Just after the public launch of Flickr Stats back in 2007, I posted a positive review of the tool, musing that it could serve as a good model for other social media measurement systems.
Fast forward to 2010, I am no longer so content with Flickr Stats. I'm convinced we can do better. Perhaps my attitude is influenced by the recent buzz about how anyone can track stats on their Facebook Fan page using Google Analytics or Webtrends. Or perhaps I've just grown tired of the limitations of Flickr Stats.
Is Photobucket any better, or Picasa, or something else? This post serves as a summary of my quest to find the best photo sharing analytics. Here's what I found.
Flickr: A shortcoming and a workaround
For paying Flickr Pro customers, Flickr Stats currently reports a host of metrics including the number of views over time, favorite/comment activity, top content, referring domains/URLs and search keywords.
The thing I used to like best about Flickr Stats was the all-time referrers report, since it provided insight into my photostream's findability over time. Unfortunately, about a year ago Flickr chose to scale back the referrer stats it reported. Referrer information is now only available by day for the last month. Judging from the volume of support forum comments on this subject, I'm not the only Flickr member who's unhappy with this change.
As a workaround, one Flickr member has created an app called F*Stats that scrapes Flickr Stats and stores historic referrer information in a local database. This seems like a complicated solution, but right now it's the best way for Flickr members to retain their referrer info.
[March 3, 2010, 4pm Pacific. Update: Several hours after I published this blog post, Flickr announced the release of their shiny new Flickr Stats API. Also, members can now download CSV files containing all historic referrer data. Ah, timing.]
Photobucket: Easy social media sharing and pretty good stats
Less than a year ago Photobucket launched a stats dashboard for all members, with limited metrics in the free version and more in the Pro version. In terms of functionality, I'd rank the stats dashboard just below Flickr Stats. It does appear to provide referrer information over time, but it only reports referring domains - not referring URLs or search keywords.
On the positive side, the ability to easily share Photobucket content on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites - and then get referrer stats - is an excellent feature and may be reason enough to use the service.
Picasa: Perhaps Google Analytics integration on the way?
Activity tracking on Google's Picasa photo sharing site is currently very limited - you simply get the number of views of each photo. However, there's quite a bit of user feedback regarding the desire to track Picasa with Google Analytics. In this wish list of most desired Picasa features, Google Analytics integration is one of the top requests. Come on Google, grant our wish.
Other Alternatives: Again, with GA integration
Although I've covered 3 of the most popular photo sharing sites, there are plenty of others to choose from. A quick search turned up 2 less well-known sites that currently allow Google Analytics tagging: SmugMug and PhotoSwarm.
What do you think? Are there better solutions that I have overlooked? Or, are photo sharing stats not worth anyone's time? I welcome your feedback.