Found Table Ep.2 | Google Analytics 4 (2/2)

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GA4 is coming our way as Universal Analytics will be sunsetting at the end of June.

So, come the first of July, Universal Analytics is going to stop processing all data and it is imperative that brands are taking this super seriously and transition over to GA4 as soon as possible to ensure that they have accurate data to make judgments for their own internal marketing campaigns.

So, today, we’re going to share the second half of our latest Found Table session with you; diving into the key benefits of transitioning over to GA4 and discussing the benefits of using GA4…

How has putting GA4 on the agenda gone?

Making sure that CMOs and key stakeholders take GA4 super seriously is a major priority for us at Found.

Most big clients have seen the monster coming over the hill for years but a lot of people we’ve been speaking to have been pushing off fully adopting GA4. This is because so many businesses use Universal Analytics as their single point of truth across marketing and digital activity. So many other elements are plugged into that tool, the idea of switching over to a completely different platform (and amending the way that your business measures things) has felt so daunting that people have sort of kicked the can down the road.

We’re quite fortunate, July of last year was the deadline for most of our clients to transition over to GA4, so we’ve been discussing the shift away from Universal Analytics with clients since well before then.

We’re actually in a place where we can facilitate year-on-year comparisons for some of our clients (within GA4) already but we know that there are plenty of businesses out there that still haven’t started to transition over from Universal Analytics yet.

The reality is that the later you leave moving across, the more problems you’re going to have. The earlier you migrate across to GA4, the easier your life will be; 

For those that have already successfully transitioned over, we’re seeing a lot of people (at all levels of business) use GA4 as their primary reporting dashboard.

We’re hearing a lot of functionality questions from them, like:

  • Where do I find this report?
  • How do I see this? 
  • Does this report (that I use to access frequently in UA) still exist in GA4?

So it’s just been a case of showing people what the new data presentation looks and how to best use it for their unique business focusses.

The reality for everyone else is, as we’ve already said, come July you don’t have a choice. You do have to adopt the tool as soon as you can.

Fortunately, a lot of our clients are forward thinking and already there. It’s just a case of helping them understand the full range of implications for (come July) when we can’t use certain data, how they want to proceed.

So, it’s really been about making sure that we understand, amongst our clients’ teams, who needs to be using GA4, making sure they have everything they need for the transition, and ensuring that they have a full understanding of where their day-to-day reporting will come from after the first of July this year. All essential discussions that naturally fall high (or often to the top) of anyone’s commercial agenda.

For many, UA is a primary reporting platform. Is that going to be the case for GA4 or will brands adopt a different way of working?

There’s going to be a two year period where people will probably make more requests (of teams like ours) for reports that they previously would have known where to find in UA.

So, we’re going to try and translate some of the data into studio-style reports.

Lots of our clients have asked us to create dashboards for them that just show, on a single page (or set pages), exactly the data that they want to see. Those demands are increasing with people asking us ‘Can you look at our GA4? I have no idea what that is. Can you create a report that does this?’ and that’s fine. That’s a level of service that we provide to accommodate for how different people adapt.

Everyone’s scared of change, but we all get used to it over time. As users get familiar with GA4, they’re all starting to understand and unlock its potential. It’s a much more capable platform than Universal Analytics, it’s very different.

It’s just new so it seems scary. When you get into it, you’ll realise that it’s able to do a lot of reporting that wasn’t possible previously.

There are broader shifts in analytics work, with users not allowing cookies through their browsers anymore and consumers just generally being more concerned about sharing data about themselves and their activities online.

Regardless of the analytics platform you use, you are going to struggle to have a full source of truth, a unique source of truth, like those that businesses were reliant on previously, when cookies were abundant.

So right now, the analytics systems that most businesses employ, whichever they are,  are not sufficient for getting a ‘one source of truth’ for marketing.

We recommend that businesses back up their CMS plans and make small but significant changes in the way that they work and the way that they engage with analytics teams to make sure that important information about the channels they use will be added and stored in their business CMS, not just in the analytics system because that’s the way that we can have a more accurate representation of individual campaign performance.

I know that the cookieless future brings a lot of complications to the table but, unfortunately, this is our reality.

