As is the case with pretty much anything Google does or pays attention to, if you’re a search marketer or someone for whom search traffic (paid or natural) is an important part of how you market your business, it’s helpful to pay attention to the things Google does, and to think about why they’re likely to do those things.
In the past week Google has made two big announcements surrounding their analytics offering:
- They unveiled Google Analytics Premium, an enterprise analytics package.
- They announced real-time Google Analytics, which allows you to see how people are interacting with your site in real time rather than waiting hours for the data to refresh.
When looked at in a vacuum, these seem like pretty standard iterations for the folks at Google. When you layer on some context, though, I think you can get a little more insight into where Google is going with these enhancements.
Google’s Killer Business Model
The question with these upgrades is, as always, “why?” Why is Google taking what had been a key differentiating factor for several Google analytics alternatives and giving it away for free? In fact, what’s with the recent focus on Google Analytics in general? They rolled out a new interface in April and then added two killer features within two months of each other: real time analytics and Google Analytics multi-channel funnels.
And why would Google roll out an enterprise SaaS application? Great customer service and a high end SaaS model seems a bit outside their core competency, so why build out this new product? Just for revenue? Even if it becomes a multi-million-dollar business that’s probably less interesting for Google than another motivation they might have. Here’s a quote from the post announcing GA premium:
We learned from some of our largest customers that they have some specific needs that the current version of Google Analytics can't meet in their entirety. Today we're addressing these needs by announcing a new option built for our largest customers: Google Analytics Premium.
Emphasis is mine, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Google has doubled down on social and started rolling that data into ranking algorithms. Let’s run down a quick timeline of some recent Google events:
- December 1, 2010 – Google Admits to Using Social Signals as a Ranking Factor
- February 24, 2011 – Google Panda Rolls Out
- March 30, 2011 – Google rolls out +1
- April 7, 2011 – It’s learned that Google is tying employee bonuses to success in social
- April 20, 2011 – Google makes the new Google Analytics interface available to everyone
- June 7, 2011 - Google announces the author tag
- June 28, 2011 – Google launches Google Plus
- August 24, 2011 – Google launches multi-channel funnels
- September 29, 2011 – Google rolls out Google premium and Google real-time search
Here we see an emphasis on social signals, traffic and higher quality content (thicker content by better authors) as ranking signals, and at the same time Google seems hyper-focused on answering every possible objection anyone could have to using Google Analytics: attribution, real-time analytics, and an enterprise solution complete with a SaaS-like focus on providing customer service for the application (so that they can make sure brands and major AdSense publishers are saved a seat at the table as usage and social data become more prominent in ranking sites).
The upshot? Google wants your data.
Why Should You Care & What Can You Do?
You should care so you can evolve your strategies as a marketer. For example:
- Think long and hard about what sites you associate within various Google tools.
- Consider what you can do to move your SEO strategies towards incorporating social signals and driving actual traffic outside of organic search.
- Think about the ROI from these efforts, and how they align with your/your company’s/your team’s core skill set. This might mean that money you had been pushing to content creation and more manual link building – if you’re unable to effectively evolve your strategy because of resources, your product and marketing strategy not being particularly social, or whatever – would be better spent on other channels (like paid search or display).
- Think about how you can translate link building strategies into strategies that drive social signals and actual traffic from third-party sources (this may mean a change in your investment in certain resources, tools and KPIs you’re using, and your overall content and promotion strategies).
And of course a lot of the smartest reactions here are to do more of the things that make up good marketing: build a strong brand (both for your site and for yourself/your site’s authors), create content people want to consume, and find clever and aggressive ways of promoting it.