For some executives, it sounds crazy: Why should they entrust their business’s metrics to a free tool powered by the search engine that runs most of their pay-per-click ads?
To many others, though, the idea makes both dollars and sense. In fact, 60% of Fortune 100 businesses now use Google Analytics. And after recent updates to both product and privacy, even the skeptical minority are running out of reasons to fear it.
Last week, Google Analytics released an industry benchmarking feature that allows you to weigh your site’s performance metrics against those of your industry at large. It looks like this:
This is a wonderful addition to the GA toolkit, so long as marketers don’t use it as an excuse to be lazy. (If your industry’s average conversion rate is 1.6% and your website converts at 2.3%, that doesn’t mean it’s time for Dom Pérignon. If you have a 70% bounce rate, knowing that the industry average is 72% won’t exactly calm your CFO’s nerves.) Still, it is nice to know.
Although the Google Analytics team understated this in their announcement of the industry benchmarking feature, they also rolled out new privacy control settings, pictured here:
The incentive to (anonymously) share your data with the Google Analytics community it that it will help to make the industry benchmarking data more accurate and therefore more valuable. But what’s good to know here is that it’s “opt-in” — you don’t have to participate.
Perhaps this overt demonstration of privacy control will help to persuade executives who haven’t yet been willing to invest in web analytics to finally do so. Besides, it’s not like they used to give away your data unless you opted out. It’s just comforting to have the “Do not share” option.
According to the “benefits” page on the Google Analytics website,
Google takes the trust people place in us very seriously, and is pledged to safeguard the privacy of your corporate data. We understand that web analytics data is sensitive information, so we accord it the ironclad protection it deserves.
Don’t get me wrong. The hesitations on behalf of executives to adopt Google Analytics has been at least partially understandable. Having “don’t be evil” as their corporate mantra hasn’t exactly kept Google from being accused of rigging their own game. But…
During a panel discussion at SES London, Future Now’s Bryan Eisenberg discussed these issues with — among others — Brian Clifton of Google Analytics and Ian Thomas of Microsoft, whose forthcoming “Gatineau” analytics program is sure to encounter similar resistance.
In a post aptly titled “Trust me, I work for Microsoft,” Ian explains the awkward market conditions at play for these two supposedly gentle giants:
. . . Can we be trusted not to misuse the data entrusted to us for nefarious ends?
[Google's Brian Clifton] was a little coy about this, insisting that for Google to misuse the data it gets from Google Analytics (for example, to manipulate bid pricing) would be tantamount to fraud, and so of course would be out of the question. I believe him, and believe the same of Microsoft too – it would be suicidal (not to mention morally reprehensible and howlingly naive) of Microsoft to take anything other than the greatest care with the data we collect from [Microsoft analytics tool] Gatineau. But – and let’s not beat about the bush here – this data is of value to us, and the benefit we get from it subsidizes the development of free tools like GA and Gatineau. And we need to be open and honest about that.
Where Brian and I differed on the panel was that I can all too easily believe that the general public will not be totally reassured by any insistence we make that we will look after their data and only use it responsibly. Maybe this is because I work for a company that – how can I put it? – doesn’t enjoy the highest levels of trust in the industry. For me, building trust in our stewardship of data is something that we have had to do day by day, brick by brick, but more importantly something that we will always need to continue to do – a garden that we will always need to tend, if you like.
It’s certainly not enough simply to stay inside the law and expect to maintain user trust simply because nothing bad (like a data leak) has happened on our watch. Even if we feel we are doing everything right, if we stop trying to build trust, it will wither away.
I know what you’re thinking. “Did he just suggest that nothing they ever say or do will convince the market that Google and Microsoft have good intentions with our data?”
Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is Google, the most powerful company on the Web, and they could use your data against you in some nefarious, suicidal and illegal way, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?”
I’m feeling lucky. Are you?
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