Web Analytics

Why is Google Analytics free, but Benne Analytics and others are not?

This is one of the first questions that pops up when we are talking to potential customers, and it is quite natural to ask this. After all, most businesses and individuals who have been using Google Analytics have never had to pay for it, were never asked by Google to upgrade their account, and yet got access to their analytics data. So, when all of a sudden they are asked to pay for an analytics product, it is an obvious question.

The answer is quite simple. It is the same reason you don’t pay for Facebook, or Twitter, or - in a large part - even LinkedIn. The revenue model of the business is something else, and you and your usage of the product is an integral part of facilitating that revenue.

A short breakdown of how it works with Facebook

Look at Facebook. The more you use facebook, the more information Facebook has about your interests and behavior. For everything you see on your facebook newsfeed - whether it is a promoted content or not - you are helping facebook get signals on how you engage with different types of content, products, services and businesses. Even if you aren’t engaging with it at all, that is a signal in itself. This helps Facebook deliver ads of its customers to the right set of end users (like you). Users who are more likely to click on ads, perform the actions that the ads are targeting and so on. The more effectively Facebook can find such audiences, the better results its customers (the advertisers) will see from their campaigns, and the more they will continue to spend on their facebook campaigns.

If Facebook were to change its product model and make it a paid product for its end users to use, it would be used by a far fewer number of people, which means the insights metrics its ad delivery algorithms will have access to would be a minuscule fraction of what it currently is. This ultimately will result in poorer targeting as far as ad delivery is concerned, which translates into poorer performing campaigns for its customers/advertisers. End result? Far fewer advertisers, and even lesser revenue.

On the other hand, in today’s scenario where facebook does have access to all this data, and more with each passing day, businesses see so much conversions from their facebook campaigns that everyone and their grandmother wants to advertise on the platform. Even if Facebook were to decide to charge end users for using its products, the subscription revenue would be a tiny percentage of what its revenue from ads is at. So, strategically it makes sense to keep the platform free and the ad revenues higher. And facebook’s revenue growth is a testament to the success of this strategy.

facebook revenue growth

Weren’t we talking about Google Analytics?

In this particular case, we were talking about Google Analytics being free, so where did Facebook even come from, right?

The reason I wanted to talk a bit about Facebook first is simple. Even if I hadn’t explained that process, every single one of us probably already knows about it. They may not know the expanse of it, or the intricacies of the inner workings of the ad delivery algorithms, but as far as the crux of the matter goes, it is not a secret.

No matter who you ask, they would be able to tell you ads is the reason why Facebook doesn’t charge its users, because at the end of the day the users aren’t the customers, access to them is the product Facebook sells to its real customers - the advertisers.

We all know this because in the case of Facebook it is quite apparent. The user platform, the ad platform, the ad delivery system - it is all tied up into one neat package. (Sure, the facebook targeting pixels, the retargeting methodologies etc do add more twists to the story, but in essence, the core approach is right there in front of us.)

Unfortunately, for products like Google Analytics, it isn’t so on the nose, and that is why I wanted to talk about Facebook before I dived deeper into Google Analytics.

For Google, the user platform, the data aggregation platform (to feed into the ad delivery algorithms), the ad delivery system - they are all independent of each other. So we don’t always see it. But everything you do on Google is designed with one simple intent. To feed the beast. And the beast has one name - Adwords.

To give you an idea, Google’s net revenue in 2020 was $181.69 billion. From all its products and services. And Google has a lot of them - right from charging for API access to charging for platforms like GSuite and Firebase and others. Google’s ad revenue in the same period? $146.92 billion. That’s 81% of its total revenue.

google 2020 revenue

When one part of your business contributes to as much as 80% of your total revenue, even when your total revenue in itself is a mammoth figure, it is all but natural that you would have every other aspect of your business backing that winning horse.

So, whether it is Google search or Google Analytics, they are all in support function. Part of the crew working in pitstops - all in the service of their one and true master - Adwords.

And that, that is what Google Analytics being free is all about.

With products like Benne, any data your business generates is yours and yours alone. With Google, you share that data.

Google does not offer you Google Analytics for free. Google is charging you in the oldest form of transaction known to mankind. Barter system!

You may be looking at just your primary dashboard to get a sense of whether your traffic is going up or down, or where is it primarily coming from, but Google (in its service to its true master Adwords) is extracting and using every single drop of data your business is generating on visitor behavior. And Google is extracting and analysing this information from millions of sites who are using Google Analytics.

What could be a richer data source than this? One site, no matter how big, can give you access to behavior of just a handful of customers out there, but a million small sites help you cast a really really wide net. So wide that it makes it virtually impossible for Google to miss out on the behavior of any customer out there. Add to it the initial data generated by Google searches (before the customer lands on a website using Google Analytics), and now Google has an end-to-end mapping of the customer.

And no matter how valuable you think Google Analytics has been to your business, the value being generated was not for you, it was all for Adwords. You were just receiving a tiny bit of byproduct in return for granting access to all your customer behavioral data. A few drops that fell astray as GA showered Adwords with all your visitor data

Google Analytics is not free, and yes - neither are we. But with us, it is You who has access to your data. With GA, its Google

We just charge our customers differently. Google Analytics and Us.

Google collects its dues in the form of taking in all the information about your customers. Information that is not always even shared with you. Just look at your Analytics dashboard and see for yourself.

ga keyword not provided

If you try looking up the keywords that led visitors to your website, most of the keywords would be hiding behind the “not provided” tag. You don’t have access to it. Google does though. They know exactly what your visitors searched for before they landed on your website. But since the two products - Search and Analytics - are different for them, they made the decision not to share it across. And they did it in the name of customer privacy, while they retained and leveraged this information for their own Adwords revenue the whole time.

On the other hand, when you use tools like Benne Analytics, yes, we charge you. But we are honest and transparent about it. And all your data continues to be 100% yours. We do not use your data to sell ads. That’s just not what our business is. Our business is facilitating your growth, and our only commitment is to helping you achieve that.

Google Analytics primary focus would always be aligned with what can help Adwords. Our primary focus has and will always be - what can help you.

By now we have clearly established how well aligned GA’s overall vision is to the growth of Adwords. There was a reason we used the analogy of “one and true master”. So, any product advancements and improvements that Google Analytics will ever make would be in service to Adwords’ growth. If it ends up being beneficial to you - the business using GA - great! If not, they will still not lose any sleep over it.

Our primary focus will always be on making our product more and more valuable to our customers - you! Whether it is our insights module where we provide actionable insights for you to execute on, or future product features, they are all designed as answer to a singular question. What can help our customers achieve more growth?

Parting words

There are a lot of things to consider here. Right from the ethical side of respecting your customers’ privacy (which Google blatantly disregards and violates) to tactical side of aligning with a product built keeping you in focus. Depending on your motivations, each aspect would matter on some level to you, and that will help you arrive at the decision of the right web analytics product for your business.

And you have a lot of options to choose from, not just Google Analytics. You have Cloudflare Analytics now (though they have their own set of challenges since they work with sample data sets and not your entire customer data), Adobe Analytics (too expensive, if you ask me), and then you have Benne Analytics. Whether you choose GA, or one of us, the decision would be yours. But don’t make the decision thinking of Google Analytics to be free, because as we have just seen, it may be the costliest of us all.

We do believe we are a better fit for your web analytics and business growth needs than Google has ever been, or will ever be. If you have questions, I would love to answer them for you. Hit me up.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers

Abhishek

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