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GA4 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What would it look like to switch?

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GA4 isnt all its cracked up to be What would

Google Analytics is the top player when it comes to tracking website visitors. The platform’s value is reflected in its popularity, which is why it’s the market leader boasting an 86% share. But with great value comes great responsibility, and Google Analytics lacks in that department.

Designed to maximize data collection often at the expense of data privacy, Google Analytics and its mother company, Google LLC, have been on the radar of European privacy activists for some time now. Reports of questionable privacy practices by Google have led to legal action based on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that might result in a complete ban on Google Analytics in Europe.

On top of that, Google recently announced it will end support for Universal Analytics in July of 2023, forcing users to switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). So, if the switch must be made, why not seek a new analytics provider? There are great free and paid solutions that allow organizations to balance valuable data collection with privacy and compliance. With a GDPR-compliant analytics solution in place, your data collection becomes as it should be predictable and sustainable.  

The problem with GA4 from a user perspective

Universal Analytics’ successor is very different from what you’re familiar with. Apart from the new user interface, which many find challenging to navigate, there is a laundry list of issues with the feature set in GA4—from no bounce rate metrics to a lack of custom channel groups. Here are some of the limitations in GA4 from a user perspective that you might find frustrating.

Not-so-seamless migration

GA4 introduces a different reporting and measurement technology that is neither well understood nor widely accepted by the marketing community. There is no data or tag migration between the platforms, meaning you’d have to start from scratch. The challenge grows with the organization’s size—you can have hundreds of tags or properties to move.

Limits on custom dimensions

A custom dimension is an attribute you configure in your analytics tool to dive deeper into your data. You can then pivot or segment this data to isolate a specific audience or traffic for deeper analysis. While GA4 allows you to use custom dimensions to segment your reports, there’s a strict limit—you can only use up to 50.

Lack of custom channel grouping

Channel groupings are rule-based groupings of marketing channels and, when customized, allow marketers to check the performance of said channels efficiently. Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 does not allow you to create custom channel groupings in the new interface, only default channel groupings.

Why Google is giving you a short deadline to make the switch to GA4

It’s startling to consider the deadline Google has left the analytics community when it comes to acting: Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023. This could be a way to motivate users to migrate more quickly. Perhaps Google was disappointed with the speed of adoption for GA4 and decided to act decisively for this next version.

Another possibility for the short deadline is that Google wants to cut costs and rid itself of technical debt associated with thousands of websites with legacy solutions installed (many of those users are not active users of the product). Since GA4 is designed to support Google’s advertising network, it guarantees more revenue than the competition.

Whatever the case, users need to prepare to move to GA4—or switch to an alternative. 

The problem with GA4 from a privacy standpoint

Google claims the new platform is designed with privacy at its core, but the privacy concerns are far from over. A lack of clear guidelines on data processing has many questioning the legality of GA4 in Europe. Here are some of the reasons that leave us to believe GA4 won’t last long in Europe.

Recent laws and regulations

Google makes it difficult to collect data in line with data protection regulations such as GDPR. This means that organizations engaged in gathering, storing and processing data about EU citizens have to adjust their policies and introduce serious technological changes to be GDPR-compliant.

One of the ​​key compliance issues with Google Analytics is that it saves user data, including information about EU residents, on U.S.-based cloud servers. As a U.S.-based technology company, Google must comply with U.S. surveillance laws, such as the Cloud Act. This legislation states that Google must disclose certain data when requested, even when that data is located outside of the U.S.

In the judgment known as Schrems II, a European court ruled that sending personal data from the EU to the U.S. via transatlantic transfers is illegal if companies can’t guarantee this data will be safe from U.S. intelligence.

Companies with an international presence must now adapt to a wide range of regulations, often with different requirements and restrictions.

Transparency

A Google guide implies data is transferred to the closest Google Analytics server hub. However, the data may be stored in a geographic location that doesn’t have adequate privacy protection to the EU. This lack of transparency poses a problem for Google and organizations using Google Analytics in the EU.

