The Future of Ad Tracking: Navigating the Google Analytics Landscape written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with Julian Juenemann

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Julian Juenemann, the founder of JJAnalytics, a company that helps businesses adopt the data-driven way of Digital Marketing.

In 2015, he launched the MeasureSchool YouTube channel to reach out and teach this new way of marketing to others. With over 150,000 subscribers, MeasureSchool has become the leading video source for many marketers to learn these data-driven methods.

Key Takeaway:

During this episode, we discuss the transition from Google Analytics to Google Analytics G4 and its significant differences from the previous version. We also learned how privacy concerns and changing data retention practices have driven the need for this transition. Additionally, we talk about how businesses need to adapt and leverage data visualization tools for better insights since AI is playing an increasing role in data analysis. However, trust in the output of such tools remains a critical issue.

Questions I ask Julian

  • [00:54] What are the differences between Google Analytics and the new Google’s platform?
  • [04:41] About this new platform, what does it do differently, and what does it do better?
  • [07:08] How does the data visualization work in this new platform?
  • [09:11] What’s the relationship between Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager?
  • [14:12] Does this new tool has any enhancements for ad tracking?
  • [16:30] Besides Google, what are some other analytics tools that you’d recommend?
  • [18:46] What’s the role of AI in analyzing Google Analytics data?

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John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Julian Juenmann. He’s the founder of JJ Analytics, a company that helps businesses adopt the data-driven way of digital marketing. In 2015, he launched the Measure School YouTube channel to reach out and teach this new way of marketing to others. And with over 150,000 subscribers today, measure School has become the leading video source for many marketers to learn these new data-driven methods. So Julian, welcome to the show.

Julian (00:44): Thank you John for having me.

John (00:46): So when I was growing up, my friends all called me jj, so I think you must have that in common as well.

Julian (00:52): Yeah, absolutely.

John (00:54): So data is one of those topics that it’s kind of like going to the dentist. Everybody knows they need to do it, but a lot of people other than you aren’t really fond of it or it feels like math class did. So let’s talk about the one that’s probably the most on especially small mid-size business minds and that’s the big switch to Google Analytics four. So let’s just start with maybe, and I’m sure you’ve had to do this a lot and we won’t go too deep into this, but what are the differences between analytics that we all knew for many years and the new platform from Google?

Julian (01:35): Yeah, sure. So Google had a platform for a long time called Google Analytics, and it was kind of built on the use case of somebody wanting to track whether somebody visits their website and the website was the use case that the platform was built upon. Obviously over the years since this was a tool that was acquired by Google in 2005 already, the use case kind of evolved because people come to your website not only via your browser but maybe also via mobile devices and maybe have different experiences than what a website actually meant in 2005. So you may be able to play a game or log in and do all kinds of operations on your website, and therefore the use case or the case that Google Analytics, the old Google Analytics was built upon was really a website focused and Google had a lot of struggles in order to incorporate any kind of other business cases on this tool.

(02:35): So along comes Google Analytics four, it’s a revamped and really new tool to Google Analytics efforts to track users and give you information about how you users behave on your website and built from the ground up a new system that changes the data around. So the biggest difference is that it’s not all about page views anymore. It’s not all about how people go from page to page, but rather it’s all about events because events can be tracked on a mobile app, but they can also be tracked on a game or on a normal website. So they call everything events. Now the model of the data has changed and then they change around the interface completely as well. So there’s a lot of new things to get used to when you first log in and switch over to GA four, but these are the biggest differences.

John (03:24): Yeah, I think that’s probably caused the most headaches for people is it’s like I can’t find anything anymore. And that’s true of really any user interface change. How much of this, in your opinion, was privacy driven with a lot of the new laws going on the books about privacy, the way that the old system tracked really was kind of coming afoul to those laws, wasn’t it?

Julian (03:46): Yeah, absolutely, and Google knew that as well. And obviously the big tech companies are under pressure from Europe here, the European Union, but also on many other privacy fronts and they kind of needed to redesign how they’re tracking data and how they hold onto the data. As you might know, Google Analytics, the old Google analytics, universal analytics allowed you to track data basically forever and held onto that data forever. Now data will be, and the raw data will be deleted after a certain data retention period and they’re built in some new mechanisms in order to make sure that you are actually able to delete certain data points from if the user requests it from your analytics data set as well. And that all drove that point home that they needed to really overhaul the system rather than just trying to make the old system work kind of within new privacy laws.

