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Are You Ready for Google Analytics 4 Upgrade? Here’s What is Changing and What You Need to Know

Are You Ready for Google Analytics 4 Upgrade? Here’s What is Changing and What You Need to Know

Change is Good?

Change isn’t something new to any business. Marketers and management regardless of the departmental affiliation rely heavily on analytics to inform and assess the change in their audiences and make crucial decisions related to their products and services. Google Analytics 4 upgrade is no different.

Google Analytics has been one of the main sources of analysis. Statistica reported that at the end of December 2021, Google Chrome occupied 59.97% of the global market. Brands, using cookies have been able to track website visitors to help improve user experiences and collect useful data for retargeting purposes. 

Other browsers already eliminated the use of cookies making Google late to the cookie-free browser party. Google’s position in the market most likely pushed them to exercise caution with this implementation, especially with new privacy regulations.  

But what is this change and what do you need to do? 

Google officially announced that effective July 1, 2023, the product called Google Analytics Universal Analytics (UA) will no longer be processing any new data. UA 360 properties will receive an additional three months of new hit processing ending on October 1, 2023.

If you have been reading our blog posts, then you will notice that we frequently mention using Google analytics to help you either prepare your strategy or learn more about your audience. In this post, we will explore some of the changes coming with Google Analytics 4 (GA4), highlight some of the benefits, and recommend alternatives, with tips to adjust your website settings. 

Introducing Google Analytics  4

According to Russell Ketchum Director of Product Management at Google Analytics, Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies. However, this measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete. Google Analytics 4 operates across platforms and does not rely exclusively on cookies; it uses an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement.

Breaking it down

There is always the question of, what’s in this? There is quite a bit of noise and research has led us to believe that this was worth the change so let’s break down a few things. Understanding the basics of any new system is a key starting point. The ability to relay that information succinctly and efficiently is useful for anyone (or everyone). So, three things stood out from the description by Russell Ketchum. 

Let’s explore them. 

No more cookies

Regulatory changes regarding web browsing and privacy changed the way we interact with users and their data. Initially, there was immediate panic among marketers because according to Hubspot:

  • 41% of marketers believe their biggest challenge will be their inability to track the right data.
  • 44% of marketers predict a need to increase their spending by 5% to 25% in order to reach the same goals as 2021.
  • 23% of marketing experts plan on investing in email marketing software due to Google’s new policy. 

So how will Google handle this?

They are not completely getting rid of all the cookies. They understand the importance and value of being able to track and measure your data for planning, budgeting, and reporting. So, they are simply modifying the way measurement is done. Every system should leave room for improvement, and this might be Google’s way of advancing metrics and performance. 

Event-based data analytics

Now that cookies are phasing out or basically off the radar, event-based analytics is steadily on the rise. According to Amplitute.com, relying on event-based analysis gives more to work with. They define event-based analytics as a method of tracking interactions between users and your product or content. The results don’t just give you traffic and sources, but also tell you why things are happening. Going deeper to understand what products your customers are engaging with. They listed the three common categories of events as:

  • Events that are important in completing a process within your product, like a tutorial or signup
  • Events that guide a user through the main mechanics of your product
  • Events that enable a user to make an in-app purchase

Google Analytics 4 user-centric measurement

User-centric measurement falls into a category that deals with your website performance which occurs in pre and post-development. Holistic Seo.digital noted ways user-centric metrics can be measured to include:

  1. In the lab: by stimulating an artificial experience by measuring the engagement on a page based on a browser automation system
  2. In the field: where user feedback and user behavior are collected 
  3. Real-time: when a website goes live, then how users interact with the website can then be measured. 

Key Benefits of Google Analytics 4

We covered what’s new but what are some of the benefits of those changes and how will they improve your metrics?  Most importantly, how will these improvements align with your overall marketing and business goals and engagement?  

Here are six benefits of Google 4:

1. Understand your customers across touchpoints

A clear picture of your customer’s journey is most desired. Especially when it comes to providing the best service. Google 4 promises a unique experience with navigating those key touch points. We could add this to WDB’s list of ways to improve your user experience and conversion. 

