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Google Analytics - is it worth its price?

Yesterday, Google released a new service with the name Google Analytics. Google Analytics is basically a rebranded version of Urchin, a web analytics service that Google purchased in March.

What is Google Analytics?

Like other web analytics services, Google Analytics is a service that tells you where visitors to your site are coming from, what links on the site are getting the most traffic, what pages visitors are viewing, how long people stay on the site, which products on merchant sites are being sold and where people give up in multistep checkout processes.

The main difference between Google Analytics and other web analytics services is that Google Analytics is free. In exchange for sharing your data with the company, Google doesn't require you to pay directly for their analytics service.

Should you use Google Analytics or should you stay away from it?

Why is Google Analytics free? Does Google have to give money away? Of course not. Google will find ways to monetize this service. There is no such thing as free lunch. Everything, even what is seemingly free, must be paid for by somebody in some way.

Google already knows a lot of things about you. If you also use their new tracking service, you will tell Google how much you earn, when you earn it, which products you sell, how often you sell them, how much you spend for ads on other sites and you will reveal much more information about your online business.

Ask yourself if you want Google to know that much about you and your company. Do you really want to share your revenue information with a company that also wants your advertising dollars? Do you want to share your revenue information with any other company at all?

Google officials have declined that they will use the data to better understand how much you are willing to pay for ads, based on conversions. They also claim that they do not plan to tap into the data as a means of improving regular search results or to identify bad sites. Nevertheless, these things are easily possible if you use Google Analytics.

Google engineer Matt Cutts even writes in his blog: "Blackhat SEOs may be leery of using Google for analytics, but regular site owners should be reassured." That sounds as if Google might actually use the information for other purposes.

Think twice before using anything that is "free"

While Google's new analytics tool looks great at first glance, you should think twice before using it. The market power of Google can make your business highly dependent on Google if you decide to use all of Google's services. The more Google knows about you, the better they can get your money.

If a company in the real world asked you to tell them everything about your interests, the shops you visit, the magazines you read, your full address, your revenue and a lot of other very detailed and confidential information about you and your company then you probably wouldn't give that information to the company.

When it comes to Google, many people happily reveal information they wouldn't even tell their friends. Be careful.

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November 2005 search engine articles