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Google Launches Web Traffic Analysis Service 247

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the walking-the-fine-line-between-free-and-advertising dept.
segphault writes to pass along that Ars Technica has an interesting article about the recently released Google Analytics. Analytics is Google's new traffic analysis service that helps you to know everything from "how your visitors found you [to] how they interact with your site." Analytics is also built to integrate with AdWords if you are already utilizing that service.
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Google Launches Web Traffic Analysis Service

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:17AM (#14026083)
    Slashdot! See, you don't need to be Google to do this.
  • by 0110011001110101 (881374) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:17AM (#14026086) Journal
    GAS.... as in more hot-air from the friendly neighborhood Googledot.
  • Urchin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:18AM (#14026106)

    Did they do this based on their acquisition of Urchin? Are Urchin staff now working on this instead? Does this mean the death of Urchin software?
     
  • by 0110011001110101 (881374) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:19AM (#14026113) Journal
    Google has officially launched Analytics, a robust new web analysis system that provides site owners with traffic metrics and massive amounts of useful marketing data. Based on technology originally developed by a Californian company called Urchin that Google acquired in March, Analytics integrates with Google's popular AdWords system, and will vastly improve the quality and quantity of data provided to existing AdWords users. Those of you that don't use AdWords can still use Analytics by adding a simple javascript snippet to your web site.

    Analytics features an elegant user interface that leverages modern web technologies like Flash and DHTML. Although it seems a little rough around the edges (the Flash components don't display correctly in Firefox on my Linux system) the service is moderately impressive. It can export data in several formats, including XML and CSV. With Analytics, you can determine where your visitors are coming from, which links on your site are getting the most hits, how long the visitors spend on various pages of your site, and more:

    Learn how visitors interact with your website and identify the navigational bottlenecks that keep them from completing your conversion goals. Find out how profitable your keywords are across search engines and campaigns. Pinpoint where your best customers come from and which markets are most profitable to you. Google Analytics gives you this and more through easy-to-understand visually enhanced reports.

    It is still relatively difficult to get a good feel for the usefulness of the system at this point, but with over 80 pre-built reports, support for interactive report construction, and tracking for countless attributes, the amount of data it provides is downright prodigious. In addition to providing critical marketing data, it also tracks browser features so that web developers can make informed design decisions. Analytics will tell you the screen resolution and connection speed of your visitors, as well as whether or not their browsers support Flash and Java. Flash-rendered graphs are provided with each data collection so that you can get a quick visual overview.

    Although it may not be especially useful compared to some of the critical features, the geographical map overlay is probably one of the coolest features. Analytics will generate a Flash-based map of the world that shows you which regions your traffic comes from. You can click individual regions to get additional statistics, and you can use Flash's built-in zoom feature to get a closer look at specific locations.

    The site overlay mechanism is one of the other particularly interesting features. It will superimpose click statistics on top of your actual page so that you can (hypothetically) see what people are clicking just by browsing your site. During my experiments with Analytics, I had some trouble getting the site overlay feature to work correctly. Clicking the individual links in the site overlay caused the Analytics start page to load in the iframe rather than the actual content.

    Analytics fits perfectly into Google's advertising platform and business model. Despite the bugs (which may be specific to Linux or Firefox) Google's newest service looks powerful and comprehensive. The value of the features and the benefits of AdWords integration will probably be more than enough to convince site owners to use AdWords rather than a competing service.

    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:57AM (#14026516)
      It's a Totally Free Service!!

      (You just have to pay Google if you DON'T want them to track every little thing about you.)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      it also tracks browser features so that web developers can make informed design decisions. Analytics will tell you the screen resolution and connection speed of your visitors, as well as whether or not their browsers support Flash and Java.

      Damnit no. How many times does this need to be explained?

      You know my screen resolution? Great. I a) surf non-maximised, b) surf with a sidebar open, c) use two monitors, or d) all of the above.

