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Google to offer free analytics service

The service will let companies see how visitors interact with their Web sites and how their ad campaigns are faring.

Google is set to launch on Monday a free Web analytics service that will let companies see exactly how visitors interact with their Web site and how their advertising campaigns are faring.

The free hosted service, which will be available in English and 16 other languages, is based on technology from San Diego-based Urchin, which Google acquired in March.

Urchin's products previously cost $495 a month and were reduced to $199 a month by Google. The full-featured analytics applications based on Urchin's technology replace the simple tracking tool that's now available with Google AdWords.

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.

Google Analytics also includes a feature that automatically imports the cost data for return on investment reports into the Google Analytics program so advertisers can see how much they're paying for keywords compared with how much money they're making off them, Muret said.

There are three summary views, for executives, Web masters and marketing officials.

Though in theory people who are using Google Analytics and competitive services to monitor their ad campaigns could be exposing information to Google on how those rival services work, Muret said Google would not get any competitive advantage from that. The service will compete with Omniture, which is already used by many sites to keep track of traffic.

"We have very strict controls on the data. It is only used to provide reporting to customers and people using the analytics," he said.

"This has the potential to be a pretty big deal," Eric Peterson, a senior analyst at JupiterResearch, said of the news. "They made the acquisition earlier this year and are trying to think of good ways to take advantage of it. It is probably a no-brainer."

Google Analytics could hurt companies like Web Trends, Web Side Story and Click Tracks, and others focusing on the small to medium-size business market, Peterson said. "It will hurt the low-end focusing on the SMB market," he said.

Microsoft includes analytics in its AdCenter keyword ad campaign tool, which will compete with Google AdWords. AdCenter, in beta testing in Singapore and France, differs in that it provides targeted information about the Web surfers to whom it serves ads, including data like age, gender and ZIP code.