Today Google announced that it would address privacy concerns by encrypting url’s for logged in users. By default Google is turning on SSL for all logged in users. This impacts users of Google Analytics who previously relied on this data to make business decisions. By hiding this data for users of GA, they are crippling practitioners ability to properly optimize lead generation, landing page optimization, inbound marketing and on/off-site optimization for organic traffic.
What really seems hypocritical is that this data WILL be available to users of Google’s advertising product, AdWords. Essentially this says to me, Privacy is for sale at Google and they just rolled it into their AdWords product. If this was about privacy Google would not make this data available regardless of whether they are paying Google or not. This obviously will not happen, as keyword data of this type is exactly what practitioners need to justify spending money with Google AdWords. This would hurt their AdWords business immensely. But as of now as long as you are paying Google to advertise you can have access to this “private information”, but if you don’t use AdWords then your S.O.L.
This applies for any other analytics/tracking software as well (as I understand the announcement), which means if you are using omniture site catalyst, you still won’t have this data passed via the browser to site catalyst servers. What about Google Webmaster Tools you ask? Sure, they provide valuable data for site owners looking for keywords driving business, right? Yes it does, the problem is that research shows the keyphrase data to be around 70% useless. One thing I learned in Business school is data reliability is essential when using it to make decisions. Giving preference to people paying for Adwords puts businesses who succeed organically in search at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to measuring the ROI of specific keywords. Even to test the keywords (to get a baseline estimate of value), you would have to pay enough in media to get a statistically relevant sample and then assume conversion rates are the same for organic traffic as it is for Adwords traffic, which is not always the case at all.
This doesn’t even address the real issue which is the very data Google says is sensitive, is still available to Google themselves. And furthermore, they use that data to target ads to users via their content & search partners network. This is the ultimate hypocrisy, i mean if Google utilizes a users search data, which is sensitive to their account, to optimize ad serving they are obviously not that concerned about privacy.
I mean this is coming from a company that drives around in cars snapping pictures and putting them online with a map overlay (Google Street View, Google Earth, etc.), so the premise that this is about privacy is something i’m not buying.
Yes they are selling it, both figuratively in their almost comically hypocritical announcement and literally rolled in to their AdWords product.