Analytics at a Turning Point

Jason Sumner. Jason is a white man with very short dark hair, a short beard and glasses. He is wearing a light jacket and shirt. Jason Sumner | 25 Jun 2024
An infographic taken from Google Analytic's home page

Google replaced Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4 on July 1st

With Google replacing Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4 on July 1st, it’s a good time to re-consider your approach to website visitor data. Jason Sumner of Bowen Craggs spoke to analytics expert Brian Clifton, Senior Consultant for Search Integration, about the key decision factors and the alternatives. 

JS: Google’s Universal Analytics will go at the end of June. Why not just transition to the next evolution of the product, Google Analytics 4? What makes now the right time to think about changing? 

BC: The obvious choice is to get on board with Google Analytics 4, but that’s quite a shift from what went before. GA4 is a complete change of thinking from Google and requires quite an investment in terms of retooling your website and re-education of users. It’s not simply a UI upgrade or a few extra features. People are asking themselves, “If I’m going to make this kind of effort, what other products are out there?” There are more niche products that cater for certain areas, and they are blossoming. People are looking at those tools with fresh eyes and thinking, OK, why not? 

JS: What are the big considerations if you make the leap away from Google? 

BC: It makes no sense to throw away 10 to 15 years of knowledge about Google and how it works just because you don’t like Google’s new approach or the way the reports are built. There needs to be good reasons. Two of these are: the use of ad technology to measure website performance and privacy from a European perspective. 

If you are interested in what happens when someone lands on your website; and what they do on your site; conversions; how long they stay there, what they like, what they don’t like; the friction points; that is website analytics. Google Analytics is no longer that. Google Analytics is now an integrated part of Google’s advertising and marketing ecosystems. 

Typically, an organisation also considers moving away from Google because it realises there is friction between the ad tech system, consumer trust and with European data protection privacy laws. It comes down to that – are you comfortable with the privacy implications, and with your visitors being tracked beyond your website? 

Why not have a site analytics tool that helps optimise the website instead of an ad or marketing tool that is built for pushing data around Google’s ecosystem? 

JS: How about Adobe? 

BC: Adobe is an alternative if you are a US company. It is not an alternative if you are a European company that wants to get a grip over the governance of its data. Adobe is essentially very similar to Google Analytics 4 in terms of its data collection. It is based in the US and has its own advertising ecosystem. It’s basically a direct competitor to Google. If you are tightly embedded with online advertising, then it makes sense to want an analytics tool that is strongly integrated with that. So that’s the benefit of working with Google and Adobe. 

JS: What are the other alternatives? 

BC: At the enterprise level, there isn’t a lot of choice. The main competitors in this space are Piwik Pro, a Polish company. There is Matomo, a New Zealand based company, but are considered equivalent in terms of data privacy from a European point of view, and have strong data privacy protection laws. You have Snowplow, which is a UK company. That however is a very different type of tool. Essentially data collection and warehousing – you will need to build your own data architecture and build reports yourself. 

Those are the ones that tick the box for providing web analytics, being European based or equivalent in terms of data privacy, and not trying to be an ecosystem for selling ads. 

JS: Some digital managers we know are so frightened about privacy and data laws that they have dropped analytics altogether. Can you get by without it?  

BC: I can’t imagine any company surviving in the 21st century without data. Less scrupulous competitors will simply have too big of an advantage. So the question becomes where else is that data going to come from? If you remove analytics from your website, you are basically left with click-through data from ad platforms and referral sites. You’d have to contact every platform and every site that links to you and ask how many clicks did you send us this month? No one has time for that laborious task. 

JS: What happens if you end up with different analytics tools in the same organisation? 

BC: The nightmare scenario is you have multiple tools that do pretty much the same thing. Producing conflicting numbers for the same action causes a nightmare, because which number is true? The result is that trust in the data becomes eroded. Different tools for different activities is fine. For example, analytics to a web designer is different to someone managing the hosting of a website versus someone working in marketing, corporate comms or HR. However, to maintain trust in your data so that it is actually used to make decisions and take action, use one tool as the source of truth. 

For more information about Brian Clifton and Search Integration visit For more information about Bowen Craggs, visit