The Cost of Website Analytics (in Milliseconds)

Apr 4, 2012 By Adam DeMartino
Evidon Global Tracker Report - LogoThis is the second post in our Evidon Global Tracker Report series. Featuring proprietary insight* into and analysis of third-party tracking across the web, articles in the series are posted monthly and represent the kind of data you’ll find in the Evidon Global Tracker Report, the first of which will be distributed at our next Evidon Empower summit in Europe this spring. Released semi-annually, the Evidon Global Tracker Report will be edited by thought leader Darren Herman, Chief Digital Media Officer of The Media Kitchen and President of kbs+p Ventures. Website analytics services have evolved from the early days of site visit counters to robust tools that provide a wide range of data about a site's visitors. Publishers have come to rely on these services to understand the demographics of their audience and how they arrived at their site to become that audience. As with any third-party site tool, website operators must weigh the benefits and the cost - and the most precious commodity among web publishers is the speed the page loads. So how much valuable load time is spent on analytics tools? Below is a breakdown showing the relative popularity of the top 25 analytics tools, and the average time it takes for them to load in milliseconds.
Analytics Provider Latency, Ranked by Commonality
Rank Company Milliseconds Commonality
1 Google Analytics 460.24 106929
2 Omniture 266.28 2318
3 ChartBeat 261.42 1238
4 INFOnline 872.25 1160
5 New Relic 248.42 553
6 ForeSee 204.65 463
7 Piwik Analytics 435.7 445
8 XiTi 403.97 435
9 Yandex.Metrics 542.19 422
10 Crazy Egg 624.24 329
11 Outbrain 424.91 313
12 Statcounter 213.77 311
13 MixPanel 346.14 311
14 Visual Revenue 676.86 295
15 Histats 930.01 260
16 Yahoo Analytics 479.54 258
17 Google Website Optimizer 344.03 221
18 Effective Measure 627.84 219
19 etracker 573.1 207
20 NetRatings SiteCensus 570 194
21 Coremetrics 158.96 187
22 Crowd Science 513.89 186
23 ClickTale 450.49 153
24 eXTReMe Tracker 558.79 143
25 VG Wort 728.38 127

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Analytics Provider Latency, Ranked by Latency
Rank Company Milliseconds Commonality
1 Histats 930.01 260
2 INFOnline 872.25 1160
3 VG Wort 728.38 127
4 Visual Revenue 676.86 295
5 Effective Measure 627.84 219
6 Crazy Egg 624.24 329
7 etracker 573.1 207
8 NetRatings SiteCensus 570 194
9 eXTReMe Tracker 558.79 143
10 Yandex.Metrics 542.19 422
11 Crowd Science 513.89 186
12 Yahoo Analytics 479.54 258
13 Google Analytics 460.24 3000
14 ClickTale 450.49 153
15 Piwik Analytics 435.7 445
16 Outbrain 424.91 313
17 XiTi 403.97 435
18 MixPanel 346.14 311
19 Google Website Optimizer 344.03 221
20 Omniture 266.28 2318
21 ChartBeat 261.42 1238
22 New Relic 248.42 553
23 Statcounter 213.77 311
24 ForeSee 204.65 463
25 Coremetrics 158.96 187
(Click for larger view)

Clearly latency isn't the only factor that dictates adoption, as the latency numbers vary widely across the most commonly implemented services, and there is no statistical pairing between latency and popularity. Google Analytics, the far and away leader and the most ubiquitous third-party service of any kind on the web, is far from the fastest to load; clocking it at just under average among analytics tools at 460ms. Analytics tools as a whole seem a bit speedier than their third-party cousins (things like advertisements, social network plugins, comment forms, behavioral beacon pixels, etc.). Website analytics average 475ms collectively, an improvement over the average latency of all third-party element types which reaches 626ms. Interestingly, cost in terms of actual price also does not appear to be a significant factor in adoption. Past the free Google giant at the top of the list, several of the solutions are paid services (including Chartbeat and INFOnline, which rank at number 3 and 4, respectively). Let's extrapolate these latency numbers to get a sense of scale. For the sake of an example, we'll examine the study help site math-aids.com, which makes use of lots of third party scripts and helpfully publishes its Google Analytics statistics. On a peak day, math-aids.com can see around 80,000 visitors. Taking only the Google Analytics script into account, that means that users' browsers spent 36573808ms - more than 10 hours - delivering these scripts to web pages on analytics pixels every day. Obviously, no single user experiences a delay anywhere near hours or even minutes, but it's interesting to note the exponential rate at which these numbers can expand - particularly given the popularity of many of the top analytics services. Website analytics do more for publishers than audience measurement, of course. Many web publishers use data like session duration and click path to better design and engineer their sites. Audience demographics can also suggest low-level changes like a needed language translation or optimal site update times. This is all married to information like search terms that referred the audience and details about users like city-level location. Some services - notably the popular Omniture service from Adobe - provide audience segmentation alongside site analytics, so data about a site's users is collected simultaneously with data gathered about the site itself.  Analytics companies are always adding to their suite of services, trying to provide valuable new insights to attract publishers to their client roster. It's a wealth of data to be sure - and nearly every publisher on the web agrees that it's well worth adding to a user's wait time to know that the user was there in the first place.
*Data compiled with Ghostrank, Evidon’s Ghostery® panel of over 1.6 million weekly users worldwide who opt in to report the tracking code they encounter as they browse the web. If you have ideas about data you’d like to see featured in this series, or ways we can present this data,  email Andy at Evidon.com. If you’d like more information about the Evidon Empower summit where the Global Tracker Report will be distributed, email info at Evidon.com.
 

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