      You know my connection speed? Great. I'm now using my favourite

    • by heho (837859)
      The flash based map is great, however with the launch of Google Local out of Beta and Google Maps, one would have to wonder why Google isn't using their own API's to show the data instea of using a flash based program.
      • just give them time and we can zoom in on the house of the script kiddie who generated 32,000 hits to your admin pannel with a brute force password attack script...

        I cant fu3king wait!!!
  • Urchin (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mysqlrocks (783488) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:20AM (#14026123) Homepage Journal
    When I heard that they had purchased Urchin back in March I was wondering how long it would be before they came out with a service like this. I'm sure this will be a lot better than a lot of those free "stat counter" services out there.
  • FTFA - Despite the bugs (which may be specific to Linux or Firefox) Google's newest service looks powerful and comprehensive.

    What's this all about? How did M$ infect my daily dosage of Slasdot/Google news?

    • The concept behind that line seems to be a disclaimer. He doesn't want to get sued for saying that there are bugs, which there aren't, but isn't sure where the errors come from. So he is saying "Hey, there are bugs, but they could be Google, or Linux, or Firefox, or some combination of them", which seems fundamentally sound from a CYA perspective. It isn't a straight M$ plug either. The bugs could be caused by google, and there are more alternatives to Linux and Firefox than Windows + IE. The author si
  • by Oscaro (153645) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:24AM (#14026152) Homepage
    Ok, so the service works by adding a snippet of code into your web-pages. Then google registers when someone arrives on that page, where he came from, and lots of other data. So google watches everything, it knows what kind of people visits your site and thus knows a lot both about the site and about the visitors.

    I know google has always been concerned about "legitimate" use of their data, but this is somehow frightening...
    • by oever (233119) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:32AM (#14026242) Homepage
      Not only that. It's worse. The snippet of code is javascript.

      This means that the added code has the ability to change the look of the page completely. If at any time Google decided that all web pages should have the word Microsoft replaced by Google, they could do this by adding an onload function to the javascript code that is added to all web pages using this service.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:38AM (#14026300)
        If at any time Google decided that all web pages should have the word Microsoft replaced by Google
        So you can read: *Google* is a monopoly that uses evil techniques to dominate die market.
      • by Pieroxy (222434) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:18AM (#14026711) Homepage
        Well, when I do service my car, the garage has a full access to everything in the car. They could put a tracker and I wouldn't notice it in a century.

        It is a question of trust. If you decide to use their service, you will need them to have access to your pages (through JavaScript). If you don't trust them, just don't subscribe.

        My DSL Provider has a lot of information about myself as well, and I trust them with it. If my trust vanished, I'd switch (well, in France you have actually a lot of choice).

        My bank ... well, I think you get the point.
        • by op12 (830015) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:38AM (#14026903) Homepage
          It is a question of trust.

          Not only a question of trust. It's also a matter of Google's reputation. Much like in the recent backlash at Sony, people are not going to sit idly when a company does something stupid. Google has much more to lose by pulling a stunt like that than the gain it would provide. Plus, you could always just rip the snippet out of your page if it does something undesirable.
          • Much like in the recent backlash at Sony, people are not going to sit idly when a company does something stupid.

            You've gotten confused again. You see, the people on slashdot are not representative of the population in general. Therefore, while the Sony matters (and other issues) are red-hot on this site, they are not well known outside of slashdot and similar sites. Yes, there were a few mainstream news articles on the Sony issue, but by and large it went by unnoticed.
            • We're talking about willfully inserting a bit of code into a webpage.

              Hopefully the person doing this is tech savvy, and knows what they are doing. We're not really talking about the lay-public anymore, we are talking about people verging on geeks.

              Sony DRM can effect everyone, most of whom have no idea what DRM is, what a root kit is, or how it can compromise security, it also is done on the sly. With Google's new gizmo, you must copy the code, into your existant code, by hand (meaning you have knowledge).
            • Therefore, while the Sony matters (and other issues) are red-hot on this site, they are not well known outside of slashdot and similar sites.

