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Why Google Analytics may not represent the pinnacle of your data analysis.

March 6, 2024
5 min read

At Tapper, we aim to combat ad and click fraud perpetrated by bots and raise awareness about this problem among all businesses

To achieve this goal, alongside our user-friendly software, we offer businesses guidance on evaluating the scope of their bot-related challenges using data and metrics available through your own analytics tools.

While conducting your own data analysis is valuable, it's crucial to remember that analytics tools like Google Analytics offer only a partial view of reality. They provide a starting point to gauge the impact of bot traffic on your website or app. Yet, they don't fully address questions regarding the extent and nature of bot activity.

This article aims to outline why analytics tools, including Google Analytics 4 (GA4), offer an incomplete picture and why integrating fraud detection data is essential for a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

All reported traffic doesn't encompass the entirety of total traffic.

Let's begin by addressing one of the primary challenges associated with Google Analytics: its compatibility with privacy regulations when integrated into a website or app.

To use GA4 in compliance with GDPR regulations, you must obtain user consent. This consent requirement typically leads to a reduction in the amount of user data you receive, ranging from 30% to 70% in the future.

Opt-in rates can vary significantly depending on the country and industry. For instance, countries like Poland (64%) and Spain (63%) tend to have higher opt-in rates, with more users clicking the "Accept All" button on consent banners. In contrast, countries like Germany (44%) and the US (32%) have lower opt-in rates.

A similar pattern can be observed across different industries. While the healthcare sector typically sees an average opt-in rate of around 55%, industries such as finance & insurance and telecommunications experience higher rates, approaching 65%. On average across all industries, the opt-in rate stands at approximately 60.14%.

Put simply, you're missing out on data from nearly 40% of your website visitors!

A comparable scenario unfolds not just on websites but also within apps. When Apple implemented App Tracking Transparency (ATT) with iOS 14.5, all app developers were mandated to seek user consent for tracking personal data.

Once more, the trend remains consistent: A majority of users (>50%) opt out of tracking when given the choice.

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A case study from analytics expert Brian Clifton shows the impact opt-in requests can have on your analytics numbers. After implementing a Consent Management Platform (CMP) on a client’s website and linking it to Google Analytics, numbers plummeted 70%.

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Therefore, even with a privacy-compliant setup, Google Analytics won't capture 100% of your actual baseline data.

Your Consent Management Platform (CMP) provider might furnish you with opt-in/opt-out rate figures from your website (if not, make sure to ask for them). Yet, you can also leverage these figures to estimate only specific metrics (like visits). However, for other metrics such as conversions, your data will consistently be an approximation since you might be amalgamating multiple extrapolated values.

Tapper – GDPR-compliant view of 100% of traffic without requiring consent.

Now, consider this: Would you be content working with just 30% of your overall data when making critical decisions?

We certainly wouldn't. That's why, in our dashboard, we furnish you with essential analytics data alongside metrics concerning bots and invalid traffic.

With this approach, you gain a clear understanding of the total number of visitors to your website/app and can distinguish between genuine users and bots. Furthermore, supplementary metrics like referrer, campaign, and device type enable deeper, more thorough analyses.

The greatest advantage? Tapper offers you access to your entire traffic, operating in full compliance with privacy regulations and can be utilized without necessitating consent. Our software usage is governed by Art. 6 lit. f GDPR (legitimate interest).

It's in the website operator's interest to distinguish between valid and invalid traffic on their site. Primarily, Tapper serves to prevent fraud (as stated in recital 47 of the GDPR), while also rectifying website statistics by filtering out invalid traffic. Armed with these invaluable insights, website operators and advertisers can optimize their online marketing budgets more effectively.

Obscure bot detection

The lack of transparency in bot detection is another reason why Google Analytics provides only a partial view of the reality.

Google offers limited details about the methods and types of bots identified and removed from the data. While they mention the public IAB Spiders and Bot List, they also reference internal research.

However, the IAB list offers only a basic overview of bot names found in the user agent string. Fraudsters can easily alter the name of their bot in the user agent information, evading detection. This approach to detecting ad fraud, reliant on the HTTP header, proves to be highly unreliable. That's why fraud0 employs much more advanced mechanisms for bot detection.

Furthermore, Google, like other advertising platforms, faces a conflict of interest as they profit from clicks, even those generated by non-human sources.

Previously, with Universal Analytics, users could manually enable or disable bot detection for a data view. However, with GA4, bots are automatically filtered out from App + Web Properties by default.

Furthermore, apart from the lack of transparency in bot detection, it's impossible to ascertain the extent of bot traffic excluded from Google Analytics.

In GA4, there's no visibility into the detected bots within the data. Without this information, it's challenging to determine whether only a small fraction, like 5%, or a significant portion, perhaps over 25%, was excluded. This absence of clarity makes it difficult to draw valid conclusions regarding both the quality and quantity of the filtered "invalid traffic," potentially distorting the displayed session data.

Transparent numbers and block the bots with the help of Tapper

Using Tapper paints a distinct picture. Within our dashboard, we not only illustrate the proportion of invalid and subpar traffic within the total, but also furnish additional details about the bots and the rationale behind their blockade.

This enables you to quickly identify the types of bots impacting your platform, such as botnets, user agent spoofing, and more.

Differences in analytical data between Universal Analytics (UA) and GA4

The third and final concern we need to address regarding the dataset in GA4 pertains to the altered data model from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.

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The most notable distinction lies in the structure of the data model. With Universal Analytics, users were linked to sessions containing multiple interactions (like page views or custom events). In GA4, however, it adopts a flat, event-centric data model where a user is associated with a sequence of events.

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A thorough comparison detailing all the differences between UA and GA4 is outside the scope of this article. For a deeper dive into the changes, we suggest referring to this recommended article.

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The key point to understand is that achieving comparability between numbers in UA and GA4 is quite challenging and may reveal disparities ranging from 5 to 60%.

This raises questions about the extent to which automatic bot filtering contributes to these differences. However, since Google Analytics lacks transparency regarding bot detection and does not display filtered bots in the data, it's difficult to ascertain the impact of automatic bot detection or its altered functionality between UA and GA4.

Consequently, some companies opt to use both tools simultaneously, leading to the need to reconcile two distinct sets of data. In one instance, a customer of ours observed a data variance of around 6%, which is relatively modest.

Gain a comprehensive understanding of all your data.

Are we suggesting that you replace Google Analytics 4 with Tapper? No, our expertise lies in detecting Invalid Traffic and remains unchanged.

Instead, our aim is to shed light on your existing data framework and why it may not accurately represent reality. While Google Analytics offers insights, it presents only a partial view of reality on your dashboard. Unfortunately, GA4 lacks the comprehensive data needed to paint the full picture.

At this stage, we highly recommend integrating Tapper alongside Google Analytics 4 for the following advantages:

  • Gain comprehensive visibility into 100% of your website/app traffic, ensuring GDPR compliance without requiring prior user consent.
  • Benefit from transparent bot detection and detailed insights into the specific types of bots present on your website/app.

If you're interested in comparing the data between GA4 and our platform firsthand, we invite you to sign up for a complimentary 14-day trial of Tapper. During this trial period, you'll have full access to all features without any obligations. Plus, no credit card is required, so you can get started right away at no cost. See for yourself and sign up for a free 14-day trial.

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