Episode #004 - Steen Rasmussen on the future of Google Analytics

A podcast about the Future of Google Analytics with Steen Rasmussen, a well-known digital analytics specialist. Co-founder & Director of Analytics at IIH Nordic.

Episode #004 - Steen Rasmussen on the future of Google Analytics

In this episode, I get to interview Steen Rasmussen, a well known digital analytics specialist. Steen is also the Co-founder & Director of Analytics at IIH Nordic and is very active on Twitter and Linkedin, where he shares his knowledge of these topics.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The Introduction of Google Analytics 4
  • The issues with regards to Google Analytics in the EU right now
  • The importance to determine the Value of Analytics to your business
  • And much more.

Some of the resources mentioned in this podcast:

Make sure you follow the show:

If you want to help us out, please share the link to this episode page with anyone you think might be interested in learning about Digital Marketing in a Post-GDPR world.

Talk to you next week!

-Rick Dronkers

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[00:00:00] Rick Dronkers: Thank you for tuning into the life after GDPR podcast, where we're discussing digital marketing in a post GDPR world. I'm your host, Rick Dronkers, and in today's episode, I get to interview Steen Rasmussen, an analytics advocate, and co-founder of the Danish digital agency IIH Nordic who has been working in digital analytics for over 20 years.

[00:00:26] Rick Dronkers: We'll be discussing all the recent rulings with regards to Google analytics in the EU, the launch of Google analytics 4, how to evaluate, if you should use Google analytics 4 going forward, the importance of determining the value of analytics to your company, and much more.

[00:00:43] Rick Dronkers: If you're figuring out how to migrate to Google analytics 4 yourself, I have something for you. On our website we've created an 11-step migration guide that walks you through migrating from universal analytics to Google analytics 4 step-by-step. Each step contains relevant links to resources that can help you out. You can find a migration guide at our website https://datatovalue.nl.

[00:01:07] Rick Dronkers: Additionally, we're launching an online course together with Krista Seiden on how to implement Google analytics 4 yourself. Krista already has some great courses available on how to use Google analytics 4, so with this additional course. You'll get the full package. Our technical deep dive course will be available end of April, and you can pre-register your seat right now. If you use the code : "LIFEAFTERGDPR", before April 15th, you'll even get a $200 discount.

[00:01:35] Rick Dronkers: You can find the course at https://academy.ksdigital.co all the links are also mentioned in the show notes. That's it. Now let's dive in, with Steen Rasmussen.

[00:01:51] Rick Dronkers: Steen, welcome to the podcast for listeners that don't know you yet. Could you please introduce yourself?

[00:01:57] Steen Rasmussen: Absolutely. Co-founder of Nordic agency IIH Nordic specializing in, data driven business. What we like to say is that we started as a data agency and later to help customers get value out of the data we put on extra skill sets, like the marketing activities.

[00:02:17] Steen Rasmussen: So SEO, SEM and paid media, social media, conversion and optimization, all that stuff. Unlike most of our good colleagues in the marketplace, we see them as marketing agencies with a data-leg, we are a data agency with a marketing-leg. So for us, kind of the data is the core of our business and not just something we added on afterwards, we started with data.

[00:02:46] Steen Rasmussen: And we started that 15, 16, 17 years ago now. So we've been doing this for a long time and it has been a nice journey with the learnings and the use of data and the increased focus on commercialization. So over time we have had time to chance to play with all the, not all of them, but most of the big fun customers we've been doing works with the IKEAs and the Lego's and the Apple's and stuff of the world in relations to, to looking into data with our special sauce because when it, at the end of the day, we look at what we're doing. My special sauce is so very commercial approach of things. So that is what we bring to the table. And the angle of "what's in it for you", having this constant focus on the return on analytics. And over the years, we really have been trying to help push this agenda and this way of thinking.

[00:03:41] Steen Rasmussen: So, so we have been supporting all the free communities we've been doing web analytics wednesdays Denmark for more than 10 years with good crowds, we've been supporting MeasureCamps you will find me as a regular at most MeasureCamps I'm coming to Amsterdam, I'm going to Bucharest, um, arranging one in Copenhagen, just in the next two, three months.

[00:04:05] Steen Rasmussen: So in that sense, I am, lack of a better word. I guess I'm an evangelist, a teacher to simplify. I like to educate. And I guess that kind of sums me up.

[00:04:18] Rick Dronkers: I liked the evangelists title. You're spreading the gospel. I like that part.

[00:04:23] Rick Dronkers: And for the purpose of this conversation is probably also good to mention that, uh, that your agency is also heavily Google focused because we're going to talk about Google analytics.

[00:04:33] Rick Dronkers: So you are a reseller and you, uh, know all there is to know about Google, but maybe there's also a little bit of a bias just for the, for the listener.

[00:04:42] Steen Rasmussen: There is an absolute bias. If you go out and check what I've been doing on LinkedIn, I have been fiercely advocating that people needed to calm the hell down and not stress so much in relation to this, but we are going to be having that conversation going forward.

[00:05:00] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. To set the scene a little bit. We're going to talk about Google analytics. There's been a lot of discussion around Google analytics and whether or not it's legal in the EU. So I did a little bit of, of digging in the past, what are these decisions that have led us to this moment right now?

[00:05:16] Rick Dronkers: So I found out that in 2013, Max Schrems filed a complaint against Facebook Ireland. And this complaint actually ended up invalidating the Safe Harbor agreement, that took two years. So in 2015, the Safe Harbor agreement was invalidated. And that was the agreement that was used for processing data between the EU and the US, and then safe Harbor was replaced by privacy shield. And in 2018 in May, 2018, right after the GDPR launched, then Max Schrems filed like a similar complaint, against Privacy Shield and in July, 2020. So again, two years later, the European union, invalidated privacy shield based on that decision. And those two decisions are known as Schrems I and Schrems II.

