As I am sure you are aware, as of 30 June 2023, Google discontinued the collection of new data in Universal Analytics. It is being replaced by GA4, which is very different from any of its predecessors.
If you are using Google Analytics to provide insights to support your business decision-making, Google has therefore left you with no choice but to act.
So, where can you go from here? As a user of the free version of Universal Analytics, your options are limited. You can either:
- Adopt GA4.
- Sign up for the paid version of Google 360, which will give you another year to work with Universal Analytics.
- Seek an alternative supplier (they do exist).
My own view is that working with Google, and the integration that gives with other Google tools, means that there is a lot of value in adopting GA4.
Is the Google automatic migration sufficient?
If you opted not to set up your own GA4, Google will have automatically configured a GA4 for you, which is based upon your Universal Analytics and Google Tag Manager configuration.
At best, this is rudimentary and unless your measurements are very high level, then it is unlikely to give you comparable data to what you were collecting in Universal Analytics.
I strongly recommend that you check for this yourself. If you are not sufficiently proficient with GA4 and Google Tag Manager, then have it checked by someone who does, like me (other consultants are available).
What are the deadlines?
- 30 June 2023: The free version of Universal Analytics stopped recording new data, but old data is still accessible.
- 30 June 2024: The current commitment Google has made to retain Universal Analytics data and access will run out. Also, Google 360 Universal Analytics (paid version) will be “sunsetted”, i.e. discontinued.
It is important to understand that you cannot move data between Universal Analytics and GA4. The two systems are completely independent of each other. Data that you collect in GA4 stays in GA4 and you will not see anything prior to the date that you started collecting that data.
There is therefore the need to make sure that you have downloaded or extracted everything that you want to retain, data-wise, from Universal Analytics before 30 June 2024 because at that point, as things stand, it will be lost.
What opportunities does GA4 present?
The move to GA4 presents an opportunity for you to look to the future and revise and review what is important in your business’ measurement strategy.
Many businesses have analytics systems which have been added to incrementally over a long period of time. This might mean that there is a lot of data and things going on that are not particularly useful, whether that is in your Google Tag Manager container or Universal Analytics itself. This move to GA4 gives you the opportunity to conduct an audit to consolidate and cut out this noise.
It is also a great opportunity to move away from the view that “analytics just happens”. Oftentimes, in the past, businesses would set up Universal Analytics simply by adding a code snippet to their website, but then they would not really do anything more with it. With GA4, it is not that straightforward, so you are going to have to actually think carefully about how you want data to come out of the other end.
Another advantage of GA4 is that it allows you to customise your data collection in a way that was not easy in Universal Analytics.
I urge you to capitalise on these opportunities. Grasp this unique chance to enrich the data that you have. With GA4, you have the opportunity to gain insights and information in a way that Universal Analytics could not previously offer.
4 key implementation considerations for B2B brands
1. Conversions must be configured
Be aware that the default/basic set up in GA4 is just that – basic. GA4 will not record conversions by default, they need to be configured.
Thankfully, creating a conversion event is very easy. It is simply a case of toggling a button to green from the events screen. Just be wary of noise caused by duplicate events.
Configured “custom dimensions” and “custom metrics” are listed separately. Once active, they appear in the main events list and can be set to be considered as conversions. All custom events and dimensions need to be configured in Google Tag Manager and GA4 for data collected to be used in reports or explorations.
2. The methodology is different – so measurements are not like-for-like
- A Universal Analytics “hit” is a GA4 “event”.
- A Universal Analytics “event” is a GA4 “parameter”.
- Universal Analytics “event category”, “event action” and “event label” are discontinued, they are all GA4 “parameters”.
- UTM parameter tagging still works.
All GA4 parameters require additional configuration in GA4. They can no longer be pushed directly externally or through Google Tag Manager.
Universal Analytics “custom dimensions” and “custom metrics” are configured very differently, but the good news is that it has been simplified to a single method (whereas Universal Analytics had multiple methods).
3. Having clean meaningful data from the outset is important
The key word here is “meaningful”. Data is not meaningful data unless you can use it. You want to avoid noise within your configuration to make your data as useful as possible.
4. Build a measurement plan for your whole business, then extrapolate what matters for your website
As you cannot migrate like-for-like, GA4 gives you a broadly blank canvas. Starting with GA4 takes some thought. That is great, but it also comes with some responsibility. You cannot just plug and play, as you used to be able to do. Start at the business level and identify your primary, secondary and tertiary measurements:
- Primary: This could be a direct contact/lead, such as a form fill.
