I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about [[http://google.com|Google's]] [[http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/001729.html|purchase of Urchin]] — a San Diego based stats company a few months back. What we were trying to figure out was this: what did Google stand to gain by making Urchin free (as [[http://analytics.google.com|Google Analytics]])?
I immediately said “ads, of course!”. But my friend pointed out that the consumers or audience for Analytics was different than the regular search engine user or gmail user. Analytics users are people who have their own websites and this fraction is arguably order of magnitudes small than the number of users of Google the search engine. So even if Analytics were to put ads on its pages (which thankfully it doesn’t, yet) the revenue generated will likely be much less their regular ad revenue (adsense and adwords combined).
This is what I call the “deep” web information that regular search queries and regular web crawls don’t provide. The Google crawler essentially creates a //snapshot// of the web, which they then post process to power Google search. With Analytics, however, they’ve enabled a way of tracking user behavior “live” — as it happens around the web. I think the potential for this kind of in-depth information is just **immense**. The more I think about it, the more I get excited, and scared.
For example, AdSense works fine for most people in its current state — using contextual information to place relevant ads. But now if Google incorporated information it is capturing from Analytics to improve your AdSense ads (because it now really nows exactly what people do on your website), your earnings will improve. Analytics knows //where// your users are coming from, so Ads could be made geography aware.
Imagine if Google starts piecing together the Analytics information across all the web — that will probably be the largest corpus of user behavior ever created. Everything from browsing habits to think times to which page layouts work best could potentially be answered with that kind of data.
Perhaps this is common knowledge, but for me it was truly a revelation. I was happy at my insight :-) but at the same time a little scared thinking about all the increasing amount of my data Google has access to :-(