John (04:41): So I hear differing, again, there are people that complain about it not liking what it does. Now, there definitely are people that I think have gotten very deep into it to say, no, this is different, but it’s better too. How would you talk about what it does differently but also what it does better?

Julian (04:58): Yeah, luckily we kind of passed the point by now that everybody is comparing Universal

John (05:05): Analytics to

Julian (05:05): The new GA four because there was a big switch over in July of this year. So your universal analytics will not be tracking any data anymore. You can still log in, but it will not track any data anymore for you and you need to use Google Analytics for if you want to do so. And this new tool has opened up new possibilities for us. It made certain things easier to set up for somebody who might have worked with Universal Analytics. There was a lot of things that you were able to change around in the system and make it really customized to your business. And now that is kind of by design already, much of that is already built in. So for beginners, it tracks more data and makes more sense that data in the system. I would say. At the same time, it doesn’t forget that this is really a power tool.

(05:58): And so if you want to go beyond just checking how many people are coming to your website and where they’re coming from, you might want to go deeper and Google Analytics by design is not trying to be everything at once. They have also a tool of other suites around Google Analytics that let you take your own data and analyze that data and then also visualize that data. So for example, Google luas Studio is really a cool tool to be using in combination with GA four because it does all the visualizations. If you want to build a report for your clients or a dashboard for your boss, you would be able to do that through Looker Studio, not generally in GA four. So in general, I think there’s a lot of things getting used to when you first log into the system, it is a step in the right direction with everything that I see in the underlying data that we have right now, not all the bugs are out yet unfortunately, but it’s heavily under development. So Google is putting a lot of resources into it and I’m hopeful that we’ll get to a place where the fan base will be appeased again and people are not switching away from GA four.

John (07:08): So give me an example. You talked about visualizing data in Looker Studio. What would be a typical example of what you would want to visualize?

Julian (07:18): If you have ever looked into a Google Analytics for you might find it confusing, and that is something that a lot of people have that experience with. So if you really want to look up data really quickly inside of the system and have a question and know how to navigate the system a bit, then it’s probably the right bet to log into Google Analytics and try to learn that tool. But would you give that data to your client? Would you give them access to Google Analytics for or to your boss and say, oh, let’s just look at these reports way too complicated. You want to dumb it down and make it as simple as possible for them to get the insight from the data. And that’s what usually visualizations do. So with luas Studio, you can directly connect it to GA four and then pull the right data points in, for example, how many people came from certain data sources, from certain traffic sources to your website or how many users we had last week, all the questions that a marketing professional wants to ask or somebody who is a stakeholder wants to know about.

(08:19): And then really simplifying this so it drives action in the end and they will be able to make a decision on that data. That’s how you usually get an R O I on your data. You really need to make a decision upon that data and not just have it laying around as something nice to look at. And yeah, Lucas Studio is really is something cool to play around with and actually make then available to the stakeholders in a company. And the clue is

John (08:45): That

Julian (08:45): You don’t really need to give access to Google Analytics to that person because once you have the report built, anybody could have access to that report. That doesn’t actually mean that they have access to Google Analytics. So you can keep certain parts of the data away from certain parts of the business, but for example, if the marketing team needs certain reports, you could build them out for them and just share the report without any Google Analytics access.

John (09:11): So let’s throw another tool in here. What’s the relationship between Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager then?

Julian (09:19): Yeah, Google Tag Manager is a really interesting tool because previously we have these JavaScript codes that we would need to install on our website in order to have the functionality of Google Analytics and know when the users are coming through the website. Now over the years, obviously there’s not only one player but multiple players in the market that want you to install this little bit of JavaScript code that will give you more tracking or marketing functionality such as

John (09:49): CRMs.

Julian (09:50): CRMs, absolutely. And so there are more and more of these tools Now, at some point these need to be managed, and Google came out with a tool in 2011 already called Google Tag Manager, which they basically take these JavaScript tags as they’re also called and put them into one tool so you can manage them correctly. Now, the big advantage of this tool is obviously that you can deploy only one code on your website and then everything is managed through one central interface, which is also visually more appealing. And at the same time, it allows you to really customize your installation, and that’s the whole crux of Google Analytics and many other tools. If you can measure really data that is important to you as a business owner and for the outcomes that you want to drive, then you have your analytics set up really customized and can drive better results with that data because that data is then customized to your business.

