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Do you own an online store?
Do you aim to respect data privacy norms?
Did you activate your Google Analytics property before October 14th 2020? Or not at all?

Dear reader,

If your answers are “yes”, “yes” and “yes”, then you came to the right place.  If you are currently reading this article around the time it was published, keep calm for there still is time to face the « cookie apocalypse ».

cookie apocalypse title with google analytics 4 logo

User 980657439 · Cookie-Geddon: why you should switch to Google Analytics 4

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • ⚠️ Activate your Google Analytics 4 property as soon as possible ⚠️
  • Third-party cookies are dying
  • Online data privacy policies are evolving

Google Analytics helps you generate traffic reports of your website in a matter of seconds. Amongst many things, one can pull up a demographic report of the site’s users, know through which channels they landed on our website or even study how a user explored pages.

Disclaimer: this is not an illegal practice for the data is aggregated, meaning that the users’ data is dealt as a whole and anonymously. To learn more about ways to protect a business against a data breach, please consult the Office of the privacy commissioner of Canada’s website.

Universal Analytics is a leaner version made for beginners dating back to 2012 whereas Google Analytics 4, or GA4 for short, was launched in 2020 and boasts more enhanced features. See more below. However, the difference stands in the fact that Universal Analytics uses third-party cookies. Yes, that infamous personal data that a web browser saves to track an online user’s behavior online.

multiple logos: google apple meta amazon microsoft

As you may remember, Meta – named Facebook back then – was being accused of political interference in the American elections of 2016. To raise its data privacy standards, Apple published in 2017 the Intelligent Tracking Prevention, ITP for short, to rid Safari, its in-house web browser, of any third-party cookies. Google followed suit by announcing that Chrome, the web browser used by 65% of global internet users in 2021, would cease to use third-party cookies starting from 2023. This phenomenon, nicknamed the cookie-geddon or the cookie apocalypse, implies that it’ll become increasingly difficult to track campaigns and more expensive to target and retarget online shoppers. Then, the day every Silicon Valley nut was expecting came.

« Universal Analytics will become obsolete starting on July 1st 2023″, Google revealed last week to face the end of web browser cookies. From that day on, no more data will be stored in UA properties.

How to prepare for the cookie apocalypse?

1. Activate the Google Analytics 4 property as soon as possible

The earlier the GA4 property is activated, the more historical data you’ll have.

Experts suggest that you should proceed in … two years ago. If you haven’t already, chin up: if you activate it on July 1st 2022, you’ll accumulate a solid year of traffic data. Except for year-over-year comparison reports, you’ll access a decent number of features.

Data stored in a Universal Analytics property cannot be migrated towards a Google Analytics 4 property.

Also, data cannot be gathered retroactively.

This means that one cannot roll up time to save it back. This implies that data accumulates starting from the date in which you link your website, Shopify account or any e-commerce platform to your Google Analytics account.

Use Google Tag Manager to activate your Google Analytics 4 property.

You may sit back and relax as this fantastic tool enables you to avoid relying on a developer to modify your website’s code. In only 3 clicks, you can copy-paste a JavaScript tag into a box and that’s what seals the deal! Besides, you may also set up a Google Analytics 4 property alongside your existing Universal Analytics property linked to your business Google account.

2. Transition gradually towards Google Analytics 4

You won’t make the switch in the blink of an eye, for your employees and you must face Google Analytics 4’s learning curve. Leave yourself some time to know better its new interface.

For any IT project managers out there, this transition shouldn’t be implemented using the “Big Bang” adoption, but through parallel adoption. In other words, this change won’t happen overnight, but will be gradually applied over the stretch of many months with people effectively learning the new system while working on the old one. Here is an infographic:

digital transformation infographic: parallel adoption for universal analytics and google analytics 4

Finally, following the termination of Universal Analytics during the summer of 2023, Google will host your UA data for at least six months and highly recommends to export your historical reports in good time.

3. What is the difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4?

Comparison table: difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4

In short, GA4 centralizes your desktop and mobile app data in a single platform, boasts simpler metrics and events, is highly customizable, enables deeper analysis and is entirely free.

Regarding GA4’s data tracking, Colleen Burton from datadrivenu.com best describes it as “designed to work with or without cookies […] By leveraging machine learning and statistical modeling”.

One the biggest breakthroughs is the democratization of Big Query, Google’s enterprise cloud service. Back in my day, a license would cost a whopping annual sum of 150 000$ using a standard Google Analytics account. Nowadays, it is entirely free to use on a Google Analytics 4 property.

As mentioned previously, Big Query enables deeper analysis for one can export entire sets of raw data. This is a far cry from using Universal Analytics’ limited interface, which is equivalent to staring through a straw considering reports are limited to 4% of the available data most of the time.

SOURCES

Bailliache, A. (2021, February 18). Comment réussir sa transition vers Google Analytics 4. Adviso. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.adviso.ca/blog/conseils/comment-reussir-sa-transition-vers-google-analytics-4/

Burton, C. (2021, May 14). How Does Cookie-Less Tracking Work in Google Analytics 4. Data Driven U. Retrieved 24–03-24, from https://www.datadrivenu.com/google-analytics-4-cookieless/

C. (2021, November 12). Benefits of Google Analytics 4. Arke. Retrieved 22–03-24, from https://arkeagency.com/news/benefits-of-google-analytics-4/

Google Analytics Cookies & GDPR | Compliance Checklist | Cookiebot CMP. (2022, March 2). Cookiebot. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.cookiebot.com/en/google-analytics-gdpr/

Renaud, J. (2021, July 13). La fin des cookies: 3 solutions concrètes (vidéo). Adviso. Retrieved March 24, 2022, from https://www.adviso.ca/blog/cookie-apocalypse/solutions-apocalypse-cookies-video/

Statista. (2022, February 21). Global and U.S. market share of leading internet browsers 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/276738/worldwide-and-us-market-share-of-leading-internet-browsers/

Statt, N. (2020, March 24). Apple updates Safari’s anti-tracking tech with full third-party cookie blocking. The Verge. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/24/21192830/apple-safari-intelligent-tracking-privacy-full-third-party-cookie-blocking

Universal Analytics va disparaitre – Aide Google Analytics. (2022, March 16). Google Support. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/11583528?hl=en