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Introducing App + Web: What Marketers Need to Know About the Google Analytics Privacy Overhaul

With the end of Google’s browser cookie support, many marketers have been wondering how this will impact their measurement and attribution capabilities. Google Analytics, for example, uses first-party cookies and other first-party identifiers to track and store information about site visitors. But it also collects opted-in third-party identifiers on behalf of its customers, and platform and regulatory changes will create gaps in the data that companies can collect and analyze.

As a response, the new Google Analytics 4 was built with machine learning capabilities to help companies understand their audience and identify future opportunities while keeping privacy concerns at the forefront, and in-line with the industry shifts towards cookie restrictions. This change in Google Analytics 4 will give companies an advantage over its competitors in the long run by having smarter analytics and more control over how data is being collected and processed for analysis.

But do not be mistaken, this could be merely a response to the US Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit.

Unified Reporting

A transition during the decline of third-party data was marked by Google’s decision to eliminate third-party cookies from Chrome. After Google Ads started reducing search term data for all advertisers, Google Analytics, arguably the default tool for understanding online consumer preferences, received an overhaul as part of the internet giant’s adjustment to more intense scrutiny of data usage. Google knew that marketers were already interested in measuring cross-domain, cross-device, and cross-session user behaviors.

So Google decided to implement cross-platform tracking in Google Analytics 4, tracking users moving between websites and apps, which better aligns with how users interact on the internet today. Before Google Analytics 4, when customers browsed online and purchased an item from the app, that customer’s journey would be splintered and never connected back together. This type of measurement gives marketers the ability to view the customer journey across multiple platforms and allow companies to learn how their customers interact with the company and brand, not just the website.

Marketers may need to prepare for an even bigger fallout, however, as Google could be hit with another multistate antitrust complaint to add on the US Justice Department’s search-centric suit against the company. State lawyers have been questioning Google’s AdTech system for months, as well as their ad auction mechanics, header bidding, third-party data access and more. These criticisms have prompted an ongoing depreciation of third-party cookies and mobile identifier. After one year of beta testing, the updated Google Analytics platform will use machine learning to help marketers better understand the gaps in audience insights.

Machine-Learning Reboot

Some might suggest Google’s dominance goes far beyond AdTech. Currently, in the digital media industry, Google has set itself up to dominate ownership of consumer identity. Google today is indeed the industry leader when it comes to guiding development of a new standard for identifying consumers for ad targeting and measurement once cookies stop working. Ultimately, whatever happens with Google’s ad systems, marketers will be best positioned to navigate those changes and the demise of cookies, if they can rely on their own first-party data connections with consumers. In other words, as Google gears up to shut down third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, as a result of antitrust lawsuits in the United States, marketers must figure out how to authentically build audience trust in the age of consent beyond cookies.

It is important to always to use data to try to learn more about your audience so you can do a better job of helping them solve their problems with your content and marketing. For tips on how to measure success in the age of data privacy, check out this article.

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