There's a war on data - and we're all going to lose
Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 - Posted by Dave Collins
Your website’s data isn’t abstract, academic or a goal in itself.
It’s a means of understanding your visitors – where they come from, what they’re looking for, what they do once they arrive and more.
If you’re against the concept of analytics, you’re effectively against understanding how people interact with your website and your business.
Which is why many businesses have come to rely on this information, using it to expand their products and services, respond to the needs of their visitors, and make their website perform better – both in terms of sales and from the point of view of their visitors.
Yet the accuracy and volume of the data you have access to is slowly but surely being eroded away.
Worse still, it’s under attack from three different sides.
In October 2011 Google announced that anyone signed into a Google account would be automatically redirected to https://www.Google.com – note the s. Anyone searching on Google and clicking on one of your organic listings would be recorded as a visitor from Google, but the keyword would not be listed.
In other words if your website receives 1,000 visitors a day from Google organic listings, and half of them are logged in to a Google service when doing so, you would only receive the keywords for 500 of them. Note that being signed in to Google includes Gmail, AdWords, Analytics, Google +, Google Docs and a wide variety of other products and platforms.
At the time Google’s estimate was that most sites would see this affecting less than 10% of their visitors, but in some accounts we’re seeing the lost data as being over 40%.
The European Union’s stupidity:
From May 26th, all UK websites must offer their users opt-in consent tools to allow cookies that pass information about your browsing activities to 3rd parties.
The important bit here is opt-in.
On our website, for example, we use Google Analytics, Get Clicky, Visual Website Optimizer, SnapEngage and more.
In 37 days time we’ll only be able to do so if our visitors opt-in.
Here are two examples of two websites making use of such a system. Both display the following at the top of their pages.
The obvious question is why would anyone choose to opt in, unless they had to? I wouldn’t, and I suspect that you wouldn’t either.
The likes of Amazon won’t have any problems, but many others will. Unless we restrict the functionality of our websites, and force our visitors to choose between no content or having to opt-in to something that may be a little unnerving.
Neither of which are appealing options.
As reported by Danny Sullivan (Firefox To Use Google Secure Search By Default; Expect More “Not Provided” Keywords To Follow):
“The popular Firefox browser is on track to use a secure method of searching Google by default, a change that will help prevent potential “eavesdropping” of what people are searching for. It will also further reduce the ability for publishers to know how people find their sites in Google…”
So what can you do about this?
Very little, unfortunately.
At the time of writing this, many UK businesses and websites appear to be waiting to see what everyone else is going to do.
And don’t even think of obvious solutions, for example switching to another platform instead of Google Analytics. The data isn’t being passed from Google, so there’s no way around it.
The whole situation is an unhealthy mix of fear, ignorance and stupidity – a lethal combination for businesses and people in general.
And the hypocrisy would be laughable if the issue weren’t so serious. For instance Google keyword data is still being passed along when someone clicks on one of Google’s ads.
Google clearly wouldn’t want stupidity to stand in the way of their business after all.
Things may get a little interesting in 37 days.