Web Analytics Tools: The Best Options in 2019 (And Building a Scalable Tool Stack)

Choosing the best web analytics tools for your business can seem like an impossible task.

There are hundreds of options and most of them are very similar to each other. Just organizing them into logical categories can be a full time job.

I understand this pain very well as I have helped hundreds of companies build stacks that can scale with their growth (while not breaking the budget).

In this article, I will give you the major categories that you should consider when choosing analytics tools and provide a few options that you choose from.

I’m not going to give 20 options for each category. Instead, I’ll talk about the 3-4 most popular options that will work for 90% of companies out there.

If you’re in the other 10%, this means that you have very special requirements and you will need to expand your search beyond this initial list.

There is a lot to cover in this article so feel free to use the links below to jump around to the most relevant sections.

I Want to Learn More About:

Two Fundamental Principles for Choosing Web Analytics Tool

Category 1: Marketing Attribution (4 Tools)

Category 2: User Behaviour & Product Insights (3 Tools)

Category 3: Customer Support & Engagement (3 Tools)

Category 4: Technical Diagnostic Tools (3 Tools)

Category 5: Reporting Tools (4 Tools)

Category 6: Tag Managers & CDPs (4 Tools)

The 5 Stages of Your Analytics Strategy

Two Fundamental Principles

Before we jump into the actual analytics tools, let’s establish some ground rules for how to think about our analytics stack.

Principle 1: Start Small and Iterate Quickly

This one may seem obvious but I constantly see companies trying out all kinds of fancy analytics tools even though they don’t really need them. You don’t want to introduce complexity into your stack when it’s not needed.

For example, if you aren’t spending a lot of time or money on marketing then you don’t need 5 different tools in this area. One solid tool like Google Analytics can be enough until your needs get more complex.

Another common error is startups trying to use A/B testing tools even though they don’t have enough traffic. You’re simply wasting your time and making your data analysis more complex than its needed.

“In the world of analytics and data, [Lean Startup] means picking a single metric that’s incredibly important for the step you’re currently working through in your startup”. – Lean Analytics book

Doing some planning in terms of what KPIs you actually need will be crucial. These KPIs will be tied to your current business goals.

If you’re trying to raise a Series A round then you need to figure out which KPIs you need to present to investors that will help you close that round.

Avish Kaushik (from Google) has a great article on how to plan your digital marketing strategy and what KPIs you will need. I also have a short video covering how to create tracking templates for your product using tools like Mixpanel.

It’s much better to start with less and slowly add more metrics than to start with too many metrics and simply get overwhelmed with all your data. Mixpanel has a great story on a startup who actually decreased the number of metrics they were tracking to focus on what matters.

Principle 2: Own Your Data and Avoid Vendor Lock In

Your analytics stack will slowly grow to a few tools which means your data will eventually be stuck in silos. This won’t be a problem until you need to start looking at your entire company, starting from sales/marketing to customer service and revenue.

In the short-term, you don’t need to worry about how this will happen. Instead, simply focus on how you can keep some kind of control over your data. A great way to avoid vendor lock in is to use an analytics wrapper such as what Segment offer. You send your events to Segment and they send them to different analytics tools.

How Segment Works

This means you can easily change analytics tools and you could eventually even just send your data to a database like Postgres or Amazon Redshift. The goal here is to abstract your tool integrations as much as possible to make transitions away from them easier.

In terms of historical data, most tools offer APIs which let you take your historical data to other tools though this can get complicated pretty easily. I’ll cover some analytics tools below that focus on helping take your data from tools like Mixpanel to your own database.

Related: If you’re in charge of marketing or product at your company, be sure to check out the 6 Reports That You Should Be Running to increase the growth of your product and company.

Category 1: Marketing Attribution

Marketing Attribution tools will help you understand how your spending is driving conversions through metrics like CAC (Cost of Acquisition) and ROAS (Return of Ad Spend).

Google Analytics for Web Attribution ($0)

Google Analytics is a great fit for any company that is just getting started with their marketing attribution efforts and receive less than 1M visits a month. Once you go over that level, you’ll start to run into sampling data issues and you will need to upgrade to something more robust.

Google Analytics for Web Analytics Tools

Website: https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/analytics/

Funnel.io for Attribution Dashboards ($5,000 – $50,000+/year)

Funnel.io is will connect to all your advertising data (Google Ads, Facebook Ads) and your conversion data (Google Analytics, Shopify, Stripe) and connect all the dots for you.

