Are Google deliberately sabotaging Analytics?

Put yourself in Google’s shoes for a moment. You provide software that hundreds of millions of websites use. That software tracks every referral by traffic source. It tracks every click made on a site. It tracks ecommerce sales. It calculates conversion rates. It tracks bounce rates, and visitor demographics, and product performance, and dwell times and countless thousands of other data points. All that data is collected, real time, second by second and stored on your own servers – and kept for an unlimited number of years.

Can you imagine the sum of money necessary for such an operation? Billions every year.

And how much do you charge for that service?

Nothing. Not a penny.

Google isn’t a charity. It is a business. And gross profit margin is slowly falling as users begin to drift away from search – a trend only likely to increase as AI gains more traction as a source for answers.

So they can either try to persuade advertisers to spend more (good luck in this economic climate!) or start to cut their costs.

Google have already slowly started to deindex a lot of the web to save processing time and crawl budget, and automating the jobs of their Ads team experts away, and it’s naïve to think that Analytics isn’t a place where cost savings could be made.

To be ultra cynical for a moment, if you had to cut costs in your Analytics product one tactic might be to make it less useful. If it’s less useful, fewer people will use it and so the amount of data and computing power you have to devote to it will decrease over time.

If you wanted to do that, you’d make the product much less intuitive to the average user. Maybe you’d hide the most commonly accessed reports from the homepage and make them so they can only be accessed by creating custom reports. You’d take away the ability to add annotations to the timelines. Perhaps you’d obfuscate events into one giant meta category of ‘event’ so that users would have to jump through several non-intuitive steps to find out something simple like the top landing pages.

Away from the interface, you could also make sure that the data collected was different to what you collected before – so that even people with historical Analytics data could no longer make a year-on-year comparison in any meaningful sense, thus lessening the usefulness of the product overall.

In short, you’d make it more of a specialised product all round so that amateur website owners would either not bother upgrading at all or simply use it much less than they did the old-style Analytics. All of which saves you money – and pushes people towards paid services which are, frankly, wildly inferior even to the old-style Analytics.

And, perhaps, you’d open the market for your own paid for version of Analytics that has many of the features of traditional Analytics and a better interface. Make it too expensive for small businesses, but perfect for big corporations and agencies with a decent client base and you can even make Analytics profitable.

Like I say, that’s being ultra cynical though. I’m sure people will find the transition easy….

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