It’s an exciting time for the digital marketing industry as one of the most widely used suppliers of digital reporting – Google – has announced major changes to the way it collects and reports data.
Do we care? Yes! This huge change to the status quo brings a raft of new opportunities to drive business outcomes through digital marketing channels. It’s also a fundamental shift in the way website and app interactions are tracked, and reported on.
Should you care? As a minimum, someone in your organisation should be tasked with ensuring that the digital asset (most probably, your company website) you’ve invested time and money into will continue collecting insightful (and accurate!) data to help you make good decisions about where next to grow.
Some of the major adjustments are covered below, but if you haven’t already, you should probably check with your marketing team or marketing supplier to see what you need to do to commence collecting GA4 data.
If you’re a current Harper Digital client, we’ll handle all of this for you.
Collect both website and app data to better understand the customer journey
Recognising that many brands have multiple digital customer touchpoints, it follows that reporting should measure the volume and impact of each digital asset as part of the entire customer experience.
Under Universal Analytics (which will be sunsetted and stop collecting data from July 2023), the hierarchy or reporting followed the Account > Property > View structure. This meant that data was collected at the property level, and unless Google Analytics 360 was enabled and configured, cross-property reporting was challenging.
In GA4, independent data streams can be configured at the property level, where a data stream can consist a website, an app developed for iOS or Android (or both), and more, and feeds data collection at the property level. This means reporting can happen at the stream level, as well as at the property level, providing a far more holistic view of digital activity, and the interplay of these across the different platforms available.
GA4 uses event-based data instead of session-based data
With cross-platform reporting a feature of GA4, it follows that the focus moves from sessions – users who visited your website, to events – users who took an action on any of your digital platforms, and the journey they took to get there.
Google’s Support defines an event as a tool that ‘allows users to measure a distinct user interaction on a website or app’. This could be anything from clicking a link, completing a purchase, loading a page, or completing a form.
GA4 has developed a set of automatically collected events which collects data by default, so in the worst case scenario this data collection will happen for you. However, there are also options for enhanced measurement and custom events, and more, to specifically develop reporting around user interactions that are meaningful to your business.
Includes privacy control such as cookieless measurement, and behavioural conversion modeling
You’re no doubt accustomed to the consent banners that request acceptance of cookies when you visit a new website. This allows Google Analytics to track on-site behaviour, and overall builds a set of information to help guide development of user experiences. This data will be missing for those who decline consent.
Under GA4, Google will use machine learning to model the behaviour of users who decline consent based on the behaviour and actions taken on websites and apps by users who are similar in profile and who accept analytics cookies. In doing so, this information will provide more useful insights into analytics reporting whilst also respecting the privacy and preferences of your users.
What are the next steps to collecting data in GA4 ahead of the switchover?
Whether you’re responsible for this data collection on your business or not, there are some important questions it would pay to ask your digital marketing support, whether in-house or external.
- Have we commenced collecting data in GA4 against our digital properties?
- How will our business reporting change from what we’re used to seeing?
- Are there any specific conversion points in our sales funnel that would be helpful to track through events… are these catered for automatically?
- What reporting tools do we have that are integrated with Google Analytics and when will they be ready for GA4?