John (10:49): Talk a little bit about, and I know this is a big topic, but hopefully you can simplify it for somebody who maybe doesn’t know much about it, talk about the element of events because that’s really become kind of the key element that Google Analytics four has been built around, but maybe if you were talking to somebody who knew very little about Google Analytics, how would you explain the role of what they’re calling events?

Julian (11:16): Yeah, and it’s the most powerful thing I think in the data model, the change data model that they have in GA four, previously you were describing the interactions that a user could take on your website as such as a page view that somebody did a click on, a button, a conversion or a transaction that they could trigger. Now these are all very specific to a business model. Transaction can be usually done by a e-commerce website, but it’s totally irrelevant for a blog, for example, that doesn’t sell any products. So you had a kind of data structure that was good for some businesses and bad for other businesses kind of because Google needs to have such data in order to interpret it correctly and know, okay, I’m going to build this report out for the user, the end user that looks at the data with the event, they were able to make it way more flexible because all there is now is the data type of event that you can send into the system and the event name describes the event that you’re sending in.

(12:23): So the event name could be a transaction, could be a page due, and it could be a scroll or a button click, and you can describe this data further with parameters. For example, a transaction has a price attached to it or a card value and so on, or an order value that the user has triggered. This can all be then built out. Google Analytics gave us the possibility now with events to describe any kind of descriptor of that event in a larger format, and we can push that all into a system and make it really, really customized to our business needs again, so there’s no discrepancy or you can use Google Analytics to check a blog as well as a game which maybe has a completely different set of events that you might want to track.

John (13:10): Yeah, and I think that the beautiful thing about that too is as you said, you can start, we work with a lot of clients that they want to know what’s my return on investment for my marketing? And I mean, a smart marketer will set analytics up in a way that says, look, we drove this much, this happened that turned into this kind of conversion. We know that’s worth $12 or whatever the amount is, and you literally at the end of the month can say, for that $4,000 you paid us this month, we can attribute $40,000 worth of new business to it. And I think it’s really a powerful tool for a consultant or a marketer to prove their worth, isn’t it?

Julian (13:51): Yeah, absolutely. And I think that really what we have in the internet world is that we are able to know all of this stuff because it’s way harder in a brick and mortar business to track if somebody comes into the store and looks at products and then checks out. So you have all of that data and you should use it.

John (14:12): Yeah, absolutely. So is there anything we need to know that was an enhancement in terms of say ad tracking?

Julian (14:21): Ad tracking is getting notoriously harder and harder as everybody knows. I mean, there’s privacy concerns on many sides, not only from a legislation point of view here in Europe definitely, but also from private companies. Now Apple is really clamping down on a lot of the data that the advertisers can have. Now, Google Analytics itself is first and foremost a tool for user behavior tracking, but it connects obviously to certain other tools. And if you are not able to track your conversions, for example, so you’re not able to get that data, it can also be detrimental to your marketing campaigns in the end. So Google Analytics is trying to fill the gaps, so to say. So what they are trying to take into consideration is when a user has denied ad tracking or there’s no signal that is coming over, how statistically speaking, can we maybe fill that gap with synthetic data?

(15:25): Now it’s a little bit black box on how they do this. Obviously there’s a lot of machine learning in the background. Google has been investing into that space for a long, long time. So this makes their way into Google Analytics, obviously quite rapidly, and I’m kind of torn on both sides because yes, we might get more and better data, but we don’t know how good that data is in the end because it goes through a black box and Google kind of controls the algorithm behind it. So it’s something that I’m looking at with a little bit of a skeptical eye. I think at the same time, it is the right direction because we are not able to get all of complete data nowadays, and Google Analytics is not a hundred percent complete in that.

