ChatGPT means HARD CHOICES for website managers in the next few months… Huh?

Get this: ChatGPT is quickly proving to be a major thorn in the side of Google, and possibly even an existential threat, if you ask some industry insiders. It dramatically  changes the way people seek answers to questions and needs they have, and Microsoft is aggressively trying to undermine Google’s search dominance. Google’s search dominance is tied directly to their Ad Revenue, which funds… everything that Google does. We know this story… you might not know the next one.

Google Analytics (GA) is not a profit center for Google, it is a cost center that they sustain only because it is meant to benefit their advertisers and help them understand the impact of their ads. Mission-driven GA users have long felt this in sprawling-yet-stagnant development over the years and the sluggish response to popular feature requests.

Even the major overhaul happening now, retiring GA3 and launching GA4 had nothing to do with improving the quality and performance of analytics and everything to do with protecting Google from the quilt-work of privacy laws around the globe. And this launch is… not going well. As you might expect from an emergency retirement and relaunch of a franchise, they simply haven’t thought everything through, are not supporting a lot of analytics use cases well, and keep changing their mind about how the platform will work, and how it will (or won’t) integrate with the other systems they assume you’ll use to do your analytics (like BigQuery and GDS/Looker Studio). They had never put a lot of effort into GA in the first place, and that capacity is palpably strained by the task at hand.

So what does this have to do with ChatGPT? As OpenAI and Microsoft work to rip the rug out from under Google, the round of layoffs in January might just be the beginning. And stumble’s like this week’s failed launch of an AI competitor (which cost Google ~10% of its market cap) will put incredible pressure on Sundar Pitchai to cut costs even deeper in this “year of efficiency” for the tech sector. Cuts like this are going to eliminate and further constrain support for all the products that aren’t core search or ad delivery, including products like Google Analytics. That means that if you thought the move to GA4 was bumpy already, buckle up.

So what is a website/analytics manager to do? Be very clear about what you want out of analytics, and if you have already moved to GA4, really test it to see if it can address the questions that will guide your organization, or if its limitations make it unusable by your stakeholders and even a burden on you to try to squeeze out the answers you need. And if it can’t keep up, recognize that there are a LOT of alternatives to Google Analytics out there, and you don’t need to feel beholden to Google

At PTKO, we have rewritten our standard service package for the retirement of Google Analytics a few times since it was announced in March of last year, and I’ll sum it up with this timeline of proposal titles: