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Don't panic! The new Google Analytics plug in will add value.

Written by Ryan | 27-May-2010 12:57:42

Google have announced that they will be releasing a browser “plug-in” that will allow internet users to opt out of Google Analytics. The aim is to increase the trust of the tool by allowing users more control over their privacy.

Google says: “The opt-out provides users with a choice of whether information about website visits is collected by Google Analytics. The add-on stops data from being sent from your computer when you visit websites that use Google Analytics.”

The tool has never been able to track 100% of website visitors (if any users disable JavaScript or do not store cookies then GA will not track them). The number is probably closer to 97% of a typical websites visitors. The release of this plug-in means that the number of website visitors Google Analytics will be able to track is slightly smaller. However, we are incredibly confident that this will be a very small reduction because we expect very few people to install this:

1. The vast majority of the online audience are not concerned about analytics tools and aren’t really aware of their existence.

2. The majority of those who are aware of analytics tools are probably technically savvy enough to appreciate that these tools do not use “personally identifiable information” and are used to improve website usability.

3. The remaining few, who are aware of analytics tools but have issues with being tracked will have probably already worked out a way to block tools such as GA (i.e. they fall within the 3% we cannot track currently). Further still, some of this group will only have an issue with Google because they were not given an opt out option – with one available now, they may be placated and be willingly tracked!

This leaves a very small group of people who have been waiting for an easier way to block Google Analytics. It is generally expected that this number will be c. 1% so we do not expect this to reduce the value that can be gained from the tool.

Google Analytics has always been a tool that should be used to measure trends and aggregated data. Even if 10% of the online audience were to install this plug in (I cannot see any possibility that this would happen) GA would still track almost 90% of website visitors. This is more than enough information to provide robust reporting on aggregated trends and website performance. We can assume that the opt out distribution of users will be fairly even (including across browsers), so this 90% sample is still robust across all “segments” because it will not skew for example website visitors who arrive at a site though PPC or those who go on to convert to a response etc.

We will of course need to keep a close eye on the numbers for Clients because we may see a small reduction in overall numbers. However, this does not need to be a concern, because we will know the reason for it. I will be surprised if we even notice a drop.

The bottom line is that the tool will remain robust, continue to provide value and this plug in will increase the status of the tool with regards to privacy concerns.