The Power Behind A Faith-Based Initiative

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What’s with all this free stuff we see online?

How is it that Google allows anybody to grab its Google Analytics package for free?

Web analytics enable and empower a website owner to really dig deep into the data of what people are doing when they come to your website. They tell you how many people are coming to your website, where they are going, what they are doing, when they are doing it and how frequently.

They can even tell you where people last visited before coming to you or which keywords they used in a search engine to find you. Web analytics are among the most amazing ways to look at your business and website traffic.

There are many robust Web analytics tools and software in the marketplace. Heavy hitters include Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics and more. While there are some bare-bones packages available, for the most part, integrating a serious Web analytics package takes time and money.

Is Google Analytics better than these "for sale" products? Absolutely not. But for the average website owner, is Google Analytics enough to show where their website traffic is going and highlight areas of where it can be improved? Absolutely.

So, remind me again: Why does Google give this away?

Some might argue it’s just another notch in the World Wide Web belt of Google to take over the world (at the rate it is going with its recently launched Web browser, Chrome, those people could be right), but Avinash Kaushik (Analytics Evangelist at Google, Blogger at Occam’s Razor and author of the book, Web Analytics – An Hour A Day) likens it to a saying that he ripped off from George W. Bush: "It’s a faith-based initiative."

Google gives away something as robust as Google Analytics in the hope a website owner will understand what is happening on their site, and as they improve from learning, Google hopes those individuals will buy more advertising.

They don’t give away Google Analytics so website owners will buy advertising; they do it in the hope they will.

Pop star George Michael sang the snappy singalong line, "I gotta have faith" in 1987, but Morgan Freeman also had another famous line in the movie Shawshank Redemption, where he said: "Hope can kill a man."

So, while Google and its war chest of cash have the discretion to act a little bit more on the lyrics of George Michael, most businesses probably look at the prospect of a faith-based initiative and hear the voice of Morgan Freeman in the back of their heads.

Companies big or small can engage in a faith-based initiative. In fact, a good faith-based initiative doesn’t have to happen only in the online channel, but let’s talk about a Montreal company that has launched an online faith-based initiative.

iPerceptions is a Web research company that works with Fortune 500 companies. Where Web analytics will tell you "what" is happening online, iPerceptions will tell you "why" things are happening. It’s nice to know that someone came to your site and didn’t buy anything, but wouldn’t it be nice to better understand why they didn’t complete the transaction?

That’s where iPerceptions comes in, with its research, survey and validation tools. (In the interest of full disclosure, iPerceptions is a client of Twist Image and I sit on its advisory council, along with Avinash Kaushik.) In analyzing the market, iPerceptions realized that the first step in better understanding why people do things online can best be broken down into four simple questions:

1. How satisfied are my visitors?

2. What are my visitors at my website to do?

3. Are they completing what they set out to do?

4. What did they like best about the online experience?

In collaboration with Avinash, iPerceptions created a free four-question online survey tool that any website can sign up for and place on its site, called 4Q. It’s simple to set up and gives you real-time access to the results.

iPerceptions is leveraging this new business strategy to get people excited about Web research and understanding why your customers do what they do online. Sometimes, all the business proposals and PowerPoint presentations in the world can’t get your product or service in front of enough people. Giving away a valuable tool and having faith in the quality of your product – and in the understanding that once someone tries it out, they will simply want more – may not be the oldest sales trick in the book, but it sure does build loyalty, community and attention in a low-trust world.

What kind of faith-based initiatives could you launch for your company?

What kind of faith-based initiatives have you seen that have blown you away?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation, that was published today. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

Montreal Gazette – If You Have Faith, You’ll Give In Order To Receive.

Vancouver Sun – Google’s Faith Based Initiative.


  1. Hi Mitch,
    another good example is
    compared to
    (Founded by former Coremetrics by the way, I believe you interviewed him in Episode 99)
    The first gives reviews tools for free in exchange of CPC, the second one sells reviews packages.
    Is this faith? Or perhaps a different business model?
    Is it giving away something for free? Or perhaps giving a free service in exchange of data?

  2. My guess is that these two have very different business models. Based on the success of the two, I’d say it’s a case of different strokes for different folks.
    The whole crux of faith-based initiatives is that there is not any exchange (like review tools for free in exchange for CPC). Think about Hotmail. Microsoft gives it to you for free in hopes that you will visit some of their sponsors and be more loyal to the Microsoft suite of products.

  3. Naked Podcasting: Good idea?
    A few blog posts have come about lately on the issue of whether podcasts need to be edited, or if they can go out “raw” or “naked.” Doug Haslam examines the topic, making the case to edit your show before sending it out onto the Web.

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