Firstly there has been a lot said about the latest message people have been getting in webmaster tools. The infamous "detected unnatural links to WEBSITE " message has got us all spooked. I have had a couple of my smaller sites hit with this and although initially I was worried now it doesn't bother me at all. I have increased my linkbuilding and added content and never bothered to submit a reconsideration and my sites seem to be doing fine. Anyway that is not the point of this post. What is the point? Plenty has been said about Google Webmaster Tools and the cons of using it. One thing you seem to hear all the time is don't use it so Google doesn't know what is happening on your site. Well unfortunately this is a complete fallacy! Google still knows what is happening on your site and infact all Google gets from GWT is knowledge of who owns the site and nothing else. All the statistics it gathers about your site it does outside of GWT's anyway. How do they do this? Firstly and most important to the above mentioned "unnatural links" webmaster tools message is Googlebot! Googlebot is the little monster that is gathering information about your backlinks. Very little of this is gathered through things like analytics. It is Googlebot that caused all those notices in webmaster tools to be sent out. The thing is if you don't use webmaster tools Google is still gathering this information. Are you going to block Googlebot from coming to your site? Well you can if you don't rely on Google for your traffic, but the vast majority of us that do rely on Google can not block this little monster and anyway it will still work out who is linking to you. This goes on day in day out no matter what you do! Secondly Google Chrome! It is now the most popular browser in the world. Yes that is right! Don't believe me? look at statcounter link below. Code: http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser_version-ww-weekly-201202-201211 If you have ever had a packet sniffer running whilst chrome has been opened on your desktop you will see calls to Google.com even when you are doing nothing. So basically Google chrome is calling back to Google.com every minute or so. More if you start browsing and doing stuff. Yes Google collects this data and yes they know how long people are hanging out on your site for, etc. Thirdly those people using firefox but have Google toolbar installed, Well you guys might as well be using chrome because the call backs to Google.com are virtually the same as when using Chrome. So yes Google is collecting that data. Fourthly and this is the one most people do not realize is happening. If you are running IE or firefox (and don't have google toolbar installed) but do have Google set as your default browser in the standard toolbar up top. Then yes Google is tracking you also!! There is an easy way to check this. set Bing as your default browser, clear all your cookies, restart firefox, you will see no google cookies set! Now make Google the default browser. clear all cookies restart browser and watch the Google cookies set themselves up on your machine. There are lots of cookie addons for firefox which let you see this. However even without Google toolbar, chrome etc etc. Google can still gather statistics about your site and infact this is by far the most prolific method Google has of collecting data about sites. Forget about Google analytics it only adds a small percentage to the usage statistics Google collects (although more accurate and in depth statistics). The way I am talking about is the Google search website itself. When a user goes to google.com a cookie is set on the users machine, when the user hits the back button, Google records that as part of bounce rate. If you have Google adsense ads on your site well google can update and check that cookie through the java in the ads. When the person clicks on an ad that is part of bounce rate also. If the person clicks on a link to another site from your site and that new site is using adsense then the whole process continues on the new site. All this data is collected by Google! Having adsense ads on your site is just as good as having analytics on your site! Lots of people do not realize this. Most of the data (not all) that is collected by analytics is collected through adsense code also. So people what can I say. Google is collecting all this data and more. This data is extremely valuable to them. No other organization in the history of the planet has had as much insight into what people do everyday as Google does. The one thing about all this makes me happy is that I personally feel it is too much information even for Google to analyze properly. As we have seen time and time again some smart person works out a way to game the Google system and appears at the top of "car insurance" or "life insurance" or "credit cards" or something. The time they spend up there is usually fleeting but you hope they banked hard while they were up there. One last thing. I know there are a lot smarter people here on BHW that have a better understanding than me and I would really like to hear what they know.