Next Level Marketing pioneers a new way of first-party data collection and advertising in the wake of Google's announcement to sunset Universal Analytics in place of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). (Graphic: Business Wire)
November 17, 2022: MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Take it from someone who has been working with Google algorithms since Google considered calling themselves “Backrub”- times are changing.
It’s no secret that companies across the globe are being held to more stringent standards as it pertains to online data privacy. With sweeping directives like the GDPR and ever-evolving iOS updates, more and more online platforms are using this forcing function to make the shift towards protective policies that impact collection of personally identifiable information (PII).
Now, the godfather of all online data collection, Google, is following suit with it’s rollout of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). On July 1, 2023, Google will be permanently sunsetting Universal Analytics for GA4 to take its place as the primary source of truth for event-based and parameter data collection. But what does that mean for the future of websites and online advertising? What does that mean for your business? Let’s get into it.
Preparing for the Shift To Google Analytics 4
The shift away from Universal Analytics (UA) in 2023 is not optional. When the term “sunset” is used, that’s just a gentle way of saying that on that date, UA will no longer be processing data on websites, period. Only a small handful of agencies specialize in the intensive measurement strategy and setup of GA4, one of them being Next Level Marketing. Founded and operated by visionary CEO, Michael Tate, Next Level saw the unique opportunity in this disruptive shift and how it could actually lend itself to giving clients a competitive edge in the future of cookie-less advertising if tackled proactively.
Tate was quick to set up GA4 for all Next Level Marketing clients to run parallel with Universal Analytics, knowing that the lag in data collection that would come from waiting would be detrimental not only to his clients, but to the agency. A veritable “OG” in the world of Google advertising, Michael Tate was one of the first 50 people in the world to become Google Ads certified back in 2004, and yes, he was also in the game when Google was still planning to brand themselves as “Backrub”.
Around this time last year when the GDPR, CCPA laws, and ePrivacy regulations were all over the news, Tate was approached by the Department of Justice to counsel a team of 20+ lawyers about how Google and Facebook collect data online. His subject matter expertise also landed him in the Wall Street Journal in 2002 in an article pertaining to Google click fraud. It’s this expertise that also pioneered Next Level Marketing’s groundbreaking Measurement Strategy and Setup offerings for clients new and old, allowing businesses to feel confident in the data they collect and rest assured that they are in compliance with these new and complex ePrivacy laws.
With proper website and GA4 setup and segmentation, you can get an in-depth understanding of what influences your KPIs. Drive more conversions by pinpointing the performance type for each conversion channel as well as the content or marketing campaign that is working best for specific product/service advertisement delivery methodologies.
ePrivacy Laws, Cookies, and Your Business
It’s important to set up and configure your analytics to work as hard as you do, but there’s also something more insidious at play when we talk about the future of cookie-less advertising. As a parallel, let’s look at the online ADA compliance movement that was making headlines last year.
In what feels like an overnight change, every single website was subject to prosecution under new accessibility laws guided by the ADA. From one day to the next, companies big and small were being slapped with lawsuits for non-ADA-compliant websites, and many of these business owners weren’t even aware that these laws were passed. Imagine being a small business owner, waking up to a legal notice about a non-compliant website, and suddenly facing punitive fines that could bring you and your company to its knees.
You’ll notice that no major lawsuits have been filed against regular businesses for these new ePrivacy laws… yet.
Setting up GA4 with a comprehensive measurement strategy with conversion events relevant to your business will not only avoid a huge lag in data collection, but will also allow you to navigate confidently through recent changes in cookie policies and privacy regulations without affecting the performance of any mission-critical applications on your website.
More Than Just a New Analytics Platform
GA4 is where the data resides, but how it gets there makes all the difference. This is where the importance of server-side tracking through Google Tag Manager (GTM) as well as a private cloud service come into play. When GA4 was initially rolled out, it was done in parallel with updates to GTM and Google Cloud to allow that first party data collection in the first place. This works in perfect synergy with platforms like Big Query, to act as a data clean room of sorts that is used in conjunction with the data collected through GA4.
How is this all of this first party data used? It can be used to understand everything from traffic trends to individual user behavior patterns, and perhaps the most exciting application, to calculate offline conversions and deploy more accurate customer match lists. Offline conversions answer the million dollar question: A user comes to your site, engages with it, clicks around… What happens after that? Offline conversions allow a deeper understanding of user behavior after the online conversion occurs, allowing you to “feed the machine” of Google with information about your encounter with these customers after they clicked.
By feeding Google information such as “how much was this conversion actually worth once this customer entered my pipeline?” and using a relatively simple mathematical equation to tell Google precisely how much your conversion values are, you can provide significantly more thorough information to guide Google’s algorithm in understanding which demographics and user behavior patterns to target. And yes, all of this can be done with first-party, compliant, and clean data collected from server side tracking through GA4.
The bottom line is, in order to migrate to a cookie-less setup, GA4 setup is just the beginning. Staying compliant is more than just an effort to avoid being sued or potentially shut down by online advertising platforms. There is incredible power in owning your own first party data. The reason businesses need cookie consent acceptance on their website in the first place is they don’t control their data. Although they are theoretically tracking it for only their use, there’s no way to know or control of what a third party might do with it. When you control your data with server side tracking, you can avoid getting caught in ad blockers, and be in the drivers seat when it comes to making informed data-driven decisions.
GA4 Setup and Measurement Strategy With Next Level Marketing
The future of data strategy is now. Next Level Marketing’s comprehensive analytics and value-added reports empower your marketing and IT teams to ensure accuracy, establish the right benchmarks for resource planning, and offer an informed course of action for the future of your business in a cookie-less world.
Next Level Marketing is an industry-leading Google Premier Partner Agency leading the movement towards data-driven and ePrivacy compliant advertising. Their comprehensive Measurement Strategy and Setup program not only offers proper setup of GA4, but also server side tracking, segmentation and analysis, measurement frameworks, and world class digital marketing consultation.
Leverage the power of offline conversions, enhanced conversions, and the (legal) harvesting of your own first-party data to inform mission-critical decisions for your business. The most notable difference in GA4 is the shift from “session-based” tracking to “event-based” tracking. This allows a new level of insight into the user journey that goes beyond what a user does in a single session on your website (i.e. coming to your site, browsing around, and then leaving). The power of GA4 and measurement frameworks allow you newfound visibility into specific interactions (or events) that occur throughout your site and the customer journey.
As privacy laws are updated, it is more important than ever to make sure your business is prepared. Next Level Marketing is leading the pack in making the shift to GA4, and they can help you do the same. With their experience and expertise, you can be confident that your data will be collected and processed in a way that complies with the latest updates to privacy laws, and contributes the most actionable insights to your digital marketing initiatives. Don't risk the future of your business - contact Next Level Marketing today for more information.