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Why Does Google Hate Data?

I know, I know. You’re shocked. After all, what could I possibly mean when I ask, “Why does Google hate data?” Don’t they live and die by data? Don’t they do crazy things like test 41 different shades of blue?


So why do I ask whether they hate data?

Here’s why. Earlier today I was looking at my web stats for the week and I noticed a funny jump:

Dod visits google plus

(Click to enlarge)

That’s right. Comparing yesterday to today, my visits had gone up a remarkable 59% (this, by about 11:00 AM, by the way; it’s now up about 200%).

Wow, right?

Well, like any good analyst, I wanted to see where the traffic came from, so I headed over to my handy-dandy referral report, which told me this:

Google plus top referral

Cool! Someone popular on Google+ must have posted a link to my site. But who? And where?

Well, that’s easy. You see, in the Referrals report in Google Analytics, you just click on the referral domain shown and you can see the Referral Path that brought the visitor to your site. For instance, these are the pages on that link to me:

Invesp blog rank referral

So, imagine my surprise when I clicked on “” Instead of seeing where on Google+ someone linked to me, I saw this:

Google plus referral

Yep. Google hides the referral URL from Google+. You have no easy way to find out who’s linking to you, or why, or when. WTH?!?

Now, Google claims to do this to protect user privacy. Which, in of itself, is an admirable thing to do.

But here’s the problem. I searched on Google+ for the URL to my page getting all the traffic (as it happens, the post about Google testing 41 shades of blue I just mentioned) and found that it was in a comment on a Danny Sullivan post. Danny, as you might know, is the editor of (2012 Marketing and E-commerce All-Star) Search Engine Land. He’s a fairly public figure. And, in fact, his post on Google+ was also listed as public. How, exactly, is his privacy at risk here?

Ironically, Danny wrote a somewhat scathing piece taking Google to task for this “mixed privacy” message when they stopped sending keyword data to sites. It’s not clear what their motivation is here, but privacy protection isn’t it.

Nope, we all thought that Google loves data. But that’s not true. Just as they showed with restricting keyword referral — and now Google+ referrals — they really love the data that only they can see. When other people have access to data, though? Google hates that.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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