2. Improve ROI with data-driven attribution

According to Google, data-driven attribution gives credit for conversions based on how people engage with your various ads and decide to become your customers. It uses data from your account to determine which keywords, ads, and campaigns have the greatest impact on your business goals. Now this improvement allows you to analyze the overall impact of your marketing campaign. Helping you to bring together the entire package in one analysis to decide how your marketing influences your conversions. 

3. Measure engagement and conversions with business and compliance needs in mind

Data protection and privacy are a global concern. However, despite those concerns, we must at least recognize that we do in fact live in a digital world. Some businesses operate exclusively in a digital space. Google recognized this obvious fact and allowed for this new system to seriously take that into consideration, bridging the gap between customer, compliance, and business needs. 

4. Get greater value from your data

Every marketer or decision maker loves the idea of predictions. We have been purporting possibilities based on past trends for quite some time. Now, Google 4 helps a bit more with the prediction based on predictive insights. Not only can you build your audiences, but the data also provided is effective in assessing the likelihood of future client purchases. Or, whether or not they will return. 

5. Easily activate your insights

The new system allows ease when integrating other widely used Google products. Data is captured seamlessly activating your insights, especially for Google Ads further optimizing your campaigns. 

6. Address your enterprise measurement needs

Analytics 360 was built on the foundation of Google Analytics 4 properties to address the measurement needs of large advertisers and agencies with more customizations, increased scale, and enterprise-level support.

Alternatives to Google 4

While we are all scurrying to implement changes to accommodate Google 4, we must also take into consideration what else is out there. According to leadfeeder.com, while Google is surely the most popular analytics platform available, it is not without limitations. It is also not the only reliable service you can use. So here is a list of other analytics tools you can use:

  1. HubSpot
  2. Mixpanel
  3. Woopra
  4. FoxMetrics
  5. Piwik PRO Analytics Suite
  6. Gauges
  7. W3counter
  8. Clicky
  9. Matomo Analytics
  10. Heap
  11. Chartbeat
  12. Microanalytics

As previously mentioned, shifts occur daily in business so none of this should come as a surprise. At this juncture, there is value in properly positioning your business to function with better overall insights already embedded in a system you might be familiar with or using. Whether you stick with google analytics or shift to a different system, ensure that what you want from the system, effectively aligns with your business goals. 

Sticking with Google?

If you are sticking with Google, then your next step is to make the necessary changes. Like any major business change, Google Analytics 4 requires that you make certain adjustments to the backend. To effectively reap the benefits of this new system of reporting. 

Have a plan

Every technical update or upgrade needs to be carefully planned out. Especially when it will affect your SEO, ads, and content management systems. Bear in mind that the changes you will implement could have far-reaching effects on your search engine results position. 

Do your research

The changes are universal and although some aspects aren’t new, there is still so much to learn. In our deep internet dive, we found several useful recommendations.  Here is a video we found that could help you with Google ads retargeting using Google 4 and the new google tag manager. 

Follow best practices

Best practices allow you to check all the boxes and help you get the best results.  Here are some tips and best practices to help you get the most out of GA4:

  • To ensure that you can track all your data in one specific place, use the GA4 code snippet on all of your websites and apps. 
  • Create separate GA4 properties for each website or app that you want to track. This will help you to keep your data organized and easy to understand.
  • Use events to track user interactions with your site or app. This will give you a more complete picture of how users are engaging with your content.
  • Use user-scoped properties to track engagement over time and create remarketing audiences. This will help you to better understand your users and target them with relevant marketing messages.
  • Use cross-device tracking to track users across devices and platforms without the need for cookies. This will help you to better understand how users interact with your site or app on different devices.
  • Use custom reports, segments, and dimensions to perform custom analysis. This will help you to better understand your data and make informed decisions about your marketing efforts

There is no doubt about this. The change is happening but there is power in preparation.  If you haven’t done the update, set some time aside to make the adjustment, and peruse the list of alternatives, to feed your curiosity but if sticking with the old faithful is your tune, then it is time to get to work. 

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