Published Friday 26th January 2024

Firefox blocking Google Analytics

In June 2019, Mozilla released an update to their Firefox browser which enabled Enhanced Tracking Protection by default. In a nutshell, this feature automatically prevents tracking cookies from being created by websites, and it works by checking them against a block list whenever a website tries to create them. This list included Google Analytics cookies back in June 2019, and still does today, nearly 5 years on.

Google Analytics has evolved over the years and GA4 in particular includes anonymisation by default, in compliance with GDPR, but their cookies are still blocked by Firefox. It's been long enough now that we can fairly confidently say this isn't going to change. Mozilla aren't likely to remove Google from their block list, Google aren't likely to find a way to retain the functionality of their analytics service without creating tracking cookies, and the Enhanced Tracking Protection feature added to Firefox isn't going anywhere either. It's a brilliant feature, and having it enabled by default makes a lot of sense.

The problem for website owners is that this renders Google Analytics slightly less useful for actual traffic monitoring. If somebody visits your website using the Mozilla Firefox browser, and they haven't for some reason opted to disable tracking protection, then Google Analytics won't report their visit at all. Even the most basic statistics, like your daily hits count, will always exclude Firefox traffic and effectively work as an "at least" count, rather than a literal.

What's more, it's possible that other browsers will switch to a similar policy over time. Chrome, Safari, and Edge all have a higher market share than Firefox and while Google's Chrome browser isn't ever going to block their own Google Analytics cookies, it wouldn't be surprising if Safari and/or Edge begin to. If one of those browsers, or a few of the other lesser used browsers make similar changes, this could have a notable impact on the overall accuracy of Google Analytics reports for all website owners.

Combined with the fact that some people already install browser plugins to disable tracking cookies in other ways, if you want actually accurate analytics, your best option is to build your own tailored system for it, or use a server-side analytics system such as AWStats which monitors access logs to produce relatively basic, but useful, traffic counters.

We don't recommend removing Google Analytics from your website completely though, as Google still uses it for monitoring their own search performance. When somebody clicks through to your website from a Google search, your Google Analytics integration tracks things like whether they bounce back to the search results straight away, or continue on to navigate other pages on your site. It knows how long they stay on the landing page and whether they complete any of your configured goals. Put simply, although Google Analytics is becoming less useful for accurate reporting, it's still basically a necessity if you want to rank well in Google search results. For good SEO, you should set goals up on things like your contact forms so that Google can see that the people it sends you generally likes what they find and choose to get in touch. This confirms to them that your website is worth ranking well for that search, and helps to ensure better search performance.

Continue to make good use of Google Analytics as an SEO tool, but take the graphs that it presents to you with a pinch of salt. They're not as accurate as you might think and, chances are, they're only going to get worse.

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Ric is a senior web and game programmer with nearly 30 years industry experience and countless programming languages in his skillset. He's worked for and with a number of design and development agencies, and is the proprietor of QWeb Ltd. Ric is also a Linux server technician and an advocate of free, open-source technologies. He can be found on Mastodon where he often posts about the projects he's working on both for and outside of QWeb Ltd, or you can follow and support his indie game project on Kofi. Ric also maintains our Github page of useful scripts.

Blog posts are written by individuals and do not necessarily depict the opinions or beliefs of QWeb Ltd or its current employees. Any information provided here might be biased or subjective, and might become out of date.

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