Many of the large web players offer or will soon offer analytics products for free. If you use them they may eventually charge you for the service, or they may keep them free but look for other ways to charge you, and use your own statistics against your best interests, by doing one or more of the following
- using your site to help categorize keywords that competitors should bid on (and do SEO for)
- compare your direct traffic to search traffic and flag your site for review to potentially reduce your search traffic if it is outside the normal range for your given industry
- compare your traffic from their engine to traffic streams from other known clean sources (such as competing engines) and flag your site for review if it falls outside of a certain range
- compare your keyword cost and conversion rate relative to other words and reprice accordingly
The General Competitive Trend:
One day you are the top ranked lyrics site making good money pitching ringtones. A few months later the search results are cluttered with YouTube videos, show a Google music vertical result at the top, and sites like Yahoo Music start offering lyrics. Income is down 60% and the trend has just begun.
Are Your Stats a Commodity?
As more of the ad networks become automated and leverage CPA based targeting, advertisers are going to have a better idea of where there is value. Google and your large competitors have access to enough data to capture the large trends, but what happens on the micro-level is what is most relevant to you, and, if your site is not as strong as competing sites, keeping that data private (or, at least as best you can given new affordable competitive analysis services) is required if you want to maintain and grow your business.
How do Ad Networks Increase Profit Margins?
Saying that a search engine may use your data to make them more money is more logical than it is cynical, especially if they are offering the product for free. Some of the smaller search / ad networks, like Shopping.com, have already repriced entire categories of keywords based on advertiser conversion data from free tools. Google has already used my name and brand as the AdLink text for competing offers. And who hasn't been hit by an AdWords quality score?
Independent Free Services Have Costs Too
Even free services like StatCounter and SiteMeter are not free due to one or more of the following reasons
- they usually require a sitewide outbound link
- sharing some of your stats with everyone
- selling your stats to a third party
- limiting your feature set or account size and then charging you to keep all the data they built up about your site over months or years
Think of how much you spent building your brand, your link equity, and your traffic stream. Is it worth giving someone all that data and a sitewide link for something you can get for a one time $30 fee?
Mint is Soooooooo Much Better...
Shawn Inman's Mint (available at HaveaMint.com for $30) is a server based web analytics tool that you can buy licenses to for $30 per site. It tracks traffic trends, referrals, and search trends. In addition it has many extensible peppers which allow you to track things such as
- browser type
- country origin
- internal searches
- outbound clicks
- watching specific pages
- hottest and coldest page trends
How to Leverage Your Stats
- Look for the pages that rank for a wide array of keywords and use the format from those to model your other pages against
- Point more link equity at your best performing pages.
- If you have a deep section that has little link equity and little to no traffic try promoting it in the site's navigational scheme. If traffic picks up and conversions increase keep promoting that section.
What if I Want to Share My Stats?
If you have an authoritative site and make your money from selling ads you may want to make your stats public, which Mint allows you to do with one click. Doing so does not require you to hassle with logging into multiple Google accounts or having to worry about compromising your other features at sites like Google.
What Does Mint Look Like?
I set my stats here to public, but I may change it to private at some point.
Is This a Paid Ad?
Nope. I just recently bought Mint, and thought it rocks, so I wanted to post about it.
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