Data analytics for websites has been around almost as long as the internet. Visit counters came first, displaying the number of page views to the website owner. Next is log analysis, which can interpret server logs and identify both traffic sources and inbound links. As websites became more complex, log analysis also increased. With the introduction of tag-based marketing, analytics has moved into the realm of marketing.
Today, web analytics is worth billions of dollars. By 2028, the data analytics market is expected to reach $550 billion. Millions of businesses today rely on services like Google Analytics to understand their consumers and optimize their web experience.
Many of these companies use Universal Analytics, a Google product introduced in 2012. Universal Analytics has lived up to its name by tracking a wide variety of data. After assigning user IDs, users can be tracked across multiple devices and platforms. The information gathered here has been combined with insights into offline behavior, demographics, and richer consumer data. Once machine learning hit the scene in 2016, Universal Analytics became a real force to be reckoned with.
Despite all the useful insights Universal Analytics has brought to its customers, the software’s methods are part of what has sparked online privacy issues in some parts of the world. Around the start of the decade, the European Union brought into force the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), limiting the type of information companies could collect about individuals.
Partly in response to these laws, Google launched Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in October 2020. GA4 combines customer desires for useful data with consumer privacy protections. Consent mode adjusts the data collected based on the permissions granted by each user, and GA4 only uses first-party cookies. As a result, GA4 is fully compliant with GDPR and other similar regulations.
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Last updated May 31, 2022.