Tag-tracking approach is genuinely innovative. Competitive benchmarking provides strong business relevance. TrackerMap is a great measure of website latency and privacy.
No mobile monitoring or deeper website infrastructure visibility beyond frontend. No text alerts. Switch to tag-focused monitoring represents a significant shift for enterprises.
- Bottom Line
Ghostery MCM is highly focused on front-end monitoring through third-party tag tracking. This is both innovative and valuable, but as it lacks many other core website monitoring capabilities it'll be more of an addition to your IT tool kit rather than a foundation.
None of the products in this roundup measure website performance exactly the same way, though many tend to cover similar management bases. Ghostery MCM, which begins at $5,000 for a one-year subscription, is a website monitoring service that marches to its own drum. Founded in 2009, the company Ghostery is still a relatively new company, but what makes it unique is its holistic approach to monitoring based on website tag tracking.
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Ghostery MCM is an entirely Web-focused solution that increases based on the number of domains monitored, the number of scans done, and for expanded types of reporting. It's a website monitoring platform with no user-facing mobile monitoring capabilities or metrics yet, and can't quite measure up to the full suite of analytics and full stack monitoring capabilities offered by AppDynamics, our Editors' Choice for enterprises, or the comprehensive alerting and versatile reporting of SmartBear AlertSite Pro, our Editors' Choice for small to midsize businesses (SMBs).
What Ghostery MCM can do is dissect the front end of a website—all of its moving parts and components and every single third-party service hooked into it—to give a business a radically different view of its website than it has ever seen before.
Diving Into the TrackerMap
Ghostery MCM doesn't have what an enterprise or SMB user would consider a traditional website monitoring dashboard, either in a common list view format like that of Pingdom or a more fluid grid layout such as the one found in Dynatrace UEM. Instead, when you log into your Ghostery account, it takes you directly to the platform's flagship features that serves as the basis of its entire monitoring philosophy—the Ghostery TrackerMap.
Toggled between either a historical, week-to-week view of your website statistics or a Live Scan of any URL entered dynamically, TrackerMap breaks down the components of a website into a sort of conceptual Web crossed with a flow chart with color-coordinated circles representing the website itself, advertisements, widgets, trackers, analytics, social, and every other kind of third-party service the map picks up. The view allows a business user to see what third-party services or tags they recognize and which ones they don't. Bulky third-party processes running on a website, often installed and forgotten about years later, can severely impact the load time, latency, and overall performance of a website. Ask some of the advertisers whose sites crashed under the weight of heavy traffic following their Super Bowl ads.
There are two views in Ghostery MCM. The larger the circle in the Prevalence view, the more code that tag or service is running on your website. Switch over to the Latency view, and the map switches to a traffic light-colored scheme where latency of 0-100 milliseconds (ms) comes up as small green circles, latency of 100-500ms produces large yellow circles, and latency of over 500ms breeds a gigantic red circle. If you're trying to figure out exactly which service is dragging down your website's performance, the Latency view is a blaring way to quickly identify the culprit.
I entered several different Web domains into TrackerMap. Each time, the resulting flow charts presented as immensely tangled webs of crisscrossed third-party services. The TrackerMap also includes tabs for Timeline and Tree views presenting the same data in vertical list formats. Hovering over a circle brings up latency data in the field below the map. The other interesting aspect of the TrackerMap is its emphasis on security. When generating a map, you can filter based on either new tags or non-secure tags. Then in the map itself, a dotted red line between elements indicates a non-secure tag, while a gray line means it's secure.
Ghostery MCM's main feature doesn't offer anything in the way of mobile metrics, platform-specific breakdowns, or backend and infrastructure monitoring. The clean, minimalist interface is completely focused on tag tracking for the purposes of latency, performance, and security, and that's what it delivers.
Tag-Focused Alerts and Reporting
Ghostery MCM uses a mix of synthetic scanning across a website, which it uses to crawl a domain and populate the tags in a TrackerMap, and a growing component of real User monitoring (RUM) through the Ghostery Browser Extension. The browser extension is a free add-on for browser users billed as a simple and effective privacy tool, but it also includes an optional feature to provide Ghostery MCM with anonymous browsing data to measure how users are interacting with clients' websites on real devices.
That data all funnels into the Tags section of Ghostery MCM, where business users can search all of the tags found on their site, categorize them, and assign each tag to a specific owner or owners: the users who will receive reports and alerts on that tag. Tabbing over to the Reports section, I found three types of reports available—Data Governance, Latency, and Benchmarking—each with the option to select a specific tag category and owner. It seems you can only select one specific tag or owner for each report. Each report also lets you choose between solely synthetic data, solely RUM data, or a combination of the two. After generating each type of report, the main theme is, you guessed it, tags.
The Data Governance Report breaks down weekly website data based on the total number of tags seen, the number of "unique" tags within that total, and the number of pages counted in the tag data set. Next to it is the same data for website cookies. Below, that data is broken down into list form specifying which vendor each tag belongs to, its category and purpose, and whether or not there's an opt-out measure for the tag to protect user privacy. It's a nifty view of how each tag relates to page views and is downloadable as a .csv table.
The Latency Report was more of the same data found in the TrackerMap, but the third report, Benchmarking, is where I found some real business value. This report allows a business to stack up its page and tag latency against its competitors' sites. Ghostery MCM does a full domain crawl of competitors' sites—so for my demo account, which was populated with data from a furniture and home goods retailer's site, the competition included the websites of Bed, Bath & Beyond, Ikea, JC Penny, and Overstock.com. While Ghostery MCM doesn't provide similar baked-in business transaction analytics metrics as those found in AppDynamics and Dynatrace UEM, stacking up your website's performance against a competitors' and seeing which tags your websites have in common is valuable information all on its own.
Ghostery MCM's reports lead into a fairly minimal Alerts component, which can go out for New Tags, Missing Tags, Non-Secure Tags, and then Blacklist and Whitelist tags. Blacklist tags are ones your business has marked as non-secure or unwanted, and whitelist tags of current site cookies appearing over and over again. As with Tag Categories, you designated a tag owner to send a given alert to. Ghostery doesn't support text or phone alerts, though, only email.
Betting on a Radical Business Approach
There's a lot this website monitoring service can't do that the other products in this roundup can. Mobile monitoring, infrastructure visibility, and even a feature as simple as text alerts are all missing from a product with a relatively steep starting price of $5,000 per year. Yet, the innovative way Ghostery MCM goes about monitoring a web-based business made the service intriguing to test and offers clear value in knowing how your website works.
Ghostery MCM is not our Editors' Choice because of what it lacks in alerting, analytics, and comprehensive monitoring functionality and because it's a hefty price to pay for a gamble on a cutting-edge concept. But those businesses that decide to change their culture and invest in Ghostery MCM may find themselves reaping the rewards.
By Rob Marvin Associate Editor, Business
Rob Marvin is the Associate Editor of PCMag's Business section. He covers startups, business and venture capital, and writes features, news, and trend stories on all manner of emerging technologies. Beats include: blockchain, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, augmented reality, enterprise IoT, legal cannabis tech, social media, the mobile app economy, digital commerce and payments, cloud, Big Data, low code development, containers and microservices, deep linking, M&A, SEO, virtual assistants and voice AI, chatbots, and enterprise software in general. Rob was previously an editor at SD… More »
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