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Analytics Premium – So what are Google really up to?

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Google just announced Google Analytics Premium I’ve been reading around it and trying to think a bit about the motives behind Google’s latest move; one that seems to have surprised quite a few in the industry. Just to set the scene a little, we’re talking about an annual fee of around $150,000 for the privilege of a service level agreement, data ownership, support and some additional data processing features. This price point means that it’s only applicable to those that are absolutely serious.

Will this devalue the free offering?

Honestly, this move makes me a little uneasy. As keen as I am on data integrity and SLA’s, splitting into a paid fork makes me worry that the free product won’t get the same love that it has done to date. I’m a massive advocate of GA in nearly every situation, there’s usually a way to make it work in a useful and valuable manner. I’d also worry that this might devalue the free offering in the eyes of some, which is almost enterprise quality in terms of features. (Some think it’s already suitable, given that according to Wikipedia, it is currently in use on around 57% of the 10,000 most popular websites).

It would be a shame if the standard analytics product stagnates as a result of the emphasis on the service integrity for the paying customers. More so, if features that we might have expected would be built into the free model are reserved for the premium, paid option alone. A little more reassuringly, it has been suggested that the move is most likely to satisfy the need for an SLA and data ownership for large organisations, so that price point won’t be prohibitive; it may add to the validity of the solution for some. I do think it’s a shame there isn’t a sliding scale; some of those features would be handy on smaller deployments, but I suspect that ultimately this is a credibility thing.

Google have played such a massive game of catch-up in the last few years to make a product that is up there with the most prominent paid services, so I understand if this is an approach designed to collar the top level stuff that they’re currently missing out on. For many, lack of dedicated support would have been a deal-breaker. It might be that in the future things have an impact the other way – having those enterprise clients on board might push Google to build an even more robust solution, but in my experience, I think that it is rare that software development goes that way.

What I’m most concerned about is that the multi-touch funnels feature which has recently been released to the general public has launched, yet custom attribution modelling is only available for the paid service; a real shame as that’s pretty much the game changer for those type of reports. Being able to set the rules that allow you to measure success with your own attribution metrics is a really powerful feature. I do have a suspicion that the ability to ‘own your data’ is more about the deployment being able to identify individual users, for example, something that isn’t currently allowed by the Google terms of service, which allows a sidestepping of the ‘Google isn’t evil’ mantra. It’s just a guess, but it would make some sense.

It’s not all bad news

Looking more positively at it, very few of the features that have been announced in the paid version are actually of critical importance to general users and small/medium business. They are more focussed on appealing to the needs of large enterprise, rather than restricting the use of the existing free product. Following on from the discussion of new features, Google have now released Real-time Analytics features too, a way to see how visitors interact with your site in real-time; a part of me wonders how much this announcement is to counter the worried discussion about a paid fork of their product.

Regardless of the reasoning behind Google’s Analytics roadmap, it’s probably a worrying day for those with a business model that revolves around a paid analytics solution to attribute conversions, offers real-time analytics features, or just capitalises on the captive large enterprise market with SLA laden, supported analytics solutions.

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