              To the contrary, I believe that the 368 stories listed on Google News, including ones in the Wahington Post, USA Today, NY Times, Boston Globe, BBC News, CNN, and many more could be counted as more than a few mainstream articles. The fact of the matter is while it may have been techies that uncovered it, the public was made aware of it and more importantly, it is fo

          • Google has a lot to lose only if a sufficient number of people react negatively. Many people are so complacent, they let companies/politicians get away with anything short of murder. They might pay lip service, but when it comes down to money, sacrificing convenience, or having to change one's m.o. a little, all bets are off. It's the American way.
        • As well I have seen MANY web counter sites and whatnot who could potentially do much the same things. I definatly trust google over freecounters.com don't you? Did anyone even think about freecounters ability to screw us over? No?
      • by alta (1263) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:44AM (#14026963) Homepage Journal
        Here's an idea... If you don't like to take your chances with such a shady company like google, then don't sign up.

        But believe you me, I'm going to sign up the MOMENT the site isn't slashdotted.
      • This is true... I'm wondering if this could be done instead by the good ole transparent tracker gifs. Something like

        <img width=1 height=1 border=0 alt="" src="http://adtracker.google.com/trackscript.asp?t racker_id=4276528976247">

        (The possibility that the tracker might be written in ASP is purely for humour value)
    • by Crayon Kid (700279) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:38AM (#14026302)
      It's extra-ugly in this case, since you're practically begging for an XSS security hole. Yeah, I know, it's Google we're talking about here, the ones with the motto "Do no evil". Right, that makes me trust them completely (rolls eyes).

      Executing someone else's JavaScript on your website means begging for trouble. JavaScript can install handlers to watch everything the visitor is doing, can read, create and modify cookies, can nose through that window's or tab's visited page history. Let's not talk about truly evil stuff such as inspecting content on the pages, overlaying links and buttons or injecting content.

      I'm sorry, no matter how much of a white in shining armor Google is, not sane webmaster should willfully inject foreign JavaScript on his website.

      PS: and before anybody replies that you can download the urchin script and see what it does, let me ask if you're willing to monitor it constantly.
      • by lo0ol (799434) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:59AM (#14027119) Homepage
        No "sane webmaster should willfully inject foreign JavaScript on his website"? I'm guessing you've never ran ads on your website before. That's the norm. Nearly every ad network has their code in JavaScript. Heck, chances are if someone is using Google Analytics they're ALREADY using Google AdSense on their site- who's to say that Google hasn't done the same with AdSense? People haven't said anything about the evils of AdSense yet really.

        My point is that it is about trust, as a previous poster said. A heck of a lot of companies do business in the exact same way. If you don't trust Google with your site, then don't use it (and get a license of Urchin for yourself- that is extremely solid software; I'd say the best in the business).
      • by NanoServ (901441) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:00PM (#14027125) Homepage
        By your argument, it would seem unwise to install and use Firefox. It's a foreign piece of code (even though you can monitor its source code if you want, but who has the time for that?). It has the power to snoop through personal files on your computer and report the information back to mozilla.org. Since it has a huge user base and now an automatic and seamless update system, some malicious behavior could get installed into the program and we'd all be screwed without even knowing it.

        But the thing is, that doesn't happen. If Google attempted this, the behavior would quickly be discovered (because, although *you* aren't reviewing the .js file constantly, *people* are reviewing the .js file constantly) and Google would get some seriously bad PR. There's no incentive for them to risk their image like that.
      • PS: and before anybody replies that you can download the urchin script and see what it does, let me ask if you're willing to monitor it constantly.

        Unless the server depends on information gathered by the client retreiving the script, it should be simple enough to make a copy of the JS, take a good careful look at it, and install it in a place under your control. Call your copy of the JS from your pages, and you only need to monitor Google's scripts for updates.

        I'm not saying that I'm happy about

    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@@@keirstead...org> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:41AM (#14026336) Homepage
      If you have a Google ad on your page you are already giving them all this information.

