A client shared an article with me. The writer, who apparently curates business directories, was encouraging his readers to visit his competitors’ websites. Once there, he said, they should right click and use the “View Page Source” option (you could also choose CTRL+U) to look at the page’s HTML code.
Then they should search for the phrase “google-analytics.”
So far, so good. This is an excellent way to determine whether a website uses Google Analytics. If they don’t, they might use some other tracking program, but it’s good to have analytics of some kind installed. Without analytics, you can’t tell who is visiting you, how they found you, or any of the other useful information about your website that analytics provide. It might not be any of your business whether a website uses analytics, but this is how you can find out. It’s public information.
It is at this point that things get odd.
Sharing analytics information
A bit of code is shared on the page. The article goes on to say that readers won’t know this, but the writer can tell certain things about the code. For one thing, it’s not tracking clicks to the websites of those listed in the directory. For another, the website owner is not sharing Google Analytics information with the reader. This is presented as though it were a shocking revelation that completely discredits these competitors.
Google Analytics will track those clicks for you. Your Google Analytics, the one you have installed on your website. You don’t have to rely on the directory owner to tell you. If they report to you, it might well provide enough of a service that you’re willing to pay them for the reporting, but you can easily access that information.
And there is nothing sinister about having Google Analytics installed at a website. The author relies, it seems to me, on the fact that HTML code is somewhat arcane knowledge and that many readers won’t be up on Google Analytics. The simple trick of looking into someone’s code is presented as a super spy tactic that gives the reader the chance to get this embarrassing information about the writer’s competitors… information that the reader won’t know, but which the writer can interpret.
Sure, that may look like an innocent shopping list, but just hold it over a lightbulb and you will see the secret coded message written in invisible ink!
It’s smoke and mirrors. That attitude doesn’t really belong in digital marketing and SEO, any more than it belongs in healthcare or food production. If someone is sharing useful information with you, it should be clear. If it sounds as though they have special secrets no one else knows, you should ask some questions. If you don’t get clear answers, think twice about trusting your source.