GetClicky sucks: an Analytics service going out of business?

A year or so ago I did a roundup of the major free Web Analytics services. I was interested to see how Google Analytics had affected the market: was there a market left any more?

One of the trials I signed up for I found so useful I carried on using after I’d written the review. GetClicky had a lot less information than some services – including GA – and less detail than the free tools I already run on all my websites (e.g. AWstats). But it was a lot more user-friendly, presenting the most critical information all at once on a single screen.

Today I finally started disabling GetClicky on my sites; the company has forceably blocked my site from their service. Why? Because I had a week of heavy traffic *while I was using the premium version which allows unlimited traffic*. That’s it. I stayed within their requirements, but I was banned anyway. That suggests to me that their company is in trouble…

What went wrong?

My AppRejections.com site – a small blog chronicling Apple’s submissions process for iPhone apps – got hit by a storm of traffic for one week. I’d only started the blog a week or so earlier, and I hadn’t got around to adding analytics to it yet (it only had 5-10 hits a day!).

Once the traffic surge started, I panicked and quickly setup a GetClicky account for it. As a new site it was signed up for the GetClicky “free premium trial”, which allows the site to have unlimited traffic (more on this later). The traffic surge ended a few days before the free trial ended.

The site is now running at less than half the “limit” for a non-premium account. Well within the company’s rules. But when the trial ended, I received an email telling me they were cancelling my free account too, because my site has too much traffic.

So, assuming it was an automated email, and that they’d understand if I explained:

My site doesn’t average that much any more – it was a few days blip.

Presumably the getclicky stuff will carry on working?

To which I got a snarky email from them – NB: they have the FULL DATA on this site, they could easily have used their brains and checked:

The limit for free traffic is 3,000 daily page views. Your site has been above this number for every single day of your trial except the last 2 days. That’s not a “blip” in my opinion!

Hmm. OK. Snarky, but at least human. Let’s explain in more detail what happened (which they could corroborate easily if they cared):

I accidentally got a massive spike of traffic on a tiny blog – I
went from 10 hits a day to 50,000 a day – which made me realise that I
had no stats tracking, so I enabled GC. That traffic is now gone, it
was a flash-in-the-pan thing.

Response? They banned me. All stats stopped functioning.

GetClicky’s problems

When I reviewed the various options for analytics, the interesting problem was that GA was providing the most powerful service … and doing it for free. Arguably Google shouldn’t be allowed to do this – it’s standard monopolistic behaviour – but having done the review of alternatives, I think it’s fine.

GA is so incredibly difficult, complicated, and user-unfriendly that most people use it, but get less of out it than if they were using ANY of the direct competitors.

Google is providing an “everything but the kitchen-sink” product which is really targetted at corporates who can afford to pay full-time staff to customize and manage their GA setup. For the rest of the world, Google is offering nothing more than a lowest-common-denominator product; the field is wide-open.

The problem now for other analytics companies is how to monetize in this arena. There are some notable successes, such as the URL-shortening companies, who offer analytics on stats that are simply not physically accessible by GA.

But in my experience, most of the analytics companies today have poor strategies for how to thrive and grow in the shadow of GA.

What are they doing today?

GetClicky is a great example: there are only two significant advantages to their premium product:

  1. The adverts on the stats page disappear
  2. You are allowed more than 3,000 visitors / day

Normally, removing two small ads from a webpage wouldn’t be worth paying for (at least not since 2000; we’re all so used to seeing ads now that we don’t care). But GetClicky’s webpaged are rather badly written, and they block on downloading the advert-code. The advertisers webservers are often a lot slower than GetClicky’s, and you can often wait 10 seconds for a stats page to load, of which 9.9 seconds was waiting for the advert.

But, essentially, their value proposition comes down to:

A couple of trivial concepts in “forced monetization” that wouldn’t be out of place in the late 1990’s.

There seems to be no real attempt to find stuff that modern consumers care about. For instance, the screamingly obvious USP for GetClicky – they have the most user-friendly of all analytics services, bar none – is completely ignored by the company.

Growth

As a GetClicky user, I wanted to access their site on my iPhone. A year ago, you could access their website and get an iphone-only version of the site. It was using the fake webpages that pretend to look like an iPhone app.

Now, even that has been withdrawn, and their own support forums are full of people asking “when can we get an iPhone client?”, with answers dated late 2008 (over a year ago!) saying “we can’t tell you what, but something exciting will appear very soon now”.

This is ridiculous. Checking live website-analytics on the iPhone is a classic example of a service that users desperately want … and it fits perfectly with GetClicky’s USP as a company.

So … since I *am* an iPhone developer … I approached GetClicky’s Business Development guy, and asked him if there was an iPhone app in development. I added that if there weren’t, I’d like to go ahead and make one myself – either contracted to them, or as a standalone product that they’d get some secondary benefit from (it makes their service better) but they wouldn’t be able to charge for (because they didn’t own it).

A week passed, with not even a single brief email response.

