Concerned about GA4 and Privacy? Should you move to Fathom?

Some say that Google Analytics is “illegal” and that you need to use other systems, like Fathom. What do you think?

Video Transcript

Tricia: Between Google Analytics 4 and Fathom, sometimes the question comes up because there are users that opt to use Fathom Analytics instead of GA4 for privacy. What would your response be to why GA4 is okay now, with the privacy concerns:

David: The first thing I would remind people of when they’re considering using a product like Fathom is at least you’re tracking, and that’s good. So, if you’re going to track using Fathom, do it. It’s better than no tracking at all. Second of all, I’d remind them that Fathom has a financial interest in creating a series of fear and threats and creating this nebulous OMG, the European Union is going to come and get your small business if you don’t use our product, which by the way you have to pay for. And so, just remember that even if all the claims of Fathom are true, and I have no reason to doubt there’s anything they’re lying about, just understand that they have a vested interest in creating a fear that drives demand for the product. The second thing I would say is speaking of financial interest, Google has a massive financial interest in becoming compliant. And in fact, I’d even say that the financial interest of Google far outweighs the financial interest of Fathom. I just listened to Google Marketing Life on Tuesday, which was yesterday, where they talked about all the latest comings with their paid products. Google makes money, right? And obviously, they talked a ton about AI because Google’s freaking out about AI. But they also talked a ton about privacy, and they know how important privacy is for compliance. So, that should remind us they are working on this. Now, I got an email. I’m part of Simo Ahava’s email list. He’s the expert on tag manager. He also is really into privacy as far as Google Analytics. He knows far more about this than I do. He pointed out that there was a recent ruling in the European Union that basically shut down prior rulings in the European Union, making Google Analytics illegal. I’m no lawyer. And I’m not a lawyer licensed to practice in the European Union.

Tricia: For sure, yes.

David: Nor can I say whether Simo is correct or not. I respect him, but he even guarded his statements, right, because he doesn’t want to… But the point of this is we should remember that this is being litigated and is not a done decision yet. So, we just need to remember that there are a lot of people out there making big, bold claims about Google Analytics being illegal, but be really careful about that claim because it’s not quite as settled as some people would like it to be. Saying all that, I’d say if you still are spooked, and you want to use Fathom, don’t do any marketing without tracking.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: So, if you have to use a system because you’re scared about Google Analytics, good. Use something. Because the value of what we do as digital markers is knowing it works. And so, whatever it takes to show it works is fine by me. I have a client that uses HubSpot Analytics. I hate HubSpot Analytics. But fine, I will use this system. Again, financial interest is all designed to make HubSpot look really good. And the way they portray the data is just everything in HubSpot is rosy. Suddenly you installed HubSpot, and everything in your marketing life is amazing because that’s how the data is designed to make it look. Funny. But we can criticize Google Analytics. Everything in Google Analytics is designed to make Google Ads look good.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: Right? But that’s what I would say to someone who said I can’t use Google Analytics, I have to use a system like Fathom for privacy reasons. Okay. And frankly, all this may go away with third-party solutions. Because even in Google Marketing Live on Tuesday, Google’s like, oh, by the way, next July, Chrome will only support first-party cookies. So, that might hurt things like Fathom. So, Google Analytics claims to be a first-party cookie, but how you define that is really a little bit dicey. So, anyway, just know that, hey, Fathom might be great. At least you’re doing something. Don’t spend a dime on any marketing unless you can measure it.

Tricia: Okay. But one follow-up question to that, from Google changing from Universal Analytics to GA4, my understanding was that some part of that was addressing some privacy concerns. Is that correct?

David: Yes.

Tricia: Okay. That was my understanding. I just wanted to make sure.

David: It addresses some privacy because it has better privacy settings. It also addresses, thanks to machine learning, the improved ability to track things like conversion and source. Remember, one of the big features is the data-driven attribution model. Does it sound familiar? Universal Analytics is the attribution model that is the last non-direct click. So, in other words, the last way they found you get credit for the lead, as long as it’s not direct. It’s the last non-direct visit that gets credit for the lead. So, if you click an email, that’s getting it. If you click on a link from Google results, that’s getting it because it was all built to make Google Ads look good. And with a Google Ad, if you get a visitor, you get a click on your ad. You want that conversion. And so, Google Analytics wants you to know that it came from them. Right?

Tricia: Yeah.

David: Data-driven has two advantages. Number one, it acknowledges that not everybody who finds your website for the first time is going to convert. And so, the process is longer. Someone may find you from a Google organic search, follow you on Facebook, visit you a second time from Facebook, sign up for your email list, and then make the sale based on email. Well, who do we give credit for that sale? Under Universal, it’s the email because that’s the last non-direct. But is that really true? Because Facebook contributed to it, as well as organic. Well, data-driven says, okay, we’re going to give 50% of the attribution to the email, 30% to Facebook, and 20% to organic. And it’s not usually going to be that clean, but what you’re going to see is in your Google Analytics, you’re going to see 0.1 conversions. That’s the data-driven. It’s saying, hey, yeah, you didn’t get a full conversion from your Facebook, but Facebook contributed to the conversion by an estimate of 0.1 of a conversion.

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