Google will provide for free its hosted web analytics service, which businesses can use to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns, the Mountain View, California company is set to announce today.
The service, called Google Analytics, is free for anybody and has a page view limit of 5 million per month, a cap that is removed if the user is a Google AdWords advertiser, said Paul Muret, a Google engineering director.
Formerly known as Urchin on Demand, this service used to cost $199 (£113) per month with a 100,000 monthly limit on page views, he said.
AdWords advertisers also get some additional analytics features, said Muret, who founded Urchin Software, the website analytics system developer that Google bought earlier this year.
However, Google Analytics isn't meant to be exclusively an AdWords analysis tool. It is designed to be a complete analytics package that can monitor various types of online marketing campaigns from multiple ad sellers, Muret said.
By making Google Analytics free, Google will shine a very bright light on the web analytics space, which should benefit that market in general by drawing in many customers, but it will also put significant pricing pressure on vendors, said Eric Peterson, a Jupiter Research analyst.
Google's move will negatively affect web analytics vendors that don't have strong professional services and consulting to complement their packaged or hosted software offerings, Peterson said. "Free is always compelling, but free from Google has historically been the most compelling offer," he added.
However, vendors that have built strong professional services and consulting units, such as WebSideStory, CoreMetrics and Omniture, will be able to compete better, he said. This is because Google, at least so far, doesn't have a particularly large professional services and consulting staff for Google Analytics, Peterson added.
Although Google could quickly build a large professional services and consulting team if it wanted to, right now Google Analytics is more in line with the needs of small- to medium-sized businesses, and of large businesses that don't need or want that type of support, Peterson said.
Google Analytics monitors the performance of banner ads, referral links, email newsletters and organic and paid search, so companies can track how visitors were referred to their websites and what they do once there, Muret said.
The statistics Google Analytics gathers, and the reports and graphs it generates, can be used by website owners to determine, for example, how effective their different ad campaigns are and how they should adapt their websites to improve sales conversions.
New features in Google Analytics include reporting dashboards aimed at making it simpler for users to review and interpret usage data, as well as the availability of the product in several languages other than English, including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Norwegian.
Google Analytics can monitor the usage of sites of all sizes, including the largest which are visited hundreds of millions of times per week, Muret said. Clients include The Financial Times, National Semiconductor and Ritz Interactive.
Google also sells a web analytics software package, called Urchin 5.0, which has fewer features than Google Analytics, according to a Google spokesman. Its base module costs $895 (about £512), and its functionality can be extended with optional modules, according to information on Urchin's website.