Is Your Website Ready For Google Analytics 4?
Updated: Nov 22, 2022
It might not garner the same reaction as a new Marvel or Star Wars movie, but there's a sequel on the horizon you need to know about. Google Analytics 4 is coming (or here already depending on when you're reading this).
What is it, what's new and what does it mean for you and your website in terms of your SEO strategy? We're glad you asked. Let's take a look.
We've all been used to Google's Universal Analytics for so long, and whilst that's still going to be available until 1st July 2023, GA4 is eventually going to replace it completely.
With that in mind, it's time to get your heads around it and the impact it will have on you, or those of your clients.
Announced in October 2020, Google Analytics 4 comes due, in part, to the changes and complexities that come with analysing the sheer amount of data generated by their search algorithms (not to mention collecting it in the first place).
Over the last decade, our relationship with search has changed enormously. There are now more devices, more platforms, and more nuances to our online journey than ever before.
This also has an impact on privacy and the collection, retention and use of our personal data. These are all at the forefront of why GA4 was created, and why it is coming.
Should You Switch To Google Analytics 4 Now?
Yes! As we said, whilst it's still going to be available for a year or so (at the time of writing this post), the sooner you switch, the sooner you can start collecting data. Data that is going to be invaluable to you on your SEO journey going forward.
The longer you wait, the more data you'll miss out on when the inevitable sunsetting takes place when you HAVE to switch in October 2024.
It's worth noting that, as we write this, the two platforms can happily co-exist, so whilst you're obviously going to be more familiar with UA, the sooner you dip your toes into GA4, the easier that transition will be.
What's New with Google Analytics 4?
According to Google themselves (so make of that what you will), GA4 is more privacy-focused, more future-proofed, incorporates machine learning to offer greater insights through data-driven attribution and integrates more fully with Google Ads (and other Google services) to optimise your campaigns.
Sounds great, but what does that mean in practice?
We now share more of our personal information online than we ever would have thought possible a couple of decades ago. We offer up what we like and dislike, our physical (and online) locations and our personal relationships often without thinking about it.
To protect their citizens, many countries have introduced data protection legislation (e.g GDPR in Europe) to help people to understand and manage how, where and why their personal information (a.k.a. data) is being used and by whom.
To allow for this, GA4 now introduces privacy controls that can be administered at the country level. This means that you can specify what data is collected (or not) and make sure you comply with relevant laws in different countries.
If you have customers around the world, this information is going to be vital to protect them and yourself.
You can also customise who has access to that data, meaning that, for example, sales teams can get different levels of access than customer service agents or third-party contractors.
Google Analytics 4 isn't just going to help you with what your visitors have searched for in the past, thanks to its machine learning, it's going to be able to predict what future actions they might make.
This comes in two so-called 'productive' metrics that you might find useful both designed to help you reach the right people through the right channels. They both sound a little like witchcraft but let's look at them both.
The first one is 'purchase probability' which aims to predict the likelihood that any visitors who have visited your website (or app) will buy from you in the next 7 days.
The second metric is 'churn probability' which is designed to predict how likely it is that users that have been active recently will NOT visit your website or app over the next 7 days. This might help you look at the messaging they're getting and what's not working.
The customer journey, from initial interaction to sale, is a vital part of any business. It's as relevant today as it ever was, but it's also changed. GA4 will offer more insights into the journey as a whole.
Customers now might access your website via the site itself, via your app or on different devices or platforms or through different sessions.
They come at you from everywhere, and that's good, but it can also mean the journey gets broken up and can be difficult to fully understand or analyse.
GA4 promises to change that by collating that information, giving you a greater understanding of how they interact with your website and/or app all in one place.
Better Integration with Google's Other Services
Google Analytics is just one of their marketing services. Others include Google Ads, Search Ads 360 and Display & Video 360 and a number of others.
If you utilise any of these then you'll be glad to know that GA4 integrates deeply with them and therefore you can optimise any advertising campaigns you're running.
This ultimately means you can make better and more informed decisions to boost your traffic and those all-important sales based on actual real-world data.
This is a new property within GA4 that is designed to give you a better idea of the impact of individual marketing activities, specifically what contribution each customer interaction brings to your conversion outcomes.
This will allow you to know what effect your marketing is having so you know what's working, and more importantly, what's not.
It also allows you to determine which touchpoints, i.e. any point of interaction with a customer or potential customer at any stage of the customer journey, is most likely to drive conversions.
This information can then be exported to Google Ads to optimise your advertising campaign.
How Do You Prepare Yourself for GA4?
As we mentioned earlier, GA4 is coming and UA is going. There's nothing you can do about that, but it doesn't have to be a painful experience.
You can set yourself up with GA4 right now and start using it, helping to transition yourself or your teams into the new platform over the next year. You really should.
Using Google Analytics 4
If you're not using Universal Analytics already, then this is the perfect opportunity to start with GA4.
The first thing you'll need to do is create an account by signing up at analytics.google.com
Once you've logged in, go to Admin (the cog in the bottom-left corner) and click the blue button labelled 'Create Account' (top left corner).
Set up an account name and then decide what data you want to share with the other relevant Google Services, then click 'Next' and add a property to the account.
You can also utilise their help pages if you get stuck. This page will help you set it up if it isn't clear to you (https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/9304153)
With your property set up, you can begin to dive into the data it will begin to draw upon giving you insight into your visitors and how they behave on your site.
If you're new to all this then we appreciate that it is a bit overwhelming. Feel free to familiarise yourself with Google's help section. There is a lot of great training and support documentation to help you.
For those of you who have been using UA for some time, then there's still a little work for you to do to embrace Google Analytics 4.
You'll still need to create a GA4 property for your website, but this can be done from within your existing account.
It's worth noting that setting up a new property does not mean you'll lose access to your existing account.
The new property will begin to collect data alongside your existing property and give you access to both; useful to begin to understand the new features and how they'll work.
If you do get stuck, there is also a GA4 Setup Assistant wizard to help guide you through the process although you do need to have at least an 'Editor' role on the account you're using.
Again, if you already have Analytics property set up, Google has created a support document to guide you through, linked here.
The Final Words
Google Analytics 4 is coming, so there's no real point in putting off utilising the power and new features of the platform. This gives you a year or so to fully embrace what it can do for you, and your clients to garner insights that may not have been available before.
If you're looking to take your website and business up a notch or if you're working for clients, then being able to further enhance your offering can only be a good thing.
If you've been using Google Analytics 4 for a while, what results have you been seeing for you or your clients? Are there any new features you particularly like or dislike? Let us know in the comments below.