[00:06:07] Rick Dronkers: And right after that second decision, the company or the foundation that Max founded, which is called None of Your Business (NOYB), they filed 101 complaints across Europe and the Austrian data protection authority ruled on one of these cases against Google analytics, in December, 2021.

[00:06:29] Rick Dronkers: So that is one and a half year after the ruling, after the ruling of the, the invalidation of Privacy Shield and then the French DPA basically ruled the same, a little bit different context in February, 2022, both stating that, Google analytics, at least in, in the way that complaint was filed that Google analytics didn't meet the standards that they would like it to meet.

[00:06:57] Rick Dronkers: So yeah, that spurred up a lot of news in our industry and a lot of fear. And to top it all off, on March 16th, Google announced that Google Analytics 3 will, be sunset, the 1st of July, 2023. so that's, roughly a year, so that even spurred up more dust in our industry.

[00:07:19] Rick Dronkers: And then on March 25th, we got the news that Joe Biden, came to visit the Europe and he did a handshake deal with Ursula about a principal agreement of Privacy Shield 2.0, let's call it right.

[00:07:35] Rick Dronkers: And this is, of course there's nothing on paper yet. There's no signatures under it. It's not finalized, but it did. It was like the let's call it the positive news that a lot of people jumped on.

[00:07:46] Rick Dronkers: So a lot has happened. you and I actually recorded a podcast, in between all this. So I think it's good to have a rerecording for, for different reasons. so now we get to talk about the entire picture. and I want to start with you with maybe the easy part like Google analytics is moving from Google analytics 3, universal analytics to Google analytics 4 ,what does this mean for your clients? How do you explain this?

[00:08:13] Steen Rasmussen: So, so I think that the big explanation on the simplest one is, is the data model, the way that Google analytics gathered data. It was a good model in the old ways, the internet worked, you know, the digital platforms worked, but time has really moved away from that model. So instead of focusing on the session, when a user is doing something, then focusing across that and trying to build a bigger picture of how the interaction actually works.

[00:08:46] Steen Rasmussen: It's not really a new data model. It's the same data model that Adobe analytics has been using since the beginning. So for all the people coming from Adobe, having this focus on what's happening as a flow, this is really a big shift, but the biggest shift is really, as I see it, that Google analytics 4 integrates much more into, into the cloud.

[00:09:09] Steen Rasmussen: And that sounds maybe just like more nerdiness complication and it is getting more tricky. It gets harder to use Google analytics, but it's also because the bar is being significantly raised in what you could get out of it. I know that one of my favorite quotes from Google is saying that well, universal analytics was analytics for insights, GA 4 is analytics for activation.

[00:09:34] Steen Rasmussen: So what they're building is there's a lot of stuff that you can do with the core around GA4. So I think one of the things that we see most interest in right now is the combination of a free Google analytics 4 combined with the paid Google Optimize. Because with the Google optimize things, then you can actually use the data in, Google Analytics, for specific personalization on the website.

[00:10:02] Steen Rasmussen: Based on your behavior, you can change the content you can actually go personal. And that is what I see as a good example of using analytics for activation. So it's not just about making a report, it's making shit happen

[00:10:16] Rick Dronkers: I think that ties in really well with the mindset your agency has as well.

[00:10:21] Rick Dronkers: So of course, whenever there's change, people are going to be frustrated , scared. I've seen a lot of that going on as well, around the change away from Google analytics 3 to Google analytics 4 it. What are your thoughts on this?

[00:10:36] Steen Rasmussen: Yeah, I think it's been frustrating, impressive, and humorous at the same times the humorous part being: all the people coming out saying: why didn't anybody tell me? I know people like you and me and half the industry has been going around for a long time saying, you need to start migrating to GA4 because universal will be sunset.

[00:10:59] Steen Rasmussen: People like, yeah. Yeah. In 2029 something. And then suddenly Google comes out and say, Hey guys, it's next year. And then it's an encouraged, uh, intense, intense panic. And it's impressive how many people who were paying no attention at all.

[00:11:19] Rick Dronkers: There will be a lot of migrations that still need to happen. I think it's unfair to say to that. You couldn't see this coming by Google.

[00:11:26] Steen Rasmussen: Yeah. When we, we attended the Firebase summit, which is kind of the precursor to GA 4 in 2019. And when we came back, we actually did events here on saying: this is going to be the future model. So now that it starts in time to start to thinking about change.

[00:11:46] Steen Rasmussen: And I think what consultants love about this model is that it is completely different. I think there's a lot of people who've been like, yeah. Yeah. It's been like the other times we just need to change the script and we're updated, but this is something completely different. This is the data model for the future and it takes much more thinking about what you want to track because you get so much less out of the box, right? It's really about tailoring analytics to your business needs and not letting analytics define your business.

[00:12:19] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. I think that's a nice way to put it, there's less constraints, but it also means that there's less out of the box. So it will require, some thinking before implementing, that being fair though. I think that that automatic implementation, like if, if you just implement it and don't customize it, there is some additional interaction tracking that would, that makes it richer than universal analytics.

[00:12:43] Rick Dronkers: But if you wanted a really good implementation, then yes, I agree with you. The model requires, more planning beforehand. Yeah, to fill it up well, and it's also interesting to see that now with this model, Google analytics can actually compete with a lot of product analytics tools where I'd used Google analytics used to lag behind a little bit on tools like Amplitude and Mixpanel.

[00:13:07] Rick Dronkers: And with this data model, it's actually really suited for product analytics as well.

[00:13:12] Steen Rasmussen: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you can say it, it's the entire thing about focusing on the interaction and not on the, on, on a session, in that sense. Right. So, so it is a really interesting shift and a big shift really.

[00:13:29] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. And I think so that's it, of course, you and I are both biased we both work a lot with Google analytics and, we know the tool so we know how to use it. so it was our positive side on it, but I think maybe one thing that could be considered as a negative that within all this uncertainty about whether or not, you can even use Google analytics in Europe, google decides to forcefully, make people migrate to a new tool within this storm.

