The new Google Analytics 4 – Big change for marketers?

Think web traffic analysis, and most would first think of Google Analytics – the golden standard for the category for years. Starting out as a very simple system capable of measuring visits to your site, the tool has come a long way. Since its tumultuous acquisition from Urchin – adding new features, more ways to measure interactions with websites, and more options to measure activities beyond visits.

So why did Google Analytics become so popular?

(How popular? Staggering 29,134,826 live websites use Google Analytics).
The primary reason is that it was simple. There was very little that you could do wrong. With only one way to set it up according to the documentation, predefined reports, and very limited options to customize the data collected. Which was a great approach at the time – because wherever you go, no matter the client – the reports were standardised with the same methodology. Everything was based on sessions – what your visitor does on your site with additional information like source and medium, UTM tags, device information. But the internet has moved on, and ‘simple’ is simply not enough anymore.

Google Analytics 4

 

Why it is not enough in today’s world?

Web technologies and the way web users interact with websites have advanced and transformed. Today’s websites are more interactive – you land on a page, and there are hundreds of different ways to interact with it, all while staying on the same page. And in order to know what your users are doing, you need to deploy better tracking based on actions, or events, that users are doing, producing. There is a need for a better approach.

 

The innovation by Google is already old news

The truth is that event-based measurement isn’t anything new. It’s been a standard in mobile apps and other client-facing software products for a while and it’s only now entering the mainstream in web analytics. Google had actually released event-based tracking last year, but it was at best a beta release that still kept Google lagging far behind.

The event-based approach looks to move away from the inefficiencies of ‘sessions’ by logging every action of a user on a website and creating a comprehensive timeline of each and every event acted out to the user, no matter how long their interactions are. Then, by using the correct questions an analyst would be able to create more comprehensive and precise reports. Google may have just woken up to this, while the world has already realised and implemented it.

 

How others (and us) are doing that

Event-based analytics has already been implemented by most of the market, while only a minority still uses reports similar to Google analytics. The infrastructure and processing of large amounts of data have become easier and cheaper than ever before, so more vendors are able to do it on the scale. And in today’s market where customers expect a great experience using your products or your touchpoints, it’s imperative to utilise their event-based data through technologies like CDPs to deliver just that – a customised, precise & personal method of marketing to your customers.

 

The problem with centralized measurement

The other concern about Google Analytics 4 is that it is still centralized – deployed using Google Tag Manager and the data collected being sent to centralized locations. Which makes it incredibly easy for browsers like Safari or Firefox to find cookies and tracking scripts on your site in customer’s browsers and limit them or block them. This problem is here to stay, and even the latest iteration of Google Analytics doesn’t seem to have a solution to it.

 

What is the future

The new push for more responsible measurement of customer’s interactions with your website (GDPR, PDPA, Safari’s ITP, Firefox’s Strict Content Filtering) is all to solve for one problem – centralized tracking. Where data is collected by one big player – and the problems that such a monopoly can bring with it. You know what they say about absolute power…
That’s the potential position Google is in right now – they have a script measuring web traffic on millions of sites, making it easy to create rich profiles of visitors, and knowing their complete web browsing history. And that could be dangerous.

Compare it with a tracking system hosted and maintained just by one entity. Imagine you’re a bank and you are only interested in customers and their actions on your site. With decentralized solutions (like Meiro), only you would be tracking your customers, not Google. With a data collection backend running on your domain and a sensible tracking script, you would be able to collect more complete and precise data, while NOT sharing it with anyone else. In short, the option most marketers need is a measurement tool that gets the job done – without leaving any doubts to ever worry about.

 

What should you do?

With great power comes great responsibility. Now that Google is throwing away a whole paradigm and introducing a new one, analysts will have to first endure the learning curve and deal with a universe of options of getting their events-based analysis wrong. A good idea would be to create a new account with Google Analytics 4 and run the tracking of the old and new Google Analytics at the same time – comparing data, and refining and tweaking how it is collected, to make sure that the new version is set up correctly. But if you’re going to be migrating to this new approach, it might actually be a better idea to consider a more developed and precise tool for web analytics and customer data collection. Our suggestion – don’t get boxed in with Google Analytics just because everyone else is – look around and do your research, there are several options that perform better.

 

How can we help?

At Meiro, we’ve spearheaded event-based tracking for years, from the very beginning of our company (it’s pretty much the whole point of our CDP). We create a complete timeline of each individual customer, not only with data from your website but blended from your app and any other first-party data you already have and what you know about the customer. All with you, and only you control your data. We dare to say that Google is only now catching up with us!

But as with any analytics, the proof is in the pudding. We’ve helped clients tap the potential of event-based tracking and channel it to improve their customer offerings. Want to see how Meiro CDP matches up with your current analytics? We’d be happy to put it to the test! Let’s talk!

If this article got you thinking, get in touch!

Pavel Bulowski

CMO | Co-Founder Pavel stands behind all the smooth operations and business growth. You would run into him in the queue at airports rather than in one place. Besides that, he enjoys chess, boxing, and history.
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