This past week's announcement that Yahoo! purchased IndexTools puts a new spotlight on the web analytics marketplace.
Yahoo! is clearly looking to compete with Google, but the reasons for this particular acquisition remain less evident. On the one hand, Yahoo! may be assuming that the mass market wants the kind of richer features that IndexTools offers. As you raise your own level of analytics competence, you may prove them right. On the other hand, since there were only a handful of independent, mid-range analytics vendors available out there for a decent price, IndexTools may have come to Yahoo! via more of a process of elimination.
The Yahoo! "party line" is that the technology will be a great boon to its small and mid-sized business (SMB) clientele. Probably true. In many ways, IndexTools resembles Google Analytics in its usable interface, featuring both dynamic drilldown and behavioral segmentation, as well as a nice collection of out-of-the-box reports oriented towards campaign analysis.
However, it is the perceived potential of IndexTools that has many observers hoping for more than just another Google Analytics. The company has been touting its next generation release, called "Rubix," since January. If Rubix lives up to its promise, it could possibly give Omniture's Discover offering a run in terms of functionality and ease of use. This has become the second-most anticipated non-release of a product in web analytics -- after Microsoft's Gatineau.
While Rubix could be a differentiator, without it, IndexTools does not offer the functionality that distinguishes it from Omniture and WebTrends -- for example the ability to analyze unaggregated data from a graphic UI and to perform repeatable Excel reporting. For now, you must use regular expressions to analyze unaggregated data and do manual updates of Excel...just like Google Analytics.
Dennis Mortenson, COO of IndexTools, claimed repeatedly that IndexTools could do 80 percent of what Omniture could do, at a fraction of the price. People also say the same about Google Analytics. This is marketing spin at its best. It doesn't matter which 80 percent or which 20 percent; it matters only how it matches your requirements.
As Web Analytics Report readers know, larger IndexTools customers picked that solution to get good standard reports, plus additional reports customized by the vendor, all at an attractive price. Feature richness and attention to individual customer service are not traditionally the hallmark of mass-market solutions, so Yahoo! has some clear choices ahead here, and IndexTools customers will want to watch carefully which way the new owner takes the service.
Among the questions that remain to be answered:. Will Rubix ever see the light of day? Will the basic technology be morphed to a Google Analytics-type solution? A combination of the two perhaps? Or will all of this become moot if Microsoft acquires Yahoo!? Or perhaps IndexTools becomes the premier analytics offering from Microsoft?
We'll be watching.