Google Analytics is changing, and people are not happy about it. On 16th March 2022, Google announced that it would be abandoning Universal Analytics by 1st July 2023, forcing everyone to make a switch to Google Analytics 4. As of today, marketers have less than 14 months to make this switch – from 1st July, Google Universal Analytics will stop processing any data.
Why is Google Ending Universal Analytics?
For most people in the industry, this change was expected – it’s been in the making for quite a while, with Google attempting to transition from session-based tracking to user- and event-based tracking. Another major reason for this change is the demise of third-party cookies. With its latest policies, Google is trying to focus solely on its users (as it should).
One other reason for this rapid shift is because of Google’s five-billion-dollar lawsuit which accuses the company of invading user privacy by collecting sensitive data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps – regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.
Google promises that GA4 is the better alternative for users’ privacy, stating: “It helps businesses meet evolving needs and user expectations, with more comprehensive and granular controls for data collection and usage. Importantly, Google Analytics 4 will also no longer store IP addresses. These solutions and controls are especially necessary in today’s international data privacy landscape, where users are increasingly expecting more privacy protections and control over their data.”
Moreover, with a plethora of data from Chrome browsers, in-app and on-site tracking, and tonnes of first-party user data, Google is pitching itself as a one-stop user-tracking store. Google states that the reason for this change is the irrelevance of a few modules in Universal Analytics: “It was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.”
What is the Difference Between Universal Analytics and GA4 Analytics?
You may be asking yourself, “what is actually changing?” The short answer: EVERYTHING. Everything from the interface to reports will be significantly different.
- Event-based tracking – Marketers will no longer be able to see a customer’s journey but only the events i.e., the elements they directly interact with. Event-based tracking gives more specific insights into user behavior, but tracking the customer journey has benefits that this feature cannot replace.
- Historical Data – The end of GUA also means you’ll no longer have access to your businesses’ historical data – a huge drawback of this change.
- Data Retention – In GA3, there was an option to track data for days with the option of “do not automatically expire”. But when it comes to GA4, marketers can retain data for at least two months, and a maximum of 14 months, which is ineffective. How will marketers be able to compare data across a longer period? This may well be the most off-putting change.
- Custom Metrics – In GA4, you will no longer be able to divide the scope of your data into the categories of “hit” or “product”. By default, the scope of customisation will be limited to “events”. This further limits the insights that your data can provide.
- IP Anonymization – In an effort to comply with GDPR rules, this version of Google Analytics will not track users’ IP addresses, which will make geographic tracking much more difficult.
Why Do People Dislike GA4 Analytics?
With so many new features, why do people dislike GA4? One important reason is the unintuitive user interface. Another is the fact that GA4 is good for basic analytics but does not perform well when it comes to big data queries.
Google failed to come up with a solution that suits both businesses and users and, in an attempt to make the platform simpler and more accessible, it has moved away from hardcore data analytics. With every policy change that makes it more user-oriented, it’s losing the trust of businesses. While it is essential to protect user safety, new policies should also consider the perspective of businesses. It is shocking that other companies are able to come up with ethical solutions to data ownership and consumer privacy while Google continues to struggle.
Until Google learns how to balance user and business needs, we as marketers should look at better alternatives that are ethical as well as useful. I have come up with a list of software to consider as an alternative to GA4:
- Piwik PRO Analytics Suit
Do you want to know how a user reached checkout from your landing page? Piwik PRO is a privacy friendly, easy to use, free alternative to Google Analytics. You don’t have to worry about any privacy lawsuits as Piwik PRO is in compliance with strict EU, US, Chinese, and Russian data protection laws, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The user interface of Piwik PRO is much simpler than Google Analytics. Through Piwik PRO, you have the sole ownership of tracking data. They even provide raw data, integrations with essential apps, event triggers, and much more, for a better analysis of your brand’s digital persona.
- HubSpot Marketing Analysis
Could HubSpot marketplace be the alternative to Google’s marketing ecosystem? Probably not, but it is undoubtedly a strong contender. All your marketing tools will be present in one powerful platform that you can rely on. You also have their free CRM tool at your disposal. HubSpot Community is useful tool to learn more about digital marketing.HubSpot Marketing Analysis has endless possibilities for customisation, and you can track all your marketing processes in one place – blogging, landing pages, social media, SEO, marketing automation and so many other activities can be handed over to HubSpot. It truly is a smart, data-driven marketing platform that every marketer must check out.
- Heap Application
This analytics software not only makes digital journeys more powerful, but it also empowers people to make business decisions with comprehensive, ethically collected data. There is a learning curve to this platform, but it’s worth it in the long run. It helps you improve customer experience and enhance product quality based on digital engagement data, and
their Event Visualizer tool makes it easy to point out specific events that you would like to be followed. Also, they have Heap University which lets you learn as you go with the support of a helpful community.
Let’s face it – nobody likes change. But this is one of those cases where we have to adapt. The likelihood of Google going back to Universal Analytics is pretty slim considering the five-billion-dollar lawsuit hanging over their heads.
It will take time to get used to GA4 or any other analytical tool you chose to go ahead with. There are many benefits of staying in the Google ecosystem, but is it worth it when the information they provide does not consider the complexities of analytics?
The Bottom line is that GA4 is not fulfilling Google’s aim of a “one-stop solution” for all your data needs. Google needs to make the process of data analytics collaborative by adding integrations with other software, and it needs to be more business oriented.