The nail in the coffin

Go look at the front page of http://www.GetClicky.com/. In passing, note the testimonials – all these are about usability (but the company refuses to make money out of the usability!).

Focus on the “who uses our service” part. Wow. Lots of famous, big name websites there. Um. No. None that the target audience is likely to know or care about.

What are they selling to here? Are they trying to go head to head with GA for corporate clients? Are they targetting marketing depts internally – NOT the technical depts – who just want ease-of-use? Are they going after the small website owners, who don’t have the time/money to learn how to use GA?

Honestly? I don’t think they have any idea themselves… Which is rather sad, because it gives me little confidence they’ll still be around 5 years from now.

16 thoughts on “GetClicky sucks: an Analytics service going out of business?

  1. The nail in the coffin

    You know people who have good rants blogs include the word rant or something of that effect to the url or title. How do you not slit your wrists every morning amazes me, I can only hold out that someday you will make a post about online games or games that I find interesting. I know there is a blog post waiting inside to get out, please listen to the genii and let it out of the bottle instead of throwing the bottle against the wall in every post.

  2. Jason Short

    Wow, talk about a totally misrepresented headline. You have NO evidence they are going under other than the fact they cut you off? That is crazy. It is like saying because a company refused to serve you a burger all burgers from that company are tainted beef and should be recalled.

    You had a problem – that’s it. Seriously look into what slander and defamation mean in legal terms.

  3. adam Post author

    @Jason

    Clearly, I wrote this post badly. The title was intended to be rhetorical – the blog post was intended to show that in the tough post-GA world of analytics, things weren’t looking good.

    I’ve had a look around at competing services recently, and they’re adding a lot more features and volume (several times as much as GetClicky), while racing to lower costs further than each other. Not a good sign…

  4. adam Post author

    @Lorenzo

    Thanks. But please note: that is NOT an iPhone App – that’s a simple web frontend hacked on using iUI or similar to “pretend” to look like an iPhone App.

    Since it is not an app, it’s got all the problems of a bookmarked webpage, e.g.:
    – cannot provide the graphs from the website (since these are all Flash-based)
    – cannot permanently remember account info (Apple’s safari automatically deletes this for websites periodically)
    – requires full reload every time you access it, rather than merely downloading the “changed” data
    – cannot cache the last-read data – requires a live internet connection to view stats (again, safari deletes the cache often, out of your control)
    – cannot provide historic data beyond the few simple queries that the website already supports
    – …etc

    It’s definitely pretty, but (having used it) it’s not very useful. In the end, I actually found the main website version more useful – even on the iPhone!

  5. Sean

    Adam, I’m just coming across this now. I really don’t feel like you gave a fair overview of the situation.

    First of all, when you emailed me, I did in fact look at your site’s traffic levels. You were over the free limit of 3000 daily page views for 12 of your 21 days on the trial. I’m not sure why I said you were over all but 2 days in my original response – it may be because your traffic before the spike was so small that I didn’t even notice it on the graph, because the spike was so big. (I just went back and looked at it now).

    When a user’s trial ends, which is a fully automated process, the code looks at your site’s last 7 days of history to determine if you are eligible for the free service or not. Because your spike came during the second half of your trial, the code disabled your site and sent you the automated email.

    Second, your claim that we have banned you is completely false. No such action occurred. We do have the ability to ban domains, but your site is not banned and never was, and in fact, your account is still active in our system, along with your disabled site.

    Third, the reason I didn’t respond to your second email is because it was full of attitude that I didn’t wish to deal with. You conveniently left out the majority of that email, instead only quoting the first paragraph. As a reminder to yourself, and a convenience to your readers, I am posting the full content of your email below:

    ————–
    Shrug. OK. I’ll disable it, and stop recommending GC. Thanks.

    (FYI: I accidentally got a massive spike of traffic on a tiny blog – I
    went from 10 hits a day to 50,000 a day – which made me realise that I
    had no stats tracking, so I enabled GC. That traffic is now gone, it
    was a flash-in-the-pan thing.)

    FYI2: other than “disabling ads” (and the hits limit :)) I don’t see a
    noticeable difference between GC free and premium. I don’t know what
    your target market is, but if it includes people like myself, you
    might want to provide a stronger differentiator.

    FYI3: I found GC a year ago when I was reviewing the alternatives to
    GA. Even at the time, I thought the daily page views limit seemed a
    bit low; I felt you should be selling premium on added-value, rather
    than on sheer “you have a lot of hits, so pay up”. There are free
    alternatives that do more than GC right now, with no limits, so …

    FYI4: I’ll be using custom awstats from now on. Takes me 10 mins to
    setup on that server, but it’s free and has no limits. It lacks the
    pretty graphs of GC, but it does some REALLY important things GC fails
    on – like tracking “RSS clients vs. direct web clients”. It’s just
    ugly :).
    ————–

    Although it was fully of smiley face’s, the overall picture you were painting was that while you like the product, you don’t like the pricing (even though we are by far the cheapest paid analytics service around) and you get similar functionality elsewhere so why would you even bother using our service. Can you really blame me for not responding to that? Would you respond to an email like that? You said my email to you was snarky, which I don’t see at all, but then you reply with that and wonder why we didn’t respond?

