While Google is known for continually tinkering with its search algorithm, adapting to those changes usually just means it’s time for site admins and marketers to review and re-optimize their content. On the other hand, changes to the analytics side of the business are much less frequent and, as a result, have significant implications.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been around since October 2020. Google has encouraged sites to change from Universal Analytics (UA) – which launched in 2012 – to GA4 more or less since its release. But when the search giant announced that Universal Analytics would be sunset on July 1, 2023, the Web got all fired up. No shocker there: almost two-thirds of websites rely on Google Analytics to inform decision-making.
But what does the change to GA4 mean for your website, and what do you need to do to prepare? Read on to learn what makes this analytics upgrade different from UA, why it’s so powerful and how you can leverage its insights for your site.
The key change between UA and GA4 is the switch from focusing on pageviews to concentrating on events. Google believes events demonstrate engagement with content, so in GA4, each click, tap and page load matters. GA4 can even tell you how far a visitor scrolls down your page or whether they interact with a video.
Pageviews are still important – nobody can engage with your site if you don’t have traffic – but what does it matter if millions of people come to your site but never take action? And because all this good stuff comes enabled out-of-the-box, it reduces the technical burden on your team when it comes to implementation.
Believe it or not, events have been available for some time in GA3. However, they’re challenging to set up and use effectively—so most marketers stick with the basics, even if they don’t give the best insights.
Building GA4 around events meant Google needed to make it easier for marketers to create and leverage them to construct conversion-focused reports. For example—if you want people to download a price sheet for one of your products, then you can build a series of events based on the steps people might take to get there.
Google has created several report templates within GA4 to help you get started, including:
You can also create custom freeform reports to help you visualize data via charts and graphs. GA4 features over 40 inbuilt metrics you can arrange for a side-by-side comparison. As a bonus, you can add any reports you create to the side panel of your site to revisit them quickly.
The deprecation of the bounce rate metric is related to the shift in focus from pageviews to engagement. Sure, you can still see bounce rate in GA4, but when you think about it, it’s not all that helpful of a metric anyway.
Say you cut the bounce rate of your site by 10%. Okay—now what? How does that help you move the needle on conversions? Similar to pageviews, people sticking around your site longer doesn’t necessarily translate to more income for your business. Besides, this data wasn’t super-reliable anyway: someone who came to your site and left their tab open without taking action wouldn’t have tripped the bounce meter—but they wouldn’t have helped your bottom line either.
Most B2B marketers aren’t just dealing with a website these days; they need to know how people interact with their app. GA4 works across web and app data, making cross-channel insights possible. Over time, you’ll be able to build a complete view of your customers’ life cycles across all your properties to identify opportunities for better synergy and changes that further drive engagement and conversion.
Data and privacy regulations are only getting more stringent, and cookies are starting to become a liability. Marketers are accountable for the data their cookies capture about customers. Regulators expect them to be able to explain in plain terms what data is being captured, why it’s being held and even give customers the ability to opt-out.
GA4 looks ahead of this trend, using machine learning to fill in the blanks of user activity across the site for privacy-centric but still valuable metrics.
If you haven’t already created a GA4 property, now’s the time: the longer you wait, the less historical data you’ll have in GA4 once UA stops collecting data in July. Sure, migrating to GA4 will take a bit of work, but making the switch is worth it (and Google’s not giving you a choice, anyway).
To start your transition, log in to your GA account, then click the gear icon to access your Admin page. From there, simply confirm you have the correct account and property selected, then click the GA4 Setup Assistant in the Property column. Congrats—you’re on your way to a more comprehensive understanding of user behavior on your site.
If you need help completing the changeover for your site, email Bob Goricki, but don’t stop there! Strategic 7 Marketing can help you take advantage of all the trends we’ve outlined. To learn more, check out our free website audit report.
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