It's hard to argue with free. Google has started giving away Web analytics, the software that tells you who's doing what on your Web site. That's crucial information for those who want to get the most sales and marketing power from traffic to their Web site. Web analytics lets you, for example, figure out if people are reaching your e-commerce page or are bailing out before getting there. You can then tweak pages and measure whether you're doing better at pushing them toward your goal.
Based on my quick run-through of what Google's saying about its package, I think it's pretty comprehensive, with most of the important features one gets from the paid package, Urchin. That's the company Google bought last March and whose software is being used for this new service.
As News.com puts it:
"Google Analytics will let Web site owners see exactly where visitors to their site are coming from, what links on the site are getting the most traffic, what pages visitors are viewing, how long people stay on the site, which products on merchant sites are being sold, and where people give up in multistep checkout processes, said Paul Muret, an engineering director at Google and one of the founders of Urchin.
"Google Analytics will be integrated with Google AdWords and will offer a new interface within existing AdWords accounts. Marketers can also use it to track banner, e-mail, nonpaid and paid search advertising campaigns from other ad service providers."
The blogosphere, as of 9 a.m. ET, also seems impressed.
Previously, free packages were available only to Web sites with fairly minimal traffic and cost from $600 to more than $10,000 per year depending on site traffic and the package's capabilities. The free packages were very skeletal versions of the paid ones. Be aware that when you sign up, the Google terms of service say, "Google Services are made available for your personal, noncommercial use only." Not sure what this means for small business, but I'll send 'em a note and let you know if I get a response.
Eric Peterson, an analyst I respect as much as any other in this space, says this could be a "pretty big deal." Imagine if every small business could save hundreds or thousands of dollars through the new Google app. I'll also be checking in with an Urchin vendor that I'm helping a client with in the next week or so, and I'll let you know if they think users will get more for a fee than they can now get for free.