My colleague Avinash recently presented at SES San Jose his thoughts on the current vendor space including: Visual Sciences, Omniture, IndexTools, Clicktracks, WebTrends and Google Analytics. As always, his talks are very engaging and thought provoking. For me though, one slide really stood out – the idea that a HYBRID web analytics tool can’t hunt – you need to view his presentation to follow that, but essentially the analogy is that HYBRIDs are not good as a web analytics tool. As Avinash knows, I disagree with this point of view, so I wanted to explain why here.

By HYBRID tool, what is generally meant is the combination of the page tagging technique combined with logfile data to produce cookie fortified logfiles. This was discussed in a white paper before I joined Google – Web Analytics Data Sources . There are significant advantages to doing this as shown in the diagram below. Essentially a hybrid allows you combine the benefits of both techniques to give you the most complete picture of visitor activity on your web site.

Hosted v Software v Hybrid tools

Key HYBRID benefits over and above a page tag only system include:

  • You own the collected data in the most direct sense of the word and can therefore reprocess it at will
  • Being able to track search engine robot activity
  • All downloaded files are tracked automatically without any modification of page html content
  • Partial file downloads can be tracked e.g. partial views of PDF files
  • Error pages can be tracked automatically without any modification of page html content

So a HYBRID technique offers real benefits. However, "with such great power comes great responsibility" (Spiderman!) which for a HYBRID web analytics tool means you take responsibility for:

  • Applying HYBRID software updates
  • Archiving and compressing your logfiles (which get very large very quickly)
  • Protecting end-user privacy – you have a legal responsibility to protect the privacy of your visitors and store logfile data securely.

HYBRIDS require a significant IT investment to run smoothly, which many organisations struggle to justify – hence the proliferation of page tag technique adoptions . Nonetheless, a HYBRID method remains an effective technique for improving the accuracy of either a page tag or logfile solution.

Are you using (or have used) a HYBRID method or perhaps some other technique to improve accuracy? Share your thoughts with a comment.