Google Analytics is Changing. Are You Ready?
What marketers need to know about Google Universal Analytics changing to Google Analytics 4
Marketers know that when it comes to Google, the only constant is change. You may have heard by now that Google is going to be phasing out Universal Analytics by mid-2023, to be replaced with Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
GA4 was designed to track in-app activity and promises to deliver better cross-device tracking for an increasingly mobile world. It also boasts machine learning capabilities that are not available within Universal Analytics.
However, this change doesn’t come without challenges. Our initial trials of GA4 have uncovered inconsistencies when it comes to things like event tracking, filters and the level of detail available. The GGC team is working on processes to mitigate these challenges and provide clients with best practices well in advance of the 2023 deadline. Until then, some things to consider with this change are:
What data is essential for indicating the health of your marketing program?
For most of our marketer clients, this includes data such as total website traffic, traffic by source and top pages. It can also include bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration. These data points come together to tell the story of how potential customers find and interact with your website.
What on-site events are most valuable for your business?
Goal tracking is a valuable tool within Google Analytics. Tracking items such as form submissions, ecommerce transactions, and video views help to identify what’s working and what isn’t. This is also one area where we’ve seen the biggest challenge with achieving consistency in reporting between Universal Analytics and GA4. Clearly defining these critical events early in the process will allow time for testing and troubleshooting.
What views are you using, and what purpose do they serve?
When it comes to views in Google Analytics, the best practice is to have an unfiltered (raw data) view, a test view and a filtered view. The filtered view calls for removing any internal traffic and applying filters to ensure clean data. Because filters permanently alter data, a test view is important for ensuring filters are working properly before applying them to your filtered view.
Some clients also choose to track their blogs or other sub-directory/sub-domain pages separately from their main websites. Regardless of how you choose to view your data, clearly defining your Analytics views will help to ensure they translate correctly into GA4.
Is your current Analytics instance properly configured?
Ensuring Analytics is properly configured can save hours of confusion. This is an extensive topic that’s too long to cover here. But some of the basics:
- Analytics tags need to be installed globally on a website, either directly in the CMS or through Google Tag Manager. It should be linked to Google Search Console and Google Ads.
- For any campaigns (paid search, media, paid social, etc.), UTM tracking codes should be implemented.
- Views should filter known bot traffic.
- Your site should have the proper http or https version selected at the property level.
Confirming these settings and other best practices are in place will help keep data clean and reliable when testing your GA4 implementation.
You’ll hear much more from us and the entire digital marketing world about GA4 during the next few months. As it involves Google, it’s a topic that certainly demands our attention.