Digital analytics news – March 2021

Google confirm how they'll personalise ads without 3rd party cookies

In the latest move on privacy in the last couple of years, Google announced that there will be no “alternate identifiers to track individuals” after they phase out 3rd party cookies from their ad services and Chrome.

Back in January 2020 Google committed to phasing out 3rd party cookies from Chrome within two years.  We’re now more than a year into that timeline and closer to that point.

What is different about this announcement is that they are confirming that the replacement will be based on their FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) system. According to Google, tests of this system show 95% effectiveness when compared to cookie-based advertising.  FLoC is said to work by creating clusters of large groups of people with similar interests. Rather than clustering people at Google server level using identifiers, FLoC uses on-device processing to keep a person’s web history private on the browser. 

While the move away from user-identifiers is to be welcomed, we are aware of some industry concerns with this approach.  We’ll be doing our own in-depth assessment of what FLoC does and the debate around it in the coming months. Stay tuned.

New attribution features released in Google Analytics 4

The roll-out of new GA4 features continues at pace. Right now, the key changes appear to relate to attribution, which needs to work well for you to see the value of Google Ads. All jokes aside, we’re happy to get more functionality around where our marketing dollars are spent.

On to the updates:

Referral Exclusions finally arrived in GA4 under the new name Unwanted Referrals. This makes it much easier to exclude unwanted referral sources from GA4 reports, for example your own website or payment gateways. To date, these have been obscuring traffic and conversion source attribution in GA4. As a bonus, this feature also includes automatic self-referral detection, so your own domain, and domains configured in your cross-domain tracking, are treated as unwanted referrals by default.

GA4 Data Studio connector now includes new event-scoped campaign dimensions for traffic sources. These include Medium, Source and Campaign data, and Google Ads data to the ad group level. However, these dimensions apply only to GA4 conversion events – for non-conversion events the traffic source dimensions value will appear as (not set) – but you can see the traffic source data for all events by using the Session or User scoped dimensions.

Draft mode arrives in Data Studio

Finally! You can now work on a draft version of a report while users see a published version of the Data Studio report.  This is a much needed improvement.  Prior to this, us report creators were having to turn off visibility of pages which weren’t ready for end-users to see.  This was problematic as we couldn’t test the report without turning visibility on.  The new Report Publishing feature now resolves those issues.