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Play Video about From Funeral to Future - Understanding the New Google Analytics (GA4)
Kicking and screaming. That’s how most of us are heading into the new GA4 from Google Analytics.
If you haven’t heard, Universal Analytics, the most user-friendly version of Google Analytics, has been given an untimely death.
Are we feeling a bit dramatic about it? Sure. Are we justified in our reactions? We’ll let you be the judge.
In this episode of the Trades Secrets podcast, we are giving a run down of the new GA4 and highlighting all the new benefits even as we lament our beloved Universal Analytics.
Episode Covers:
  1. Why Google pulled the plug on Universal Analytics
  2. How the new cross-channel tracking can help your marketing efforts
  3. New scroll engagement and what that means for web tracking
  4. Learning more about the in-depth journey of your buyer
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Hi, I’m Amanda Joyce.

Devon Hayes: And I’m Devon Hayes. And today’s very somber topic is from Funeral to Future, Understanding the new Google Analytics. And here’s why you should care. Without Google Analytics 4 set up, you may be losing valuable data about how your website is being used by customers and so much more.

Amanda Joyce: Welcome to Trade Secrets where we demystify digital marketing to help contractors get the most bang for their marketing bucks.

Devon Hayes: This is for you if you’re a contractor looking for actionable marketing insights.

Amanda Joyce: Learn from home services, industry experts to elevate your business through simplified marketing strategies.

Devon Hayes: Let’s dive into today’s trade secret.

Amanda Joyce: It’s a really sad day for all of us. I’m really struggling. If you spent much time in your Google Analytics profile over the last few years, you too are probably feeling this pain. Things are a lot different guys.

Devon Hayes: They’re a lot different now. She was a good strong horse that Universal Analytics, but she’s gone on to the glue factory. Is that insensitive? Oh my gosh. Seriously though we have worked in and loved Universal Analytics, a version of Google Analytics for years. Really intuitive, user-friendly, easy goal tracking, easy conversion tracking.

Amanda Joyce: Nice pretty graphs, just consistent.

Devon Hayes: And as of July 1st, 2023 this year, she gone, what is replacing her is Google Analytics 4. Now this has been available for a couple of years. Some of you might already have this set up and have some data in there and have familiarized yourselves with it. Some of you maybe not so much. And while we have implemented GA4 on all of our client sites for Elevation Marketing, we still didn’t work in it a ton because Universal Analytics was so much more user-friendly. We wanted to collect the data on the GA4 properties. We have historical data since they made this announcement last year. But in any case, if you don’t know now you know homies.

Amanda Joyce: Time has come.

Devon Hayes: Let’s dive into this. Why are they saying goodbye to Universal Analytics or why did they? Mostly it comes down to consumer privacy.

Amanda Joyce: That’s what they say first and foremost, everywhere you look consumer privacy. And to all of us, to your average contractor, you’re not really too worried about it. At the end of the day, it’s really Google covering their own tails because they need to make sure that they are above, that they are ahead of the game when it comes to data privacy. They don’t end up getting pulled in by some politicians and yelled at on Capitol Hill because they’re breaking rules. Google’s covering their own tail and then in instance covering ours too because then we as website owners aren’t gathering data that we also shouldn’t have access to. The PR version of it is data privacy, first and foremost.

Devon Hayes: Data privacy and then advanced, I would say tracking now there’s cross-platform tracking with GA4, which really means a lot of Google’s tools are going to talk to themselves a little bit better. You can have advanced attribution so you know exactly I would say attribution tracking from cross platforms and other marketing channels so you can better understand which of your marketing efforts and tactics are paying off. There are some benefits, there’s a massive benefit to e-commerce sites, yet service-based businesses are all being forced into this as well. And there’s benefits. We’re just begrudgingly going into this as you can tell. Maybe some marketers already love it, I’m sure we’ll get there. But for now we’re just at the shallow end of the pool.

Amanda Joyce: Begrudging our way into the future. Some of the other things that they really tell when they talk about why they did this, as you mentioned enhanced measurement, they’re added a lot more automation inside there. There’s going to be some features of your website that are already being tracked that you don’t even have to set an event up for that are just as soon as GA4 notes that they’re happening on your site, it’s going to start tracking them.

Devon Hayes: I was going to say, let me stop you right there, for anyone who doesn’t know, what do you mean when you say what’s like an event? And let’s explain that part.

