Google Analytics Benchmarking – Opportunities & Problems

Hello Friends,

I should be sleeping right now, but I read something that I had to briefly write about. I was just in Vegas last week, presenting on how to future-proof your SEO strategy and I mentioned keeping an eye on Google / Yahoo etc using data on your site in helping them determine relevancy for SERPS.

At the time I didn't have any examples of this happening for Google Analytics and I still don't.

But The Google Blogoscoped post I linked to above & this one here from Marketingpilgrim discuss how now you can "choose" to share your Google Analytics content with Google so they can use the data for other products. I would think it is a no brainer for them to use this data to improve SERPS someday (i.e. spam sites aren't sticky, so sites with low time on site could see a negative tick mark in rankings - Oh I can't wait for the day when real data is one factor used in helping determine who ranks where.) By choosing to share your data with Google (yes this is an opt-in program, read the FAQs) you will also get data from Google on how you compare in your industry to other sites (who are using Google analytics AND opt in). By the looks of things the data points you'll be able to compare your site against others include:

  • Visits
  • Bounce rates
  • Time on site
  • Pageviews
  • Pages per visit
  • New visitor percentage

For those of you seeking competitive information back in November of 2006 Laura wrote about using some tools to spy on the competition. I have used the fireclick index in the past when clients ask about trends and benchmarks. It will be interesting to see how this compares, if you look really closely at the firclick data, you kind of say, "OK so what am I going to actually do with this information?" Will this go the same way? I hope not, I hope the verticals are more finite, the fireclick verticals in my opinion are too broad.

Well anyway, If the data points above are any indication, where I think this data makes great strides over what is out there are in the following 3 areas:

  1. You finally get real numbers, Quantcast, Compete, Alexa, etc are all questionable in the accuracy of the data. Quantcast data is much better when publishers use their quantified program.
  2. "New visitor percentage" will allow you to tell the velocity by which your competitors are ramping up efforts to attract new visitors, right now Quantcast, Alexa, Compete, etc are not equipped to give you an idea on if your competitors site is just getting more visits from the same people or from a totally new set.
  3. "Bounce Rates" will be huge, if you can see that you are on the bottom of your industry group for bounce rates, you could look at your top competitors, check their pages to see if they have Google Analytics page tags installed, and if they do, you could then review their sites to see what they are doing different / better.

The issues I can see already are:

  1. Could I set up Google Analytics on an old domain, that is in my industry, but I don't use anymore to get access to industry benchmark data, but not actually opt in my real site, allowing me to get access to data while not contributing to giving good data to the system.
  2. The above issue immediately leads to another issue, garbage in, garbage out. If people try to use alternative domains to get access to the competitive data benchmarks then they are polluting the industry benchmark with poor data, thus decreasing the value for themselves and others. I hate people who do stuff like this, bit there is money to be made on the web and people will find opportunities to exploit a great opportunity like this, where in theory everyone that shares their data gets something out of sharing.

But the Google teams are known to be pretty sharp people, I'm looking forward to seeing this rolled out.

GO GOOGLE ANALYTICS - Even TECHCRUNCH's Michael Arrington wants your data shared.

UPDATE: Googleblogoscoped has updated their post with screencaps.

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President