Google Analytics

Google & Urchin Analytics Background

A common misconception is that Urchin is simply the old name for Google Analytics and is no-longer around. However Urchin is a product in its own right and has some key differences to its free cousin.

Urchin On Demand was an Analytics tool bought from Urchin Software Corporation by Google.    To use this Analytics tool, you signed up with an account and copied and pasted a piece of code into each page of your site.

Urchin On Demand

After some time as a paid for product, in around November 2005 Google offered users this tool for free.  At this time, Urchin On Demand was also re-branded as Google Analytics .

Urchin 6 was developed by Google as an analytics software tool that you installed on your own servers.

This server side tracking tool graduated from Beta on April 16th 2008.

Google Analytics/Urchin Comparison

Google Analytics and Urchin software rely on different code and track visitors in slightly different ways. Here’s a comparison table adapted from an illustration by Benjamin Mangold:





(version 6)

Install and manage on your own server
Hosted and maintained by Google
Reprocess historical data (from logfiles)
Track content behind firewall
Track search engine robots/spiders
Goal tracking
Campaign tracking
Automatic Google AdWords tracking
E-commerce reports
£1495 ($2995) for up to 1000 domains


The differences in the results that you are likely to see are:

  • With Google Analytics, page views are recorded when the external JavaScript on Google’s servers is executed. Search Engine Spiders and automated bots don’t call this JavaScript file.  So Google Analytics may show lower page views as a result.
  • Google Analytics relies on JavaScript to track results, so users who have JavaScript disabled won’t be tracked, whereas they will be tracked using Urchin.

Benefits of Urchin

  • You don’t necessarily need to tag web pages with JavaScript code
  • You can control the processing schedule of traffic logs, including the option to process data immediately
  • You can re-process and post-process data, which can’t be done with Google Analytics
  • View all website traffic, including images, downloads, robots, status codes (e.g. 404s, 500s), and referral errors, including outdated links – particularly useful in identifying “Page Not Found” (404) errors
  • You can create customized reporting for different types of visitation data
  • Report data can be easily audited by 3rd parties
  • You can analyze firewall-protected content, such as an Intranet
  • You can save 5 years’ worth of old server log data
  • You can integrate your e-commerce logs directly with Urchin

Benefits of Google Analytics

  • This will be the latest version, and includes advanced features not yet found in Urchin Software
  • It is updated automatically when new features roll out
  • It integrates really well with AdWords reports from the AdWords user interface.
  • Can be set up quickly with limited technical knowledge
  • It’s free
  • It is translated into more languages that Urchin
  • You can drill down to unique visitors – view session/path, platform, geo-location, browser/platform, etc. data for individual visitors
  • Roy

    Does Urchin do upto the minute stats rather than Googles day only? It’s the one thing that’s starting to annoy me about Google Analytics. We’ve used hitslink before where you get instant stats and alerts to let you know of traffic spikes. We’ve found that really useful in the past to react instantly to traffic spikes.

  • Katrina Gallagher

    Yes, Urchin has the massive advantage of real time reporting, but it’s not for the faint hearted. The install and maintenance is much more complex than the copy & paste job for Google Analytics.

    But a great advantage for agencies is that you can customise your reports – re-wording, re-organising and co-branding. And graphs are vector based graphics, so you can blow them up on a massive presentation screen or poster.

    And if you’re doing a Pay Per Click campaign, or even writing pages for an organic effort, you can compare conversion stats for each keyword or phrase used to find your site from the search engines. And Urchin suggests keywords you are not currently taking advantage of.

  • Beth

    Great article!



  • Julia

    I never got to work with Omniture, and I suppose the biggest difference there may be that you might have to liaise with their representative. But the level of tracking there was quite mind-blowing just a year ago, and I’d imagine they would only improve in a year’s time. So, may be the next one to have a look at.

    Statcounter is quite nifty in that it gives you the real-time stats, but then I don’t think it is good for tracking the PPC performance. With Google, there is a 3-hour delay in data, and even then it is sometimes hard to drill down to get more information.

    Thanks for the great article.

  • Katrina Gallagher

    Thanks Beth,

  • Katrina Gallagher

    Thanks Julia,

    They sound like they’re worth looking into.

    The hard part about moving away from Google Analyics is that it has such good integration with AdWords and it’s free.

    But it’s definitely annoying having to wait 3 hours or more for your data – especially if you’re testing out some new filters or are adding E-commerce tracking!

    Cheers for the comment,


  • You are certainly knowledgeable Kat!

  • Katrina Gallagher

    Oh thank you, the ego has landed!

  • Kat, Great Article.

    We’re in the process of moving our clients from server based WebTrends to GA. The clients would only get monthly reports that they had access to as a pdf, so in comparison they love this one. I think that GA is great compromise if you dont want to install and maintain the full blown Urchin package.

    I can see the benefit in Urchin to agencies who make their money by being able to show graphs and data that proves an increase in traffic.

    So have you paid for it and will you be using it in the future?


  • Katrina Gallagher

    Well… to be honest I’m happy with Google Analytics. It can drive me crazy sometimes, but it’s such a powerful tool and is great for small to medium sized businesses because it’s free.

    I think Roy and Simon prefer Hitslink, because although it’s not free, it is cost effective and give you access to realtime stats. I wasn’t keen on this tool, but recently it’s been updated with more of a flexible/graphical interface.

    I think we’ll be sticking to Google Analytics for the time being…

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