Newly introduced features in GA4 partially address this concern by allowing the first part of data collection (and anonymization) on European servers. However, data can, and most likely will, be sent to the U.S. The best thing to do is be open when it comes to collecting data from people.

With proper transparency, individuals feel a sense of safety and assurance. In return, organizations get more data because individuals now feel taken care of and have the trust needed to provide data.

Time to re-think how you handle consumers’ data

The advantage of these regulations is users’ increased consciousness about their data. This is where alternatives come in handy. They provide you with privacy features you need to comply with laws and obtain the data you want. So, thinking about making the switch to a Google Analytics alternative? Here’s what you need to know.

Addressing concerns about switching to an alternative analytics solution

A lot of users may be hesitant to make the switch. It makes sense—Google has dominated the marketplace for so long that it might feel like too big of a hassle to switch. For a marketing director or CMO to suggest using a different analytics tool and then for that tool to have even more limitations than the last would not be a good look.

You need to make an informed decision and choose the platform whose feature sets fit the organization’s needs to process user-level data while building trust with visitors. Here are the facts and myths when switching:

I’ll lose historical data.

This is a fact, but not for long. Some alternatives have developed data importers in the wake of Universal Analytics (Google Analytics v3) being deprecated.

It’s expensive and hard to switch.

This is a myth. Alternatives are built with easier user interfaces, use similar measurement methodologies, and often have solutions to help with Google Tag’s migrations.

Alternatives don’t offer demographic data. 

This is true: Google’s first-party data add sex, age group, and interests to profile data, and none of the alternatives can offer such data enrichment.

I miss some reporting capabilities.

This is false. Each alternative has unique reporting capabilities, and some are very flexible, allowing for more transformations and data exports than Universal Analytics.

It is easier to run advertising campaigns with Universal Analytics.

This is true. There is deep integration with Google Analytics and Google Ads/Google Marketing Platform, which gives access to an extensive repertoire of data.

I’ll lose my rank in Google Search.

This is a myth. Alternatives’ customers don’t report a lower rank in Google Search. Make sure your site is fast, mobile-friendly, popular (links) and with complete metadata.

The mindset to take when switching.

Marketers considering switching to a new platform need to take a new analytics mindset. We are experiencing a rapidly rising awareness that data is of value and must be protected. Since the future of marketing requires users’ consent, the vendor you choose must allow you to perform analytics in a privacy-friendly way.

Our intention with Piwik PRO Analytics Suite has always been to give clients powerful analytics capabilities along with key privacy and security features. The user interface and feature sets are similar to Universal Analytics, so marketers feel at home when switching to our platform.

Piwik PRO is geared towards both delivering valuable insights and privacy and compliance. Notably, switching to Piwik PRO excludes the privacy and compliance issues associated with Google Analytics to collect data predictably and sustainably. There’s both a free and paid plan, which allows different organizations to get an analytics service tailored to their needs.  If you’d like to learn more about Google Analytics alternatives or get more information on the Piwik PRO Analytics Suite, visit piwik.pro.

This article was written by Maciej Zawadzinski, CEO, Piwik PRO.


About The Author

GA4 isnt all its cracked up to be What wouldGA4 isnt all its cracked up to be What would

Piwik PRO makes powerful, privacy-compliant analytics software and offers high-touch support, so customers can get the most out of their data. Piwik PRO Analytics Suite provides flexible data collection and reports in addition to consent management, tag management and a customer data platform. Analytics professionals from leading organizations, such as the Government of the Netherlands, Crédit Agricole and Greiner, optimize customer and user journeys with Piwik PRO.

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Take back your ROI by owning your data

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Other brands can copy your style, tone and strategy — but they can’t copy your data.

Your data is your competitive advantage in an environment where enterprises are working to grab market share by designing can’t-miss, always-on customer experiences. Your marketing tech stack enables those experiences. 

Join ActionIQ and Snowplow to learn the value of composing your stack – decoupling the data collection and activation layers to drive more intelligent targeting.

Register and attend “Maximizing Marketing ROI With a Composable Stack: Separating Reality from Fallacy,” presented by Snowplow and ActionIQ.


Click here to view more MarTech webinars.


About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for CNBC.com and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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