Marketing without Google Analytics

June 17, 2020

Google Analytics is incredibly popular software. According to BuiltWith, 90% of the top 100,000 websites use it. And if you’re a marketer, I pretty much guarantee that stat doesn’t surprise you and that you’re using GA to make significant decisions about your website and content strategy.

And yet, Google Analytics has always been hugely more complex than most marketers need or understand. Its data is fairly reliable, but it’s really easy to misconfigure, and more and more users are blocking analytics tools. And for anything beyond standard reporting, Google Analytics reports use sampled data, which makes these reports unsuitable if you’re looking for high precision. If you’re not looking for high precision, you should also know that Google Analytics’ standard reporting is offered by lots of other tools, about which more below.

Do we still recommend Google Analytics? Of course – but we think responsible marketers should offer their customers a way to opt out of GA tracking, and we think it’s an interesting experiment, and useful, to think about marketing without Google Analytics.

Why you should make it easy for users to opt out of Google Analytics

Of course, in many countries, letting users opt out of tracking is a legal obligation – and visitors from those countries should see a cookie consent notice when they visit your site. For example, if you intend to provide services to people in the EU, you’ll need to comply with the ePrivacy Directive.

But there are a few more important reasons.

Anecdotally, we’re seeing more people object to excessive data collection, especially from Google. Users who care can easily block your tracking anyway, but by providing them a straightforward, easy way to do this, you send a signal that their privacy is important to you.

Over the long run, we think you won’t need Google Analytics, and you certainly don’t need Google Analytics data from all of your visitors. The functionality and data that GA provides is far more than is actually needed. The result is that it’s easy to spend a lot of time setting up complex reports that don’t help you make better decisions, that may not even be accurate, and that distract you from other important sources of information – like other people in your company, or customers.

We also think that Google Analytics will, over time, assume much less importance for web analytics. Already, tools that are privacy-focused (e.g. Simple Analytics, Matomo, Plausible, and Fathom) are starting to gain more traction.

Because these tools are also simpler, they’re easier to use, and in many cases they rely on underlying metrics that are easier to understand, and more reliable to collect. Now is a good time to start thinking about a post Google Analytics world, and considering what you really need from your web analytics.

Javascript to easily let your visitors opt out

We’ve written some JavaScript to make it easy to allow your visitors to opt-out of Google Analytics tracking. This code:

  • Provides a text link that, when clicked, disables Google Analytics tracking on your site, for the visitor who clicked the link
  • Stores that preference in a cookie so that when a visitor returns, Google Analytics stays disabled
  • Allows your user to turn Google Analytics back on, if they want

Conclusion

For the moment, Google Analytics is still an important part of the marketing toolkit for most marketers. But its downsides should be recognized – in addition to data privacy issues, Google Analytics makes it easy to get lost in complex reporting that doesn’t add value to your marketing efforts. Give your users a way to easily opt out, and we recommend giving some thought to how you’ll market in a post-Google-Analytics world, too.


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