How do you know if your web site is performing?
If it makes more money than it costs, maybe that’s good enough. Even without doing any measurements of traffic, click-through rates, or your Search Engine Optimization ranking, you can tell that much. But what if you need to know more?
The answer, of course, is you use a tool to measure your traffic. Google Analytics is Google’s free tool for measuring web traffic, and it just keeps getting better and better; so much so that there’s plenty of questioning of why you would use a paid service to measure web site traffic and performance.
Google seems ready to give us an answer to that question. The monster from Palo Alto is preparing to give people a way to have Google Analytics not count them when they visit web sites that use Google Analytics.
This is an incredibly bad idea.
With all respect to the privacy concerns that drive this thought, that issue can be addressed simply; simply remove IP tracking and Session ID information from Google Analytics. That information is really only useful to the people who are seeking to gather user-level data.
Having people who come to your web site be invisible renders your measurements . . . let’s face it . . . worthless. Even if Google was able to qualify types of people who visited classes of websites and somehow do a broad statistical differentiation based on that and provided website owners using Google Analytics with those details, the very idea of counting traffic and following users as they move from page to page on your site would stop being even a semi-accurate measurement of anything.
Except as a defensive maneuver against the privacy hounds and government agencies constantly sniffing at Google’s heels, I can’t think of a rationale for breaking Google Analytics this way. Even more to the point, since the steps I outlined above would address those issues, this seems like Google telling those of us who use Google Analytics that they have no respect for us or our data.
I’m still using Google Analytics and many other tools from Google. For now. But it’s actions like this and the complete botching of the Nexus One initiative that make me question why, just a little more every day.