A lot of companies are viewing the shift across to GA4 as their total preparation for the cookieless future but we just want to stress that that’s just one small milestone to prepare for. The cookieless future is coming and there’s a lot more work to do to ensure that businesses are fully optimised for it.

What tactics or activities should brands be taking super seriously in the cookieless future?

So, GA4 handles the measurement side of things, the predictive elements of the tool will help to close data gaps, which we are gonna be missing in our tracking.

When it comes to understanding who your audiences are, understanding how to tackle them, and defining what best works for your customers then it’s going to be ‘back to the drawing board’ for us all. 

Marketers are going to have to do work around who their customers are, knowing their audience sizes, monitoring their social media, being present where their customers are and drawing as much information from customers as they can in order to fully leverage back that data (new first party data) into everything that they do.

Writing copy for social posts, writing copy for Google ads, and designing creative is going to become so much more important and best that anyone can do is utilise their first party data to personalise the user journeys of existing customers (for loyalty) and optimise the purchase funnel for new customers.

Creative needs to be front and centre.

In our clients’ strategies, PMax has brought so much good with it but there is still a lot to learn (particularly around its creative capabilities and how brands can look to really win) to ensure that we have a creative edge over competitors in the future.

The focus now needs to be much more on quality and quantity. 

In the past few years, you could measure everything. You could track a lot of data. But data prices have started to ramp up in the last five years and there’s still a big grey area (some people still operate with mass marketing lists).

The way to think about it is, ‘those days are over’.

Everyone has to adopt data privacy and take it very seriously because that’s the future that we’re moving into.

‘If you serve your ads to enough people, performance will be in there somewhere’ is just going to be proved more and more incorrect as time goes on. What we’re going to be seeing is just a lower volume of data.

This shouldn’t be seen as a negative, it should be seen as a way of improving what you’re doing, working a lot smarter, and improving the quality of what you do. An opportunity for brands to be creative rather than just bland.

Now, you have to really think about your audience. Really personalise what you’re doing – not on an individual level (which is where we’re not going to be sort of future) but on a cohort level.

So, think about your audience in different segments or groups or cohorts and what a personalised, tailored user experience will be for them.

So, if you work on incrementally improving quality (the quality of creative and the quality of personalisation you offer during the customer journey) you’re going to see much higher, much greater performance at that level than previously.

There’s no shortcuts anymore, you have to think smarter and harder about what you’re doing.

The reality is that, you know, if you can adapt then you are going to deliver much better performance than you saw previously. It’s just that there isn’t an easy way to do it.

To Summarise

If you haven’t yet migrated over to GA4 you, obviously, need to start now.

Realistically, a complete and successful transition to get yourself fully set up on GA4 (when left to professionals) can get done within four weeks. Regardless of the complexity of your site, you should be able to have a functioning GA4 account within the month.

The real, and harder, begins when you start logging into the Google Analytics 4 interface, start learning it and truly understanding how it feeds into your other systems.

If you have a business intelligence system that links to UA, if you have various dashboards internally that your business relies on, if you have a trade index that gets information from Universal Analytics, all of that will need to be migrated and transitioned across to Google Analytics 4.

The transition and implementation of the technology can be done in parallel, regardless of what the business is doing, you can hire in experts (like us) to handle that.

But the real work will come when the business has to adapt, start utilising the tool, and training the team has to occur. You need to make sure that you dedicate enough time to getting used to the GA4 interface.

Then the marketing team need to be able to confidently explain to other business stakeholders why the numbers look the way they do. ‘What are the gaps when it comes to Google Analytics 4 versus universal analytics? Why are the sessions going up or down all of a sudden? Why should they be trusting this particular system versus the old?’ are all questions that your marketing function needs to be ready and able to answer.

So, we all (agencies and brands) need to work as one cohesive team to create this transition mindset within our own businesses.

You can see this entire discussion at…

Found is a London-based multi-award-winning digital growthSEO, PPC, Social and Digital PR agency that harnesses the efficiencies of data and technology and future-thinking to help clients grow their businesses online.

If you have any questions or concerns about moving to GA4, the Found team is ready to help. Feel free to contact our team today.