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Transitioning To GA4: Podcast Episode & Script

Apr. 28, 2023 | Gary Jones

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Migrating to Google Analytics 4 In 2023

Soon, businesses will need to start preparing for the end of Google Analytics 3 and transitioning to GA4 before July 1, 2023. That is the date when the internet giant will be shutting down full support, and standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing data.

It can seem daunting to learn a new platform, with GA4 providing a brand-new UI interface and different insights into how a user interacts and engages with your website. But May will be the perfect month to make the big move and learn how the new Google Analytics works and functions.

In this week’s episode, Dwight and Gary discuss the key elements that make Google’s new analytics tool and why businesses should focus less on bounce rates and more on engaged sessions.

Read the full transcript from Episode 44: Transitioning To GA4.

Dwight:
Well, it is time, according to Mr. Google or Mrs. Google, I don’t know which gender Google is, but they have announced over a year ago that Universal Analytics, that everybody has grown and evolved with, is going to be sunsetting into their new Google Analytics Four. I don’t know what happened to number two or three, but we’re going to go right to GA4.

And essentially, that is going to be happening July 1st, 2023. What does that mean to you as a business? It means a lot of things. They are dramatically different. It’s going from a manual vehicle to an automatic vehicle with a lot of electrifying needs and know-hows.

A lot of things that you’re used to using and looking at in Universal Analytics have changed, although they’re a lot of the same. They’re a lot of the new in different places. But there’s a lot of great tools inside of there as well.

And I think the biggest problem, if you call it a problem, I guess it’s an opportunity, is you have to relearn a number of things and you’re going to have to start to look for your average reports in other places. Chances are, if you’re working with an agency or a developer, they already know that these things are happening and they’ve made some appropriations for it, but some people may have not.

And so you’re going to have to learn something kind of over again, which is going to be the challenge. So Mr. Gary, our SEO resident advisor, is on the call today to tell us a little bit more about what to be looking for and how to make this transition and how you can get some assistance in doing so. Gary, welcome to Monday.

Gary:
Hey. Yep. It is certainly Monday.

Dwight:
It is. So let’s go into GA. Tell us about it.

Gary:
Yeah. So like you were saying, July 1st is when data will stop flowing to GA3 or whatever you’re using right now, however you want to call it, is the effective cutoff point that we know of right now. There could be changes in the future. But as of right now, we’re just working with what we know and that is July 1st will be the cutoff point you’ll need to migrate to GA4.

And a lot of people are quite cautious and have been slow on the take-up of it. I think that makes sense as well because I think the current Google Analytics that we’re working with is fully fleshed out and has all of its features and things kind of molded around how we’re used to.

GA4 is a little newer and there are still areas in which I think there’s going to be additions made by Google.

But as of right now, what that means for a lot of people will be that they’ll need new tracking scripts added to their website. They will need to make sure that they’re all up to date with things like their Google Tag, if they’re using Google Tag Manager, making sure that’s all up to date and things like that. So when they do need to shift over, it’s all done and dusted.

And there are going to be a lot of changes when it comes to just practicing the things. And I thought it would be a great time to just highlight that if you haven’t started taking those steps, if you haven’t started preparing for GA4, I think May is going to be the month to do it because it gives you a good couple of months to really start. If you set it up now, then you can start learning it now. And I think there’s a lot of things to learn.

One of the big changes that I think a lot of people will notice is kind of the UI, the interfaces are different. And really the best way of learning them now is by doing it. Just by looking through and trying to find what the information you’re used to going through and doing that yourself.

You are going to want to check out the acquisitions reports, you’re going to want to check out the pages and screens reports, the e-commerce, all that kind of stuff. And just really start to ingratiate yourself with how that information looks and how that information stacks up on the page.

Dwight:
Sure.

Gary:
Things like bounce rate, bounce rate has kind of been demoted. It won’t be the thing that you are looking towards. And I think a lot of businesses have grown to really rely on that kind of statistic. Right?

Dwight:
Right.

Gary:
Would you say that’s correct?

Dwight:
Yeah, bounce has a big factor, that I’ve learned historically is essentially it’s, I think, a predominantly strong signal, although maybe not as much anymore, but how quick people are leaving your website and specifically coming from a search result. So when someone’s going to Google and typing in something and they click on your link and they come to your website and they immediately leave, that’s a bounce.

And that can affect, it’s a signal that has been disclosed that Google does look at. Is it that big of a factor anymore? I think again, there’s a complete new variation of SEO, which is really targeted to the user experience, and once they get to your website, should be just as important. I want to touch back on one of the things you brought up, was acquisitions and why you feel acquisitions in the new GA4 is a focal point along with devices.

Gary:
Sure. So I think that one of the big changes in GA4 is basically how Google is documenting how people use your website. So they’re moving away from page views and the bounce rate kind of factors, and they’re moving towards, like you were saying, the user experience. And that involves more towards things like events.

What are people doing whilst they’re on your website? Things like scroll deck, downloads. Page views are still a factor. I think they’re called just simply views now. But it’s really more about how people are engaging with your website during a session. So I think that all culminates in the changes that Google has made.

So when you look at new users come to your website, you’ll do that through the acquisition report, when you’re looking at just the monthly users, things like that. But also when you’re looking at what they’re doing, instead of looking at bounce rates, you might instead look at the engaged sessions tab, which basically rates, it tracks.

It’s a bit like bounce rate, but it basically tracks anyone who stays on your site for longer than 10 seconds, someone who clicks through multiple pages, someone who interacts or creates some of those events. That will be an engaged session on your website. And I think that will be something that people will look to kind of fill in the gaps around bounce rate.