    • Frightening indeed. One large entity--whether it be a corporation or a government--collecting massive ammounts of data scares me to no end...

      Further thought to chew: Once Google has eaten all the worlds content, secrets, and privacy... Government(s) will (are?) have a field day getting court orders to tap that index in new and ever more creative ways.

    • Isn't that the point of this service; detailed information gathering?

      This is no different from many other counter services already provided on the web (well, it has more robust reporting considering it's free).

      I do loathe the fact that it's a remote JS file, that has to change.
    • perhaps someone who can read Javashit scripting code can decipher it for us [google-analytics.com]
    • by digidave (259925) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:18AM (#14026717)
      Yes, the potential to do evil is there, but all the best web traffic analysis programs operate in a similar way. For one thing, if you're selling advertising on your web site very few advertisers will take your web logs seriously since they're not at all independent and can be faked easily. For another, web logs for a popular web site are difficult to manage. Before switching from Apache's logs to Red Sheriff (works with Javascript like Google Analytics) I had to deal with about 1GB/day of logs. So what happens when I want to build a year over year chart? Hmmm... 730 GB of logs is a bit hard to work with, especially in 2001 with no 500 GB hard drives, so I had to do monthly reports for each year then paste the results into a spreadsheet to build charts. That took me many times longer than if I could have just generated a report from all the logs.

      Big brother and all, this is still the best way for a lot of people to manage their web traffic logging. Before selecting a company to work with, read their privacy policy.
    • Just like AdSense, then?

      The way I look at this is:
      1. I already have Google ads on my website.
      2. So Google already knows everything about my visitors.
      3. Thus, subscribing to this program just means that I can see that information as well.


      If you want to worry about privacy and "big brother", complain about AdSense. This is a simple extension, at most.
  • by mir (106753) <mirod@xmltwig.com> on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:24AM (#14026160) Homepage

    From the Terms of Service: The Google Services are made available for your personal, non-commercial use only.. Doesn't this reduce slightly the usefulness, or at least the potential audience, of the service?

    I am sure that's a mistake, but that prevents me from using the service for anything useful right now. Or even from testing it.

    • I'm sure they are going to start charging for this service in the future if you are a company.
      • Are you sure? Isn't this a good way to drive people to buy AdWords? It seems more likely this is a concerted effort that came out of the realization people who actively track their web statistics in a meaningful way are people who spend more money on ads. Which is the chicken and which is the egg is a question left to Google in this case.
    • From the TOS (Score:4, Informative)

      by carguy84 (897052) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:59AM (#14026540)
      Personal Use Only The Google Services are made available for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use the Google Services to sell a product or service, or to increase traffic to your Web site for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales. You may not take the results from a Google search and reformat and display them, or mirror the Google home page or results pages on your Web site. You may not "meta-search" Google. If you want to make commercial use of the Google Services, you must enter into an agreement with Google to do so in advance. Please contact us for more information.
    • I think that means that if you're going to use this for profit -- say, by a company -- they want you to send them money for the old, pre-Google-style Urchin product with its associated support plans (which, I should point out, are pretty good). You know, that old "money is exchanged for goods or services" angle that makes an economy an economy. :7)

      We have had Urchin for a while, and its charts-n-graphs are quite popular with web artistes, management types, and the departmental end users whose web pages are
  • c'mon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:26AM (#14026185) Homepage
    Registrars especially have pushed gimmicky "features" on domain buyers that people could otherwise get with a phonecall to their ISP or typing apt-get install webalizer. As far as tracking the way people "interact" on your site, without a google ad on every page or some script I don't see how they can track user behavior on the site (IE which paths through the site are most popular) beyond timing the first and last load of a page with an ad on it. OTOH most of these potential customers or users of this feature don't have my skills. It just raises the whole issue of whether or not google's still a strong buy at 393/share.
    • without a google ad on every page or some script I don't see how they can track user behavior on the site

      You just answered the question: some script on every page. What's so hard about that? Maybe you just don't have the skills of Google's potential customers for this feature.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:28AM (#14026201)
    This looks like google is relying less and less on their PageRank algorithm and more and more on data that they spy from users.

