In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss the newly-released Google Analytics 4. At a high level, what should marketers be thinking about? How soon should they migrate? Are some companies better suited for it than others? All these questions and more answered in this episode.
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Christopher Penn 0:02
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In this week’s in your insights we are talking about the brand spanking new but not really Google Analytics for and I will say not really because they’ve had it in a as a differently named product for last year or so in beta for people to try.
And it is now available it you’ve likely seen the notification in your Google Analytics account, if you’ve been in your Google Analytics account recently, that it is now the new shiny object in marketing analytics.
So Katie, here’s the thing, people are going to log into the GA account, they’re going to see that banner, they’re gonna go, Oh, crap, what do we do? is this? is this important? How do we handle this? And certainly from a technical aspect, there are some pretty big changes in how the application works.
But how should people be thinking about how to manage the change itself? How do they know whether it’s important to them or not? How do they, how they communicate to their stakeholders? Yeah, we should get on this soon or no, let’s wait and see.
Katie Robbert 2:04
Well, you know, I think you categorized it correctly, when you call it a new shiny object.
And shiny objects tend to be distractions.
And that doesn’t mean that shiny objects shouldn’t be paid attention to, but they tend to distract away from what you’re actually doing on a day to day basis.
And so in this instance, what we want to discourage people from doing is abandoning their current Google Analytics, in favor of Google Analytics for what we actually recommend.
And what Google recommends is that you run both views in parallel and have both views collecting data because they are set up a little bit differently.
But ultimately, the outcomes should be the same, like you should be able to get the same data out of both systems, how you go about getting that data is going to look a little different.
That’s the difference between classic and for, you know, I think one of the things that we know, just from the work that we do is that a lot of companies are still struggling with the basics of Google Analytics and having Google Analytics set up in the first place.
So to have this new shiny object to distract them from getting the basic setup is, to me, it’s problematic, because then that means that the basics won’t be set up correctly.
And then they’ll just sort of try to do this new thing over here.
But we also know that in technology, while the lifecycle to get things out the door is very rapid.
The lifecycle to adopt, the new technology actually takes a few years.
And so I’m not so fussed about the fact that Google Analytics four came out, I think people have time, and they should take their time to learn the system.
You know, so you asked me a bunch of questions in there, Chris, about, you know, change management, and letting the executives know.
But I feel like we need to start with the PSA of don’t abandon Google Analytics Classic for Google Analytics for
Christopher Penn 4:02
now, I think that’s right, because version four is a very different creature.
There are clearly applications where it makes sense to move sooner rather than later.
Like if you have a web property and a mobile app, you’re on the list of sooner rather than later because the measuring capabilities are much better for people who have both.
And so that’s, you know, an easy prioritization method for prioritizing whether it’s right for you or not.
But the system overall hat is, has is thinking about analytics in a different way.
We typically think of it in three or four different ways, right? We think of the hit or the page view, we think of the session the things that people do, in one sitting, we think of the user.
And we think of the products those are the four measurement measurements that we look at units of measurement in traditional Google Analytics, as reflected in the old product in the new version.
All that has gone is gone to the point where that’s its events only.
So something happening is what is considered the the sole unit of tracking.
And that’s a very different way of thinking, because instead, the closest analogy I can come up with is instead of like courses have a meal, you know, appetizer, entree, you have dessert, you have drinks and things, and we would measure those things differently and value them differently.
It’s like moving to, we’ve moved entirely to ingredients, like, here’s all the ingredients doesn’t matter where the ingredient occurs in the menu, it’s, it’s in there.
And then we have to make sense of it.
And one of the things I think is going to be very challenging for people in the new version, is that a lot of the canned reports, you know, the old manual long left hand side has a ton of different canned reports, things you could look at, like acquisitions, much of that is gone, it’s been replaced by what’s called the analysis hub, where you can build your own, and mix and match all these different measures together.
So it’s a lot more flexible.