[00:13:59] Steen Rasmussen: It's an amazing case of bad timing, I think. Right? Because you take the, probably the time in history with the largest uncertainty about the product where most people have been saying it's illegal and all this, and until then the agreement between Ursula and Biden. And then it was really a tricky situation.

[00:14:24] Steen Rasmussen: So they kind of came to the rescue, but , as a timing in relation to forcing people to migrate. It's really a big, choice. And we still see with a lot of customers having this situation saying, okay, should we migrate to GA 4? Or should we head for something safer? There is still a risk that the safe Harbor, the new Safe Harbor 2.0 will fall through , or 3.0, or what we're gonna call it?

[00:14:53] Steen Rasmussen: That that could fall through, you know, it could take so long. Like it could be saying that they'll insist on starting to enforcing the old rules until the new rules are in place.. That could be a scenario, highly unlikely, but it could be , so if you're sitting, doing an enterprise implementation, having a lot of sites, okay cool, where should I go?

[00:15:14] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. I think this is something that we should explore. So if I am responsible for the analytics implementation at company X, now I know that if I'm still on Google analytics 3, I know that I will have to migrate . I will either have to migrate to Google analytics 4 or to something else because I know that if I don't do it within the next, I think 60 days or something, then I will not be able to do a year on year comparison anymore. And then within, a little bit more than a year, Google analytics 3 will stop completely. Maybe if I have the paid version a little bit longer, but it's the pressure is on.

[00:15:51] Rick Dronkers: So, so my evaluation would be, of course there is the, "what do I get from the tool" side?, so Google analytics, I think has a really strong profile when it comes to integrating with my advertising side. If I spend a lot of money via double click and search, then there's of course a clear incentive of Google analytics because of the direct integration.

[00:16:16] Rick Dronkers: But on the other end, there is a migration that needs to happen. Like you said the Google analytics four is not just changing the script. So the migration will, there will probably be consultants. There will be technical people on your end that they'd have to actually change the scripts, change the data layer.

[00:16:35] Rick Dronkers: So there's, real work in there. And to me, that part already, opens up considering a different tool, right. If it was just a small script change and we will be good to go for GA four, , then I wouldn't really consider another tool probably. Cause I was already on GA 3 and GA 4, it was just easy, but now there's going to be a budget involved with switching to GA four.

[00:17:00] Rick Dronkers: So I might actually also use that budget for another tool. So that's already consideration. And then to top it off, I get this, I have this fear now of what if I spend a hundred thousand euros right now to get Google analytics four well implemented across all sites and adopted within my organization, training people like making it right, all this stuff.

[00:17:24] Rick Dronkers: And then within two years, Max Schrems comes out and he, he fixes Schrems III, right? And the new agreement is off the table again. And we get a letter to stop using Google analytics. And then I have to move to alternative X, whether it's snowplow on my own cloud or whatever I choose to do. . What will be your conversation with me? The stressed out marketing director.

[00:17:45] Steen Rasmussen: I think I would say .. There are kind of a couple of scenarios, but I think what the thing that I am stressing to people, right now saying that with the timeline saying, okay, if you have two years on GA 4, then , the value of going for the activation path, because if you change to another tool right now, you'll go back to analytics for insights. It will be business as usual. You will be doing reporting, but you won't be getting the extra power that Google has actually put into GA4, which is probably how it should always have been. Right because it, really goes from just being something where you find some data that returns business.

[00:18:26] Steen Rasmussen: And I think the business case of doing that for two years, just even two years is probably much bigger than, then the risk of anything else happening. And in parallel, you can consider doing some alternate setup, but the alternatives in the market right now, I don't see them as competitive in the offering..

[00:18:46] Steen Rasmussen: And I think one of the things that we touched upon last time is saying the cost. Okay, cool. I can decide, I don't want to do Google analytics anymore, but then I have to change to another platform and then there are free platforms out there, but without offending a lot of people, I think we can say: they don't really measure up. It would be taking a serious step backwards when it comes to your use of data.

[00:19:09] Steen Rasmussen: The change going from Google analytics to one of the free alternatives, right. Because they don't offer the integration to the marketing side, which is what most people are looking for. And so you would lose kind of, you would lose a significant part of the data you need by changing to one of the free versions.

[00:19:28] Steen Rasmussen: And then you're looking at saying, okay, cool. Then I'm changing to a paid version and suddenly a paid version. Then you have to pay to get the same that you're getting in Google Analytics right now . And then suddenly it becomes, so it's not just a migration to another platform. It's actually a migration and a recurring cost.

[00:19:46] Steen Rasmussen: Does that make sense? So the cost of migrating away from Google is actually significant and it doesn't add any other value. So being a commercial oriented person, I would say there's a much bigger, better return on analytics in upgrading, going all the way, because I think we had that conversation at one point saying if you're not using your data for anything anyway, then go and have a management meeting saying, are we planning on starting using our data for business?

[00:20:13] Steen Rasmussen: And If the management board agrees that: "no, we're not." And then go for a free platform, then it doesn't matter, it's fine. Go there. If you're not using it for anything, don't have a cost. But if you want to be competitive and if you want to go to the market, then you should decide on this investment.

[00:20:29] Steen Rasmussen: And like you said, I'm horribly biased, but. I see it as the best alternative right now, because the alternative, the other alternatives that you mentioned snowplow and one of these enterprise solutions. That is going from no cost to a massive cost, just on the tech side.

[00:20:45] Steen Rasmussen: And then you need it to put the extra layer in, on the activation side. So even going for paid Google Analytics 360, which costs you euros something a year, that will pay for one or two, if you're lucky three, if you can get them, in a far away market, data scientist or tech specialist.

