Technology & Science

Google launches free web-tracking service

Google Inc. has launched a free tool that allows advertisers to measure how popular websites are, a service that competes with other subscription tracking services and raises conflict-of-interest concerns.

Google Inc. has launched a free tool that allows advertisers to measure how popular websites are, a service that competes with other subscription tracking services and raises conflict-of-interest concerns.

Google Ad Planner, launched Tuesday, gives advertisers the opportunity to enter demographic information associated with their target audience, such as age, gender, income level and education. Ad Planner then displays the most-visited websites as defined by the criteria entered.

The idea behind the service is to help agencies that plan media and advertising buying decide where to place ads, Google said on one of its blogs.

The new service is thus far available in test-mode only, so interested parties have to apply to Google in order to try it out.

Google's free service will compete with other website-tracking services, such as Hitwise and Nielsen, which also help advertisers decide where to place their ads. Those two services, however, require paid subscriptions from advertisers.

The move has raised conflict-of-interest concerns because Google is already the leading seller of advertising on the internet. Some see its tool, which tells advertisers where to buy ads, as potentially helping the company expand its dominance.

Google said its tool is neutral and returns information not just on websites that currently host advertising from the company, but also those off of its content network.

The company has had some run-ins with comScore Inc. over the accuracy of the tracking firm's numbers. ComScore in April reported the number of people clicking on Google's ads had slowed down, a claim the search company quickly refuted and proved wrong.

Google also last week officially launched Trends, a service similar to Ad Planner that is aimied at a general audience.

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