This is a great option for companies who have a lot of different advertising channels and want to see all cost data (and metrics) in one place.

Funnel.io Dashboard

Website: https://funnel.io

Attribution App for Attribution Dashboards ($5,000 – $50,000+/year)

AttributionApp is similar to Funne.io though they less support for advertising networks. This is great if most of your spending goes to Google/Facebook/Bing/Adroll and if you’re already tracking individual users.

AttributionApp Report

Website: https://www.attributionapp.com

Google Analytics 360 for Web Attribution ($150,000/year+)

Google Analytics 360 is the enterprise version of Google Analytics. If you’re running into sampling issues or if you’re spending multiple six figures in paid spending per year, then GA 360 can be a great option.

Their attribution and funnel reports are quite powerful and it integrates well with other Google products (specifically Google Ads).

Google Analytics 360 Attribution Report

Website: https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/analytics-360/

Category 2: User Behaviour & Product Insights

Tools in this category are meant to help you understand what your users are doing with your product or website. Your needs in this category will differ depending how complex your product is (web app vs ecommerce site).

Mixpanel ($3,000 – $100,000+/year)

Mixpanel is an event-driven analytics tool which means that you can send data in almost any format and then easily analyze it. Mixpanel is known for having a great funnel analysis and user retention report.

Their product is mostly geared towards software companies but almost any company can get value out of this tool.

Mixpanel Funnels

Website: https://mixpanel.com

Amplitude ($0 – $100,000+/year)

Amplitude is another event-driven analytics tool that will let you easily analyze your data across almost any product.

Like Mixpanel, they are known for having a great funnel analysis and user retention report though they have also developed other advanced reports.

Amplitude Funnels

Website: https://amplitude.com

Heap Analytics ($0 – $100,000+/year)

Heap Analytics is similar to Mixpanel and Amplitude but they have a different philosophy.

They believe in automatically capturing all user interactions (page views, transactions, clicks) and then letting you easily create reports off this data.

If your company is wary of heavy implementations, Heap can make the initial setup a breeze.

Heap Analytics Report

Website: https://heapanalytics.com

Category 3: Customer Support & Engagement

In this category, we will look at the different tools that can help you engage with your customers wherever they are (email, SMS, live chat, etc).

Intercom ($1,500 – $30,000+/year)

Intercom offers a product that will allow you to communicate with your users across most of the common channels (email, SMS, push and in-app notifications). They have other features built in for customer support teams such as help articles.

Intercom User Profiles

Website: https://www.intercom.com

Customer.io ($1,800 – $20,000+/year)

Customer.io will make it easy for you to automate your marketing messages across all the channels that your customers might be using (email, SMS, push notifications).

Customer.io Report

Website: https://customer.io

Zendesk ($1,200 – $50,000+/year)

Zendesk offers a full suite of products meant to help you communicate and engage with your customers. You’ll be able to launch things live chats, manage support tickets and send messages through multiple channels (email, SMS, push, etc).

Zendesk Suite

Website: https://www.zendesk.com

Category 4: Technical Diagnostic Tools

This category is all about diagnosis technical problems with your website and collecting qualitative about your users through reports like heatmaps and session recordings.

Hotjar ($1,000 – $20,000+/year)

Hotjar gives you multiple tools or reports in one platform. You can easily run heatmaps, surveys, polls and visitor recordings.

Setting up Hotjar is also really easy (just add the snippet and you’re done). I also like that you can repurpose features like feedback polls to get metrics like NPS.

Hotjar Heatmaps

Website: https://hotjar.com

FullStory ($0 – $20,000+/year)

FullStory is another all-in-one tool that will allow you to easily capture heat maps and visitor recordings.

FullStory Report

Website: https://www.fullstory.com

Pingdom ($120 – $20,000+/year)

Pingdom will help you monitor the uptime of your website and overall technical performance. How fast your website (or web app) loads is directly correlated with conversion rates and organic rankings so a tool like this can be a great investment.

Pingdom Dashboards

Website: https://www.pingdom.com

Category 5: Reporting Tools

Once you have a small amount of data, you will need to visualize it in a way that is easy to access by everyone in your team. Let’s look at a few options that can help you do this.

Databox ($0 – $5,000+/year)

Databox can integrate to over 60+ data sources including advertising data (Facebook Ads, Google Ads), analytics tools (Google Analytics, Mixpanel, etc) and other tools.

