Digital analysis is an essential ingredient in the recipe for most PR and marketing campaigns. Since it first launched back in 2005, Google Analytics has become a mainstay for brands looking to track campaign performance.
It has completely transformed the way businesses understand their customers’ behaviour, from their first visit to a website through to a sign-up or purchase.
However, change is coming, and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is set to replace the current version – Universal Analytics – on 1st July 2023. After that date, Universal Analytics will no longer collect your data.
July may seem a long way off, but now is the time to do the groundwork for the move to GA4. If you’re not prepared, you could find yourself on the back foot, analysing your website without any historical data.
Why is Google Analytics changing?
When Universal Analytics was first developed, there wasn’t anything like the complexity of today’s multi-channel, multi-device, multi-platform and customer engagement. That’s why GA4 is not simply an update, it is a complete rebuild which should take digital analysis into a new dimension.
The navigation will take some getting used to, but with separate tools for data collection, reporting and analysis, GA4 should give you a better view of your existing and prospective customers’ behaviour. With the new interface, you can more effectively track where your users come from, how they interact on your site and where they exit.
Google has also implemented machine learning technology into GA4 to allow for predictive customer insights, and many businesses will welcome the improved integration with Google Ads.
Better insight into conversions
One of the changes we’re most excited about is the advancement in conversion tracking.
While Universal Analytics focuses on page views and sessions, GA4 is more of an events-based platform. That means it gives you more information about the actions people take on your site, such as starting a sale, downloading a white paper or clicking on ‘contact us’ – and the paths they took to get them to this point.
This is incredibly useful in understanding what drives people to convert and will help you see which of your marketing approaches are most successful within each of your customer types.
So when you have set up your GA4 property, it’s a good idea to look at creating some of these events straight away so you can start measuring the key actions you want people to take. With GA4, there are clear parameters that allow you to define events very specifically. This enables you to look in detail at the actions taking place on your site.
The earlier you do this, the better as you’ll see what is driving customer activity over time and can adjust your marketing and PR to bring more people to your site and keep them engaged.
If you know the customers buying your product are coming from Google Ads or the people signing up to your webinar are coming from Facebook, this knowledge will help you improve your conversion rate.
It’s time to create a GA4 property
The first step is to create a GA4 property in your Google Analytics account if you haven’t already done so, and we’ll show you how to do it later in the blog. This will enable GA4 to start recording your information from the moment you set up the property.
Don’t worry if you’re not quite ready to make the full transition to GA4. Your current Universal Analytics tracking will run alongside GA4 until July, so you can continue your day-to-day reporting for now, giving you time to think about your tracking and analysis needs in the months ahead.
The benefit is that when you do make the move to GA4, you will already have collected some valuable comparison data.
How to set up a GA4 property
You can set up a GA4 property in a few simple steps.
- Go to your Google Analytics account and click on admin and setup assistant.
2. Click on properties and create the new GA4 property. Give it a name.
3. Add the new GA4 tracking tag to your site. This is easy to do if you use Google Tag Manager. Alternatively, you will need to put code onto your site so that information will be pulled into the new GA4 property.
4. Set up new tracking items as the ones you used in Universal Analytics will not migrate across. This could include events, goals (conversions) and audiences.
5. Make sure the new events you set up reflect the actions you want your customers and prospects to take and the goals you want to achieve.
6. Take the opportunity to create more sophisticated audiences based on the improved information you will have from GA4 about attribution. This will help you target customers more effectively and you can also use this information to get more from other platforms such as Google Ads.
7. Check that your new GA4 account integrates with the other platforms you use, as integration will not take place automatically.
Make GA4 work for your business
Once everything is in place, you will want to be sure that GA4 is collecting data in the most useful way for your business. Check the events you’ve set up are tracking properly and the tags are firing correctly so you are getting exactly the information you need for your PR and marketing strategies.
It’s also worth remembering that although Universal Analytics will no longer collect your data after next July, you will still be able to download the previously processed data it holds for some time afterwards.
But think carefully about what you decide to download, and just focus on the key data you need for your business decisions.
While it may seem like an added headache you don’t need, setting up GA4 now will ensure a smoother transition in the months to come.
It also provides a great opportunity to review your data goals long before the July deadline comes along.