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Peak Ace on Air #41: Digital Analytics with Arnout Hellemans

In this week’s episode of Peak Ace on Air we discussed digital analytics. We had the pleasure of welcoming back returning guest and topic expert Arnout Hellemans from the Netherlands. He last joined us for the Christmas episode, and it’s always great to have him on the show. This week it was especially welcome, as Dominique couldn’t make it and Bastian didn’t have to be on his own!

Book recommendation: Unleash Your Primal Brain

Avid Peak Ace on Air followers will know that reading books (or not reading them) has been a theme throughout the series. Because of this, Bastian asked Arnout if he had any book recommendations. Arnout came through, saying that Unleash your Primal Brain by Tim Ash is an essential read. The book is about understanding how the human brain works. It covers why we behave the way we do and why we make decisions (or don’t make them). Arnout is right. For those who work in marketing, understanding human psychology and behavior is particularly important for success in the field.

How to fix measurement in Google Analytics

The discussion moved on to cover the faults and flaws of Google Analytics. Bastian and Arnout talked about how many people don’t really know how it works and often don’t challenge the data it provides – particularly regarding traffic sources.

Arnout is currently writing an article about Google Analytics – specifically about how to re-attribute direct traffic into different sources in order to better understand it. Despite what many people think, the direct traffic that Google Analytics logs for you doesn’t just come from someone typing a URL into a search bar. Both Bastian and Arnout stressed the importance of understanding this before you let your business become data driven.

New Google Analytics version GA4

Bastian and Arnout also covered the newly released version of Google Analytics. One of the new features Arnout said adds real value is the ability to construct a more thorough customer journey through multiple touchpoints. However, using the new version is still rather time-consuming for many companies. The new features aren’t even all included in the new version yet. So, while you can have both versions working in parallel with the same tracking code, it’s better to keep experimenting with the new version instead of relying on it completely. 

Server-side tracking

Server-side tracking has been gaining momentum in the digital analytics landscape, so it was only right that Arnout and Bastian talked about it too! It is, as the name implies, a tracking system that is not pixel driven. For Arnout, it’s the best method for website tracking. One great benefit of it is that it’s harder to block.

This also means that the data is yours – and you can decide what you want to share with whom. You don’t necessarily need to share all your data with third parties, such as Facebook. But it isn’t stated whether data from your campaigns is used by Facebook elsewhere through the pixel. 

Thus, companies should keep their own data in-house in their own data warehouse, instead of having it on a third-party base. Other companies are also realising this. We at Peak Ace are also receiving more and more requests to build data warehouses to our clients.

iOS new update on Facebook

As discussed in our episode with Paul, Apple now require written consent from the user that the Facebook app, for example, is allowed to use their data in an Apple device. Bastian and Arnout discussed what companies need to do in order to continue to correctly attribute conversions to Facebook. Arnout suspects that the best method is to start using more plug-ins to make data collection easier.

Optimisation of cookie notice banners

Cookie banners: just stick them on your website with “yes” or “no” and you’re set, right? Not quite! Cookie banners need to be optimised for optimal performance. We should all concentrate more on what we really want cookie banners to do for us.

Let’s face it, it’s about encouraging people to accept all cookies. Arnout gave some great tips for making declining cookies a bit harder and accepting all cookies easier. And don’t forget: you might need different designs for different devices!

Bastian also added the SEO-point-of-view: a massive cookie banner overlay might really hurt site rendering. The moral of the story? Check your cookie banners.

New ranking signals as Google’s PR

At the end of the show, the guys got into the (perhaps controversial) topic of new ranking signals mainly being PR for Google. The ranking signals that Google actively pushes (such as https or Core Web Vitals) are often not as powerful as they might seem.

Arnout recalled that when he was travelling in South America, many websites didn’t have https, even when they offered the option of paying by credit card. He found these sites through Google with ease. As a result, he suspects that not having a https doesn’t necessarily have a huge impact on your rankings.

However, your site still needs to be secure. Just because something isn’t affecting your ranking, doesn’t mean it isn’t important. And that’s exactly the point: if there’s something Google thinks website owners should implement (including when it’s for Google’s own benefit) they say it is a ranking signal just to make people to implement it.

And that’s a wrap! Isn’t it amazing that another week has gone by already? Next week we’ll be back with our review of what happened in April. Or, should I say, what didn’t happen… See you then!

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