That’s the way the cookie crumbles

Making the switch to smarter data to enhance the user experience

As the digital world expands and evolves at a pace faster than many of us care to admit, a deep understanding and appreciation of user behaviour will continue to be the recipe for success when it comes to website optimisation.

By monitoring user behaviour and preferences — including pain points, high-performing content and how to funnel users towards a particular outcome — website owners can make data-driven decisions and choose the right ingredients for a better user experience, rather than relying on half-baked assumptions. This ultimately results in improved engagement, returning users and higher conversion rates.

But without a robust and reliable way to track user behaviour, you’re playing into Swedish Chef territory.

Source: Swedish Chef GIFs | Tenor

Enter Google Analytics — a tried and tested staple for website owners to analyse and report on traffic and user behaviour. In line with shifts in the digital landscape, it is now changing the way we view website data so we can see a more complete picture.

From 1 July, Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) will be replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This transition is akin to moving from the stone age to the iron age with analytics, recognising users access online content predominately mobile first, desktop second.

Increasing concerns around privacy and data security have also spurred on the switch to GA4, with Google set to phase out third-party cookies by 2024, making it harder to track user behaviour across multiple sites and understand audience for marketing purposes. This is likely to have significant consequences for the digital advertising ecosystem and could lead to the cookie crumbling.

Similarly, bounce rates may not always provide an accurate indication of user behaviour, particularly if a user lands on a page that provides all the information they need and then leaves without clicking through to other pages. A high bounce rate in this instance may not signal a problem with the page or the site.

To address these challenges, GA4 has added new metrics and methods into the mix for measuring user behaviour, providing greater insight into user behaviour and engagement.

GA4 is on a roll with a much more robust cross-device tracking model. It is able to track users across multiple devices, multiple applications and multiple platforms. This will provide a better indication of how users are interacting with a website, be it on a mobile or desktop, in a different browser, or through social media and messaging apps. Take for example a user who has undertaken all their research for a particular product on their mobile, but they then finalise their experience by purchasing the product on desktop. In UA, this would be shown as two different users — one highly engaged with no conversion and one with low session time but converted. Cross-device tracking in GA4 combines this experience for a more accurate user report.

GA4 can also drill right down to individual users — a feature not available in UA. You can see where they started their journey, how they experience a website through technology and how often they come back thanks to the user retention feature. As the name suggests, user retention shows how well retained your users are and how frequently they return to the website (i.e. daily, weekly or monthly). User retention provides opportunities to adjust your approach to increase users’ returning frequency.

The icing on the cake is the integration of Tag Manager — another tool that can help website owners set up and track events on their website or app, such as button clicks or document downloads, without having to make any changes to website code. GA4 has a selection of pre-established events — like scroll depth — ready to go, but more can be added using Tag Manager depending on your needs.

Come 1 July, UA will stop collecting data. Website owners will still be able to access historic data, but no analytics will be tracked in UA moving forward, which means migration to GA4 is a must. While it is not a simple one-click solution, it is an important step to ensure website owners don’t get left behind.

Website optimisation is Rowland’s bread and butter, and we understand the importance of getting the balance between valuable, data-driven insights and transparent, user-friendly tracking practices, just right.

Source: Cookies GIF – Cookies – discover and share GIFs (

Our Digital team can help make the transition to GA4 easy, from setting up your data and Tag Manager, to exploring your reporting requirements and adding custom tracking.

Let us help you make the switch to smarter data.