In other news, Google announced that they acquired Urchin, a web analytics vendor and service. This makes a lot of sense for Google, but not for some of the reasons I’ve seen speculated on.
One speculation is that it gives Google web analytics capabilities to analyze their site. Actually, no, it doesn’t. Google has too much traffic, and their analysis needs are too complex.
Another is that Google can now offer this as an additional capability to their AdWords / AdSense customers. I don’t buy this. Google’s already got enough reporting capabilities in the SEM (search engine marketing) area, and Urchin isn’t going to add any value here that couldn’t have been done cheaper in-house.
It’s also not because Google is just a bunch of Nice People and they want to have another tool in their portfolio of cool stuff.
So if Google doesn’t need this for their own analytics, or to offer to AdWords customers, why bother? After all, Urchin isn’t a game-changing technology. There are better solutions available, no matter which axis you measure on.
Simple. Google did this because they want more ability to get off-network surfing data. They want to know, for people not using any Google services, what are they using? That information is partially available through AdSense, because AdSense lives on third-party sites. That’s a rich source of data. A nice way to get even more off-network data is to supply folks with a hosted analytics service that most small and medium-sized web sites can use. Simply put a web bug / beacon in your page, and we’ll track your visitors for you. And for us.
(Before you get all cynical on me: yes, Overture bought Keylime many years ago, for SEM reporting, and perhaps for off-network information, I don’t know. The difference between the Overture/Keylime and Google/Urchin deals is that Yahoo! and Overture are different legal entities, and have different privacy policies. As a result, Yahoo and Overture cannot share third-party information about web surfers. Whether or not that makes business sense is beside the point – Yahoo’s pretty rabid about privacy.)
One final element of this announcement. If there’s no privacy backlash, and web sites brush off the concept of Google as big brother, the low-end market for web analytics is effectively dead. Omniture, WebSideStory and (perhaps) CoreMetrics will survive, but it’s going to be tough for anyone else, which is going to give the newly independent WebTrends second thoughts about resurrecting WebTrends Live / WebTrends OnDemand.