ASP Traffic Analysis! What Next - ASP Odometers?

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Event Summary

WebTrends Corporation (NASDAQ: WEBT) is creating a business unit to provide web log analysis on an ASP basis. The new unit will offer its services through a platform called WebTrends Live. A user embeds a small piece of JavaScript code, provided by WebTrends, on every page to be tracked. When a surfer loads such a page the JavaScript sends data back to a WebTrends server farm. Traffic analysis information that includes the page view is available within seconds.

WebTrends Live offers three products. The high-end product is the eCommerce Edition, which can track information from a commerce-enabled site, including revenue by product and the differing behaviors of browsers, first-time buyers, and repeat buyers. The Enterprise Edition offers a full range of traffic analysis capabilities. The Personal Edition is offered free to small web sites that place WebTrends advertising on all pages that are tracked.

Market Impact

We don't foresee any major changes in the marketplace. WebTrends has a well-entrenched leadership position, and will attract customers to this service. But its two major competitors are Microsoft Site Analyst, a part of its Site Server product suite, and various freeware and shareware products. Some Site Analyst customers who would otherwise need a separate server for log analysis might choose WebTrends Live in preference to SiteAnalyst, but not many, we think. As far as freeware and shareware (including home-grown solutions), users who are prone to those solutions make their choices on the basis of features (or philosophy) rather than cost, and are unlikely to move to a commercial product.

WebTrends should capture additional customers through WebTrends Live and will see an increase in market share, but not so much to change the landscape. Microsoft may choose to offer some of the components of SiteServer on an ASP basis if its customers indicate that that would be convenient for them, but we certainly don't believe that such an offering would increase Microsoft's market share against WebTrends.

WebTrends also competes to a small extent with products from companies like Accrue, NetGenesis and SAS. But, again, these products tend to be more specialized, and the companies that use them are unlikely to be fazed by the purchase of an additional server, so there won't be much growth for WebTrends against those products on the basis of an ASP offering.

User Recommendations

It may seem that an ASP solution to traffic analysis for a website that is being served in-house is another example of a solution seeking a requirement. But traffic analysis - especially for quickly growing dot-com companies - takes a lot of processor time and, despite all the automation possibilities, may require a fair amount of labor - as much as quarter time of a technical person for a single website in some cases, and at least proportionately more for a business with multiple sites. Thus WebTrends, by offering the servers, the software, a rich product offering, security, load balanced servers and other amenities has an attractive offering.

We think the three primary candidates are startups, young companies that host traffic analysis on production servers and are beginning to feel a performance pinch, and companies with existing web sites that are about to launch some form of E-commerce. Any of these may find, after exploring pricing, that an ASP solution offers more immediate value than a hardware or software license purchase or the cost (and delay) of hiring or reassigning someone to baby-sit the logs. Companies that already have the separate server or the software license are less likely to see any benefits from WebTrends Live.

We caution all newcomers to traffic analysis that there is more to it than just looking at the graphs. One of the reasons for doing analysis is to be able to describe your site to potential partners and advertisers, and you'll quickly find that getting those numbers to be honest takes a fair amount of work.

For one example, that peak of web impressions last week that was ten times as high as you usually get wasn't sudden interest in your new typeface; it was probably a visit from a robot sent by one of the search engines or portals to index your site. Advertisers are loath to pay for pages viewed by robots.

Also, note that WebTrends Live requires you to insert code on every page you want tracked, where products that actually use the web logs do not require any page changes. For a site with low labor availability and a large content base, taking time to change all those pages may be something you'll just never get around to. If so, spend the money on a more traditional solution, because traffic analysis in some form is the most important investment you can make in your site.


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