Amanda Joyce: Jumping ahead there. An event is a lot of different actions that someone can take on your website. It can include one of the things they’ve added on a scroll. That’s interesting. That was not something that we had previously. We had to use third party tracking to figure out scroll events that were happening on a website that can be engagement with a video, it can be a file download, it can be form interactions.

Devon Hayes: Excuse me, I’m so sorry.

Amanda Joyce: Bless you.

Devon Hayes: Allergic to change.

Amanda Joyce: Just activity on your site basically and used to, there would not be anything tracked in the old Universal Analytics that you didn’t go in and specifically define that needed to be tracked. That is an improvement that we’re going to probably one day wonder how we survived without it. That’s a positive, I’ll give that to them.

Devon Hayes: Definitely. Beautiful. Sorry, I did not mean to cut you off but when we say events, sometimes someone listening who is not familiar is like, “Wait, what do you mean? An event, like a trade show? Do I need a RSVP?” Not that kind of event. Sorry. Getting us back on track. What were we talking about? The features.

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. Just enhance features and event measurement. That’s automated already within the program and then you can go in and define additional events as well. They’re helping you out and providing some and then you can go in and add more. That’s a benefit. It looks like you have a burning.

Devon Hayes: I was going to say something. It’s not another sneeze I was going to say, I know in YouTube it tells you watch time for a video, but with this new GA4 it does tell you video tracking, how much watch time within the video itself so you don’t have to click through to YouTube. You can get that right there from GA4 as an event. Very cool.

Amanda Joyce: Again, Google’s products talking to Google’s products so it’s great. Absolutely. Other key features they’ve got attribution modeling, across multiple marketing channels. I think we did hit on that before but that’s definitely one we want to make sure we’re highlighting, cross device tracking and path analysis, that’s another one. You’re going to have more insight into user behavior than we even had previously. It was pretty strong before so I can’t wait to see this next 2.0 version of what that path modeling can look like.

Devon Hayes: Because with this, from what I understand, they’re talking about tracking a consumer from, maybe they start their search on mobile and then they come back to desktop or maybe they click on an ad within an app or something. It is tracking that same customer across multiple devices and platforms so that you can understand the buyer’s journey even more so than you can with Universal Analytics. And there was a behavior flow. But this cross device and path analysis, this is really interesting and it’ll be interesting to see over time as you collect more data what you learn about your buyer, maybe they really all do start on mobile but complete the conversion on desktop. Who knows? It’ll be interesting to track that data. That’s it. That’s interesting. I’ll hand it to them.

Amanda Joyce: I’ll give it to, I completely agree. Because we’re used to those old school graphs where we just look at it and we’d see a pie chart and it tells how much was mobile, how much was desktop. And that’s really looking at that final contact. It’s not looking at maybe they hit your site three times on mobile before they ever came to desktop or vice versa. I’m excited to actually be able to see that. Actually having this conversation, I’m already feeling like a little better about things.

Devon Hayes: But I am going to miss the color coded acquisition channel graph because now it’s just like everything’s blue. Whereas you got your organic, paid all that, you had a pie chart that told you where your traffic was being acquired and it was color coded and maybe I just need a simplified kindergarten pie chart and I’d be satisfied.

Amanda Joyce: But one of the other things they’re really touting too is that they used to have just default reporting that that’s what you always see when you go in and you had to go pretty deep to make your own customized reports and they’re really touting that that’s not the case anymore. We might be able to do some digging and actually assign those colors and you might see them again, we might just take a little bit of work, but we can probably go in there and give you back the color you need in your life. We’ll get back to you guys on that one.

Devon Hayes: Definitely. And it is great because we’ve already started to see some of the insights that it’s collecting for you and showing you some of the important behaviors that are happening on your site and telling you what they mean, which is different than Universal Analytics. They’re actually giving you the insights and saying, “This is what’s happening, this is what it means.” Versus, “Here’s the numbers. You can decide what it means for yourself.” It is beneficial, and this does make me wonder, a sidebar here, what is going to happen to a lot of those third party tools that people pay for? I know in our world agencies compete over their type of reporting, but if you’re not having to pay for some proprietary reporting that shows you a consumer’s path, I’m curious to see what’s going to happen to that when you have this really in depth buyer’s journey detailed for free within GA4.

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. And I do think we see that a lot with these big tech companies anyway in general, as soon as a social company for example pops up that’s doing something cool, Facebook just copies it. Google will do the same thing. If they can see the tools that people keep integrating with Google Analytics, they’re going to just start spoon-feeding it to you and cut out the middleman. Good point.

