The last few years have been very busy as far as web analytics is concerned since we have found a whole version of Google Analytics, which is called Google Analytics 4, it changed the European data protection law, it changed the Cookies law and to make matters worse now it turns out that Google Analytics could be illegal.

But do not worry because in this class we will talk about all these moves and we will explain what alternatives we have if we want to be informed, configure our installation well or look for other alternatives.

Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4

On October 14, 2020 (and while we were teaching an SEO course) Google released Google Analytics 4 . This used to be called “Web + App property”. It seems that GA4 does not yet have all the advanced settings that we used with the previous version but this will eventually change. When teaching a lesson this is a real mess since most old projects still have Google Analytics 3 but the new ones should already include Google Analytics 4. In the Web Analytics course we have chosen to introduce both systems. If you have a new project, we recommend installing both. If you have an old project, we recommend keeping Universal Analytics and adding Google Analytics 4.

Important! Google has already set a death date for Universal Analytics . On July 1, 2023, the standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. There is no other choice but to switch to the new system!

The protection of personal data

First of all: That you know that we are neither jurists nor lawyers nor experts in data protection. In the event that you have doubts about how to apply all these moves to your project, we ALWAYS recommend that you seek professional advice.

For those of you who are reading us from Spain, we assume that you already know that the European data protection regulation applies in our country . If you see us from Latin America, surely the regulations you have are much more lax than ours. If you want to help your colleagues, we recommend that you comment in this post what regulations apply in your countries, so we can help each other.

This information is more or less clear. The problem comes when we read the laws, which only lawyers understand. And for this reason, once again, we recommend that you consult with a professional specialized in data protection.

Cookie law

We do not know if you have ever noticed, but when you enter any web page, a kind of banner usually appears that forces you to accept or reject the use of cookies. In reality, almost no one knows what cookies really are or what they are for and the banner is just a piece of bullshit that they have invented because they think that people will find out how the Internet works that way. In our humble opinion no one knows anything. Just like nobody reads the legal notices or the contracting conditions. And then come the crying.

Lawyers would have to learn copywriting, they only know what they write and sometimes not even that. And if not continue reading this entry so that you can see the move that has been mounted.

In short, if you want to comply with the cookie law there is a 37-page guide on the use of cookies that warns above all that express consent must be obtained within the web page and that access to web pages should not be conditional on users accepting cookies or not , among other things.

Look, it would be easy for the EU to program us a WordPress plugin and that way we would all comply, but no, they have to make 40-page guides so that we don’t know how to do a legal installation without having to go (of course) through a manager specialized.

Plugins to comply with the legality in WordPress

Total, if we want to install Google Analytics we have to either create an installation that does not load cookies or put the happy banner.

Regarding the first option, we have followed a Rank Math tutorial to the letter. This allows us to have Universal Analytics installed without the need for Cookies. But beware, if you also have GA4, it will continue downloading a Cookie to have data in this tool. There are other options to achieve this with other plugins. If you don’t have Rank Math, you can also try this other plugin .

If you have a Google Analytics installation (or another measurement tool) that loads cookies, you will have to put a banner. To do so, we simply have to search for GDPR in the WordPress plugins tab and select the one that seems best to us. Be careful! Installing a plugin does NOT mean that you are complying with the law. Maybe you install and configure it and your website is still illegal. Talk to a professional!

Could Google Analytics be illegal?

If all of the above seems like a tremendous mess to you (it seems to us) it turns out that the issue does not end here. Several worrying news came out recently :

  • On July 16, 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union struck down the agreement that regulated the transfer of personal data between the EU and the US
  • The Austrian and French data protection agencies have declared that Google Analytics data transfers to the US violate the European Data Protection Regulation.
  • Consequently, the Spanish Agency for Data Protection investigates whether Google Analytics complies with the EU rules.

That you know that we have tried to arrange an interview with the AEPD and after they sent us 3 different emails they have declined the invitation. And that they have fewer subscribers than us on YouTube. That’s enough, with how good it would be for all of us to stop by the channel to speak as humans instead of as lawyers.

And not only Google, the situation affects all North American companies that store data of European citizens in the United States. In other words, the problem is that European data ends up in the hands of North American companies. 

What do we think of all this movement? Our totally irrelevant opinion:

On the one hand, it annoys us enormously to have to learn new measurement tools, but on the other hand, it is also true that Europe depends too much on US multinationals (and this is not just a problem of data, but of technological dependency). In other words, it may be an opportunity for new European projects to be born that can compete with those of the United States. Well look, not so bad. Of course, we Europeans will have to study endless laws and new programs.

In this channel we have explained many times that due to data, projects such as Facebook, Google, Amazon or Instagram can change user behavior. It is normal for the European Union to care about its citizens (if this were a video, an awkward laugh would come out here).

We always tell our students: The superpowers of Digital Marketing (or in this case of web analytics) must be used for good . As long as you look at the good experience of the users there is no problem, the problem comes when they are used for the bad.

What alternatives do we have?

First things first: don’t panic. We have to see what the Spanish Agency for Data Protection says because really, can Europe prohibit all multinationals from the United States from sending data there? Theoretically, forcing them to store the data on European servers would not work either, since the US government could also access it due to a law they have. What do they say about the Chinese, but well.

There are alternatives that can be installed on our own servers, such as Umami or Plausible (we give a thousand thanks to Jordi Turull for the contribution he sent us through LinkedIn). If you know any more you can leave us the name in the comments. However, for functionalities such as those found in Search Console and SEO work, we still do not see a clear alternative, since if we are trying to position ourselves in Google, the data will always be held by the Lord of Google.