Yahoo, Google Spice Up Web Analytics

Yahoo offers free analytics tools as Microsoft looms, while Google rolls out Website Optimizer and Urchin 6 at ad:tech.

A lot has happened in Web analytics this week.

Less than a week after Yahoo bought Web analytics software maker IndexTools, Yahoo made IndexTools Web Analytics software free to better compete with the free Google Analytics and Microsoft's AdCenter Analytics tools. Also, Google released its Website Optimizer tool and version 6 of Urchin.

Web analytics software is a table stakes product for any company working to help advertisers better target their content to consumers, making tools such as IndexTools, Google Analytics and Microsoft adCenter Analytics (code-named Gatineau) particularly valuable as free services.

Dennis R. Mortensen, director of data insights at Yahoo and formerly the COO of IndexTools, said in a blog post April 15 that partners and clients who accept a new agreement from Yahoo will get IndexTools Web Analytics free. Previously, the company charged up to tens of thousands of dollars per month per client.

Mortensen said that Yahoo does not intend to add any new partnerships or direct clients in the near term while it prepares for the next rollout of the software. This, he said, could provide IndexTools' users first-mover advantages.

Mortensen, who likes to pitch IndexTools as 80 percent of the functionality of rival service Omniture for a fraction of the cost, told eWEEK April 17 that people shouldn't necessarily view the new free IndexTools as a way to take market share, but as a way for Yahoo to increase adoption of the Web analytics software.

IndexTools has joined Yahoo at a time when the Internet company is being targeted for acquisition by Microsoft. If Microsoft does buy Yahoo, where does that leave IndexTools?

"Most entrepreneurs are confident in nature, and so are we," Mortensen said. "So should Yahoo be acquired by Microsoft, I am most sure IndexTools will not only survive, but provide tremendous value to the combined entity. But who knows what will happen on that matter."

Meanwhile, Google April 16 took its analytics tools up a notch by launching its Website Optimizer as a standalone product at the ad:tech conference in San Francisco.

Formerly a feature within Google AdWords, the free tool lets users test which designs, headlines and graphics lead to the highest conversion rates on their Web sites. Users can access this tool here through their Google Analytics login.

Finally, Google's Urchin 6 is out of beta after years of testing. Urchin forms the base technology for Google's free Analytics tools, but the key difference is that customers host Urchin on their own servers.

This is important for people who want independence from the hosted application structure Google provides with Analytics and the majority of its other applications.

For example, Urchin is targeted for customers who want to analyze their content behind the firewall or need to have their site's traffic data audited by a third party.

Google sells Urchin for $2,995 per license for up to 1,000 domains, countless load-balanced servers and all log files through its Urchin authorized consultants, a subset of Google's Analytics professional services network. Users who paid for Urchin 5 can apply all of their purchase price towards an Urchin 6 purchase.