And the nice thing as well is Google is allowing us to change a few things. So if you want to change those engage session times to 20 seconds or 30 seconds, if you think your real user experience only starts after 30 seconds of being on your website, then you can go into your options, into your settings and you can change it from 10 seconds to 30 seconds. Thus allowing you to share the information you want in the way you want to. Which I think is the right thing to do.

Dwight:
Yeah, cater it a little bit more to specifics of how users use your website rather than the generalization of everybody across the board as it being a benchmark.

Gary:
Yeah.

Dwight:
So it can kind of skew the data and you can modify and mold it to what is going to be important to you. So it’s still going to collect data, but then display it to you underneath those alterations or those modifications you have on the data to give you reporting that’s going to make more sense to how your business operates and runs.

Gary:
Yes.

Dwight:
Yeah, that’s good stuff.

Gary:
Yes. And I think there’s a few other things to point out as well. We were talking about user journey, them kind of updating it, there’s going to be better cross-platform tracking between say a website or an app. That’s another big thing that GA4 is changing. And also something that people may not know right now, but they’ll want to know, is that data retention is changing with GA4. So at the moment I think the default is something like two months of data retention.

When you set up your GA4, just as an example, you’ll find that under the settings, under, I think it’s data streams and then data retention. There’ll be an option where you can change it from a two-month data retention span to 14 months. But that is the limit. 14 months will be the data retention limit. And I think that will be a big change for a lot of people as well.

Dwight:
Of course.

Gary:
But knowing that is very important.

Dwight:
Yeah. So that’s one of the things that, there’s kind of like a checklist of when you go through this. We talked about installation. And hopefully, you made the move to using Google Tag Manager so you can kind of centralize and control all of the actions of all these individualized scripts that are running inside of your site for all these different third party networks. Could be a Meta, Facebook, Pixel tag. It could be for AdWords. There could be other types of tags that are being injected inside of there, but getting to Google Tag Manager is kind of huge to do.

So if you haven’t done that and you need to make this move, well, you have to make the move. Google’s going to push you to do it. Now is the time to get over to Tag Manager. And then going through a setup procedure of kind of mimicking the way and the reporting or what you like to see from Universal over to GA4 would be important to walk through and have someone set that up specifically for you.

Now there’s still automation and reporting. There can be different reports that can be ran through you. Everything’s going through Data Creative Studio, which is Google’s product as well. And I think the big push behind them in doing all of this is to centralize and really harness the data to utilize, of course to sell off from a number of different things in other products.

I see Ford in the Ford future, as you pointed out, where analytics is only stored as a default for two months. You definitely want that 14 month because you will go back historically and look over.

It’s pretty easy to sit down right now and say, “What happened in September?” What you don’t realize is that was nine months ago. And if you can’t look back and what trailed and went different because of things in your industry, the holiday season, the economy, so on and so forth, that’s going to be kind of a bummer. You’re not going to like that.

I know there was a lot of issues, and they seemed to have solidified, porting over GA information into GA4. That was going to be a cut one and done. I know that was the fear. And there was a lot of issues with that of old data going into the new platforms so you have comparison and historics. That was last summer and it seems like they’ve kind of went through that. Still a little bit of bugs inside of there.

One of the things you’ll notice if you’re already installed in Google Analytics right now is there’s a nice yellow banner at the top when you log in. And they will do some automation, or they try to at least. They’re definitely reinforcing the fact that it is sunsetting and you’re going to be going over and you can click a button and they can walk through a process to get you into GA4. But it’s not going to be all one and done. You’re essentially there.

So it’s kind of like the old school days of buying a new laptop. You get the Microsoft Office Pro and install it. And now you have Excel, go. Go do what you need to do. You don’t know about macros, you don’t know about writing formulas, all those other things, and you got to kind of tinker around and get it set up for you.

So I really think for a lot of businesses out there because of the integrations and back and forth, of course, especially with Google Ads, of how the data is merged together to give you some really good modified reporting to paint a really good picture of what’s going on, it’s best to sit down and to invest the money and take it seriously. Because if not, it’s an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Is that the saying?

I think that’s really going to hit at home at this point here because you’re going to be looking forward in the future where you can’t get data out that you want or you need to look at it. And usually, and unfortunately, a lot of people only do that, especially smaller business owners. You’re operating your business, you’re doing all these things, it’s never a issue or an urgency until it is. Right?

Gary:
Yeah.

Dwight:
And that’s unfortunate, but I think it’s something, it’s not going away. You’re definitely going to want to look at the data of what’s happening and why people are doing things to help guide you and make smart decisions of where you should be investing your time in product selection, in categories, in content on your website to get business. And this is definitely going to paint that picture for you.

Gary:
Definitely. Yeah. I think that with any kind of, it’s kind of annoying that it’s happening, but it’s also a huge opportunity for everyone to kind of get to know the new data tools. But also you might find things in GA4 that never really stood out to you in what you’re currently using.

Dwight:
Sure.

Gary:
Or maybe you’ve just stopped, you’ve fallen into bad habits, maybe you’ve stopped checking your Google Analytics and maybe this will kickstart it again and help you kind of look through it a bit more and kind of get back up to date with things that are going on in your digital landscape.

Dwight:
Of course. Of course. And as always, I mean, while you’re making this switch over, it’s a good time to sit down and understand how it can become part of everything you do in business and be a new guiding factor to help you make decisions moving forward, as I already said. We have other articles and how-tos and guides on our website. And if not, you can reach out to us directly and we would love to help you out or answer any questions that you do have in regards to getting you moved over to Google Analytics Four. Isn’t that right, Gary?

Gary:
Sure thing.

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