[00:21:03] Steen Rasmussen: But that would just be the infrastructure.

[00:21:04] Steen Rasmussen: You wouldn't have any activation or any other value.

[00:21:07] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. I think those are some good points. I think one of the things that is happening, that what you're seeing online, and of course there's always the case on social media, but what you're seeing is blanket statements as if all the problems are generic across all businesses.

[00:21:24] Rick Dronkers: So I think like you just said, there's a lot of companies where they are, they are currently using Google analytics because it is free and there was also no costs to using a tool that might actually become illegal. Right. So why not use it? But I think for a lot of businesses, they have to realize: "we're actually using Google Analytics as a really fancy counter of how many people saw our blog posts."

[00:21:47] Rick Dronkers: And, if that is the only reason you are using, Google analytics, then probably the risk has now increased. Right? Cause, cause we cannot disagree on that. Probably there will be more uncertainty in the future with these kinds of rulings. So in that case, probably you should go with a hundred percent privacy safe stat-counter that just shows you: "Hey, you had so many people on the website this week, and so many people read this blog post", and that's it. It can't do segmentation, it can track users it's just a simple counter.

[00:22:16] Rick Dronkers: And then, you'll solve a lot of your issues. You're not scared anymore. And you don't have to complain about Google analytics as well because you don't need it. And then for marketing heavy organizations, like you said, then if you take your entire marketing budget, then you look at how much do you spend on Google ads on, in double-click on Facebook ads, on YouTube ads.

[00:22:37] Rick Dronkers: If you can even look at improving that spend by improving the relevancy on your landingpages, something as simple like that. Then suddenly , the risk reward ratio changes and could change very fast. If you look at the marketing spend of some companies, with these kinds of numbers, then a 1 or 2% change in that is already justifying a lot.

[00:22:57] Steen Rasmussen: We have actually done the set up for customers out there in relation to the migrations of GA four actually go in and find traffic that has been missing from their statistics. So that has been re finding up to 20% of the advertising spend, but could suddenly be accounted for . That they couldn't see before.

[00:23:15] Steen Rasmussen: So even, and I think that that's a business case, just of that one it's like. We suddenly being able to see, okay, cool. So these 20% of our marketing spend it actually also has a return. Now that's nice to know.

[00:23:28] Steen Rasmussen: So it's kind of, what's the old quote from Wannamaker saying the 50% of your marketing is wasted. You just don't know what what 50%, it's like, yeah, but it's actually 70% because 20% we can't see at all.

[00:23:41] Rick Dronkers: Yeah, that's a great point. And I think as we're talking, I'm seeing this schema where you could evaluate, if you are, let's say you are a bank maybe, right. And you are under heavy regulation and under high standards, then maybe . You're gonna value you the privacy aspect way more.

[00:23:58] Rick Dronkers: And then maybe you'll have to eventually decide like, okay, that risk is too big for me. And you decide to go with, either a build it yourself solution on the European cloud where you control it all. Or if you're a government. There was a lot of government websites that have Google analytics on it. Then probably. Yeah. Okay. Probably they should be thinking about, do we actually need this.

[00:24:15] Rick Dronkers: But then on the other end for a lot of companies that are in commercial business and that are trying to deliver a great customer experience. Like the integration, like you said, with tools like Optimize, but also the direct integration with the advertising suite, which allows you to basically personalize the entire funnel: that is worth something.

[00:24:35] Rick Dronkers: Of course you can build it yourself, but that costs probably more than getting the suite so that it just becomes a a risk reward.

[00:24:42] Steen Rasmussen: I think guys like you and me and a lot of our colleagues in the industry, we'll be doing a lot more calculations on the return on analytics because the business cases are out there, and I would honestly... like you mentioned before saying, okay, cool. If you don't have a big marketing spend, then you should shift to something simpler, but I would still hate to be the CMO walking to the CEO saying: "yeah. So this stuff we've been saying about being data driven, it wasn't really true."

[00:25:11] Rick Dronkers: Well, honesty is also worth something.

[00:25:13] E004 - Steen Rasmussen - S: Yeah.

[00:25:15] Rick Dronkers: I, I truly think that so in a lot of cases, analytics gives people the feeling of control, which gives them, which calms them down but, what they actually realize is what they're only doing is, reporting after the fact.

[00:25:31] Rick Dronkers: So they're not actually using it to influence what they're going to do. They're only using it to report after the fact. And then whenever something is going down, then panic strikes. A lot of people are using analytics solely as like a warning signal, right? So something is going wrong. But they're not using it as a signal to improve what you're doing and making it better over time.

[00:25:52] Rick Dronkers: And I think for a lot of those people, you don't need Google analytics. If you want to, if you want the signal that, that shows you that the amount of visitors to your, whatever pages is going down, or your transactions are going down, . You can use simple business analytics tool or whatever for that.

[00:26:08] Rick Dronkers: And if you want to move towards optimizing for the future and improving your processes and stuff like that, , then you want a suite like Google analytics or Adobe analytics.

[00:26:16] Steen Rasmussen: But I think it, for a lot of purposes, they actually have the same built in flow that has not helped reduce this. . Because where do you set targets in Google analytics, you can't. So you can only look, see the numbers. There has never been built a function where you could go in and say, okay, this is our objective for the year.

[00:26:36] Steen Rasmussen: You can go sit and set a goal. That is the goal for performance, but you cannot set a target to try to hit. And that's kind of really where I see the benefit in what we're doing with BigQuery and other dashboards and taking the data out and actually helping aim for that because the tool in itself is really, it kind of missed that opportunity for the most of the tools, right.

[00:26:58] Rick Dronkers: But that's good for us, right? Because that allows us to, to build solutions on top of it and customize it per business because in the end, think, you know, the real value comes , from customization, to your own needs.