Databox Dashboard

Website: https://databox.com

Klipfolio ($350 – $5,000+/year)

Klipfolio supports over 300 data sources and is one of the most established tools in this category. They also let you run custom calculations on your data similar to what you could do inside Excel.

Klipfolio Dashboards

Website: https://www.klipfolio.com

Google Data Studio ($0 year)

Google Data Studio supports over 150 data sources and plays quite nicely with Google products (as expected).

Most of their data sources are marketing related (advertising data, marketing tools, etc) and they also offer pre-built templates you can easily replicate.

Google Data Studio Dashboard

Website: https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/data-studio/

Domo ($1,000 – $25,000 year)

Domo supports over 500 data sources and is incredibly flexible in how you can process the data before visualizing it.

They support all kinds of businesses but are better suited for larger organizations who need quite a bit of flexibility in their data processing.

Google Data Studio Dashboard

Website: https://www.domo.com

Category 6: Tag Managers & CDPs

In this category, we will look at the best way to collect data from your website including tag managers and the CDPs (Customer Data Platforms).

Google Tag Manager ($0/year)

Google Tag Manager makes it easy for non-technical folks to deploy tags on your website like marketing pixels and for them to capture actions like form submissions or button clicks.

The free version of GTM is good enough for most companies and there is also an enterprise version (Tag Manager 360) for those who need SLAs and other advanced features.

How the events looked inside of Google Tag Manager

Website: https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/tag-manager/

Segment.com ($0 – $100,000+ year)

Segment.com can integrate with 200+ tools and they have lots of SDK options for collecting data from the web, mobile apps and server libraries.

Segment.com Connections

Website: https://segment.com

Hull.io ($450 – $100,000+ year)

Hull.io focuses on the B2B market and has built a CDP around the most common tools such as Salesforce, Intercom, and MailChimp.

I particularly love the playbooks they offer since those can show you exactly what you can do with their product.

Hull.io Product

Website: https://www.hull.io

mParticle ($1,000 – $100,000+ year)

mParticle integrates with 150+ tools and also have wide-ranging support of SDKs across all platforms. They are focused much more on the enterprise market which is reflected in their pricing model.

mParticle Product

Website: https://www.mparticle.com

The 5 Stages of Your Analytics Strategy

Every company will go through the 5 stages below though some will do it faster than others. These stages are meant as guidelines to help you understand what tools to choose and how much to invest in them.

Stage 1: All About Product/Market Fit

In this stage, you’re still trying to figure out the product/market fit and you’re spending nearly all your time trying to understand your users and how to improve your product. You don’t have a lot of data so you need to rely heavily on qualitative data at this stage.

You should also consider using something like the Net Promoter Score which is a tool that can help you measure customer satisfaction.

Recommended Tools:

  1. Marketing Attribution: Google Analytics to give you some basic numbers around how your website is performing. Make sure to use the Goals functionality within Google Analytics to track key actions such as signing up for a waitlist or for your product.
  2. Technical Diagnostic: You’re primarily interested in features like live chat so you’re able to start engaging with visitors who come to your website.
  3. User Behavior: Mixpanel/Amplitude and track 1-2 key actions within your product. You won’t have a lot of data so simply focus on understanding trends.

Benchmarks to next stage: You’re starting to spend significant money on marketing/advertising and you have enough regular usage within your product that you are collecting statistically significant data.

Related: If you’re in charge of marketing or product at your company, be sure to check out the 6 Reports That You Should Be Running to increase the growth of your product and company.

Stage 2: Spending Significant Money on Marketing

In this stage, you’re starting to move past product/market fit and you might be heading down a funding round or simply looking to grow. As you start to spend significant money on marketing, you can start to deploy analytics tools to help you optimize your paid traffic.

Most of your data will live within silos which shouldn’t be a huge issue but if you need to do any complex analysis of multiple tools, Excel will be your friend. It will be tedious but it will help you avoid adding a reporting tool until you actually need it.

