It’s sometimes easy to forget how much has changed since November 2005.
The Arctic Monkeys and Westlife topped the music charts, and Angela Merkel was the new Chancellor of Germany. But it was also the month in which Google launched its new Google (now universal) Analytics platform – giving users a glimpse into the power of their website data. The offering was so popular that over the next 12 months, invites to the platform had to be staggered to meet the incredible demand.
However, all good things must come to an end, and this summer sees Google bring the curtain down on its flagship data offering, clearing the way for a new way of thinking about how user data is processed across the internet.
Google’s solution replacement offering – imaginatively named Google Analytics 4 – has been in the pipeline for more than two years and businesses everywhere are moving quickly to ensure they’re not caught short by the looming deadline.
As part of our webinar last month, Head of Insight, Cameron Sharpe, ran through the key changes and offered advice on how membership organisations can leverage the new software to get best value for members. Here’s what went down.
Get your house in order for July 1st
An hour or two spent now will make such a difference.
Universal Analytics is being retired on July 1st 2023, so you’ve only got a few weeks to be ready for the imminent change.
But reassuringly, your existing data won’t just disappear – Google has committed to saving legacy figures for at least six months. Nonetheless, it is worth exporting key data summaries you already have to ensure peace of mind.
Google are doing their level best to draw attention to the upcoming changes and to encourage you to take proactive action. Many will have noticed that a new GA4 property has suddenly appeared in their account – this is Google’s best guess at replicating your existing settings and making sure you’re not caught short on July 1st.
However, this process is automated, so logging in to confirm that you’re happy with all applicable settings is important.
Cash in on custom events
In days gone by, getting access to the most instructive and high value tracked metrics was prohibitively expensive and complicated with a depth of understanding and access to a digital development team a virtual pre-requisite.
While the ability to use tools like Google Tag Manager to introduce specific custom events remains, GA4 is giving you the chance to use the most sought-after data points out of the box.
Benchmarks like scroll depth, PDF downloads and outbound links are all available at the click of a button – just turn on advanced measurement parameters in your account settings.
Don’t get cross, get even (more data)
For as long as analytics platforms have existed, the question around tracking user behaviour across device – and more latterly between different websites and apps – has hamstrung attempts to properly understand when and how users access content.
Google Analytics 4 goes a long way towards filling this data blackhole with the capacity to track users across a variety of different devices and properties – pulling all of those behaviours into a single view.
For consumer and professional bodies alike, this single snapshot of cross-domain user behaviour is potentially invaluable and a major benefit for those working out which members are most vulnerable to membership churn.
Private: keep out
The impact of analytics on data privacy has been a hot topic for more than five years – ever since data protection legislation changes arrived on these shores in 2018.
GA4 goes a long way to easing concerns around accidental breach of the law by allowing users to freely opt out of analytics related tracking – using machine learning to help fill the gap on indicative levels of traffic.
For smaller organisations this sort of functionality is likely reassuring – so too the news that data collected is kept for a shorter period as standard – a 14-month retention period is down from 26 months previously.
Try before you buy
As with the majority of new platforms of this type, the only way to grow truly comfortable with them is to experiment.
GA4 does look markedly different – with a number of key metrics disappearing for good – and with a set of new menus and folders containing many of the reports of yesteryear.
The new method of data collection – focussed on individual user events rather than sessions – means the retirement of some long-standing metrics and users are advised to work out how to amend their reports to replace some of these now defunct numbers.
It is, however, a really exciting time for membership organisations hoping to get a better handle on who their members are and what they do, and this is a tool set up to do just that.