Posted March 5, 2008 12:00 pm by with 29 comments

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“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:

Industry Benchmarking Screenshot

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  • It will be interesting to see the rate of adoption for this since that’s the absolutely critical piece here is amassing the scale of data necessary for it to be useful.

    I would imagine that e-commerce would be the first to reach a useful mass, and that niche industries will take a bit longer for adoption to occur.

    Any word on how narrow the targeting will be? I’m interested in seeing what’s behind those “Open Category List” links and the similar ones like it.

  • I’m in too. This is a great new feature and they can already access my data as is. There’s really no reason why a current user of Analytics wouldn’t want to opt in to this. I’m extremely curious about industry trends – just need people to opt in now!

    Good job Googler

  • @Ben – you’re right, the data only becomes useful if lots of people opt-in. They said there would be data for “hundreds” of verticals.

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  • I agree there has to be enough data before this becomes useful, but it’s a great feature to add. I think one of the biggest question people have with analytics is how their data compares.

    The good news for most of us is I’d expect we’re in an industry that’s going to have a very high adoption rate.

  • Dean

    I’ll agree that GA is very impressive and should satisfy 95% of people’s needs. There are some definite shortcomings to the solution but as far as ‘bang for the buck’ it’s miles ahead of other solutions.

    I also think it will only get better as Gatineau rolls out and offers some competition in the free analytics space.

  • Any news on when this feature will be added to “normal” Analytics user profiles?

  • I am waiting for this new feature

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  • I don’t see these options in my Analytics account.

  • I can’t find this beta module either in my Analytics account. Any ideas why?

  • You should see a message when you log in. They might be rolling it out over a few hours.

  • I think you need to join the beta testing program before you can see it.

    I’m not sure how to join it but I did a quick Google and found nothing. Maybe they select special accounts to add to the beta program?

  • @Andy – You’re right. I just logged into Analytics and it asked me at the top of the page. Sweet!

  • Since your data does not appear standalone and is merged with that of the industry as a whole, I see no harm in opting in. At least that way , you get to see the industry averages. You gain much more than you lose, if you lose anything at all that is.

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  • Assuming that the category mstching is good, this could be really handy. I wonder if you’ll have to give more information about your industry when you opt in so it can better determine what your site should be compared to?

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  • I’ve finally received an invite from Google. And I’m on board.

  • Ela

    Hi I have mixed feelings about this tool. This is great that we can benchmark our performance with industry averages, get to know market trends etc but still there is not enough. I hope Google will enable soon a feature to cut and slice data to meet our needs. the question is: how relevant the data of all hospitality industry is for a small guest house in Germany?
    Anyway, Google Benchmarking Tool is a great tool.

  • Great article, please keep posting more like this. Learned a lot of valuable things. I love the google analytics tools

  • Google Analytics benchmarking is a great service. Even though its free doesn’y mean it can’t provide you with some valuable insight into how well you blog or web site is performing.
    I have a rather lengthy article on Benchmarking your blog that can give you some ideas on how to better use this great tool. And keep in mind, this is not just for blogs. The information in my post can be applied to any web site.

    Alexander Higgins’s last blog post..Benchmarking Your Blog

  • Ela

    Google have recently launched another useful tool to understand search behaviours – Google Insights for Search. For a brief description of this tool and its feature, you can read this post on Google Insights for Search.
    It can work well with Google Analytics Benchmarking and Trends. We can just type in a term and get search patterns and volumes in selected period, check if this specific term is getting more or less popular over time. This tool can be used by marketers to decide on an advertising message, exam seasonality, decide on a strategy when entering a new market.
    Definitely this is worth trying

  • jim

    google analytics is such a great tool. I use it on a weekly basis. If you trying to seo your site
    you have to use it.

    seasonal jobs apply free

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