Devon Hayes: Other attributions we’ve got what with machine learning?

Amanda Joyce: AI. More AI.

Devon Hayes: More AI. Again, it’s a future-proof tool because they’ve already contemplated machine learning and AI within this system. That’s smart. Good move. I get it. We’re talking ourself into GA4, we’re going to like it by the end of this podcast. Let’s see here. Event driven data model I think we’ve talked about, we’ve touched on that a bit and that’s just-

Amanda Joyce: A lot more events. It’s no longer just throw three goals out. I want you to complete a lead form, I want you to do this, I want you to do that. They’re helping us look at the website events much more holistically. And I think it’s going to be really cool for us even as marketers and maybe there’s some events that we were sleeping on previously that suddenly we’re going to realize when we’re doing our quarterly reviews, “Wow. This is a whole event we were ignoring and now we can watch it improve or if it slips, what are we going to do to get it back?” I think that’s going to be a really good one.

Devon Hayes: You know what? And going back to that, that will be interesting. The way we even format content on a page is going to be adjusted based on even that scroll event, how far down they’re scrolling because a lot of us maybe if we see a piece of blog content for example, and it’s like 1200 words and we’re just like, “Oh my god, how long is this?” And you scroll and you do that within three seconds it’s obviously not being read. And maybe that it will be interesting for us to have that data because even what we do within content marketing is probably going to shift based on this information that is now going to be available to us.

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. And often the rule of thumb is always your call to action at the bottom of your blog, but if we figure out that most people are never getting to the bottom of our blogs, maybe it’s time to rethink the way we’re even doing that, even if it’s such a midway through.

Devon Hayes: Possibilities are endless. You can do a lot more with with CRO, conversion rate optimization. This is going to I think give us better tools and better understanding of what might be helpful just based on the events that GA4 is now recording for us that we weren’t recording before.

Amanda Joyce: I really like this one too, that you can define up to 30 events as conversions in each profile. It’s inside your four profile, you could have, previously we could only have 20 goals, which now they’re calling them events and then you can mark it as a conversion, but now you can mark up to 30. Used to be we get all stressed out about not using all of our goals we had to recycle and you’re worried about it, they’ve opened it up to us a little bit. First of all, we can have way more events than even that, but we can mark 30 of those events as conversions. They’re giving us more leeway to play with in terms of what we’re going to put value on.

Devon Hayes: And what else I saw on there too that it’s tracking now is even when someone starts to fill out a form that used to be a whole separate software. That used to be a whole separate thing you’d have to throw on your website something a paid tool or a free one that bogged down your website because it was yet another plugin. And this, to just have it built in, is pretty awesome.

Amanda Joyce: And talk about CRO right there, if you’re going to be optimizing for conversion rates and if we find that a much larger percentage of people are interacting with the form that are hitting that submit button, is our form too long? Are we asking the wrong questions? Maybe we have too many required fields. That can really make a huge difference in terms of how many contacts you’re getting through your website.

Devon Hayes: And this makes me think of, because we always have that age-old debate, we get a lot of highly qualified leads with the longer forms, but it would be interesting to see how many people start that and maybe don’t complete the form versus a short form. That’ll be great information to have because if you’re getting nothing but garbage leads from a short form and you start to see started forms or whatever versus doing the full long detailed form that’s like project scope, duration of time, budget, all these dropdowns that they have to select and those are being completed more than a short sticky form on the bottom of a website, that’s great info to have.

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. Or even just testing it. Let’s go as long as we can. Where’s the happy medium where we’re not losing folks but we’re also not getting the junk?

Devon Hayes: Love it.

Amanda Joyce: Get more excited. I feel like we pretty much covered the main key features. There’s a million more in there, but these are the ones that we really rise to the top and we’ll probably want to revisit this in three to six months when we really get to know our new friend and we might come back to you guys with some cool new features, hopefully by Christmas time we’ll come back on here and we’ll be celebrating it and talking about how much we don’t even miss our buddy Universal Analytics.

Devon Hayes: That’s right. Now that we know the benefits features have run through those a bit, we’re going to talk to you about things that you need to do and making sure that you are set up, that you’re transitioning to the new one.

Amanda Joyce: The new GA4. First of all obviously make sure your GA4 profile is set up and collecting data. Hopefully that’s already happening for you whether you have an agency or someone internally, we have all been getting push notifications forever from them reminding us to do this. Hopefully it’s already there. If it’s not time to set it up, it’s pretty quick process. Whoever’s been managing your previous Google Analytics profile should easily be able to do this for you.

