Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Are Visual Sciences and WebSideStory Really the Same Company? (As a matter of fact, yes.)

Last week, WebSideStory announced it was going to become part of the Visual Sciences brand. (The two companies merged in February 2006 but had retained separate identities.)

The general theme of the combined business is “real time analytics”. This is what Visual Sciences has always done, so far as I can recall. It’s more of a departure for WebSideStory, which has its roots in the batch-oriented world of Web log analysis.

But what’s really intriguing is the applications WebSideStory has developed. One is a search system that helps users navigate within a site. Another provides Web content management. A third provides keyword bid management.

Those applications may sound barely relevant, but all are enriched with analytics in ways that make perfect sense. The search system uses analytics to help infer user interests and also lets users control results so the users are shown items that meet business needs. Web content management also includes functions that let business objectives influence the content presented to visitors. Keyword bid management is tightly integrated with subsequent site behavior—conversions and so on—so value can be optimized beyond the cost per click.

Maybe this is just good packaging, but it does seem to me that Visual Sciences has done something pretty clever here: rather than treating analytics and targeting as independent disciplines that are somehow applied to day-to-day Web operations, it has built analytics directly into the operational functions. Given the choice between plain content management and analytics-enhanced content management, why would anyone not choose the latter?

I haven’t really dug into these applications, so my reaction is purely superficial. All I know is they sound attractive. But even this is impressive at a time when so many online vendors are expanding their product lines through acquisitions that seem to have little strategic rationale beyond generally expanding the company footprint.

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