By Dave Colgate, Head of Enterprise SEO, Vertical Leap
Google is the dominating force in the world of website analytics, with 86% penetration worldwide. As of the 1st July, GA4 has become the go-to tool for Google Analytics. Offering a refreshed version of the tool, it focuses on a modern user journey taking into consideration privacy and multi-device user journeys. But what does this mean for businesses?
Whilst data in the original UA accounts will be available for at least six months, there will be major differences in the data being reported. Businesses need to be setting expectations now for what the new data will mean and what to expect to avoid challenging conversations. As such, marketers who rely on GA for their own data reporting need a basic understanding of what is changing, why and the new vocabulary.
How will the changes effect marketers?
The first major difference is the interface. It looks a lot sparser than the old platform. Due to fundamental differences in the measurement model, businesses won’t see the same reports as they are used to. This is in part due to the difference in language especially in the metrics the GA4 reports produce.
These changes are highly nuanced. For example, what used to be referred to as ‘hits’ are now called ‘events’. This term incorporates a lot more, referring to anything from a visitor hitting the website to clicking a button or starting a video – previously it meant something meaningful like an actual conversion.
Another fundamental difference is the change in the meaning of the word ‘session’. This will be a different way of measuring data, and as of yet, it’s unclear if this will be more accurate. With an overhauled meaning of the language, what the data marketers are expecting to see will be vastly different. This is one of the major sticking points for those transitioning to GA4.
With such vastly different data, marketers will experience a steep learning curve about what their stats were telling them and what they are telling them now. More importantly, in terms of day-to-day practicalities, the new system will simply be quite alien to the industry. With this in mind, learning how to communicate the meaning behind the data and consequently managing expectations of stakeholders will become vitally important. Like many things, people fear what they don’t understand. With the number of events, engagement rates and much more changing, sometimes for what appears to be the worse, it’s important to temper concerns with a clear explanation of what the new terms mean.
What are the benefits?
For all the growing pains people will experience when adapting to the new system, once marketers get to grips with the changes GA4 offers various benefits not found with UA.
GA4 uses an event-based data model, enabling a broader set of tools to track interactions across digital assets, as well as offering enhanced cross-platform tracking to understand user behaviour across web and mobile apps. GA4’s advanced user identification methods ensure more accurate tracking than relying solely on cookies. By leveraging Google’s machine learning, GA4 offers AI-driven insights and predictive metrics, allowing for more streamlined data analysis. The user-centric reporting interface focuses more on business objectives, helping organisations tailor their marketing strategies. With automated event tracking and streamlined funnel analysis, GA4 simplifies implementation and analysis. It also prioritises data privacy and compliance, making it a future-proof choice. Google encourages migration to GA4 with tools and resources for a smooth transition, making it a comprehensive and data-rich analytics solution for businesses.
By understanding the benefits of GA4, marketers can be better equipped to explain the more comprehensive data sets, offering better insight into what’s working and what is not. With this, they can offer more commercially driven solutions that focus on the easily identifiable pain points. If time is invested into understanding how GA4 can be utilised effectively, businesses will benefit commercially.
How can marketers ensure a smooth transition
Marketers have six months where they can still access their data, however there is an expectation it’s going to be extended. Those with a Google 360 account can have access until the 1st October and can continue to use UA in the ordinary way. In terms of a seamless integration between GA4 and wider marketing strategy, this can be a pinch point for many marketers who don’t want to lose momentum, whilst trying to understand the changes.
The sticking point will be down to personal knowledge. If marketers have limited understanding of GA4,it will take longer to fully implement its various functions effectively as part of your brand’s wider marketing plans. Along with an understanding of the difference in what the data is telling us, the most significant challenge will be explaining and getting buy in from the wider team when the numbers look vastly different to what it was before.
Time is of the essence for marketers when it comes to understanding GA4. With all the data analytics on offer, getting to grips with the interface will allow them to make better informed decisions that drive tangible sales Managing expectations of stakeholders will be equally important as the result they have come to expect from previous platforms will be vastly different. Being able to communicate this effectively will better inform strategy, and benefit brands commercially.