I want to see everything all in one place. That's the mantra of data integration. That's also been the theme of 2 interesting blog posts in the past week, both with a focus on Google Analytics.
First up, Justin Cutroni of EpikOne speculates on the future evolution of Google Analytics. A good chunk of his discussion covers the integration of advertising cost data from various sources in Google's sphere of ownership. AdWords is the shining example; it's already there in Google Analytics and I believe it's a big selling point for the product. [um, can I say "selling point" if the product is free?]
SEM cost data is just the beginning. Justin thinks we'll also see print ads and audio ads and banner ads and whatever else Google decides to sell also show up in Google Analytics before too long. His vision involves the automatic creation of offline advertising vanity URLs so they'd be tracked - snap - just like that in Google Analytics. It's already possible to do this manually but automating it would definitely take some of the mystery and confusion out of the process. Plus the cost data would be integrated, and that's the whole point.
My main takeaway from Justin's post was that if Google owns it, Google can and should and will integrate it into Google Analytics.
So is Google the center of the universe? Maybe. Does Google own all the data we could ever hope to integrate with with our web activity? Absolutely not. In the end, I believe Google will be able to provide seamless, foolproof tracking for whatever slice of the universe Google owns, but there's certainly the potential for further data integration beyond what Google officially offers up.
Case in point, Michael Whitaker of Monitus, who just this week wrote about his own Analytics Fox extension for Google Analytics. This product uses keywords as the integration point to pull extra search data into Google Analytics; the integration happens in the browser, not at Google. It is meant to be used just by people who operate Yahoo! Stores - obviously not Google property.
What do you need to integrate? Could you hack it with Google Analytics and a display-level mashup? If so, could this be a lightweight alternative to Omniture Genesis?
In conclusion I believe the future of Google Analytics data integration is twofold: officially, Google will give what Google deigns to give, and unofficially, third parties like Monitus will continue to develop useful extensions of Google's offering.