- Secondary: These are other engagement actions, such as a brochure, catalogue or other file download.
- Tertiary: These are other elements that allow you to see how your website is performing, such as clicks to specific buttons or pages.
The measurement plan
As it is so important, let’s look at the measurement plan in more detail. A simple measurement plan could look something like this:
In the example above, I have segmented by business goals – rather than primary, secondary and tertiary – but you should ensure that you consider all three categories when compiling your measurement plan.
Remarkably, many businesses do not have a document like this to hand. If you do not have one already, it is important to create one and to revisit it every month or quarter to make sure it remains current and aligned with how the wider business is performing.
It is really important for B2B businesses to make sure there is a positive correlation between leads generated and qualified opportunities. Unlike B2C where users can transact online, B2B has this interim step, where the web moves people from outside to inside, and then your sales team takes that and tries to turn that into conversions and revenue.
However, the measurement plan on its own is of limited benefit. As an Analytics Manager, you need to ensure that everything in the measurement plan can be accurately measured. Hence, the tag implementation plan.
The tag implementation plan
The tag implementation plan is a list of all the tags and triggers you need to create in Google Tag Manager, the name you give to the event, and the additional parameters (information) you want to collect about the event, which is then used as a checklist to ensure:
- Every key piece of data you need is detailed by cross-referencing with the measurement plan.
- Every key piece of data you need is configured in both Google Tag Manager and GA4.
Pass the tag implementation plan to your analytics team or partner for deployment.
However, before you do that, there is another consideration you need to be aware of. Customer parameters in GA4 are not infinite – you are limited to 50 custom dimensions and 50 custom metrics. Therefore, you need to be cautious and aim to reuse these as much as possible to conserve space in the quota. Which brings us to the event parameter log.
The event parameter log
The event parameter log is a document that details all the parameters you have used and created, the purpose being to make sure you have a simple reference guide and you re-use parameters wherever feasible. This keeps the configuration as clean as it can be and controls the quota.
Parameters are pushed with events in Google Tag Manager, simplifying:
- Event category
- Event action
- Event label
- Fields to set
- Custom dimensions
- Custom metrics
You should re-use parameters for different elements to stay within the quota. For example, if you have a conversion event called “form” and a conversion event called “call”, you could use the parameter “conversion_name” to capture both the form name and the call, instead of “form_name” and “callgroup_name”. By doing this, you are conserving space within your quota.
You also need to determine if your custom dimensions are user-scoped or event-scoped:
- User-scoped: These values stick with the user until updated, such as logged-in status, newsletter subscriber status, etc.
- Event-scoped: These apply only to the specific event.
Give your conversion actions a value
Not all conversion actions are of equal value. So, how can you differentiate them?
Adding a value or index enables more meaningful analysis. So, if you know that conversion type A is a hotter lead than conversion type B, you can represent that in numeric form. Although this was always available in Universal Analytics, the set-up via Google Tag Manager means it is much easier to manage dynamic values with GA4, using lookup tables. The values can be used for ROI calculations and can be passed to Google Ads, so value-based strategies can be utilised.
Use the default parameters “value” and “currency” to achieve this. These are default in GA4. Once you have set this up, monitor it regularly to make sure you have got the balance of values correct, and adjust accordingly if needed.
Top five steps to make GA4 work for you
- Create a measurement plan. You want to be clear about what you want to measure and what you want to get out of this.
- Create a tag implementation plan and an event parameter log.
- Once you know what you want to implement, remove all compatible code snippets which are hard coded and move them into your Google Tag Manager container. (You do not have to do this, but it keeps it much cleaner, because you are then managing everything in one place.)
- Work with your developer to make any missing data visible in the data layer. Through Google Tag Manager, you can capture virtually anything that sits within the webpage. So, if anything is missing, ask your developer to put it there and then you can extract that and push it through into GA4. (Please note that you cannot do this step until you have done steps 2 and 3.)
- Configure your GA4 property and test it thoroughly in debug view. I cannot emphasise the need to test it thoroughly enough. It is very easy to think you have created something but not see it manifest itself properly in GA4. Mistakes like this can mean you are going to get unclean data or data that you cannot do anything with. Test everything thoroughly, and fix any errors immediately.
Want to watch the full webinar recording?
If you want to learn more about how to turn GA4 into an opportunity for your B2B business, watch our webinar recording on this topic here! The webinar goes into more depth than this blog post and also contains Q&A with Analytics Specialist Paul Reeve.