[00:27:09] Steen Rasmussen: I think one of the things in the conversation that I feel kind of people that are really . Missing is this, that for, most people who use Google analytics, it's a free tool. It's. Actually an enterprise quality analytics tool that they get for free.

[00:27:24] Steen Rasmussen: So I know the classic thing people say, yeah, yeah, but, but if anything is free, you're the product. And it's because they all these conspiracy theories that we hear about . It's because Google take the data from analytics and then they siphon it and sneak it over to the advertising side so they can sell your customers to somebody else.

[00:27:44] Steen Rasmussen: And I think the business case for Google is much more simple " if you show what happens on the website you buy more AdWords, because paid media works, right?" And that's kind of Google's core business. They don't have to sell your customers to somebody else.

[00:27:58] Rick Dronkers: Yeah, so one of the basis of the complaints against Google analytics in Europe right now is that when you implement Google analytics, you're exposing certain data to this American company, right? Google, the end, even though there's also Google Ireland in the end, the mother company is a US-based company.

[00:28:17] Rick Dronkers: And whenever you go to a website and you invoke the Google analytics script, at least your IP address, and we could argue even more metadata about you, gets exposed to that service. And so even if Google says, we anonymize IP and we, do all of that. Then still the complaint is that it will still be stored on servers owned by a US-based company. Well, like you said, they could do shady things with it themselves, what, let's assume they won't. But then they could get subpoenaed by the NSA or the CIA or whatever to unlock that data because of, I dunno, terrorist threat or whatever, kind of reason , they think of. And that's under the GDPR, I think that's the main issue right now that we're trying to, to solve for.

[00:29:01] Rick Dronkers: But I think, like you said, the risk for Google to be selling analytics data to advertisers without doing that in the dark basically ,is really high and probably not worth it because they already have so much data about people from Gmail, YouTube, Google maps. So they probably don't even, they don't even need it. I think that if they get caught with that, the risk is so high that it's probably not worth it to even do it.

[00:29:26] Steen Rasmussen: And I think so that's also the business case going forward. Right? So, what is the return on Google? What is the return on upgrading and fighting all these battles for Google? When will Google say, okay, cool. Nevermind. It's fine. We tried, apparently people don't want this tool.

[00:29:42] Steen Rasmussen: Since we've already proven our point that paid media is valuable, then yeah. Then we'll just cancel it all. We'll make a version where you own your own data, but you have to pay for it.

[00:29:53] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. I think on that topic, so Google. In-between announcing the sunset of Google analytics 3 on March 16th and the update of the privacy shield 2.0 on March 25th, Google actually had a small little webinar in between where they were highlighting, all the current options they have to tweak privacy settings in Google analytics, that already exist. And they also mentioned that they will be introducing some new features, early April, to Google analytics four, and in those features, at least one of the things that they mentioned was like, the IP is already, , by default anonymized, but there will also be some country specific settings, that you can enable.

[00:30:39] Rick Dronkers: From what we could gather, they plan to allow to collect the Google analytics data to EU based Google cloud server first, and there, the IP address will get anonymized in the EU before it gets sent to the Google analytics servers, where everything gets processed. And I'm going to assume that those servers are then in the US, so they are trying to move. They also mentioned something about maybe future features that will allow you to mask metadata and take even more control of that. So I think it's, it's positive that they are doing something, although we were a little bit disappointed, in the industry, because of course we always expect to get, you know, the best features out there and, it wasn't all there yet.

[00:31:23] Steen Rasmussen: They also started the entire thing talking about that that was the final solution needed to be compliant, that there wasn't an overall agreement. And I think we had the conversation in the last talk as well about what are the interests at stake here?

[00:31:37] Steen Rasmussen: Why is it so difficult for the EU and the US to, make an agreement? Right. And one is the EU says that you have the fundamental rights as a citizen to protect your data. But the US says that US national security rights come above the personal, the rights of the individual. So you kind of have these two meta levels fighting because it's, it's so principle, is the individuals right above the nation, or is the nation above the individual?

[00:32:07] Steen Rasmussen: And if they can agree on that, then we have a solution. Yay.

[00:32:13] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. And I think so from what I've been reading up on, on what they have released up until now, I'm very under-educated to, give a detailed explanation of it, but it seems like they want to create a situation where there is like a specially appointed court that can rule on when can the NSA snoop-in on the data: "yes or no". And I've been reading reactions from let's call it the privacy side and the marketing side. Well, of course the marketing side of this, like yes. New solution let's do business again. On the privacy side, I think a lot of people are fairly skeptical basically they think Schrems III will have a high likelihood of succeeding based upon how the GDPR works. So I definitely plan to have somebody on the podcast who can really shine their light on this. But yeah, for you and me, it likely means that at least , there's a new two-year gap of, of analytics, but also somewhat certainty and uncertainty, because by now I think we can expect like, Schrems I, Schrems II, it's all the same principles so it's highly likely that there will be a Schrems III. I think it also allows us to have better conversations with our clients because now knowing that, you know, this period of uncertainty will likely return again, how can we help clients prepare for this. And also how can we implement Google analytics in a way that does respect the privacy of the end user as much as possible while doing it.

[00:33:38] Steen Rasmussen: I think it's a really important point because I think that interim period where if I look back the last years, the idea has been "let's hack this. Let's try to find a work around and let's do some tricks and hoops and some illusions over here, but still get the same data."

[00:33:56] Steen Rasmussen: I see, especially from the moment your companies were moving in a direction where the conversation goes around, ethics, what is our data ethics? What is our data policies? What principles do we put around our data gathering and then I think it's a much stronger approach from a corporate angle, because it makes some principles that you can start talking about privacy by design that it's principally driven, that we have some internal rules that we abide by.

[00:34:27] Steen Rasmussen: And at the end, it becomes much more complicated bringing you to court because you will have like a core set of standards that will most likely mean that your set up is different.