    Fourth, your claim that the only 2 things you get for paying are no ads and higher traffic are not true. Some of our most popular features, including Spy and Twitter analytics, are only available to paying accounts. This page summarizes the differences between free and paid accounts:

    http://getclicky.com/help/pricing

    Fifth, your claim that we removed the iPhone optimized version of our service… I don’t know even know where you’re coming up with this stuff. That has NEVER been removed and is still active and used by thousands of people every single day.

    It’s true that we do not have an actual iPhone “app”, but a mobile optimized web site is a nice way to do things because it automatically works on every other platform that uses mobile safari (webkit) – Android, WebOS, and Symbian, to name a few. That immediately more than doubles the number of people who can use it, and the actual development of the mobile product is much easier to design as a web page than a real “app”. Sure it’s not as flashy, but it works well and people love it.

    I’m not sure what happened to your email about developing an iPhone app yourself. The only email I have from you is the one you’re quoting from. You may have emailed my partner Noah instead. Either way, we do not intentionally ignore any emails. It may have just slipped through the cracks. WIth the volume of email we receive (over 100 per day), sometimes that just happens. I apologize for that, I assure you we would not have intentionally ignored it.

    Sixth, I agree with your criticisms of our front page. It could be a lot better, and doesn’t clearly tell people why they should use us over someone else (except the chart at the bottom). We have wanted to fix it for a long time, but we’re growing real nice as it is already so it’s been hard to prioritize.

    Last, your statement that we are “going out of business?”, well, I assure you this could not be further from the truth.

    Although I do not feel we did anything wrong, I would like to make it up to you by offering you free Pro service indefinitely. I have upgraded your still existing account to Pro. Feel free to use it if you want. If not, just let me know and I’ll delete it.

  6. Sean

    I also must ask, after this rant about how Clicky sucks, why are you still using it? :)

    I see it is active on this site and your last login was fairly recent so…. just curious.

  7. Susan Ortez

    I looked at get clicky when I compared it to many other services (I’m not a google analytics fan) but found it to be hookie. At first glance it looks nice but when you start digging deeper you see that it’s all surface.

    Glad to hear about the volume issues they face…and glad I didnt risk my website with them.

    Thanks for the warning.

  8. adam Post author

    @Sean

    Thanks. Only reason I was “still using it” was the WordPress plugin that I hadn’t bothered to remove – although I’ve removed it now (it might speed up page-load times a little).

  9. Hyder

    Well I do kinda agree getclicky is not performing well. Im a paid subscriber, but I always get error 504 which is really kinda irritating.
    I do like the user friendly interface though where they show all the essential informations the user needs to know on the 1st page!

  10. Trevor

    Been using GC for the past year + and haven’t had any issues at all. I work in a large organisation and have given access to them to review the stats via the interface without fear – its that easy to use!

    One element Im very hot on is service and support and have to say the guys at GC respond within double quick time considering the popularity of this product.

    Also like to add, with the additional of a GC iPhone/iPad app and Chrome extension its made my life a whole lot easier!

  11. Aaron Kay

    I’m currently looking for an alternative to GetClicky’s spy feature as it was the only thing I really thought was cool about it. Any ideas?

  12. Andrés

    There is no shortage of web analytics out there, but clicky is one of the best. For a free service they allow a lot of page views, and if you have a lot of page views they will work with you to make sure it will work well for you. It really suprises me that someone would use the main website of getclicky over any of the Iphone applications available for clicky.

    I created the first Iphone web app for Clicky in 2008, it was much faster to develop than a native app and has a lot of good features. Upon release thousands of people starting using it, and continues to be used today. I used a standard javascript UI library for the webkit browser. This means it works for safari, chrome, symbian phones. Open up google chrome on the desktop and see it in action! It doesn’t have graphs because flash is not supported well on mobile phones, its as simple as that.

    At Clicky they have spent years developing for and listening to their users. They added Goals, Campaigns, a full featured API, etc! To say they are less is truly insuting to all the hard work they have put in for their users.

  13. adam Post author

    Hmm. I think you either didn’t read the post, or didn’t read the comments – you just skim-read and jumped to your own conclusions, since you seem to have missed most of the key points.

    Also, since you’re singing the praises of it, I’ll point this out: a javascript webapp is terrible for use on iPhone, it:
    – doesnt work when you’re offline
    – has to load its code from online, so its ALWAYS slow to start
    – never caches data, so it’s ALWAYS slow to use (has to reload 100% data each time)
    – in your case, in your own admission: it is missing some of the most important of the analytics features that are standard today: e.g. graphs

    …so, no – not useful at all. The website did all of that just as well. A real iPhone app would have been many many times more useful.

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