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The decade-long joyride of Google’s Universal Analytics (UA or GA3) is coming to an end, to the dismay of many e-businesses and website owners. This is set to take place on the 1st of July 2023, and as required, businesses must find solutions to fulfil their web analytics needs elsewhere prior to this.
For website owners, there are two options. Switch to Google's alternative, GA4, or use third-party analytics software to take care of their web analytics needs.
What is more alarming about this situation is that many entry-level users are not aware of the difference between these two solutions. This means they do not see a need to switch.
This article provides information needed to prepare for GA3's inevitable decline, why it is going away, what its replacement (GA4) offers, and how third-party software could be more useful.
Since Google announced GA4 in 2020, it has been assumed that GA3 is ending due to the new technology. While this is a valid reason, the actual decision to abandon GA3 is much more compulsory than voluntary.
The primary reason Google is replacing UA with the new GA4 is the need to meet new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements. The GDPR Scherms II, which is a 2020 verdict by the CJEU, plays an important role in this new development.
Google's targeted ads were deemed illegal as the use of user data was a form of privacy infringement. This law is in effect today, and Google does not have the will to collect and store user data as it cannot make use of them.
This may translate to bad news for marketers, but Google's GA4 is optimised for this new GDPR regime. There are claims that GA4 even offers a better user experience than Universal Analytics. However, to what extent are these true and useful to a business?
GA4 offers the chance to stay within the web analytics ecosystem and improve business performance. It will allow better insights into user data, user journeys, and events. It comes with improved visualisations, reporting, and data validation.
Most website owners choose between GA3 or GA4. While only a small number make use of these two solutions simultaneously, and for good reasons.
In reality, the challenges faced with GA4 outweigh these assurances from Google. So what are these downsides?
GA4 features a complicated user interface and people are bound to face a steep learning curve to get the hang of it. Terminologies that users have grown accustomed to throughout the years of UA have either been given new functions, renamed, or even boycotted entirely. These changes also apply to reports and metrics that are important to businesses..
One thing to be thankful for is Google's notice before a forced switch to GA4. Although users could start to get used to the new changes, would it not be better to use an intuitive platform?
Termed to be an advantage, "easier events and conversion tracking", may be more of a downside to the new G4A than initially thought.
Rather than tracking overall goals that define a business' success, it is made to track specific interactions or "events" that are user-defined as conversions. These events could be interactions with buttons or web forms and could mean anything.
Obviously, the website owner has control over what is defined as success, as their current goals deem fit. An example of a successful conversion is a simple visit to a web page.
On the contrary, these minor metrics could have a whole lot of other meanings, and require extra attention. For instance, a visit to a blog page may be a success or just a part of the conversion funnel to buying a product. Therefore understanding how to read the metric is imperative, and sometimes this can be confusing.
Web analytics is all about getting the most out of the data collected from activities on a website. How far can this go, if the data is inaccessible?
GA4 removes historical data aged over 14 months, no matter how important it could be in the future. Another downside is that the current data compiled within Universal Analytics cannot be migrated to GA4. The new platform is not designed to accommodate this.
Considering all these major drawbacks brings up the question; is GA4 really about an improved user experience or does it just offer protection against GDPR sanctions?
In Google's blog post on GA4, a rather uneven focus on enterprises leaves small businesses and websites pondering about their fate. These small businesses are the majority of GA3 users, and they are now being put in a difficult situation.
If this is too much of a hassle, then there are definitely other solutions.
Regardless of how Google has tried to stay within regulations, the latest ruling by the Austrian Data Protection Authority (DSB) states that Google still violates GDPR. Dutch authorities are treading the same path as Austrian authorities, and many countries may follow suit.
What is the solution? There are third-party web analytics software tools that give more than GA4. These are more compliant with the latest GDPR standards and unsurprisingly, more user-friendly than Google's new solution.
These tools are not using user data for targeted ads, but rather just present reliable solutions to collect, store, and enable the use of data from websites in any way.
In light of this, it is best to be careful which of the third-party web analytics tools are chosen for use. Depending on the size of a business, illegal web analytics practice can be hit with a fine of up to $20 million.
For people is recommended.
Alongside compliance with the latest GDPR standards, an intuitive user interface, and the removal of cookie consent that could annoy website visitors. With this solution, user activities are tracked like outbound clicks and merch orders in real-time, with both goal and event tracking functionalities.
What's more, Chamalytica is building an import feature that provides the option of migrating current data from Universal Analytics.
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