A short Google blog post on Google Analytics has announced the development of a global browser plug in to OPT OUT of user data being fed to and tracked by Google Analytics. This has sent a few shudders running down the spines of website owners and agencies with clients who rely on analytics to produce the stats that are often used to define success and failure for a campaign.

But should that really be the case? Should the option to remove your visit to a website be a cause for concern for internet marketing agencies and websites? We have talked about it in the office today…..

The announcement that Google is going to allow consumers to opt-out of Google Analytics is another example of Google living by their informal corporate motto, “Don’t Be Evil”. However, there are also two good business reasons why this makes sense for them.

Firstly, users who install plug-ins tend to be more tech-savvy, and are, it could be argued, more likely to be working within the digital marketing industry. The removal of these heavy-users of the web from stats could even improve the quality of the data, as it removes some of the traffic they generate each day purely by doing their jobs. The fact that Google’s own browser, Chrome, supports plug-in such as this gives Google another selling point to help tempt users over from Internet Explorer.

Secondly, there is a bigger game afoot. Google is rolling out retargeting functionality; this allows AdWords advertisers to target consumers online who have previously visited their website, but didn’t convert. This is a form of behavioural targeting, a technology that has is being looked closely at by regulators on both sides of the pond, mainly due to concerns over the handling of consumer data and privacy. The market is looking to Google, the biggest online advertising buying point, to show how responsible they are with consumer data, and this move to empower consumers to opt-out of Analytics tracking is part of this. If Google can show they are able to self-regulate, law makers will be less likely to impose an onerous regulatory framework. By acting responsibly, both Google and consumers win.

John Newton

Head of Digital Marketing, Clickthrough Marketing

Google is making this move voluntarily, before they are asked to do so more forcibly by regulators. Currently Google controls 90% of the UK search market, and 62% of the Analytics market. That means 55% of the time Google knows both the searches consumer perform to find websites, and what those same consumers do on those websites when they arrive there. Never before has one company had such a powerful dataset on online consumer journeys, and Google recognise the responsibility that comes with this. I expect some webmasters will revert back to the raw log files to get the full picture of how people find and interact with their site. You might also see a slight uplift in the usage of other free Analytics packages such as Yahoo! Analytics and Piwik.

Christian Garrington

Director of Digital Strategy, Clickthrough Marketing

So, in general, we feel it is a good thing regarding quality of stats, unless your taregt audience is a) naturally paranoid about online security issues or b) heavily techy and likely to install new plug ins at the drop of a hat or c) un-fans of Google generally. Also, it should bring new opportunities in the future.

However, it may raise problems for agencies in particular who will need to explain to clients why the stats begin to see an increasing drop as the plug in is promoted, tweeted about, discussed in forums and so on. These may be places your clients don’t naturally visit or see, so the drop may seem to them to reflect on your actions as a marketer.

It would be wise to make your clients aware of this plug-in before it becomes available so that they are prepared for a drop. In most cases, it is likely to be minimal anyway as the users who may install the plug in are the above three groups we identified above.

It might also be a good idea to highlight the positives to your clients – better targeting for non-converting visitors, higher quality stats, the option to use other packages (although it is likely that there may well be regulation which affects all anayltics packages at some point) and also, of course, your extensive in-house talents with raw log files if there is a problem.

Now where did you put that data analysis expert whose skills seemed so yesterday when Google analytics was launched?!

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ClickThrough is a digital marketing agency, providing search engine optimisation, pay per click management, conversion optimisation, web development and content marketing services.