Web Analytics

Revisiting Log File Analysis versus Page tagging

One of the students raised the question over spring break. I wanted to revisit the subject here.

It’s 2010, it is clear now that page tagging solutions have become a defacto standard in the web analytics industry. Many companies who relied on both methods now dedicating themselves to the page tagging approach. Why?

Let’s revisit the pros and cons.

The main advantages of log file analysis is that the web server already produces the raw logfiles, so the data is already available. To collect data via page tagging requires changes to the website right? The argument goes it is simple if your website is a few pages, but in large sites it requires resources. But does it? Let’s face it, many applications blogs, CRM tools, E-commerce solutions, site builders come ready with complete tagging solutions.

So Round 1 goes to page tagging.

• Page tagging solutions involve vendor lock-in. Again… I can tell you that lately, my clients are running several tags in parallel. Vendor lock-in is an illusion in a world where tagging has become so easy to integrate.

Round 2 Page Tagging

•The next argument is that web server reliably records every transaction it makes. Page tagging may not be able to record all transactions. This is still true to some extent but much lesser now then before. This is because tags are now placed correctly by third part applications. Developers are paying close attention to the needs of the Analytics community. Furthermore, accounting systems are used to back check any leaks in the analytics data. So to the extent that this is a problem, it can be identified.

Round 3 – tie

The last major argument: It may not be possible to include tags in all pages. Examples include static content such as PDFs  or application-generated dynamic pages where re-engineering the application to include tags is not an option. As we know, analytics tools that utilize page tagging method have integrated tools (this event tracking) that allow to incorporate elements of a web site that cannot be tagged.

Round 4 – Page Tagging

This fight is over!

There is no doubt that page tagging has become the defacto standard in both hosted and in house solutions and is driving the cost of data collection and analysis down. I suspect that this trend will continue with GA introducing new features and eventually cutting off Urchin.

Any comments?


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