Devon Hayes: They do have a setup assistant if you’re managing it yourself, but it’s a little bit more involved, but there’s a ton of YouTube tutorials showing you step-by-step how to do it. Don’t feel overwhelmed, just hop over to YouTube if you get stuck and follow one of those step-by-steps, they make it easy for you.

Amanda Joyce: Great tip. Make sure all of the goals that you were previously tracking in your old Universal Analytics have been set up in GA4. That’s a quick one, that’s a quick easy one, but you definitely want to make sure if your highest priority conversion has always been your main contact form on your homepage or whatever and it drives through a thank you page, make sure that you have gone in and set that up so that you at least have some consistency when you’re looking back at historical data moving forward that you’re going to be able to be tracking those same inputs.

Devon Hayes: Yes, and I just want to call out here again, this goes back to I think GA4 will automatically have all of those events in there, but there’s a little toggle button to indicate in to GA4 that it’s an actual conversion. For example, an event might be a scroll, but that’s not a conversion that somebody’s scrolling on the site, which is an event, but a phone call is a conversion. There’s a little toggle in the backend that you’re going to have to turn that switch on to indicate that the event of a phone call is considered a conversion.

Amanda Joyce: It’s a higher value event. But also it’s important though they’ll do all those automated ones, but they’re not going to be smart enough to go through your site and look and see all your thank you pages and give you an event for every thank you page if you do have to set yourself, but it’s doing the automated things that it’s AI can identify clicking on a telephone number, that kind of thing. But if you have dedicated thank you pages that were previously goals you got to create, do that yourself.

Devon Hayes: Beautiful. Makes sense, great tip.

Amanda Joyce: And then work with your agency or website manager or whoever’s been managing your Universal Analytics previously or YouTube and go in there and play around with how to set up your default reports. If you get in there and you’re like, “I don’t know what all this means, I don’t like it, I miss my old interface,” you can get in there. They keep touting how customizable it is. You can probably get it pretty close to what you used to about the old version so that you can come in there and breathe easy, probably get your color pattern just the way you want it, all the things and feel better, feel more comfortable when you log in there. And before you know it, you might end up realizing you’ve got 12 new metrics you never looked at before that or it’s the first place you go to look when you pop in.

Devon Hayes: Absolutely. I thought of something while you were saying that. I don’t know where this fits because we’re talking about the setup of GA4, but also Google is making your data from Universal Analytics available to export. Because they are shutting it down, you are not going to be able to access historical data, you’re going to want to follow the steps to export that data. At least you probably have had it for like 15 years, Universal Analytics, but at least two years of data, I would say anything beyond that is probably expired, but at least a year, two years of data would be great for you to just have stored so that you can, when you’re starting to plan for 2024 and coming up with your marketing strategy and using data to drive those decisions, because we know that’s what all of you do.

You’ll have that available to look at and find trends on seasonality, content, types of users, devices. I think they’ll have all of that available to you to pull. Make sure you do that export and follow the steps to do that. Actually in the episode notes we will link to a place where it gives you step-by-step directions on how to export your data from Universal Analytics.

Amanda Joyce: Absolutely. In conclusion, we’re sad, but the future is bright. Universal Analytics is gone whether we like it or not, but it’s time to embrace Google Analytics 4. Make sure that profile is set up and reporting that the data coming through looks accurate and it really aligns with what you’ve been seeing historically. Make sure your events and conversions are set up properly in their reporting. Mark those events that you do want to consider conversions as conversions. Play around and take advantage of all those new features and make sure and get in there and customize those reports so that it makes sense to you and it’s a place you feel comfortable going and learning from your data.

Devon Hayes: Any questions you have, anything that pops up or if you get stuck anywhere, obviously you can always feel free to email us and we’ll try and help you out the best you can, if the old Google isn’t giving you an answer that you like, our email is just podcast@elevmarketing.com. Feel free to reach out with any questions you can always comment on if you’re watching us on YouTube and we will certainly get back to you and get you some help as best we can.

Amanda Joyce: Thanks for listening guys, and as always give us feedback. Did we miss something or is there a feature you love or hate? Let us know. That was today’s trade secret. Thanks for listening.

Devon Hayes: Did you find this helpful? We’re just getting started.

Amanda Joyce: Subscribe and don’t miss our next reveal.

Devon Hayes: Until next time.