Google Offers Free Web Analytics

NEW YORK Google said it will offer a free Internet analytics tool in what it said is an effort to get advertisers and publishers to improve their Web sites and better track their marketing spending.

Based on Urchin, the analytics company Google purchased in March, Google Analytics can be used by any Web site operator to track how users arrived at the venue, what they did there, and when they left. Through integration with Google AdWords, the tool can also be used to automatically see the ROI of Google ad campaigns. It can also track Web advertising running through other search providers and online methods, including e-mail and banner ads.

Google previously charged $199 per month for Urchin, which cost $495 a month when Google bought the company.

By making it free and easy to use, Google hopes to spread the use of analytics throughout the Internet, said Paul Muret, engineering director and founder of Urchin, in the hopes it will improve both the user experience and marketing efforts.

“We do think it is underused,” he said. “I personally think in the marketing arena it is a must-have for any business.”

One feature of Google Analytics lets Web site owners see the conversion rates for each link on their venue. A “funnel visualization” option shows where visitors drop off prior to conversion.

Large e-commerce sites have long used Web analytics software like WebTrends, Coremetrics and WebSideStory to provide better designs that appeal to visitors. Increasingly, advertisers are tapping into analytics data to manage their online advertising campaigns, comparing response rates across various media to determine which offers the best return on investment and changing Web sites to increase conversions.

“Free is compelling,” said Eric Peterson, an analyst with Jupiter Research, who expects broad use of the product, particularly among small- to medium-size Web sites. “The most important thing is they’re going to make analytics more common.”

Muret said Google would not capture any of the merchant data that Google Analytics will run through Google’s servers.

While such a free product will be a boon to small advertisers, it will not find many takers among sophisticated marketers, said Josh Stylman, managing partner of Reprise Media, a New York search agency.

“We need to be very guarded about data,” he said. “Data is the Holy Grail in the economy we’re working in in the 21st century.”