Forced conversion, GDPR, UA, GA4 & Matomo: Key questions about Google Analytics

Forced conversion, GDPR, UA, GA4 & Matomo: Key questions about Google Analytics

Doing nothing is not an option: On 1 July 2023, Google is discontinuing Analytics. Online marketers are faced with a decision: Google Analytics 4 vs Matomo.

So, what is “Universal” Analytics again – and what is Google Analytics “4”?

Good old Google Analytics has in reality always referred to Google “Universal” Analytics (UA). However, the middle name only became known when the successor came into play. And it is called “Google Analytics 4” (GA4).

When will Google Universal Analytics be “discontinued”?

In March 2022, Google announced that Google Universal Analytics (UA) will no longer collect data beginning on 1 July 2023. This means that anyone who has not implemented another analytics solution by then will be flying blind. But you will still be able to view the data collected in Universal Analytics before 1 July 2023 for at least another six months – and save it if necessary.

But won’t the Google Universal Analytics 360 paid version continue to exist

Theoretically, yes. In practice, however, this premium version costs – at least – 135,000 euros until 1 July 2024. No, we’re not kidding!

Can you simply update from Google Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?

No. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Google Analytics 4 is an entirely new programme that collects data in a completely different way. That’s why it has to be completely re-integrated. (Specifically: In the Google Marketing Platform, create a Google Analytics 4 property next to the property for UA and then integrate the code snippet belonging to this GA4 property into the page header of the website to be analysed. Or in the Google Tag Manager. Depending.)

Google does offer an assistant for migrating from UA to GA4. But it can’t migrate much more than the user administration. Most conversion goals have to be set up again. Even the old measurement data from Google Universal Analytics is only suitable to a very limited extent for (previous year) comparisons with the new measurement data from Google Analytics 4. Because very basic values, such as “session duration”, are collected in a completely different way in GA4 and are therefore – in the truest sense of the word – “incomparable”.

Doesn’t it then make sense to simply switch to Matomo or something similar?

Possibly. Because you have to implement a completely new programme anyway. And the difference between UA and GA4 is greater than the difference between UA and Matomo. Strange but true. And it gets even weirder: although GA4 is the better analytics programme, Matomo may be the better solution. But more on that in a moment.

How GDPR-compliant are Google Analytics 4 and Matomo?

It depends on the settings. With the right setup (your own server, anonymisation of IP addresses, etc.), Matomo is very GDPR-compliant. This is more difficult with Google Analytics 4. (Keyword: “Schrems II”).

Also, Matomo is an open-source application – and Google is an often condemned data leech. So, in the event of doubt, sympathies are likely to be unequally distributed.

Google Analytics 4: Advantages

Plug & Play at its best: GA4 already provides an entire range of highly interesting information in the “factory setting”. For example, whether a user has scrolled the page. Or whether he has downloaded something, whether he has started a video – and if so, how long he watched it. Another advantage of Google Analytics 4 is that Google wants to gradually equip it with more and more artificial intelligence and machine learning. And that, as we know, is quite in vogue at the moment.

Google Analytics 4: Disadvantages

Aside from the data protectionists, GA4 has another natural enemy: ad blockers. Because they have taken a good shot at the Google application. All in all, in case of doubt, up to 50% (!) of the visitors can’t be measured at all.

What are the advantages of Matomo?

Ad blockers are much less resistant to Matomo. And if you use it without cookies, you don’t even have to ask for active consent. So, the bottom line is that Matomo provides a much more accurate picture of absolute visitor numbers.

What are the disadvantages of Matomo?

The information mentioned (user has scrolled, videos viewed, etc.) can also be sourced via Matomo. However, it has to be set up manually. This can go wrong – which then leads to meaningless measurements.

Matomo vs Google Analytics 4: Which is better?

It depends on what you intend to do. If you run an online shop or pursue a sophisticated strategy for the entire customer journey, then the ready-to-use GA4 makes a lot of sense. But the fact that a notable segment of users is not even measured is a pretty big problem. As is the data protection issue.

So if you mainly need an overview of how many users are on your website and for how long, you can sleep soundly with Matomo for the time being.

Are there other analytics tools?

Yes, for example PiwikPro and Fathom. And, of course, they also have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Any further questions?

We will be happy to answer all your questions regarding Matomo and Google Analytics: CONTACT.

Christoph Eichholz

Christoph Eichholz

Consultant Digital