Urchin 6 Beta – First Impressions


I finally got round to installing Urchin 6 (beta) this evening.

As my personal servers are running Ubuntu I opted for the source install, however for some reason Urchin sees it as Fedora? It works, but it's a very odd thing to report...

As the software is commercial you have to get a license. Fortunately once it's installed you can simply follow the wizard to get your license key and have the data passed back to your server.

You can then go about setting up "profiles". If you're familiar with  Google Analytics then most of the jargon is almost identical.

The key difference is that Urchin can parse physical log files both local and remote ie. on the same server or anywhere else (as long as they can be accessed via FTP, HTTP or HTTPS). Unfortunately it doesn't seem to offer support for SCP or Rsync, which would be very handy.

In my case I'm primarily interested in processing raw logs and don't want to go messing about with Javascript tags (which are an option).

You can easily setup a new site profile by following the online wizard and choose multiple log sources.

The reporting interface is very similar to the old Analytics one pre-upgrade. You can choose from 3 different views, depending on which type of report you want to see.

Nothing too exciting there.

Where it gets interesting is in the speed of the interface. As it's running on one of my machines on our network I don't have to contend with the rest of the internet, so it's way faster.
The simpler UI renders different views a lot faster as well.
As it's working on local log files (my config choice) it can also give me bandwidth usage which is kind of useful. (I didn't realise GoogleBot had used nearly 7 Gigs so far this month on one site!)

The other really cool thing is the update frequency.

One of the major downsides of Analytics, especially since it went "free" is that the data is nowhere near "real time".

With Urchin you can get updates as often as you want.

If you're a stats junky you could choose to have it update every hour if you want. Plus you can choose which minute of the hour (handy if you have multiple profiles on the one machine and don't want CPU meltdown!)

I'll try and setup a few more profiles, schedule updates etc., and see how it handles things.

So far I like it, though some of the interface options are a bit counter-intuitive. Fortunately the contextual help / documentation is pretty clear, so I haven't run into any "show stoppers" just yet!

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7 Responses to Urchin 6 Beta – First Impressions

  1. Ewan February 6, 2008 at 2:49 am #

    You could use sshfs in lieu of scp support.

  2. Lar February 6, 2008 at 11:22 am #

    Hi Michele,
    Great review, we’re about to review it ourselves.
    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what value real-time versus 3-4 hour updates have?
    My personal take on analytics is that realtime is rarely useful.
    The real value of analytics should actually lead to you taking action. It will tell you the where or what’s wrong, but not why.
    Take the following scenario: you have analytics set up on Blacknight.ie and want to measure the “hosting purchase funnel” i.e. customers are signing up for Blacknight hosting and you want to track if there are any issues with the flow through the purchasing process.
    Through “funnel visualisation” (under goals in GA) if you see that there is a severe drop-off in Step 3 of 4, then obviously you need to evaluate why this is the case and then redesign the screen accordingly.
    For this, you would need a full day or even a full week’s worth of data.
    (Disclosure: iQ Content is a Google Analytics Authorised Consultant)

  3. Michele Neylon February 6, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    If I run a time sensitive PPC campaign where my per keyword bid is quite high I need to know very quickly how well I am doing, as it could cost me hundreds if not thousands if the users click on the wrong links.
    I am much more comfortable with a solution sitting on my own server(s) and network where I can control exactly who has access to data and I can fully customise how often the reports update. With Urchin I could, for example, get hourly updates when I’m in the middle of a big PPC campaign, but reset it to daily when I’m not.
    I suppose the key is granular control.
    I don’t get that with Analytics

  4. Lar February 6, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    Good point, Michele.
    The action, in the shorter term, would be to pause your PPC campaign and in the longer term, to look at the landing page and improve that – removing links that could easily distract.
    My prediction for 2008: “LPO (Landing page optimisation)” to become the new SEO 😉

  5. Michele Neylon February 6, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    Of course I’m more likely to simply use sawmill instead 🙂

  6. Sebastian March 5, 2008 at 4:09 pm #

    I’m considering Urchin at work but am doing some research prior to any installation.
    What’s your server setup? I see that Urchin is built to run on Apache and mySQL. My employer runs IIS and msSQL. Though, the Urchin website has installation instructions for IIS, they don’t support it.
    – sebastian

  7. Michele Neylon March 5, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    I’m running it on Linux without any issues

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