Google Analytics: Preparing for life after cookies
The age of cookies as a means of tracking user behaviour is coming to an end as consumers are expecting more from big tech companies to protecting their privacy. Not many will dwell on this—those that are most affected by this shift are advertisers and marketers. For years, advertisers and marketers rely on having insights into how their advertising efforts drive conversions and sales for brands. Companies such a Google is obviously aware of this and is looking at alternatives such as machine learning to prepare for this post-cookie future. Last year, Google introduced a number of machine learning tools to their analytics platform, Google Analytics. The primary focus was on alerting advertisers and marketers to significant changes in their campaign performance but have now started using machine learning systems to model user behaviour when cookies are not available.
According to Vidhya Srinivasan, Google’s VP and GM for Ads Buying, Analytics and Measurement who joined the company after a long stint at Amazon, it’s also the only way to go.
“The principles we outlined to drive our measurement roadmap are based on shifting consumer expectations and ecosystem paradigms. Bottom line: The future is consented. It’s modelled. It’s first-party. So that’s what we’re using as our guide for the next-gen of our products and solutions,” she said in her first media interview after joining Google.
It’s still early days and a lot of users may yet consent and opt into tracking and sharing their data in some way. However, early indications are showing that this will only be a minority of users. This shift makes first-party data and the data Google can gather from users who consent becomes increasingly valuable. Google is now also making it easier to work with “consented data” and create better first-party data through improved integrations with tools like Google Tag Manager.
Last year, Google launched Consent Mode, which helps advertisers manage cookie behaviour based on local data-protection laws and user preferences. For advertisers in the EU and in the U.K., Consent Mode allows them to adjust their Google tags based on a user’s choices and soon, Google will launch a direct integration with Tag Manager to make it easier to modify and customize these tags.
With Consent Mode, Google will now use conversion modelling for users who don’t consent to cookies. Google says this can recover about 70% of ad-click-to-conversion journeys that would otherwise be lost to advertisers. In addition, Google is also making it easier to bring in first-party data (in a privacy-forward way) to Google Analytics to improve measurements and its models.
“Revamping a popular product with a long history is something people are going to have opinions about — we know that. But we felt strongly that we needed Google Analytics to be relevant to changing consumer behaviour and ready for a cookie-less world — so that’s what we’re building,” Srinivasan said. The machine learning that Google has invested in for years — that experience is what we’re putting in action to drive the modelling underlying this tech. We take having credible insights and reporting in the market seriously. We know that doing the work on measurement is critical to market trust. We don’t take the progress we’ve made for granted and we’re looking to continue iterating to ensure scale, but above all, we’re prioritizing user trust.”