Google Gives Web Analytics Away for Free

In a move likely to thrill many marketers but horrify Web analytics firms, Google is expected to release the new version of its Urchin analytics service today. The release, re-branded Google Analytics, will be free to advertisers in its AdWords program.

Google had previously charged $199 per month for the hosted service. The search player acquired Urchin back in March.

“Part of Google’s philosophy in the advertising area is to provide our advertisers with the tools they need to be successful,” Paul Muret, an engineering director at Google and one of Urchin’s founders, told ClickZ News. “We want to give them the visibility they need to get the intelligence they need to make good decisions on advertising.”

Google Analytics, which will be rolled out to current Urchin customers and AdWords users Monday, will be available in 16 languages. The company has added “dashboard” screens customized to ease access to common reports for different types of users: Webmasters, marketers and executives. In a move likely to attract even more people to sign up for AdWords accounts, Web site analytics will be free to AdWords advertisers. Google won’t require a minimum spend from users.

The software is integrated into the AdWords service in several ways. Users will be able to access both Web site and AdWords analytics through a single interface. Additionally, Google Analytics enables automatic tagging of each keyword in a marketer’s portfolio so it can be easily tracked within the application. The automatic importation of keyword pricing data is also supported, enabling users to track ROI. Marketers may also use the application to track initiatives in other channels: email, banner ads, etc.

JupiterResearch analyst Eric Peterson expects the release to have major repercussions for competitors in the Web analytics space. “When Google acquired Urchin,” he said, “I speculated that the greatest good that Google could do with the application, which would also be the greatest bad for the Web analytics market, at least part of the analytics market, would be to give it away for free. I think it impacts everybody.”

Though the company will incur costs associated with providing the service for free, Google believes providing the information will benefit AdWords in the long term.

“We want the ROI for advertisers to be real,” said Muret. “Their long term sustainable advertising health is good for Google.”

Conventional wisdom says analytics applications are underutilized for several reasons: cost, information overload and the difficulty of determining what to do with the data. A free Google Analytics addresses the first issue, and the company also hopes to take on the latter two. The firm has developed an extensive help center, including a section that explains key analytics concepts. To help its larger advertisers, Google has trained sales reps and will provide those salespeople with a support team of analytics experts. Additionally, it has reached out to consultancies to form a new service partner program, so they can help AdWords clients.

Peterson believes the offering will entice many businesses to adopt analytics for the first time. “Urchin was good when Google bought them, and now it’s a little more complete package. All you have to do is ask for an account and put some JavaScript on your Web pages,” he said. “I think it’ll push more people along and really increase the interest in Web analytics.”

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