Recommended Tools:

  1. Marketing Attribution: Google Analytics will be your main tool for measuring your marketing efforts. You can add CrazyEgg for better heatmap tracking, A/B testing once you have enough traffic and Mailchimp to collect emails. If you’re doing mobile advertising, an attribution tool like Kochava will help run campaigns on CPI (Cost Per Install).
  2. User Behavior: Mixpanel/Amplitude and you can add more metrics to your initial metrics from stage 1.
  3. Technical Diagnostic: Chat tool like Intercom to keep receiving qualitative data and you can add tools like Pingdom to help track down technical errors that could be affecting your conversion rates.
  4. Customer Support: You can consider adding something like Intercom to communicate with customers once they are inside your product or something like Zendesk to handle customer questions.
  5. Tag Managers: Spend some time understanding the different wrappers to set up a solid foundation on which you could new tools in the future. Make sure to figure this category out before integrating too many tools or else your transition to a wrapper will be painful.

Benchmarks to next stage: You have enough traffic to see where your funnels are breaking and you have some ideas such as drip emails and A/B testing to fix them. You also need to see data from multiple tools in one single dashboard which means you need some kind of reporting tool.

Stage 3: Growing Teams and Dashboards

In this stage, your strategy is starting to become more sophisticated and your team is growing which means you need to create dashboards that summarizes the most important metrics for your company.

The new analytics tools during stage will be reporting tools that help you get a better handle on the complete picture.

Recommended Tools:

  1. Marketing Attribution: Google Analytics, and Funnel.io/AttributionApp to understand cost data.
  2. Reporting: Databox or Domo to help you bring data from different tools into central dashboards.
  3. Diagnostic: Hotjar (usability testing) and Pingdom (technical performance).
  4. Existing Tools: Improving on anything else you currently have already implemented. This could mean adding more metrics or simplifying the key metrics you actually need.

Benchmarks to next stage: Your dashboards aren’t good enough and you want to see how everything comes together all the way from your CRM (Salesforce) to customer support (Zendesk) and then to accounting tools like Quickbooks/Stripe.

Stage 4: Moving to Data Warehouses and Towards More Complex Queries

In this stage, you realize that some of your existing tools aren’t good enough or they don’t let you run complex queries on them.

You also want to see other data within your dashboards which means you need to move your data into your own data warehouse where you can easily query and manipulate it.

Recommended Tools:

  1. You will keep using some of your existing analytics tools across all categories but you will start to consider how this data can be migrated or stored in a data warehouse.
  2. Data Warehouses: set up something like Amazon Redshift or even your own database (Postgres, SQL, etc) and use something like RJ Metrics to send the data from your existing tools into it. You can then visualize the data using tools like Looker and Chartio.

Benchmarks to next stage: You have a small team dedicated to managing all of your data needs and you need SLAs, uptime guarantees and flexibility.

Stage 5: SLAs and a Dedicated Team

In this stage, you’re all about flexibility. SQL or something similar is your best friend and most of your data is in a database. You might still keep a few tools from previous stages but you need to SLAs and uptime guarantees which some of these tools aren’t able to provide.

Recommended Tools:

  1. Data Warehouses: Amazon Redshift and an enterprise level dashboard tool like Tableau.
  2. There’s enterprise level solutions for tools like Google Analytics Premium but you need to balance flexibility and cost. You will also need more complex tools like DMPs (Data Management Platforms.

Conclusion

I hope you find our breakdown useful and gives you a great starting point to choosing the best web analytics tools for your business. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below.

One more thing before you go! Do you know how to get more insights out of your data? 

All companies are sitting on a goldmine of data that they haven't fully explored. It's not about technology or capturing more data. The key is to learn how to make the most of your current data and convert it into actionable insights. This is the main idea behind my first book, The Data Miage: Why Companies Fail to Actually Use Their Data

I'm excited to announce the release of the book through all major retailers. If you're interested, you can download the first chapter for free using the form below. You'll learn what the best data-driven companies do differently and how to make sure you're playing the right data game.

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    2 thoughts on “Web Analytics Tools: The Best Options in 2019 (And Building a Scalable Tool Stack)”

    1. Thanks for the useful article! I’d like to know how a tool like Hubspot (with sales and marketing hub) comes into play within this scenario. It seems like it brings together a lot of stuff. What’s your point of view?

      Reply
      • Great question. Most companies will have something for their marketing (email) and sales (CRM). Tools like Hubspot replicate some of the things that tools like Google Analytics but they don’t match user behavior reports in tools like Mixpanel/Amplitude. I would say that you can use these tools to tackle things like marketing attribution and marketing automation instead of having standalone tools. Eventually, you will outgrow a tool like Hubspot but that’s a different problem for a different stage in your company.

        Reply

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