Google's new service to pressure traffic counters

John Shinal · June 25, 2008 · Short URL:

 comScore and Nielsen, the two largest Web-traffic counters, now have another competitor besides the up-and-coming Quantcast to worry about.

Google said this week it will introduce Google's Trends for Websites, which will let users of the service view traffic data for specific Internet properties.

The threat to comScore is significant enough that its stock sold off more than 20% on the news, and comScore has scheduled a conference call for tomorrow, where its CEO and CFO will talk about the “dynamics in online audience measurement.”

Whereas comScore and Nielsen generate their traffic numbers from representative panels of Web surfers, Google's search data will combine that data with other numbers. That will include Google Analytics data, which allows Web site operators to see their own traffic numbers, but not publish it.

Worse still for the existing players, Google plans to give its data away. For free. 

While all traffic-counting data for specific Web sites is flawed because it's not based on actual server data, Google's broad reach -- it gets two out of every three search queries -- means that advertisers will be very interested in this new data.

When Google bought DoubleClick, many ad buyers feared that the combined entity could dominate the online ad market because it would put ad campaign planning, measurement and usage data all under one roof.

Those fears, now multiplied, won't stop Google's Trends from finding users.

This week, comScore analysts joined in the fearful group.

They managed to initiate a small comeback rally in comScore shares by pointing out that the company's data included demographic data craved by brand advertisers. Yet Google can make a pretty good guess based on your search history.

And when it comes to online advertising, WHO YOU ARE isn't as important as WHAT YOU SEARCH FOR, because that behavior is much more predictive of what kind of product or service you want to buy online.

Now we know why Google wasn't keen to let Web sites publish their Google analytics data. They wanted to provide it to advertisers -- at no cost. As Google begins to ad more services based on its massive data-collection abilities, my guess is the traffic-counters will be just the first of many groups pressured by the Google online ad juggernaut in the next few years.

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