[00:34:37] Steen Rasmussen: Right? we see this in a lot of places , and. With the companies then suddenly not waiting for this, but doing of having a principled approach to their data also makes it much easier for them to communicate that this is not just something random going on in the marketing department. It's not the web analyst who have made a decision, whether they should be compliant or not.

[00:35:00] Steen Rasmussen: This is actually something from a management level talking about what is our data strategy and what is our data ethical framework? I mean, in my book, it moves at much closer to ... legal terms, it's like rubbish, but I try to talk about the intent of the law and in a situation where the word of the law is basically obsolete, the law , becomes obsolete in relation to the technical hoopswe can jump through if we want to. Then I think we need to go in and take the step back and say, what are we trying to achieve from a legal perspective? And then add that, our ethical framework to that. So if anybody confronts us saying, we try to live up to the ideal of the law and use that for moving forward.

[00:35:45] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. Yeah. That's a great point. And I think the point that you make about the web analyst not being responsible for this, I think last time we spoke you, you said it's above their pay grade, right? That is really important for companies to understand.

[00:35:59] Rick Dronkers: They have to take responsibility and ownership for this, and it has to be top down because you cannot pass down the responsibility if you get a complaint by nation's a DPA you know, you can blame it on the, on the digital analyst.

[00:36:14] Steen Rasmussen: Say, Hey yeah, you set it up. So your fired!

[00:36:17] Rick Dronkers: Yeah, exactly, well, you can do that, but it will not help you.

[00:36:20] Steen Rasmussen: . Well, you can in the press release say, we're really sorry about this. And the responsible parties has been fired. Right. It's like, yeah, it's a good cover my ass strategy, but...

[00:36:31] Rick Dronkers: And then you have to find a new analyst and they're already hard to find, so it's probably not the best solution. Taking that top down and thinking about the strategy. And also I get what you're saying with the intent of the law is of course, you know, any lawyer will not agree with that.

[00:36:45] Rick Dronkers: But I do think it's important to at least have a strategy where you are like, okay, we, want to respect the choice of our users. That is why we have implemented the consent management platform. And we have implemented this and this way, this and this use case, and it's actually working right. It's the consent management is not there for show, but it's actually integrated with what we're tracking and making sure that entire flow is, is there.

[00:37:10] Rick Dronkers: I have a question related to this. Let's say. We go with the mantra of no consent, no tracking, right?

[00:37:17] Rick Dronkers: If people end up on your website and they, they click deny everything, and they have the do not track signal on activated in their browser, maybe they even have an ad-blocker on, then we could still track them. Right. We could use server-side technology. We could work around it basically. If we want to, we can work around. Obviously we shouldn't be doing that. But just to state that there is always a technical solution to still keep tracking people, because in the end they still request files from web servers. So we could figure out a way to, to at least measure it.

[00:37:50] Steen Rasmussen: I think actually if you flip a dime, I think that's actually in a lot of countries, there's a legal requirement to save your log files for X amount of period.

[00:37:59] Rick Dronkers: Yeah.

[00:37:59] Steen Rasmussen: And pretty conflicting, right?

[00:38:01] Rick Dronkers: Let's state this, , the fact that we could that is there. But now let's, let's take the stance of. Okay. No consent, no tracking. This could mean that for your large, media clients, that may be you optimize the, consent platform. Maybe you get to 60% opt in for marketing tracking.

[00:38:20] Steen Rasmussen: I think I am pragmatic. so what we built for some clients, and I know there are other tools out there where we go in. If people do not get consent, what we do is we run them through a, my anonymization engine that has been tested . They cannot be de-anonymized. So it removes everything. So what we have is behavioral data, but nothing that can be tied to a person.

[00:38:46] Steen Rasmussen: And I think from our perspective, saying that understanding as a business, our return on marketing, how our website is being used, where we should, where we can improve a customer experience. I see that as part of the reason of running a business, it's not like if you go into a store with a, do not track sign, that the video cameras will turn off.

[00:39:09] Steen Rasmussen: So there are some core fundamentals in relations to doing, to showing interest and to doing business that, that we need to have in place. And, somebody can crunch our anonymization engine and say, people are not anonymized. I think this is what I believe in saying we can aggregate data and I think, Stephane (Hamel) is probably going to hate me if he hears this, but I think no consent, no tracking is... it's very idealistic and it might work for public websites, but they will still have the interest and the need to understand what is going on. I probably see it as too idealistic that's what I've been saying the whole time. I'm pragmatic in this. If we want to focus on customer experience, then that is part of it. I cannot give you a better experience if I don't know what not necessarily you are, but people with that behavior, what they need and what they looking for.

[00:40:13] Rick Dronkers: Yeah, so. , if I get this right, you own your own engine that is before you sent the data to Google analytics, right?

[00:40:23] Steen Rasmussen: Yeah. So before anything leaves anywhere it's, like I said, it's a GTM Server-Side setup where the data from the user comes in. So it removes the IP, it removes all things that can be considered personal identifiable, it removes , what could be construed as personal data. And there's no IP going through. Nothing that will connect you directly to the user because all that goes on on the server-side. So in that sense, the actual customer gets detached from the visit. So we only have the statistics in relation to marketing and attention.

[00:41:00] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. I like this approach and I think what I like about it is , you take control in something that you own, right? So for people that are unaware, even though it's called Google tag manager server side, it is running on your own cloud platform instance, and Google basically has no access to that. So you, you control fully what happens to the data in there. And, and then before sending it somewhere else you obfuscate things, I do think from what I've read there's arguments about, even the session ID, right? Whether it's attached a person or not, it is still considered personal data. I think those are cases that you could argue both ways. And I think there's, there are strong arguments, both sides. So I think that's something that we need more clarity on going forward. But I do think that the solution that prescribing is also good from a risk perspective because you're minimizing risk by putting your faith in the hands of Google and you're handling it yourself before using, and wether you use Google analytics after that, or another tool doesn't really matter, you're taking the anonymization part within your own hands.

