A chance inspection of the Clicktracks hosted tracking solution, that is NOT cheap, reveals some alarming facts about one of the better known tracking packages...
Yes, I am a blithering idiot. Which must be the reason I fell for the trick I'm about to describe:
My site's host provides zero log file access and probably the worst hand-rolled analytics program ever made. Anyhow, I decided it was time to look for another solution. After reading mostly positive reviews on Clicktracks, I decided to give their Professional Hosted service a go.
Yes, the program itself lived up to expectations. I was amazed at its functionality with only a day of data and couldn't wait to have more days to examine..
Oddly enough, I was checking out the tool pointed out in the "SEO Swiss Army Knife" thread and followed a link to a link extracting tool at SEO Chat. Why in the hell is my page showing an external link to Clicktracks?!?
After further examination, Clicktracks is using one of the oldest tricks in the books. Actually, they've put their own twist on the old distribute free tools to get links model. They are freaking CHARGING for the software and inserting links via noscript! And we aren't talking $15 a month.
</script><noscript><a href="http://www.clicktracks.com/"><img src="https://stats1.clicktracks.com/cgi-bin/ ctasp-server.cgi?i=CODE&g=1" alt="Web Analytics" border=0></a></noscript>
Hmm.. It seems every person running the hosted version of Clicktracks is linking to Clicktracks' homepage with the alt text "Web Analytics". Once again I reiterate, I'm an idiot for not seeing the link.
The Rankings for Web Analytics
While not the most popular term by far, it has to be pretty valuable to a company such as Clicktracks. I also concur that these hidden links aren't the only factor attributing to their rankings; however, the links definitely aren't hurting.
Even with my limited knowledge of tracking, I'm positive there is not a functional reason for the link to Clicktracks.com. The image yes, but the links serve only Clicktracks' internal SEO goals. I've found no mention of these links in the TOS, which makes me feel Clicktracks is deceiving every single user of their hosted services.
From mom & pop businesses all the way to public corporations.
That's for you to decide. For me, I'm still trying to decide whether I can trust Clicktracks after this little stunt, and of course trust is number one when you're deciding about a hosted analytics program.
Am I blowing this out of proportion?