Free website therapy - Google gives away analytics

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google plans to give away a set of analytic tools allowing web developers, administrators and advertisers to fine-tune their sites including advertising, the web search leader said on Sunday.

The tools are intended to address a key aspect of successful websites, which is the ability to track user behaviour to determine which features keep visitors on the site and which ones make them click away.

Google Analytics can be used by website builders to figure out what keywords attract visitors, which promotions hold on to customers and how to design web pages that draw attention.

Google, which derived virtually all of its US$1.58 billion in revenue from advertising sales during the last quarter, is betting that by giving away sophisticated web measurement tools it can also drive increased use of its search marketing services.

"Any time we add more measurability and more control, advertisers understand more of what they are doing and they end up spending more," said Paul Muret, the Google engineering director who co-founded its analytics service.

Google's offering is based on Urchin Web Analytics, which it acquired in March for undisclosed terms and then cut the price to US$199 a month for the service from US$400 previously.

Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) are already used by many top websites, including dozens of Fortune 500 companies. By making the service free, Google is seeking to draw a wider range of users to web analytics, including individuals looking to more actively promote their topical web logs, or blogs.


Free software

While most web creation programs offer rudimentary site tracking tools, a more sophisticated set of costly tools are offered by companies such as WebSideStory, SPSS Inc and CoreMetrics.

"Google is giving away free software to improve websites. I fail to see how some of these web analyst vendors could not be hurt by this," Jupiter Research analyst Eric Peterson said of the impact on the estimated US$450 million-a-year industry.

All user data is safeguarded in line with a recently enhanced privacy policy. But with so much information coursing through its computers, Google must manage the data carefully so as not to raise suspicions about its actions, Peterson said.

Advertisers using Google AdWords, its popular pay-per-click keyword-selling service, will find Google Analytics embedded in their accounts. This will help marketers using AdWords to automatically drive traffic to relevant pages on their sites.

It also can track the results of an online marketing campaign, including banner advertisements, website referral links, email newsletter promotions, and spontaneous or paid search traffic, which could expand Google's advertising base.

Analytics will come in 16 languages: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, simplified and traditional Chinese, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Russian, with others to be added.

Google is not alone in seeking to open up more web data to customers in order to encourage them to buy more services.

EBay introduced a subscription analytics service last week to allow buyers and sellers to search pricing trends on eBay. Microsoft is testing its own search advertising tool, known as AdCenter, which also offers users a set of site analytics to optimise marketing efforts.

"Once marketers understand what they are spending money on, they are basically budget-unlimited, as long as revenues remain marginally positive," Muret said.

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