Google’s free web analytics tool, Google Analytics, was launched two years ago tomorrow, and E-consultancy has taken a look at its impact and what is planned for the future, talking to Google’s European Head of Web Analytics Brian Clifton.

Uptake of Google Analytics
A rough estimate puts the number of sites using the reporting tool at around 1m, though Google hasn’t revealed the exact numbers.

The software has overcome initial scepticism by promoting the benefits of web analytics to a much wider audience, and has helped Google to justify AdWords spending to its clients.

According to Clifton:
“Analytics products and tools have been around for ten years now – ironically, longer than Google. It was really a niche market until we came along and released a free product. Information was held in the hands of a very few people.

“One of our key mantras is to democratise data and make it much more accessible to everyone within an organisation. Spreading that love and spreading that data is a good thing.”

Who uses it?
According to web analytics author Eric T Peterson, around 6% of Fortune 1000 companies are using the free analytics tool, often alongside more expensive alternatives.

Data privacy
Some companies have expressed concerns over the amount of data Google controls, such as the numbers of AdWords conversions for websites using its analytics tool.

Clifton says that users’ data is secure:
“I understand why people have fears – it is a lot of data going to one entity. But as with all our data, we take extreme precautions to make sure it is secure and private and only accessed with the permission of the client. It is sensitive data – we appreciate that, and so are Adwords data and we had to take care with it.”

Reporting delays
There is often a 3 or 4 hour delay before Google Analytics reports an event, while other analytics tools offer real time reporting, but Clifton says this is not a priority for Google:
“Usually, the marketing or content creation department meets on a Monday morning and decides what will happen that week.”

“While it’s a nice feature to have real time reporting, it’s resource intensive and I don’t see many people using that data in a real-time way.”

The future
With many websites still not using any reporting tools at all; there is still plenty of room for Google to expand the number of users of its software, though it will soon face competition from Microsoft’s free analytics software, currently called Project Gatineau.