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Making the Most of GA4

In today’s digital age, having a website is essential for establishing an online presence and connecting with target audiences. However, just having a website isn’t enough. You also want to be found and engage with visitors. Understanding how users interact with your site and what actions they take while visiting is step one. That’s where Google Analytics 4 (GA4) comes in.

According to Katie Fuller, Digital Strategist with CEL Marketing PR Design, “Google Analytics is the statistical reporting of activity on a website. It can tell you how many people visited the website, how long they stayed, what they did, and where they came from.”

Google’s shift to the fourth version of its analytics platform is the most significant change yet. “With GA4, it’s a big departure,” said Katie. “You need to unlearn and relearn what you knew and understood about analytics. There are new definitions and new tracking elements to arrive at the same conclusions that you were accustomed to getting out of analytics previously.”

UA’s End is Near: GA4 Takes Over

If you haven’t transitioned to GA4, start as soon as possible. “Many of our clients started the transition about a year ago,” said Katie. GA4 fully takes over on July 1, 2023, and you’ll want to be able to compare year-over-year data as soon as possible. “The sooner you can get your traffic tracking, the better,” she adds.

On July 1, 2023, all new data collection will stop in Universal Analytics and it will only be collected in GA4. Historical data in Universal Analytics will be viewable until December 31, 2023, and then Google will erase Universal Analytics.

If you want access to your historical analytics data, you’ll need to export it and save it before the end of 2023. If you opted out of GA4, all analytics tracking will stop on July 1, 2023.

Google Disclaimer: We strongly recommend you manually migrate your Universal Analytics settings to GA4. If you do nothing, a new GA4 property will automatically be created for you, and your Universal Analytics configurations will be copied to the new GA4 property. Not all UA configurations have an obvious GA4 counterpart, and the automated process might not make the same choices as you would.

Universal Analytics vs. GA4

Google Analytics has undergone significant changes with the release of GA4, and one of the most noticeable differences is the interface.

“It looks entirely different. Where you were accustomed to finding information has changed, you’re going to take a different pathway to get there,” Katie tells us.

And, the changes go beyond aesthetics. Another significant difference is how Google defines specific terms, such as “new user.”

They redefined metrics so you can’t do month over month or year over year data comparisons between UA and GA4. The words may be the same, but the algorithms behind them are different, so data are not going to align even though the words used are the same,” explains Katie.

Some dimensions and metrics are populated automatically when you install GA4 on your website or application. But unlike Universal Analytics, other dimensions and metrics require some configuration before they’re populated in the reports. These changes may require marketers to adapt and relearn how to use the platform effectively. The trade-off: GA4 offers new and improved ways to track user behavior and gain valuable insights. 

What Data Do You Need From GA4

Once GA4 has been set up and data starts to populate, determine what type of data you need to report on and what goals or conversions you want to track. As Katie notes, “You can customize the data that you’re seeing at a glance, but you’re going to have to take the time to set up reporting dashboards and define what it is that you want to see.” This customization requires an investment of time but can ultimately lead to more efficient analysis and insights.

Conversion, goal, and event tracking are impacted by the changes in GA4. “The language around how goals and conversions are tracked is much different—now more consistent with Google Tag Manager language,” says Katie. You will need to plan time and testing to see if your tracking is working as you need it. Familiarize yourself with the new language used to track events, goals, and conversions in GA4.

To adapt to these changes, you’ll need to invest time in learning GA4. By doing so, you can continue to leverage Google Analytics to gain valuable insights and make informed decisions to achieve your digital goals.

Using GA4 Effectively

Marketers and communicators face several challenges in distinguishing between meaningful and meaningless analytics data. “One of the biggest challenges has always been to find the meaningful data to help drive decisions as opposed to just having a lot of data.” Katie notes, “Sometimes data is just data.”

Determining what constitutes “good” website traffic can be challenging without clear objectives for measurement. As Katie says, “There’s no baseline that says all websites should have X-amount of visits to them or X-percent new users, or an X-percent bounce rate.”

To effectively use analytics, you must also look at trends over time to see if changes in website traffic are due to your marketing initiatives or external factors.

As Katie noted, “We could say, ‘Six months ago, before we started those initiatives, our website visitors were 5,000, and now it’s 7,000.’ We can also look and ask, ‘Is it 7,000 because it always ticks up this time of year, or is it actually because of decisions we’ve made that have increased awareness and opportunities for people to go to our site?'”

Creating landing pages specifically for marketing initiatives is a common strategy, but measuring their effectiveness can be challenging. As Katie explained, “You want to see not only how many people went to the landing page, but also what actions they took because of it? Did they complete a form? Did they download a PDF? What happened once we made them aware of the page? Did that contribute to our goals and objectives?”

Exploring Other Analytics Tools

Aside from GA4, there are other analytics tools that you can use to gain insights into their website and marketing efforts, such as HotJar and Screaming Frog SEO Spider. One option is to use the data collection features that come with a website system or customer relationship management (CRM). As Katie notes, “If a website CMS or secondary CRM comes with any kind of data collection, you should use it and embrace it to do some comparison.”

Do you need GA4 if your CMS has a tool to measure traffic? Katie says, “You should always add Google Analytics to any website or app along with any out-of-the-box analytics tool. No system is more robust than Google Analytics. In addition, it usually makes sense to also add Google Tag Manager and Google Search Console to all websites as well.”

Help in Untangling GA4

We understand that setting up and navigating GA4 can be daunting. That’s why we offer our expertise to help you with the migration and setup process. We can also help you identify meaningful data to measure, such as conversions and engagement levels on your site.

Partner with us to untangle the complexities of GA4 and empower yourself to make data-driven decisions that lead to growth and success for your organization.

Make the transition as soon as possible to allow time for testing and familiarizing with the new platform. Don’t delay — start collecting useful data for your marketing strategies now, even if you don’t yet know what you’re going to do with the data going forward.



Published on: May 27, 2023