Google pulls the plug on Google Optimize: what does this mean for you and your landing page?

Koen van de Wetering
Mar 15, 2023

Important news for the advanced (landing page) markerteer: Google Optimize is ending after Sept. 30, 2023. If you use Google Analytics 360, you may have the option to extend your use of the tool. In this short article, we'll briefly explain the background of Google Optimize and the implications for you as Google Optimize closes its doors after September. In short: you will have to look for other ways to test and measure conversions, but: no need to panic, because there is an interesting alternative available. We are happy to explain it to you here.

Brief background on Google Optimize

Google launched Google Optimize more than 5 years ago to help small businesses and teams test their websites and improve user experiences. Many companies have since used the tool to optimize their Web sites, landing pages or apps. The practical fact that Optimize was free obviously played an important role for these companies and teams. 

Website testing, A/B testing and personalization - Google Optimize

A technical requirement for working with Google Optimize was setting up a Google Analytics account, which in turn used cookies. So-called "third-party" cookie technology to record website visitors' browsing behavior, however, has come under a magnifying glass since the introduction of EU legislation GDPR and other similar international laws. Google's decision to phase out the third-party cookie (in Google Chrome) also plays an important role. Therefore, there is suddenly an urgent need for millions of companies to look for alternatives to existing third-party networks that they have relied on for years for their analytics, marketing and growth.

Google's strategy: Google Analytics 4

However, according to Google itself, Google Optimize is no longer up-to-date. The expectation is that with Analytics 4, Google wants to integrate its software solutions while capturing more market share. Google is investing heavily in Google Analytics 4 and actually wants you to do the same. By offering links to key third-party tools, they hope to tie (external) expertise to the platform. Initially, they will partner with Optimizely. Optimizely is the world's largest Digital Experience Platform (DXP) provider. Optimizely defines a DXP as follows:

"A digital experience platform (DXP) is a software platform that manages digital experience across a broad range of digital touchpoints. Some of the functionality found in a DXP include content management, ecommerce, personalization, and experimentation."

Sounds interesting, but what does it mean concretely? DXPs actually play an increasing role in collecting a so-called 360-degree (customer) view. In short: the more data you can collect about your customer (using, for example, a DXP such as Optimizely), the more complete your picture and the better you can approach this customer in the future with a relevant offer. At least, that's the thinking.

However, an important condition for collecting a complete (future) customer view is having the right infrastructure in place to manage and analyze first-party cookies and data. In short, this means cookies and data for which you have given your explicit consent on a specific website. This data may then be forwarded - anonymized - and under explicit conditions to third-party tools and used for further analysis. Although Google and the entire "adtech" industry has grown up using third-party cookie technology, however, the change seems irreversible. A practical example of this is Google's continued development of Consent Mode, which Google's products must (eventually) all comply with.

How to move forward?

It is likely that Google will eventually want to integrate all of its products with Consent Mode, and that obviously includes functionality for testing and optimization. However, these features will not yet be available on Sept. 30. More news on this will come out in the coming months. 

So what can you do (already)? Have you already installed Google Analytics 4? If yes, you're on the right track. If no, you can get started on that already. Universal Analytics expires in July 2023 anyway, so there is some urgency here. 

It is smart to have switched to 'GA4'(or: another Analytics solution) before then. Users are advised to download data before it is no longer available after the end of September. 

Of course, you can also look for alternative solutions to test and optimize. Since Google's announcement to discontinue Google Optimize, several competitors have introduced a (limited) free version of their toolkit. With other providers, you pay (more), but also get more features in return. 

Goodbye third-party cookie; hello server-side tagging?

In addition, switching to a different environment offers marketers an opportunity to (re)evaluate their privacy compliance. Many browsers have not used third-party cookie technology for some time, but now that Google's Chrome has banned this form of tracking, many are taking this opportunity to look for a sustainable, alternative infrastructure for tracking and analytics. Of course, Google will soon offer the option of running its entire suite and Google Analytics 4 based on Consent Mode data, but it should be noted that this new way of working by Google is also still under a magnifying glass. 

In any case, it seems clear that client-side tagging has had its day and that server-side tagging seems a future-proof alternative (for now). Client-side tagging is of course still the most widely used system for analyzing surfing behavior. It allows these "third parties" to access data through your own Web site by installing tags and scripts in your Web site code. Server-side tagging, on the other hand, is about managing data on a central server, which acts as a gatekeeper (or in technical language: proxy) between your visitor and the analysis software. In doing so, third parties no longer have direct access to browsing data. 

Some of the benefits of server-side tagging are:

  • Control whether your own and user data by (express) consent
  • Achieving and maintaining privacy compliance becomes easier
  • Generating (additional) ad revenue becomes easier because (traditional) adblockers are not triggered
  • Improved performance by reducing script load time
  • Better website and data security
  • A more complete picture of customers across multiple channels
  • A central hub for compliance, such as for legal checks

So while server-side tagging is a big step in the right direction, all the new privacy laws actually revolve around one and the same action, no matter what technology is used to do so: asking the (end) user's explicit permission for data collection.

AdPage and AdPage Tagging: fast landing pages with Server Side Tracking via Google Tag Manager Server Side

Are you already familiar with AdPage? AdPage is a powerful tool developed in the Netherlands and is known for its speed, versatility and extensive support. It has already been used by many satisfied customers to create landing pages, website pop-ups, quizzes and profile enrichment, among other things.

The AdPage platform is the perfect place for you if you want to create optimized and effective landing pages in a quick and easy way. After creating landing pages (which increases conversions by up to 40%), you can segment and personalize them.

Moreover, AdPage helps you easily with "multisteps" and so you do not need to use a separate tool, such as Google Forms or Typeform, but dynamically suggest questions to your visitors based on their answers and data. You will also find a number of options to offer discounts to your visitors.

Besides the fact that AdPage offers templates created and tested exclusively for the Dutch market, these templates are also fully up-to-date with the latest AVG regulations. For this, you can get started with AdPage latest tool, AdPage Tagging. This is a tool that helps you set up so-called server-side tagging, which we have already talked about in this article. By switching directly to Google Analytics 4 and forwarding everything server-side, you benefit from the latest and most advanced data analysis capabilities. By using a proxy server, we don't have to load in third-party scripts. We forward the data filtered to Google Tag Manager Server Side, exactly as intended.

We understand that this is not an everyday occurrence for most business owners, so of course we understand if you have questions. Or maybe you are curious about the possibilities of AdPage Tagging. Of course we would love to show them to you! The best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with one of us directly below. Then you'll be up and running with tracking and analysis in no time - and prepared for the future.