I am continuously amazed at how fast our industry changes. In the two years since Google Analytics was launched we’ve seen Web Analytics grow in popularity and web analysts become highly prized in the marketplace. Many people attribute the change to Google Analytics which got me thinking about GA and how it may evolve in the future.
I’d like to mention that this post is purely opinion and speculation. I have no idea what Google’s master plan is for Google Analytics, but I do think that my ideas are possible.
Let’s start by looking at where Google is going as a business. Google’s long term strategy is to become the dominant advertising network on the planet. It’s something that CEO Eric Schmidt has talked about in the past and it make total sense. The more advertising options that Google can offer it’s current customers the bigger the opportunity for growth.
Google’s success relies on the adoption of said advertising tools. Look at AdWords and the insane revenue it generates. Now image if Google could create 3 or 4 more advertising products that are as successful as AdWords. We’ll be looking at Berkshire Hathaway stock prices in no time.
The expansion of Google’s advertising platform began with audio ads and print ads and I’m sure they’re not going to stop there. These new products are simple, thus making them accessible to businesses that may not normally branch out into a new advertising medium. I’ll talk about specific Google advertising products and my thoughts on each in a moment, but what does all this mean to Google Analytics?
No matter what advertising tools Google creates, there needs to be a centralized reporting and analysis component. GA is that piece of the puzzle. It’s no secret that Google wants to create the Google Marketing Dashboard, why not base it on Google Analytics? It makes complete sense, right? GA is a data analysis tool so why not use it to analyze all marketing data? At the very least GA should be the analysis piece of the puzzle.
That’s the long term vision, but what type of integration opportunities exist right now?
The most basic integration is the inclusion of advertising cost data into Google Analytics. Audio cost data, print cost data… it’s natural to think that these will be pulled into GA soon.
The next integration step should be the automatic identification of online traffic that originated with an offline ad. Image if you could automatically create vanity URLs for your audio or print campaigns and have GA automatically track them. We’re already doing this manually, but it could, and should, be automated by Google. This type of integration will further remove IT from the configuration of GA making it easier for all types of organizations to track offline marketing efforts.
Let’s get even more specific.
No need to talk much about this one. Google is the 800 pound gorilla in the paid search world. AdWords campaigns are automatically tracking in Google Analytics and cost data is automatically imported to compute ROI. Pretty slick. It would be nice if Google could pull in cost data from other paid search vendors, but there are probably too many political hurdles for this to happen.
Google Audio Ads
I mentioned this one above and wrote a post about tracking audio ads with Google Analytics it in the past. I think audio integration is pretty logical. Beyond the cost data, I would like to see some type of map overlay report correlating geographic web traffic and the distribution of audio ads. The addition of automatically created vanity URLs for audio ads would provide a slick way to connect online conversions to the originating audio ad.
Google Print Ads
Print is very similar to audio and I think it’s something we could see soon. Many of the same integration points exist for print ads including cost data, a map overlay of ad distribution and web visits and an automatically created vanity URL for print ads.
Graphic (Banner) Ads
This is another one that could be very close. Once the purchase of DoubleClick is finalized I bet we’re gong to see DoubleClick’s pre-click data rolled into GA quickly. Maybe they’ll add a DoubleClick item to the Traffic Sources menu below the AdWords menu item.
I think we’ll also see an auto-tagging feature for ads displayed on DoubleClick’s network. No more tagging destination URLs. Woo hoo!
Google has taken a big step to improve mobile tracking with the announcement of Android. This isn’t just a mobile browser, it’s a complete platform for mobile devices. It’s also a way that Google can insure that they’re very involved in the future of the mobile web. I’m sure that Google will include some type of mechanism in Android to track visitors.
Video (Google Video & YouTube) Ads
Google is poised to provide some amazing data about how people interact with video. The new Google Analytics Event tracking feature is a logical, structured way to measure visitor engagement with video and video ads. I really hope that event tracking is added to all YouTube videos so we can all measure the performance of video content. Once we know how visitors are engaging video we can choose optimal placement of video ads.
I also expect Google to facilitate the creation of video ads in the same manner they did with audio ads and print ads. Maybe they’ll create a video ad marketplace.
Google does not have an email marketing solution, but why couldn’t they leverage Gmail and create one? Just add a basic interface where users can upload a recipient list and some type of interface where they can style the email and you have a very effective email marketing tool.
But what about all of those people that don’t use Google advertising tools? What if someone just wants to use GA to measure website traffic? What cool features can they expect from Google?
I think Google’s commitment to GA goes well beyond the integration of advertising data. Google has a vested interest in providing tools that help EVERYONE make the web a better place. Part of Google’s philosophy is to, “Focus on the user and all else will follow.”
Analytics is one of the tools (and the most mature, I might ad) that Google provides so we can all make the web better (Website Optimizer and Google Trends are two others). The more analysis features that Google can pack into GA the more effective we’ll all be at making our sites better.
Case in point, GA version 2. It was a major improvement in analytics UI design that facilitates analysis. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But it really makes analysis easier for everyone. I expect that Google will continue to refine the reporting interface by giving us more data visualization tools and more context for our data.
So what does this mean to other analytics vendors?
I don’t think that any other analytics vendor will be able to track Google based advertising (AdWords, Audio ads, etc.) as well as Google. I know that seems obvious, but it is a big deal, especially when Google becomes the major advertising network on the planet. Google can provide a view of offline ad activity and the resulting online behavior because they will have all the data. Could other providers create similar reporting? Maybe, but it won’t be as easy.
I also believe that we’ll continue to see consolidation. Google has, in my opinion, made web analytics tools (and testing tools) a commodity. Is there still a need for $250,000 web analytics application? Maybe, but I guarantee you people are taking a closer look at GA and evaluating the features that they really need before dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Think I’m nuts? Think OmniSciences will take over the world? Leave a comment and let me know.