“We haven’t used data and we will not use your data unless you opt-in,” says Google Analytics’ Brett Crosby.
So, why would I start this post with that statement? Because, when you see what Google Analytics is launching today, that question will be the first that comes to mind. It certainly did for me, when I chatted with Brett yesterday.
In response to the multitude of requests, Google Analytics is today adding “industry benchmarking” as a beta feature to its web analytics tool. What does it do? Industry benchmarking will allow you to see how your individual web site traffic compares to aggregated data from other sites in your industry/vertical. For example, my wife often sees seasonal surges at her Hawaii-related blog, so she’ll now be able to tell if the travel industry as a whole is seeing the same highs and lows.
Here’s a screenshot of how the new feature looks:
Now, back to the opening statement. In order to use industry benchmarking–and in order for it to work–Google needs users to “opt-in” their analytics data. Using new data-sharing settings, you can opt-in and share your data, while having access to industry benchmark data. Before you cry “Big Brother” is watching, two things to consider:
- While Google wants you to either “opt-in” or “opt-out” from benchmarking–your data will not be used unless you specifically opt-in. That means, that if you don’t do anything, Google won’t touch your data.
- Your data is anonymized and aggregated. No one will see your individual stats. Instead, they simply get put into a “bucket” of industry data.
Another benefit to electing to share your Google Analytics data is you’ll be able to use that data across other Google products. Handy, if you want to share your analytics data with your your Conversion Optimizer account.
While Google has many free services, it’s Google Analytics that continues to impress me. Not only is it already a fantastically powerful web analytics solution, but Google continues to add new features to it. Industry benchmarking might not be as powerful as Hitwise or comScore, but for those of us that want to research industry trends–and don’t have deep pockets–it’s a welcomed addition. (Of course, if few people opt-in their data, it won’t be that useful)
Now all you have to weigh-up is the value of getting your hands on this data, compared to the privacy you give-up when you allow Google to have access to your stats. If you’re not a black-hat–why would you be using GA in the first place?–then you have nothing to fear. Likewise, if you’re daily dress includes a tin-foil hat, then you might want to pass. For the rest of us, I’m eager to get a better insight on industry trends.