I read a blog post this morning that touted 10 free web analytic solutions. At first read this seems like a great plan, heck some of these might even meet your immediate metric needs. But as we as know, nothing….nothing is really free. Everything has a cost.
Most Open Source companies that have found a way to be truly successful have found a way to money. Sure, they may give you the software, but you pay for support.
So, what is it that you are paying when you use free web analytics? Your data! The thing we value the most, the very numbers we spend hours trying to track and get into the system so that we can fine tune our marketing efforts, make adjustments to our web sites, to ultimately make more money. Who owns/controls your data when you use free service? Below is a snippet from Google’s “Data Sharing”.
This data sharing policy enables us to improve two things Google holds in very high regard: user trust and user experience. Our goal is to provide customers with transparency, choice, and an improved product experience. When customers opt in to share their data with Google, it will be used to generally improve the products we provide you. However, it will not affect a customer’s own account without an additional step of explicit approval for each affected product or service.
Q: What does data sharing mean?
You can decide if you want to share your Google Analytics data with Google, and also have full control over how you share it with us. Visit the Edit Account and Data Sharing Settings page from within your account to opt in to sharing your data “With Google products only” or “Anonymously with Google products and the benchmarking service.”
Q: What will Google do with my data?
Shared data will be used to improve the services we provide you and will help create more powerful features for you to choose from. As they become available, only those who share their data with Google will gain access to these services and features (e.g. industry benchmarking and an enhanced version of AdWords Conversion Optimizer). The upcoming release of Google Ad Planner Publisher Center will also offer greater insight to the customers who have opted in to share their data in Analytics and Ad Planner.
So, in exchange for you giving up your data, to google, they get to use it to refine their own marketing programs and services. Now I gladly accept the ads in my gmail, because I know this is the cost of my free web mail. But are you willing to pass along all the behavior/purchasing history of your customers to a third party? I looked through most of the free services listed in the blog post and most of them offer up some disclaimer on how they will use your data.
What happens to your data if one of these free services is purchased by another company?
What happens if you spend weeks / months integrating the service into your site and the free service quits working?
What happens when give up this type of control of your data?
Would you host your corporate website on a free hosting service?
By nature, I am not typically a control freak, but when it comes to giving up control of data elements that I am responsible for not only their accuracy, but their reliability as well. I would not be comfortable in just relying on a free analytic solution.
What are you willing to pay for free analytics?