Google has just introduced Google Trends For Websites, a new tool that lets users take a peek at the traffic data from sites around the web. The new feature pits Google against a number of well-established players in the traffic data space, including Compete, Comscore, Alexa, and a host of others.
All these services fall prey to one core problem – they don’t have a way to directly measure the traffic on the websites that they’re monitoring (some sites let you embed code to get an accurate reading, but this only works for sites that have opted in). As a result, traffic data tends be highly inaccurate.
Google, and Google alone, has the power to offer truly accurate traffic information across a large portion of the web. For years the company has offered Google Analytics, a very popular tool that allows sites to monitor their own traffic. Earlier this year Google announced that sites could share their traffic data in an aggregated, anonymous fashion, but stopped short of letting them publish it to everyone.
And with the new Google Trends for Websites, Google has stopped short again. Instead of turning to their goldmine of Analytics data, Trends:
Combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, aggregated opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in consumer panel data, and other third-party market research
Great, so we’ve got one more unverified, possibly totally inaccurate source of traffic information. Google may be able to leverage its vast database of search data to more accurately measure traffic than the other services, which may well have Alexa et al. shaking in their boots. But until sites have the opportunity to share their Analytics data, any ranking should be met with extreme skepticism.
There is one light at the end of the tunnel: Mozilla has been working on a stealth project that will introduce an opt-in traffic monitor to its Firefox web-browser. With an estimated 18% of the web browser market, the data would be very significant even if only a small fraction of Firefox users choose to participate.