[00:42:06] Rick Dronkers: And if you have the capabilities to handle that, which is of course a big "if" you need, you need somebody like Mark Edmundson, on your side to build something like that. I think it is the way forward because it then allows you to, on one end serve your business, like you said, there's a commercial interest, right? If you are heavily on the marketing and advertising side, then you could definitely argue that is, that it is needed for your business to be successful. But still respect privacy as much as possible.

[00:42:35] Steen Rasmussen: Our first version of privacy by design giving the, the, the customers, the ability, our customers, the ability to go and actually design internally how they want to. But there are, of course, a lot of baselines that can be moved to this, but this is their definition of, of it, but then they can decide. And then the good thing is that at the end of the day, if somebody actually declares that Google Analytics is now illegal, you can actually just , flip, and then say all the users that goes through the website will be anonymized this way.

[00:43:07] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. Yeah. And I think you already have created a part of the infrastructure that you would also use if you switch for instance, to snowplow. So, already also preparing for the worst, worst case scenario. Where Google analytics is truly illegal and you get, you really can't use it anymore. So probably something that, a lot of companies, should explore or think about.

[00:43:32] Steen Rasmussen: We see it as something. So honestly, a lot of people are not even aware that they are losing the data when people do not give consent, that it just disappears to nothing.

[00:43:41] Steen Rasmussen: Right. It's like saying, okay, so you go from having 80, 90% of your data to only having 40% because between ITP and every people not being visible, then suddenly, it all disappears.

[00:43:55] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. It's also really dependent on the market that you serve. So for instance, I've been testing, on our own website where I assume there's a lot of digital marketing and digital analytics people coming. And I know a lot of us are a little bit hypocrites because we have ad blockers in our browsers and I've been noticing I've been using a log file analysis and then filtering out the bots from that and comparing it to Google analytics, where right now it's set up" if you do not consent for statistics, it will not fire at all." Right? So you need to actually specifically opt into statistics. And you already lose 50% easily. And that's because a lot of people have cookie banner-blockers. So instead they don't opt in or opt out. They automatically remove the banner because they don't want to be bothered with it. So that's thing that's happening. And then a lot of people, of course, just click deny or opt out. So lose 50% of traffic that way already.

[00:44:48] Steen Rasmussen: Actually, we've also seen a large group, which is probably the worst in this case because people who do not respond at all because they are kind of in a gray so people who have not given consent, they haven't click tick the box. So they just leave the damn cookie bar box, pop up, open, and then they just serve the site. They actually go into this limbo of users as well.

[00:45:10] Rick Dronkers: So think you should opt on the safe side for those and just throw them through the anonymization engine, that you have I think this will grow, because the amount of browser extensions and plugins that, that hides cookie bars for you is only growing. So, that clearly shows what people are interested in.

[00:45:28] Rick Dronkers: If you open up the browser extension shop for Chrome or safari and both on mobile and on a web , you can clearly see what are people looking for in here and it's always the hide, the cookie banners and just block all ads. Right. So, so yeah, , that's a problem going forward.

[00:45:44] Steen Rasmussen: I think also a damn interesting thing in this space, is that the consent rates are, they vary depending on channel. So there's a, one of the things that we've found one way when we dive into it saying, you might be looking at your side saying, cool, I have a consent rate of 60%, that's fine or 70 or 80. And then when you dive into the numbers, what you find is, yeah, cool. Congratulations. You have on 99% consent rate from your existing customers and you have a 10% consent rate from your banner traffic. So once you try to analyze and see if you don't know the difference between these numbers, your banner traffic is going to look horrific and your existing customers will be massively over-represented.

[00:46:24] Steen Rasmussen: And it's typical that the marketing traffic for new clients will have a lower consent rate than your average, because your existing crimes will be pulling it up. You get a good consent rate on email marketing because it's people who already know you.

[00:46:40] Steen Rasmussen: So you're in this loop where actually the people you need to know the most about is the people that dissapear. From a marketing and sales perspective.

[00:46:48] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. That's I think that is the challenge. Right, and shining the light on it from the other end. If people don't know you yet, and they're unaware of your brand, giving consent, it's giving, right. The word already says it.

[00:47:00] Rick Dronkers: So I think what we should move towards some other way of how we handle consent. Cause I think right now, like this blankets consent, when you enter a website, when you haven't seen whether it's valuable to you or not, I think it doesn't make sense anyway. it's basically like you're walking into a store, but right before you walk into the store, you first have to sign a full contract before you can enter.

[00:47:22] Rick Dronkers: And you're like, ah, well, I'll just go to the next store. Right.

[00:47:25] Rick Dronkers: So we need to change that, I think.

[00:47:27] Steen Rasmussen: So when you enter this door, can we have a camera crew following you around?

[00:47:31] Rick Dronkers: Yeah, exactly. So I think we will like how this will look, I don't know, but I think let's say you have your, your anonymization engine that you spoke about. Right? So, at the beginning, when somebody enters the website, you maybe, don't ask for consent yet. Maybe you just do anonymous tracking and you let them explore.

[00:47:50] Rick Dronkers: And then whenever they let's say they want to play a video, then you ask for consent when they actually want to play that video, or whenever they want to put a product in the basket, then you say like, Hey, if you want to shop with us, we need a little bit of, your consent because we want to optimize our web shop.

[00:48:05] Rick Dronkers: Hopefully understand, you know, and we use it for optimizing the webshop and for showing you a personalized experience. And then, you get the consent whenever it's relevant and not with like this huge banner in their face when they just enter the store. I think probably something like that. It has a more likely future, I guess.

[00:48:26] Steen Rasmussen: Yeah, I think so too. Something that changes the things, because it is like, you're seeing a massive growth in banner cookie, banner popup blockers , ugly term, but it's happening. Right.

