Navigating Google Universal Analytics (UA) is an essential skill in every digital marketer’s data-driven insight and action planning. At The Scott Partnership, we strive to make the best marketing decisions for our clients, keeping them informed about Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and why transitioning to the new interface sooner rather than later is important.
This blog shares our thoughts on what to consider when switching from UA to GA4 and how to continue best practice in measuring marketing performance. Read on to find out what this new platform means for you and your life science business.
If it's not broken, why fix it?
According to Google, UA was created and implemented at a time when there was only one way to interact with a company – directly on its website – and it depends heavily on cookies. In the current era of the customer journey, users are likely to interact with your business and brand through a variety of channels, including your website, apps, and social media platforms.
Google therefore acknowledges that user behaviour has shifted, and that valuable data is being lost without a fresh measurement system in place that offers the flexibility to adapt.
Simply put, UA is essentially a legacy system, incapable of delivering cross-platform insights. GA4 enables organisations to understand the multi-touchpoint experiences of their customers, predict new insights using machine learning (ML), generate new leads, raise brand awareness and drive sales, all while respecting user privacy and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) consent requirements.
The only constant is change
GA4 will replace UA on 1st July 2023.
From that point on, UA will stop processing data into reports, and historical reports in UA will only be available for six months. Data collection within GA4 starts from scratch, at the date of initiation, which is why it is important to make the switch sooner rather than later.
We encourage our clients to move their analytics over to GA4 as soon as possible, to get used to the new platform and its functionality, and to start accruing meaningful data as soon as possible.
Annotations, urchin tracking modules, goals and A/B testing – what’s different?
- Can I still annotate my marketing activity with a date stamp?
On UA, for accurate tracking and reporting (for example, a Facebook post on a specific date), many add short notes to specific dates in Google Analytics reports to trace the effectiveness of particular marketing campaigns.
GA4 won’t have the same annotation capabilities we’re used to, and built-in annotations aren’t available. However, Google plans to make continuous improvements to GA4 for the foreseeable future, based on user feedback, so we could see the feature return.
- Are urchin tracking modules still valid on GA4?
Urchin tracking module (UTM) codes are uniform resource locator (URL) parameters used by marketers to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns across traffic sources and publishing media. In short, yes, UTM builders that collect campaign data with custom URLs are still usable.
Marketers can use GA4’s URL builder to add UTM parameters to identify the campaigns that refer traffic. By adding UTM campaign parameters to the destination URLs used in referral links and ad campaigns, you can see which campaigns generate the most success and use the data to inform your next campaign.
- How do I report events and goals on GA4?
Although setting goals is not available in GA4, you can define a conversion on your website directly in the GA4 reporting interface, based on captured events. GA4 no longer requires the user to set up goals based on a limited set of conversion criteria; instead, there are two ways to define conversions that are important to marketers:
- Mark already-tracked events as a conversion
- Create a new custom conversion from tracked events
In addition, 30 more app or web events can be marked up as conversions. This gives marketers great flexibility and refinement in how to measure any important user activities.
- How do you A/B test on GA4?
Google Optimize is a common tool for marketers to perform sophisticated A/B multivariate testing and enables users to see the results of experiments and personalisation using built-in reports. With GA4, there is a new integration designed for Google Optimize.
However, Google recently announced that Optimize will be sunsetting on 30th September 2023. The good news is that there will be new A/B testing features and a similar product to Google Optimize introduced within the GA4 interface, but it’s not yet known what that will include.
We are currently rolling out GA4 for our clients and offering best practice advice on data management and website performance. For more information about our digital services, contact our team.