You're a busy entrepreneur, why should you care about the release of an analytics platform such as GA4? Does it really matter if you barely look at your analytics anyway? In short, yes it does. Your future self will thank you. Why's that? Read to find out what you'd be missing if you don't make the transition!
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) tracks everything that happens on your website. It traces where users came from, what they do on your site, the location where they are searching from and a whole lot more. It is the newest analytics platform from Google to gain valuable insights from your data. The previous version was called Universal Analytics.
Why This Sudden Change Now?
You're not alone in asking this question. Marketers, business owners and analysts alike have gotten used to Universal Analytics and know how to use it for their own purposes. So when the announcement came that Universal Analytics was going away (July 1, 2023 deadline!) there were more than a few groans.
What if I told you that Universal Analytics was released in 2012, 5 years after the birth of an iPhone. But, as Google stated a decade later, it was built for a desktop world, not mobile. See where we're going with this? In summary, Universal Analytics was never built to adapt to this mobile first world.
In addition, Universal Analytics has been known to hold onto bad data. Bad data meaning it breaks privacy laws such as GDPR regulations. This bad data, if caught, can result in hefty fines for violating user privacy. This left Google with no choice other than to keep up with the changing landscape and create a mobile first, privacy centric, analytics platform. Thus, GA4 was born! Find out more about what we think of GA4 here!
Does it Affect Me?
Do you have a website? Most of you probably answered yes, which means yes this will affect you. You most likely have Universal Analytics on your site to track users on your site. If you log into your account, you can go back all the way to the point where you set up analytics and see all of that data. All of that data is about to be deleted on July 1, 2023.
Whether you like it or not, if you want to continue to have visibility on what users are doing on your website, you must transition to GA4. You can even try it yourself with our FREE DIY Migration Checklist.
I Never Look At My Analytics Why Should I Care?
Maybe you've never even opened your Universal Analytics account. You're probably thinking is it even worth it? If that's you, I am telling you now, you absolutely need to do this. Even if you never go into your account, at the very least you need to keep collecting data. If you don't, you will only be guessing at your marketing's effectiveness.
To add to that, if you decide to advertise, you won't have any data on what people do on your website to make your ads more effective. How does it do that you ask? Great question.
Let's say you put analytics on your website. It tracks every user that goes on your website. Every click, scroll and video they watch is tracked within the GA4 interface.
You've decided that you want to run ads for a specific product. You have a product specific page which describes the features and benefits of this particular product.
If you had analytics already on your site:
- You can feed the data your website has been collecting to Google Ads so it can have evidence as to what users are already doing on your site
- You can set specific audiences based on the pages the users visited for example, you can build an audience of users that visited that particular product page
- You can then target that audience with your ads to a 'warm audience' meaning people who already know your company and showed interest in your product
- You can check if the exit rate is high which means you need to make the page more engaging so people have a reason to stay on it
- You have the ability to retarget people, which means target ads to people who have visited your website. Again, a 'warm audience' which is more likely to convert than a user who has never heard of you
If you didn't have analytics on your site:
- You won't' know how people are interacting with your product page
- Google Ads has no data to learn from so it is targeting based on settings rather than actual data
- You cannot use retargeting ads since you don't have data on who's been on your site
- Your marketing funnel is incomplete since you can't see how other marketing channels interact with the ads you are running so you are losing the big picture of your customer's behavior after they see your ad
- You won't be able to dig deep into the data to see where to optimize, whether its on the ad level, product page or other marketing channel
Here's what Google had to say about it:
I Don't Run Ads, Should I Still Care?
Yes, you should still care. Business owners that understand their customer's behaviors are able to scale more efficiently. They have evidence that supports business decisions rather than gut feelings or pure instinct.
Smart business owners listen to their customers wants and desires and act accordingly. One of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior is the desire for privacy. Users want to know their data is safe and not exploited. Google has shown they are listening and announced they would no longer support the use of third party 'cookies' to improve the security of their users. Those cookies track the user's behavior across multiple sites and are advertised based on what they search. User's felt this was an intrusion of privacy which is why Google created GA4 to be a lightweight tracking solution that didn't depend on cookies. They wanted to respect the user's privacy and uses a 'predictive model' to essentially fill in the gaps in tracking.
Universal Analytics was built in a time when users did most of their web activity on desktop. Times have certainly changed and a statistic from Oberle.com states, "As of November 2022, 49.78% of all web traffic comes through mobile devices," (Oberle.com, 2022). This means that if a users found your company while doing some searching from their home desktop they would be counted as a user and all their behavior would be tied to their session.
Let's say, the next day they searched your company up again but this time on their mobile. That session would be recorded as a new session, and have no ties to the session when they were on their home desktop.
Universal Analytics: A Relic of the Past
This is all to say that Universal Analytics is wholly unsuitable for accurate cross platform tracking which is common in your customers journey. For you as a business owner, using GA4 allows you to understand the full customer journey regardless if they are on a desktop or mobile. You are able to understand where your website users are coming from, how they interact on your site, how often they come to the site and where they drop off. This is giving you insight into what pages are good at getting people to stay, which pages need optimization because there is a high exit rate as well as what content is gaining the most traction.
Steps for Success
Start collecting data in GA4 today. I'm serious, the faster you get onto the new platform, the more time you have to learn it with Universal Analytics simultaneously. This is called parallel tracking which enables you to see the difference in the data models between platforms and understand the differences. Now that you have your GA4 property, its time to make it work for you.
The next step is taking a macro view of your business and asking yourself, "What is important to me?". Is it how many users clicked on your phone number? Or your most important metric, also known as a KPI (key performance indicator) is how many contact forms were filled out per month. You need to determine your most important KPIs and supporting KPIs that give you data that is important to making business decisions and deciding where you should channel your marketing efforts.
From there, you can customize your GA4 interface to report specifically on what matters most to your business. This is how GA4 was designed, to be customized. Universal was built to fit everyone's needs which is why it stayed more general in reporting. GA4 has capabilities that allow you to drill down into the data to gain insights specific to what is important to you!
Not sure where to start?
Let's figure it out together. Talk to one of our experts here.