Why you should replace Google Analytics in 2023
Google Analytics has some serious privacy issues, and many people are looking for web analytics alternatives. But privacy is only one reason people want to end Google's web analytics hegemony in 2023.
My history with Google Analytics or GA dates back to 2012. I got accepted into a digital marketing education program sponsored by Google, which landed me a job in the advertising industry.
Back then, I didn't question the Google Way. I was just excited about the technology and the possibilities. I started talking in weird three-letter acronyms and raved about things like “You always need a CTA. Of course, you do. “
This is the way, I thought.
Web analytics was hardcore. You were special if you knew how to find your way around the GA maze and interpret the data. You could use the data to tell any story or amplify any agenda. No one questioned your narrative because you were data-driven, and data was the new oil.
Then a few years later, I became an entrepreneur and started building websites, and I began to care about site performance and user experience. GA was haunting me since every client wanted to use them on their websites. I made a few observations.
First, the tracker script had a visible impact on page performance which was a secondary thing for many people.
Second, installing GA seemed like a habit for many marketers and website owners. Most of my clients only looked at basic traffic information, and GA seemed too heavy for their needs. But there wasn't much competition, or people weren't aware of other viable alternatives. And I also witnessed how people wanted to install the tracker script, but they went to look at the dashboard maybe two times per year.
According to W3TECHS, 56 % of all websites use GA, which dominates the traffic analysis tool market with a 86 % market share. I would argue that using GA is still habitual, and many people don't know there are great options on the market.
In this article, I want to give a few reasons why you should ditch GA and start looking for a privacy-friendly alternative.
The end of Universal Analytics
Google will retire Universal Analytics in July 2023. This will force everyone to start using Google Analytics 4, the latest tool version.
This news was a shock for Universal Analytics users. You will lose all your historical data because Google Analytics 4 has a different data model, so you can't export your historical Universal Analytics data into GA 4. And Google doesn't offer any way to convert your historical data into a new format.
Frustrated users wanted to know why this was happening, so Google answered. I think the beginning paragraph nails it:
In today's measurement landscape, businesses need to navigate new challenges to understand the complex, multi-platform journeys of their customers — all while prioritizing user privacy.
That's a very corporate answer that doesn't really address the fears of existing GA users: all the historical website data they have been collecting over the years to build insights and intelligence will be deleted.
If you're using Universal Analytics on your website now, your options are to start using Google Analytics 4 or find another alternative. But you must start from scratch unless you choose a web analytics alternative with a GA importer.
They say it's free, but is it really?
Google Analytics has always been tempting for website owners because it's free, and you can set it up without a credit card and start collecting data. In exchange, Google gets your website data and uses it for other purposes.
According to a report by The Irish Council of Civil Liberties, Google shares information on your location and browsing habits a whopping 70 million times a day to advertisers and other third parties.
Just because money doesn't change hands doesn't mean there is no business transaction. Here, the valuable thing being exchanged is potentially more valuable than currency. It is your personal data.
Google's biggest source of revenue is ads. In October, Alphabet announced revenue of $69.1 billion in Q3 of 2022, of which $54.5 billion came from ads.
If data is the new oil, why do we give it to Google for free?
It's got privacy issues
Four EU countries - Austria, France, Italy, and Denmark being the latest - have banned the use of Google Analytics following Schrems II, a judgment issued by the European Court of Justice in July 2020.
Using an analytics tool that has been banned in democratic nations comes with serious risks.
In September, the Danish data protection authority Datatilsynet announced that Google Analytics is not compliant with the EU General Data Protection Regulation, aka GDPR.
When websites use Google Analytics to collect data, a single website visitor is given a unique identifier associated with information on user behavior and interaction with the website or what technology people use to access the website.
The authorities interpret this as personal data.
GA then transfers this data to servers in the US. The problem is that Google stores and processes data from the EU without adequate data protection, thus violating GDPR.
In my view, the biggest threat to our privacy from companies like Google, Meta, or TikTok is the mindset these mega corporations use to drive their data collection ecosystems.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, credited for inventing the Internet, was talking at Web Summit 2022, a tech conference held in Lisbon, Portugal, saying that these big tech platforms have siloed our personal data to lock us into their platforms.
Cookies are not the biggest threat to our privacy. It's just a storage technology, and there are many other ways to track people on the Internet. The real threat to our digital privacy is the mindset and the data-hoarding culture these megacorporations push forward, encouraging other companies to use technology in an unethical way and disrespect our right to digital privacy.
People have heavily critiqued Google Analytics for its UI and user experience. You know what I'm talking about if you have a history with GA.
The navigation is overly complex. There are over a hundred different kinds of views and reports, which most people don't need. For simple traffic analysis, you shouldn't have to invest time to complete a data science degree to understand what the metrics and graphs mean.
Fun fact: I know a data scientist brave enough to admit GA was too much for him. If data-savvy people struggle with GA, what does that mean for the rest of us?
I've worked in the marketing industry for +10 years, and I've seen how people silently die inside when they go to their GA dashboard. It's like the blue screen of death, but an internal one. Call it analysis paralysis.
We all know it's hard to get excited about things we don't understand or feel overly complex. What usually happens is that people install the analytics script, visit the dashboard a few times and forget about it.
Since Google introduced GA4, it has faced some serious backlash within the marketing community. People have written online about how it's challenging to use, and they need help finding basic information, such as landing page data.
Some users say they want to switch back to Universal Analytics, but we now know that's not possible.
The GA user experience is designed for large enterprises embracing large digital ecosystems’ complexities. The GA feature set is too much for small- and medium-traffic websites.
For example, Google has tried to introduce a very sophisticated attribution modeling, but websites are losing a lot of attribution data because of privacy regulations. EU is taking a strong hold on behavioral ad targeting, which means that attribution modeling doesn't make sense anymore. In other words, marketing attribution is dead.
The perfect time to reinvent web analytics
Web analytics is stuck in the past, and the market needs a disruption. Monopoly status and 86% market share eat innovation.
While there are many GA alternatives on the market, many give you a similar dashboard. They might be privacy-friendlier than GA and more straightforward with less data, but you still have to look at the numbers and do the guesswork.
GA is complex, but the solution to fix analytics can't just be a more bareboned GA with less stuff or a prettier dashboard. We need a new way to look at website data.
This frustration has led us to build Volument, the insight-led web analytics.
Our platform looks at your data and lets you know when we find something interesting or if something needs your urgent attention.
You get a dashboard where you see all the data we collect. But our Insights feed is a real game changer. You find all the insights you need to build better websites or optimize your marketing efforts in a simple updates feed. It looks like a social media feed because that's a common user experience for most of us.
Volument is privacy-friendly: EU-based and complies with GDPR, the ePrivacy Directive, CCPA, and PECR. Our tracker only collects anonymous information, and it's practically impossible to identify personas from the data we collect. Lear more about our approach to digital privacy.
Our script is super lightweight. It's only 7,28 kilobytes, so it won't slow down your website performance.
We will have a free-forever option for small- and medium-traffic websites without any hidden agenda. Our backend is exceptionally flexible, so the free tier costs us virtually nothing. Learn more about how it works.
And as a bonus, we're also building a GA import tool, which allows you to import your GA data into Volument, and our engine can crawl your data and give you some sweet insights from the past. How cool is that!
If you're ready to ditch the toxic data culture and jump from being data-driven to insight-led, sign up for Volument.