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Google preps conflict of interest-tastic web analytics tool

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Mark this as an escalation of Google's recent skirmish with the web analytics industry: the search omnicorp is launching a free tool to target surfers that will compete with subscription services offered by comScore and Nielsen.

From today Google will offer shiny-suited types the tool, dubbed AdPlanner, to help them find the corners of the web where their target market might be hanging out. The New York Times reports that it will throw together data from audience measurement (Google Analytics, Google Toolbar etc), web searches, and third parties to build a picture of where advertisers will get the best results.

The product is being widely interpreted as targeting Nielsen and comScore's business. It's likely to raise market dominance concerns, as a popular analytics suite could allow Google to increase its already massive sway over the online advertising market. It'll mean the dominant company flogging ads online is also the company telling advertisers where to place them. Which seems a nice racket to be in.

The Wall Street Journal reports no reaction to the news from Nielsen or comScore today, but the fact that AdPlanner will be free, at least to begin with, is sure to send chills down their spines.

Indeed, conspiracy theorists at comScore might wonder whether its recent spat with Google over paid-for clicks, which by most accounts comScore lost, was a set up:

  1. Analytics company reckons Google clicks are down
  2. Google proves it wrong to much embarrassment
  3. Google launches rival to analytics product

Last week Google also released Trends for Websites, another free measurement effort it describes as "a fun tool that gives you a view of how popular your favorite websites are". We're not sure where the "fun" lies, but it allows webmasters to examine the popularity of websites.

The principle and sources of data for Trends for Websites are similar to AdPlanner, but the output is comparative rather than the hard(er) numbers demanded by ad agencies. ®

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