    It seems to me that the page rank is too easilly manipulated so they are resorting to the alexia toolbar method.

    Already they are pusing their toolbar hard (even for firefox where is has limited appeal). This says even more to me that they are using the stats from the toolbar and now these stats to monitor user browsing behavior, which it will use to better their search results.
    • This makes perfect sense to me. Why base the "value" of a page off something you hope is right rather than off the actualy browsing trends of people.
    • Disclaimer: I'm as sceptical as the next guy about having any big organisation collecting massive amounts of data about some area of the Internet, and Google are clearly the biggest potential abusers of that information.

      However, right now the text that appears for a web site I help to run if you find it in Google isn't written by either Google or us, it's written by some anonymous editor at DMOZ. Those editors are notorious for not giving a damn what the webmasters of sites they link to (or don't link to,

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:29AM (#14026218)
    If Google can tell how people react to a site, then it could use the data to affect pagerank. Sites that people bail from would lose pagerank and sites that people stay in and explore would gain page rank. Of course, Google would need some scheme for filtering out scam data where an SEO tries to make their site look interesting or make a competitor site look uninteresting by faking the behavior of visitors.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Those of you that don't use AdWords can still use Analytics by adding a simple javascript snippet to your web site.
    Gee, that's just what I need, another one of those broken odometers on my pages.
  • by 0110011001110101 (881374) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:37AM (#14026293) Journal
    Is Google starting to slip? I hit the "Sign up >>" button within Google Analytics, recieved a Javascript error "Syntax Error" and have been waiting on a response page for 3 minutes now....

    This just isn't the quality I'd expect from their team of PhD and mental masters...

    Google if you're listening.. I have pages of code that throw syntax errors... scoop me up quick! I'm everything you're looking for and more!

  • Well this should be interesting. For years I used NedStat Basic (now WebStats4U, what a lame name). Anyhow, this last September they changed their name and quietly changed their TOS. The TOS changs were mentioned in small type at the bottom of an email announcing the 'exciting' changes. The biggest change is they now had the right to put pop-ups and other crap-tastic forms of advertising on your site.

    NedStat always seemed to be one of the better free analytic sites out there, with them starting to pup pop-u
    • Tellertest [tellertest.com] gives a good overview of alternative counters. Statcounter looks interesting, but I have to much pageviews for them. Now I am trying CountStat as a replacement for Nedstat.

      I surely will try Google when it is working.

      I found Google Analytics' information rather strange. It is all talk that seems directed at big budget companies about how they can help them to make money. And then when you register they are talking about non-commercial.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:45AM (#14026384) Journal
    Right after Microsoft leaked that memo where they're going to try enter the online ad market due to problems with their business strategies, Google pulls a rabbit out their hat to raise their AdWords attractiveness to new heights... Establishing their foothold further, before MS have even got their steam up. I can already hear things crashing in Ballmer's office. :-p
  • by wordisms (624668) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:49AM (#14026420)
    Google Analytics

    Currently Undergoing Maintenance

    Google Analytics reporting is currently undergoing maintenance and will be available shortly. Your site traffic is being logged and you will be able to see the data after system maintenance has concluded.
    • never thought i'd see the day...google being slashdotted...
      i think that's one of the signs of the Apocalypse
      get ready everybody...the end of the world is near
  • by Slashdoc Beta (925619) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:51AM (#14026446) Homepage
    This is the end of Web Side Story and similar analytics tools as we know it. Obviously webmasters will flock to Google's free (and probably superior) tools. Google simply takes the $400m market and redistributes the money back to publishers. Amazing.
  • Microsoft (Score:5, Funny)

    by pubjames (468013) on Monday November 14, 2005 @10:51AM (#14026449)

    Coming to you from a couple of years in the future...

