The future of measurement is here. Why you need to migrate to Google Analytics 4 now
1 JULY, 2023. THE DATE GOOGLE HAS MARKED TO SUNSET GOOGLE ANALYTICS (UA), THE VERSION THAT MOST OF US HAVE COME TO KNOW ALL TOO WELL. BY THIS DATE, ALL OF US WOULD HAVE HAD TO MIGRATE OVER TO THE NEW GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4 (GA4). FOR EFFECTIVE FORWARD-THINKING MARKETERS, GETTING ON THE FRONT FOOT OF THIS MIGRATION IS CRUCIAL. AND MIGRATION OVER INTO GA4 STARTS NOW.
A decade ago, before GA4, there was GA3 (Universal Analytics), GA2 (Classic Analytics and so on). But this migration is different for several reasons.
The digital customer journey is ever-evolving. With more opportunities and touchpoints, the traditional path from point A to B is now layered with even more complexities and variables.
More so than ever, marketers are pressured to stretch dollars, compete to optimise campaigns and, better deliver personalised and effective customer experiences.
On top of all this, data privacy is a hot topic. And regulations on the horizon have the potential to change how we can, or rather, cannot, collect user data.
Attempting to synthesise all these additional touchpoints is also extremely time-consuming. Data is often incomplete or fragmented across multiple platforms. Google Analytics 4 promises to tackle not all, but certainly a lot more than its predecessor did across these areas.
As a marketer, all this can be overwhelming. We are faced with numerous data points and decisions every day. And the value of insights and the way we measure online behaviour is more critical than ever.
WHY THE CHANGE?
In short, the new GA4 property boasts a more intelligent system. It focuses on a more complete view of your combined marketing efforts. It has more machine learning at its core and is privacy-centric by design. This basically means, in a world obsessed with data regulation, this version is built with the ability to adapt to a future with or without cookies or identifiers.
In more detail, some of the changes include (note, not exhaustive):
- A more holistic view of the customer journey e.g. web and app interactions together
- Better machine learning and recognition of patterns in the data with more automatic alerts\
- Reorganised reporting based on the customer journey stage you’re interested in (e.g. user acquisition > engagement > retention)
- Goals are no more. These have been replaced with events and conversions with some automatically tracking without needing an event set up
- It is more action-oriented. Meaning metrics describing inactivity on the site have been phased out. Some metrics have been replaced by their reversal. For e.g. bounce rates that have been highly subjective in the past have been replaced by engagement rates
- No cookies? No worries. Google promises conversion modelling in the future to help fill in the gaps if some heavy-hitting user privacy regulations come into effect
- As certain metrics are tracked and defined differently in this new property, you cannot accurately, compare UA data from one year with GA4 from the other (without additional formulae and manual interrogation)
THE EQUATION TO A SUCCESSFUL MIGRATION IS SIMPLE
1. The earlier you migrate, the earlier your data will start to accumulate on the new property to pull in smarter insights and benchmarks.
2. The smarter the insights, the better the optimisation decision and return on investment.
3. And, therefore, presumably the better the impact and value-add for your campaign.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE YOUR MARKETING TEAM FOR GA4?
Step 1: Speak to your agency about what you need to do now. And vice versa, if you’re an agency, speak to your clients on the new metrics and what this means.
Tip: Traditional metrics like bounce rate will be no more. Now is the time to have conversations with your leadership team or stakeholders to align on the importance of a new measurement model with an emphasis on new priority success metrics.
Step 2: Set up training across your team to understand the new GA4 UX now. And similarly, across Google Tag Manager (essential to set up and better contain all your tracking tags). Highly recommend activating Google’s demo GA4 accounts. These environments already have in-built dummy data in there for you to analyse and run mock scenarios through.
Step 3: In a Word or Excel document, map out your ideal measurement methodology or framework to ensure your campaign aligns to the newly defined metrics across GA4. Recommend mapping this in line with your user journey milestones (which is also intuitive and in line with the new GA4 reporting structure). Engage your agency or marketing team on support with this if needed.
Step 4: Migrate sooner rather than later. Set a date for your migration. We recommend running a phased approach with this migration (e.g. standard event activation > KPI-related events > and other custom events). Ensure there is an active team QA testing and monitoring the website and campaigns during this time. You may need to engage your developers or agency to support throughout this migration.
Step 5: Run a full implementation audit.
Step 6: Record historical UA data in a secure place so you can reference it for future benchmarking. And yes, you can start gathering data while keeping your current implementation intact. The last update by Google states that UA data will be deleted by 1 January 2024.
Ideally, businesses should migrate over to GA4 at least a year before the mandatory deadline, meaning by 1st July 2022, you should have the above plan in place. This allows you to build up at least an annual view of accumulated data to benchmark from.
That all being said, is it likely that Google will extend these deadlines? Probably.
But as a forward-thinking marketer, are we waiting around to find out? Nope.
If your business or marketing team needs support with the migration to GA4, please reach out to us at [email protected]