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  • Writer's pictureDavid Pop

Google Killed Data Analysis for SMEs

Google Killed Data Analysis for SMEs blog post cover photo by enaks

Since the end of H1 and early H2 of 2023, marketers and data analysts have undergone a significant shift in data processing and user behavior analysis. Google has officially mandated that all UA users migrate to GA4. Humans, in general, are resistant to change and hesitant to explore unfamiliar territories, and marketers are no exception when it comes to moving from their favorite tools to an unknown tool.

It has been observed that GA4 still needs to deliver on many of its promises. Besides GA4, Google has discontinued many of its free tools, which made it easier for marketers to access their data and analyze it effectively. The free A/B testing tool and Google Optimize, is no longer available. Google Ads now has new limits, which make it difficult for small and medium-sized businesses to meet their budget and access advanced targeting. Google has introduced new data privacy regulations, forcing businesses to adapt once again. Furthermore, the new SGE promised by Google is still a mystery. These recent actions by Google have led to doubts about their initiative and support for small and medium-sized businesses.

The ongoing campaign against small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has caused a lot of headaches for most business owners and marketers. However, many businesses are still unaware of the implications of these changes and restrictions. Most of them will only realize the consequences at the end of the fourth quarter of 2024.

This article discusses the challenges faced by Google and provides practical examples for overcoming them. We have included some possible outcomes that could alter the current state of marketing. By being aware of these changes, you can stay ahead of the curve and have ample time to adapt and prepare.

Google Analytics Universal (UA) vs GA4

Before GA4, we had two options: Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360. The difference? One tool was for free, while the other tool cost you $140,000 a year. 

I had the chance to work with both in my early years as a marketer. The only client that had the budget for Google Analytics 360 was a big beauty brand from France. 

The paid version of Google Analytics provided a significant advantage for marketers in terms of speed. With Google Analytics 360, users could combine more than two dimensions at once, making it easier and faster to identify gaps and anomalies. While this was a huge benefit for large corporations, small companies, and SMEs could still compete if they had an experienced data analyst on their team. It did require more time to export multiple dimensions, Excel skills to clean and restructure data, and data modeling experience to perform correlations. However, it was still possible to compete with larger companies on a budget. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case with the way big corporations like google are pushing their limits.

This democratization of data is now challenged by the new limitations imposed by Google.

goole support document about google analytics 4 and

Source: Google Support 

Despite common misconceptions, the transition to GA4 wasn't mandated for all. Google Analytics 360 users, for example, continue under their existing frameworks. This exception, however, highlights the broader push towards GA4, impacting most SME marketers and owners directly.

GA4 InterFace Palm 

Upon transitioning to GA4, users are immediately met with a challenging interface. The user interface is difficult to understand and not user-friendly, which makes it challenging for experienced users as well as CEOs who are managing their own data and have limited experience with data analysis. The GA4 interface is complex and harder to navigate, with many limitations that slow down gap analysis and make the experience frustrating.

Creating a custom report allows you to change the default user face. However, building a personalized dashboard using custom reports can make you feel inadequate and raise questions about your expertise in Google Analytics and data modeling. 

I used to like Google Analytics, but now I find it impractical for marketers due to speed and data analysis issues. Fortunately, there are other analytical tools available as alternatives to GA4 that can save you a lot of time. One such tool is Plausible, which has an excellent user interface and data modeling capabilities. With Plausible, you don't need technical expertise to perform data analysis, and the tracking setup is user-friendly and easy to integrate with your CMS. However, if you're a Webflow user, it might require some technical expertise, but it's still manageable. 

Although Plausible has very few elements that remind you of the old UA, the one thing that makes this tool my number one choice is its easy integration for tracking and its simple data analysis and navigation through user behavior data.

GA4 Dimension Default Set Is A Waste Of Time and Misleading

The design philosophy behind many digital products is to accommodate both novice and expert users. However, this is not the case with GA4. The default mode is highly inadequate and insufficient, making it virtually useless for any user, novice or experienced. You are limited to certain dimensions in the default acquisition report, making it difficult to extract insights quickly. To get the same experience as UA, you have to dive deep into custom reporting.

When you finish creating your custom report, you will notice that GA4 has a limited time frame for data processing. By default, GA4 only processes data for the past 2 months. To change this, you will need to go to the Admin section and set the data processing time to 12 months. This can pose a challenge for data analysts or medium-sized companies with a rich customer purchase history. 

The time frame for collecting and analyzing data is limited, which can restrict the amount of data you can access. While Google can have access to your data, you cannot. Therefore, marketers need to find ways to keep track of this data. The first instinct is to manually report in an Excel file and keep track of historical data. However, this method is not very efficient. Another option is to use an alternative tool to GA4 and store the data there. However, other tools also have limitations when it comes to data processing and modeling.

Data collection limits

The free version of Google Analytics 4 comes with specific restrictions regarding the collection of event parameters and user characteristics, as outlined below:

  • Each property is limited to 50 custom metrics and dimensions.

  • A maximum of 30 conversions is allowed per property.

  • Data and all calculated metrics are retained for a maximum of 14 months.

Additionally, Google Analytics does not support complete data anonymization. This raises concerns because Google utilizes this data for its advertising purposes. To minimize the risk of sharing personal data or personally identifiable information (PII) with Google Analytics, Google advises employing at least a SHA256 hashing requirement. Nevertheless, under GDPR, even hashed data is considered personal data, necessitating explicit consent from visitors for its collection and processing. This could lead to a considerable loss of data, as 30-70% of visitors may decline to consent to data tracking.

Data Restrictions and EU User Loss 

Google has recently made some changes to the way data consent banners and systems are handled. While this is a great development for users, it is not good news for small and medium-sized businesses in Europe who may not have the technical expertise to comply with these new regulations. The way Google has managed this transition has raised some questions, as they seem to be recommending and suggesting only a few options, mainly large corporations, for businesses to use to comply with data privacy concerns.

However, we won't promote these big corporations as our mission is to empower and serve SMEs and contribute to maintaining a fair, transparent, and equal chance in the free market that we believe in and support. 

Those who opt for a custom banner have a bit more work to do, but it's not impossible to transition and be compliant with data privacy concerns. It just takes a bit of extra effort compared to moving forward with the suggested recommendations.

Google is pushing for an unfair game in the A/B testing platform market too

It has come to light that Google is promoting an unfair game in the A/B testing platform market. Previously, Google Optimize was a great product that allowed businesses and marketers to improve their A/B testing by providing an easy-to-use and free platform. Unfortunately, Google Optimize is no longer available, and instead, Google recommends a list of big enterprises that charge a significant amount of money for their products. This means that small businesses need to pay if they want to conduct A/B testing on their websites or digital products, similar to data consent systems. 

Back to the future era in Marketing - What’s next? 

As we move forward, we can expect to see increased restrictions from various sources, but every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and marketers are already finding solutions to overcome these challenges.

As we move towards an era of limited accessibility to customer data, how can we still gain insights about our audience?

Companies are already moving back to old marketing methodologies and approaches that were prevalent prior to the digital marketing era. 

Market research will receive more attention than before, and it will make sense for companies to conduct customized consumer behavior research. Data processing and modeling will also be restricted in terms of knowledge and technical capabilities, which may require small and medium-sized companies to seek help from professionals with expertise in market research & data modeling. 

The future of marketing will belong to those who can combine their knowledge of traditional-style marketing approaches with current technological trends and tools. While there will be challenges along the way, the future looks more competitive than ever. Prepare, adapt, harvest! 


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