What Google’s acquisition of Urchin means for marketers

The Washington Post and others covered Google’s recent acquisition of web analytics software company Urchin, but I really haven’t seen much from the media (or from the bloggers, for that matter — with the exception of Traffick, which makes some excellent points, particularly point #4) on what this means for marketers (and certainly for Urchin customers and Google customers). So I’ll take a stab at it. Of course, this is all conjecture because I don’t really have the inside scoop on what Google plans to do with Urchin. (Urchin, by the way, is one of our favorite web analytics tools. It is a rich and robust website log analysis package… it’s extremely good value-for-money.)

If I were Google, I would incorporate Urchin technology into the AdWords advertiser suite of tools and into the AdSense publisher tools. I’d extend Google’s conversion tracking functionality to offer a thorough ROI analysis of natural search as well as paid search. I would also continue to offer an unbundled version, hosted, for free and cover it with Google ads just as they do with GMail. And I would probably phase out the server-installed version, focusing future development solely the hosted version. I’d also stop supporting the unbundled version (both hosted and server-installed software) and let the community of users support themselves through online forums on Google Groups. That’s my guess. It would be cool if they then took the logical next step, like what AOL/Netscape did with the Mozilla Project, releasing the server-installed software as open-source, but that would probably be giving too much of the hosted product away.

If my predictions come to pass, then all the big hosting companies who are offering Urchin would be up a creek. The hosted version of Urchin is quite new. I wonder if Urchin’s move to a hosted version was with a view to being bought by the Goog or someone similar. Hmm…

I think Urchin will do Google the most benefit by Google assimilating the technology into their existing technologies and services, just like “The Borg” does on Star Trek. Extending and continuing the existing product wouldn’t be nearly as leveragable, and thus not nearly as attractive to Google. At the end of it, Urchin as a company will be unrecognizable. If this comes to pass, your days as a supported Urchin customer would be numbered, but the opportunities presented to you as an AdWords customer or an AdSense publisher would be huge.

Undoubtedly Daniel Brandt at Google Watch is busily constructing some conspiracy theory about Google planning on secretly using the data to violate everyone’s privacy. I can see it now: “I know what you bought last summer…”