[00:48:38] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. And to be honest, I'm partly responsible. I'm helping clients implement them as well because you know, everybody wants to be compliant. So this is the current solution that is out there. You get this banner and then you're sort of doing the right thing, but it doesn't from a user experience, point of view, it doesn't feel like the right thing. Nobody likes these things. You can already feel, it's not the way forward, so it, it will need to change.

[00:49:02] Steen Rasmussen: And I think so. So we're going back is probably the biggest mistakes that we made as an industry is probably not thinking about , that somebody had to respond to the "Do Not Track" setting. That was actually the first thing here. The reason why we're sitting here today is like, oh, I should have responded to that.

[00:49:20] Steen Rasmussen: Okay, cool. I didn't know.

[00:49:22] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. for the people listening or unaware within your browser, within every browser, there's a web standard, I guess where browsers can send a signal along with every hit that they send. And that basically signals that they do not want to be tracked. So it just it's called a do not track signal.

[00:49:36] Rick Dronkers: And this was implemented across all browsers, but nobody listened to it.

[00:49:42] Steen Rasmussen: I guess it was like in the browsers forgot to tell us that we weren't supposed to listen to this and it actually was something we should pick up on. And I think it's the classic example of this , somebody else will respond to this and nobody did. And this is probably the beginning of all our problems.

[00:49:59] Rick Dronkers: Yeah. Well, I think the ignoring of the do not track signal it was heavily lobbied by the advertising industry and I think this is where ITP was born, basically, that's where ITP is enforcing it. Instead of asking you to comply, it's enforcing it.

[00:50:12] Rick Dronkers: So I agree with you that probably we should have preemptively worked with them on the, do not track signal instead of now having to clean up after ourselves.

[00:50:20] Steen Rasmussen: Exactly. looping back to the opening. And I think it's just a reflection saying, we talked about Google analytics being illegal. I think the interesting thing just to kind of give closure to that, is that like I said, I'm heavily biased, but Google analytics has actually never been declared illegal as a tool.

[00:50:37] Steen Rasmussen: It's the practice of storing the data in the US right. So as a tool, it's actually fine. It is one problem that goes under GDPR that actually affects all cloud based solutions or most American tools and vendors and stuff is the same rules. And the same ruling could be pulled over Salesforce or AWS or facebook . I think I entertained you before we started with the fact that Sweden, has decided that Microsoft 365 is not compliant under these rules. So it's not a ruling. It's just the internal legal team that has decided that they don't want to use it.

[00:51:17] Steen Rasmussen: So, Quiz question, is you want to use, instead of Microsoft 365, what do you use? That is not an American platform based thing.

[00:51:28] Steen Rasmussen: The obvious choice, the first thing people say, well, I'll use Google. No. Okay. That doesn't work. Then I'll use apple.

[00:51:34] Steen Rasmussen: Okay. That doesn't work either.

[00:51:35] Rick Dronkers: There are some beautiful solutions out there. So I'm a bit of a open source tech nerd on the weekend basically. And there's a lot of self hosted, really cool, Google drive, like solutions that you can have in your own server. But of course this is, once you scale to enterprise solution and you want it to be reliable and maintained, then of course that goes out the window.

[00:51:53] Rick Dronkers: I do see in the future that there will be a very nicely scalable open source version of those kinds of tools as well, because I think the Dutch government actually uses Microsoft cloud. Like they use Azure and they did an entire, assessment of that as well.

[00:52:10] Rick Dronkers: I think in the end, like for some parts of government It probably in the future becomes wise to not be reliant on big tech so much because their interests are going to be so intertwined that might cause problems in the future.

[00:52:22] Rick Dronkers: But I think for a lot of commercial businesses, this is, yeah. It's just not worth it to go with some open source solutions you have to maintain when you can also pay Google 50 bucks a month to get it done.

[00:52:32] Steen Rasmussen: Imagine the cost for some, for some of the bigger companies, if they've got told. Okay, cool. You can no longer use any American tech.

[00:52:42] Rick Dronkers: yeah. It will be a great day for consultants and horrible day for, for business in Europe.

[00:52:46] Rick Dronkers: The flip side of that is of course that I do think that the rights of the individual, the way that the GDPR is set up, I think that is the right way to think about it. And I would love it if the GDPR or a framework like the GDPR, the intention of the GDPR, that would be, the way we can, that the world takes data into consideration going forward, and that we improve upon that even. So hopefully, this new agreement actually changes something. because I do think going forward, that would be the best outcome. And that would also mean that Google has the resources to change. There are tools to comply with the GDPR. It's just that right now, it doesn't make sense for them cause they're an American based business.

[00:53:27] Rick Dronkers: They do a lot of business in the U S so , why would they change their tooling? But if the legislative framework and the whole world's can kind of agree on how we handle data, then that would, I think in the end it will be a good thing for ad tech for marketing technology, because it just allows us to build for one solution instead of...

[00:53:45] Steen Rasmussen: I think that is the scary part, right? Fragmentation, that could be going on because yes, we talk a lot about GDPR, but what about the californian act? Technically, I guess they will be mimicking a lot of the stuff that we do. I think that first five us states that hasn't specific similar legislation..

[00:54:02] Rick Dronkers: Yeah, no, I agree. let's hope we can move towards, something that makes sense across, the entire world. Just like the internet can be used across the entire world. That would be a good way forward. Steen, thanks for this talk.

[00:54:14] Steen Rasmussen: It was my pleasure.

[00:54:15] Rick Dronkers: Where can people find you online if they want to learn more about you.

[00:54:18] Steen Rasmussen: I live on LinkedIn. That is kind of my main turf. That's the place , I communicate. So if you're curious and want to dive into the stuff I'm doing, find the place to meet me and LinkedIn is the place.

[00:54:30] Rick Dronkers: Great. We'll link to that in the show notes. Thank you Steen and hopefully we'll talk soon.