a user must export the data from different segments and compare outside of SiteCatalyst.

Combining the Two

As a digital analyst, I have to balance the trade-off between ease of use and complexity. There are times when Google Analytics is best to use because the information is gathered quickly and easily. However, in-depth answers often need to be determined by SiteCatalyst. Limiting yourself to one tool can also be limiting for your business. I have found using these tools in conjunction gives the greatest value to your analytics work. You can check out a more in-depth dive on what these tools should be measuring by reading our Pace Perspective on measuring the value of custom content.

What tools have you found to be most beneficial for reporting your analytic data? We would love to hear your recommendations or suggestions in the comments below.

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