    Today Bill Gates released a statement "Yes, Google is currently number one in traffic analysis, but at Microsoft we think their service is really basic and we've got some amazing web analytics software in development that will blow Google's out of the water. It's coming out soon... Yes, I know I said we were going to crush Google in search a while ago and we didn't but we're definately going to crush them in Traffic Analysis. Really. Please believe me. Hey, don't walk away I'm still talking! Why doesn't anyone fear me any more..?"
  • I'm sure GoogleWatch loves this latest development: they now have to fear Google's stastics-gathering scripts on every page, in addition to the regular regimen of Google ads. I suppose a simple AdBlock filter with wildcards would work on the scripts readily enough, though.
  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:03AM (#14026578) Homepage
    Section 6 of the Terms of Service [google.com] has some interesting wording that may cause some sites to think twice about deploying this.

    You hereby grant to Google and its wholly owned subsidiaries a limited license to use Your trade names, trademarks, service marks, logos, domain names and other distinctive brand features ("Brand Features") in presentations, marketing materials, customer lists, and financial reports. Further, Unless You notify Google otherwise in writing, Google and its wholly owned subsidiaries retain the right to identify You as a valued customer and optionally issue a press release that, at a minimum, discloses You have licensed the Product and that the Product is Your preferred web analytics package.

  • This is honestly going to rock the world of web analytics. I've been dealing with some of the major vendors lately, this move will herald some serious changes in how they do business. I'm still struggling to understand the implications!!!
  • by Michael Iatrou (681428) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:27AM (#14026805) Homepage
    Gmail will force you to use https but if you want to sign in to Google Analytics, you provide the same credentials with no encryption.
  • OK so i is integrated with Ad Words.

    Would it not make a lot of sense to integrate it with Ad Sense - whose users already have Google javascripts on their pages?
  • So nu? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neodiogenes (930950)
    Yahoo's had this service ever since they bought out Overture -- and yes, it's also free if you're a big enough advertiser to make it worthwhile. And yes, it adds a javascript snippet to the advertisers' websites. You've probably visited hundreds of these sites already without knowing they were collecting third-party data. Sheesh. Add "Google" to any news story and all the world goes nuts. Personally, I'd wait until Google work out all the bugs before relying on it. It's still GIGO even when it's Googl
  • by SeanDuggan (732224) on Monday November 14, 2005 @11:59AM (#14027110) Homepage Journal
    I know it's not cool or "133t" to admit such things, but my homepage is a subdirectory of a larger domain. Oddly enough, they let me register users.adelphia.net with the service, but they won't let me register users.adelphia.net/~user.name/, where my site actually is. Since their code isn't on the base page, they don't register the code I have on subdirectories.

    Huh... and I'm mildly curious as to whether anyone else can register the URL of users.adelphia.net.

  • by rhyder (187818) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:41PM (#14027529) Homepage
    I am amazed time and again as Google finds segments in the market and exploits them. Now they are after web analysis, and not only do they provide a service, but they gain insight into how their competitors send traffic to your site. This is even better than just hosting, as you will get many people and companies that pay for hosting elsewhere, but will use GA to analyze traffic/logs.

    Google is web-omnipresent
  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Monday November 14, 2005 @12:51PM (#14027617)

    Google is everywhere it seems, collecting data. Does this concern anyone else besides me? I use gmail and I notice that Google search now recognizes me. I can log out, but then I'm out of gmail as well. I've been doing more searching on A9 as a result. Of course, searching A9 means Amazon knows what I'm looking for, but at least I get a discount.

    But really, is Google getting to be too pervasive? It seems their future plans are really ambitious. Sure, the company's motto may be "do no evil" but that's not necessarily the motto of every employee there. Maybe I'm just paranoid...
  • I got the Site under Maintenance for two hours. I could finaly subscribe. Now I got this message:

    We're upgrading accounts. Please come back later.
    Thanks for stopping by. We are currently migrating existing customers to the newly improved Google Analytics service. This process will be completed later this afternoon. Please come back then to sign up for Google Analytics.


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