Google’s Newly Restricted Analytics: Is It About Privacy or Profit?

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ADOTAS — For website publishers, Google Analytics is a boon —  one of the only free tools that provides detailed insights about inbound web traffic and page views. But in late October, Google apparently went “dark” on providing its free data, removing access to the keywords people used in Google’s search engine to find publishers sites.

People aren’t happy.

According to Business Insider, the move came as Google aims to increase security and encryption to reassure users following the NSA/PRISM domestic surveillance scandal.

The thing that is causing quite an uproar is the fact that only the organic search data has been removed while the paid search data is still available – but only for websites that purchase Google AdWords on the extensive online network.

“It’s one of the most significant losses of data that marketers have seen in half a decade,” said Conductor CEO Seth Besmertnik (pictured), who claimed that on average half of the traffic to the search-optimization vendor’s clients’ sites comes through organic search.

Asked why Google might be doing this, industry veteran Dan Thornton stated, ”The current speculation and vague reasons suggest the motivation is increasing privacy for users, particularly in light of recent NSA allegations, etc. But I don’t believe that at all; in terms of governmental intrusions, it won’t make any difference as long as they have a server or business address on US soil. Personally I believe it’s another attempt to shift the efforts away from search and increasingly towards paid advertising and Google+.”

While Google hasn’t directly responded to these claims, the search giant has began to tout similar functionality through its Webmaster Tools feature set, although marketers have cried “‘foul,” saying that the alternative data set is incomplete since it is based on sampled aggregate data rather than actual website traffic.

According to Google, “Just as before, webmasters can access a rich set of search query data for their sites via Webmaster Tools. This includes viewing the top 2,000 daily search queries as well as impressions, clicks and clickthrough rates for each query, and more. As always, we’ll keep looking for ways to improve how search query data is surfaced on Webmaster Tools.”

Publishers shouldn’t be too surprised if the company is using security issues as a way to begin pushing them toward paid-search options. The company is providing analytics as a free tool, but is also certainly tracking performance data on aggregate for back-end intelligence. People can’t forget that Google is an ad company, first and foremost – and is a force to be reckoned with.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I finally watched The Internship. The key selling moment is when they tell Sal’s Pizza that “everyone’s out there searching for you. We just wanna help them find you.” Funny that the winning sales pitch is for a brand term = direct navigation, not search.

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