John (16:15): So what are some other tools? We’ve been talking primarily about Google Analytics for, but what are some other tools? If I’m a typical small to midsize business, I know that’s a big range and I want to have a better idea of what’s going on on my website or even attribution or is a page performing I want it to perform. What are some other tools that you like? Yeah,

Julian (16:39): I think Google Analytics is a great tool to have running. Just imagine that this is actually an enterprise tool that is made possible by Google for free because they want you to spend more money on Google Ads obviously. But at the same time, there are other tools out there that do a similar good job on that side. We actually only recommend certain tools when it comes to certain questions that you might want to have. If you really want to know how is my landing page performing because I get a lot of people onto this landing page, it’s not performing in the way that I want it to perform. Then you can look at, for example, session recordings, hot Jaws a really cool tool that lets you know what the users are doing and ask them questions as well while they’re on your website so you can get insights about how to improve a certain page.

(17:27): And that can be a very valuable tool. I’m still a really big fan of the Good Excel or Google Sheets for data analysis as well, so you don’t have to do everything in Google Analytics. You can also take that data and pull it all together because to be frank, Google Analytics doesn’t have all the data. You also have sales data in your C R M or in your shop system. And the power behind it is really if you combine that data and maybe you can take all the data together and combine it in a way. Now Google Sheets or Excel is like the layman’s tool to do all of these things. Obviously you can then go further into really data statistical, data analysis tools, and a lot of people are then looking into how can I build my own data warehouse in order to do certain things? But yeah, I think it’s a little bit of an overkill at this point when you don’t yet spend so much money on ads and it’s really a vital part of your business. So I would stick to the good all three free tools that Google provides, which is Google Tag Manager to manage your tags and your JavaScript codes, Google Analytics to track actually the data and save the data in a system. And then visualization is very important. So Google Looker Studio does this quite well as well.

John (18:46): Alright, just because we have to talk about AI on pretty much every podcast episode now, what’s the role of AI in analyzing just basic Google Analytics data even? Are you seeing some tools or even just prompts that people are writing to analyze data for better conversions or better tracking?

Julian (19:07): Yeah, I’m just waiting for Google to really implement this. I thought this product, and I mean in Google ads, we already see it. As long as we look at data and need to click around to answer our questions, that could actually be taken over by a machine. Now we need to be careful here because especially when under the light of privacy, we are working with data that maybe doesn’t belong to us and putting it into another system that analyzes it and we don’t know how it analyzes, it might be a risk in itself. So I’m not the first one that puts the data into a chat G P T and just lets it figure it out.

John (19:48): But

Julian (19:48): Yeah, these tools are out there already and there have been already advances made with the plugins that we see in Chat G P T that you can connect it to Google Analytics and to other tools and just answer basic questions to it. It’ll make our job definitely easier. And for the layman, it’ll be definitely

(20:08): A really cool advancement because you don’t have to click through actual reports anymore. The machine will be able to tell you the results itself. Again, the only thing that we need to caution ourselves in, and that will be the big war that will be going on, I think in the next years, is not that who can do this operation or that operation, but rather who do we actually trust in the end? Because there will be a lot through algorithms, a lot through black boxes going our data, sucking it in, and then giving us an output. How much do we trust this actually? And yeah, the trust was on, there’s Google, there are other companies out there that actually work with a lot of data and we don’t know where we’ll end up. From my opinion, it is never too late if you are already a little bit more advanced to think about actually getting a hold of your raw data and saving it yourself. So you will be able to send it to many different other tools if you don’t trust the output of Google anymore or the output of any other tool. So if you have control of your data, you’ll be able to do so. Otherwise it’s all on Google and you kind of need to go with that machine.

John (21:20): All right, Julie and I want to thank you for stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast for a bit. Do you want to invite people where they might connect with you and learn about particularly your YouTube channel? I suspect that’s where you send a lot of people.

Julian (21:32): Yeah, absolutely. So you can go over to measure school.com. That’s where we have most of our teachings. For professional marketers who want to learn these tools, we have a YouTube channel you can just look us up on at Measure School. And actually one thing is a event that we are running called Measure Summit, where we have the format experts on the whole measurement scene and interview them. So if you want to check that out, it’s all for free. Go over to measure summit.com.

John (21:59): Awesome. And we’ll have those links in the show notes as well. So Julian, again, appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast and maybe we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Julian (22:09): Thank you, John.

 

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the DeskTeam360

Desk team 360 is the #1, flat-rate, digital marketing integration team, that helps small businesses and marketing agencies with graphic, web design, and on-page marketing services.