Google Analytics’ Content Groups compared to Webtrends’ Content Groups

Google Analytics has added Content Groups! Since I rely heavily on Content Groups in Webtrends, I wanted to see whether GA did it differently.

 

Let it be known that I really like Webtrends’ Content Groups.  I use them constantly.  The Content Groups report, rather than the Pages report, is my go-to report.  And the Content Group Paths from Entry report is important enough to sacrifice an entire profile slot to.

So I was excited when I found out Google Analytics has implemented its version of content groups a few weeks ago.  I took a look and saw a few differences I’d like to call out.

apples and oranges

Can I assign a page to more than one group?

In Google Analytics, a given page can be in a maximum of five content groups.  That is, a page can be in only one group per grouping and there are five possible groupings.  Within a grouping, Google Analytics will assign a page to the first content group criterion it matches.

In Webtrends, a page can be in any number of content groups.  I can have any number of schemes going at once, in a given profile.

This can make the resulting Content Groups report a bit of a beautiful mess because of the intermingling of schemes, but it’s a minor drawback since I can filter the Content Groups dimension, bookmark the resulting set, and end up with permanently available individual reports for each of my schemes.

(Tip: Put the scheme name into content group names, for example “Checkout, Step 1” and  “Checkout, Step 2,” or “Page Type:  Form” and “Page Type: FAQ”.)

Comment:  I do like that Google Analytics allows me to activate different Content Group schemes one by one.  I don’t like limiting a given page to participation in only five content groups.  I use many content group schemes and, in Google Analytics, I’d have to start proliferating profiles.

Is there Content Group pathing?

In Google Analytics, I can see the previous and the next content group.  I cannot see content group paths (anything longer than one step).  Chaining “nexts” isn’t the same as paths, btw!

In Webtrends, I can see the previous and the next content group only for those content groups for which I have set up a one-step path report.  I can, however, see content group paths — longer paths for individual groups (specially set up) and the all-important (to me) Content Group Paths From Entry.

Comment:  Webtrends’ Content Group Paths from Entry is a mainstay of my analytics practice.  Google Analytics’ pathing, which involves chaining of “nexts” rather than paths that correspond to real visitors’ extended paths (the WT method), is inferior.

Can I assign pages to content groups using page code or tag management?

In Google Analytics, yes.  But each page can be assigned to only one Content Grouping in the tag code.

In Webtrends, yes, and you can hard-code the same page into as many content groups as you want.  One drawback is that hard-coded content groups can’t be eliminated from a profile instantly, which can be done in Google Analytics by switching groupings.  (On the other hand, de-activating hard-coded content groups in a Webtrends profile is fairly easily done with a URL Search & Replace operation.)

Comments:  I put individual pages into several content groups all the time.  Being limited to one just won’t work out.

Can I assign pages to content groups by extracting part of the URL or page title?

In Google Analytics, yes.   It allows either simple matching or regex for turning part of a URL into the name of a content group.  This includes parameters – I can turn the value of a parameter into a content group.  For example, if I have a parameter “color=” then this can be a Grouping and each color will be a content group.   This will in all likelihood use up one of my five groupings.  (In Google Analytics, this was previously sort of available by filtering on the Content – All Pages report, then saving the resulting report as a shortcut.)

In Webtrends, this extraction method sounds familiar because Webtrends does this exact same thing.  But Webtrends doesn’t call it “content groups.”  In Webtrends, this is called “defining a custom dimension”.   In Webtrends, there is no limit to the number of custom dimensions.

Comment:  Being able to see only five tabulated parameters is just not going to work for most of my clients.   I can’t even think of a web site I work with that has only five parameters that need tabulating.

Can I assign pages to content groups based on rules?

In Google Analytics, yes.  But your rules will work with URL parameters only if you haven’t suppressed those parameters in the GA Reporting View Settings.

In Webtrends, yes.  And you can use parameters in rules whether you have suppressed them in report views or not.  Another difference in the details:  Webtrends allows content groups to be based on numeric value logic as well as text, while I’d have to use regex to do that in Google Analytics.

Comment:  Suppressing parameters in report views bring order to the chaotic-looking GA pages reports.   It feels like a big compromise to have to sacrifice content groups at the same time.  But hey, that’s what Excel and APIs are for.

Can I drill down to see metrics for the individual pages in the content groups?

In GA, yes.

In Webtrends, no.  I’d have to create a 2D report of Content Groups over Pages.  Easy enough to create and apply, but still an extra step.

Comment:  I can’t decide whether it’s too big a hassle to create that 2D report in Webtrends.  Um … no.

What metrics can I have?

In Google Analytics, only six metrics are shown:  Page Views, Unique PageViews (equivalent to WT’s Visits), Average Time on Page, Entrances, Bounce Rate, % Exit, and Page Value.  You can also get other measures, sort of, using a Secondary Dimension (but the resulting report needs to be exported and sorted).

In Webtrends, I can apply any of the dozens of out of the box measures as well as any measure I can make up.  In addition, there’s a “Content Group Duration” report that supplies time spent viewing pages in the content group (total and average), and a “Content Groups of Interest” feature that provides a Unique Visitors metric encompassing past visits (i.e. how many unique visitors have ever seen this content group).

Comment:  No comment needed!

Are Content Groups retroactive?

In Google Analytics, no.

In Webtrends, no …. but you do have 90 days of replay analysis available in OnDemand, and infinite re-analysis with OnPremises.

Comment:  Another “no comment needed.”

 

Final comment:  much as I love many other GA features (which I think will be addressed by the upcoming Webtrends Explore) I really can’t live with GA’s current CG limitations except for uncomplicated sites.  We’ll see what the future brings.

Doubles! Reasons for Discrepancies between Webtrends and Google Analytics Visit Counts

Three reasons why Google Analytics sees more visits than Webtrends does

doubles

Google Analytics usually shows more visits than Webtrends does, for the same site, same time.

There are three reasons:

  1. If a visit starts before midnight and finishes after midnight, Google Analytics counts two visits.  Webtrends counts one visit.
  2. If a page view happens in the middle of a visit that has a different campaign (organic search, paid search, or any hit with utm_campaign= in it), Google Analytics counts two visits. In other words, if a visitor who has your site open in one tab, then uses a campaign or search link on another tab to come to the site separately, Google Analytics considers that second action the start of another visit.    The same thing happens if the visitor backs out of the site then returns via another search or campaign.  In all the above, Webtrends counts one visit.  (Note: these assume the visitor is moving around with no gaps of 30 minutes or more.)
  3. If you have WT or GA tags on two or more domains, Google Analytics will start a new visit when you cross domains.  The exception is when the sites are linked and the links have been specially coded to transfer a Google Analytics visitor ID.   Webtrends counts one visit.  The exceptions for Webtrends are Safari (and soon Firefox, and maybe eventually other browsers), or any situation where third party cookies are not accepted.

If you know of any extra wrinkles to this or other reasons for the higher visit count in Google Analytics, let us know!