But it’s I think, in some ways is a lot more daunting, if you’re not already an analytics pro to log, if you’re a, you know, a standard business user who logs in, like once a month, or you’re a small business owner who logs in once a month, just to see what’s going on the website, you’re gonna log in to the new version go.
Ah, now what.
And that’s why I was asking about the change management because it’s, it’s gonna be a major mind shift for mindset change for people.
But it’s also going to be a substantial process change for them to have a totally different way of doing things now.
Katie Robbert 6:33
So you’d mentioned that, you know, so let’s say in the example, you have a business owner who goes in once a month.
So if this fictional person only goes in once a month to look at their data, why is Google Analytics for such a big deal in terms of change? I guess my question to play devil’s advocate is if people aren’t using classic, why would they bother to use? You know, for it? For a lot of people, it’s just sort of a check the box, yes, it’s hooked up to my website, but then I don’t do anything with it.
Christopher Penn 7:04
For people with existing websites and existing accounts, you’re right, that’s not going to be as nearly as big of a deal.
But if you are, say, a new business owner, and you’ve just started your own startup, right, and you go into Google Analytics and sign up for a new account, you get four by default.
And then when you go to ask for help, people would be like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, what is this events, you know, business, and, you know, just set up goals? And you go in and you look for goals? You’re like, I can’t find goals, what are you talking about, there’s this this thing called conversions, you know, conversion event link, or like what? So there’s a lot of that disparity between the two, what I think we’re seeing is, Google has taken what used to be a monolithic application, and split it into three pieces.
So there is Tag Manager, which is now sort of the configuration engine, because the things like goals don’t even exist in Google Analytics anymore.
There’s Google Analytics, which is the app analysis engine that does all the processing.
And then there’s Data Studio, that is, you know, rapidly becoming the sort of the visualization engine.
And I think that in splitting up a lot of those roles and pushing the power of one application into three, Google is changing how its architecture works.
And for a lot of again, that, you know, the average user, that’s not something that they have been told, that’s not something that they know, to, to think about the system that way.
And so it’s on, you know, people like us companies like ours, just to advise people like that small business owner logs in once a month, hey, Google Analytics probably isn’t the right place for you to be hanging out, right? It is, you should be probably hanging out Google Data Studio instead.
Because you can get the data there.
But then make the reports that have canned and tuned for your business for what you need them to be.
And that’s where I, for any of our clients, I’d say that’s where we would like them to go eventually say, like, Yeah, you do your stuff, and Data Studio will manage the analysis engine will manage the configuration so that you don’t have to, because, frankly, for most people is not the best use of the time.
Katie Robbert 9:03
So while we don’t recommend it, you can technically run the correct class at Google Analytics without Tag Manager.
Again, we do not recommend that you take that route.
It sounds like with Google Analytics for you really can’t run without Tag Manager because Tag Manager in Google Analytics four is where you set up your goals.
It’s where you set up all of your events, and all of your actions and things that you want to collect data on.
Whereas in classic Google Analytics, you set up all your goals in the admin.
And you can run it without using Tag Manager at all.
And I think when I think about, you know, training and education, like I think that’s going to be one of the more difficult things because Google Analytics is technical, but you can kind of wrap your head around it when you start to get into Tag Manager.
It’s a whole different training course through the Google Analytics through Google Academy, and, you know, it’s containers and variables and you know, regex, and all of those different technical things, or at least they feel more technical to Google Analytics, even though they’re roughly the same level of technicality.
And so I think that’ll be one of the bigger shifts and the things in terms of change management that marketers are going to have to wrap their heads around is I not only have to learn Google Analytics, I also now have to learn and wrap my head around Tag Manager.
Whereas before I could kind of skate by without having to do too much with Tag Manager, knowing that my data was good enough.
But you know, it wasn’t the best practices.
I think that that’s part of it in terms of communicating it to the executives.
You know, it’s, I don’t think it needs to be an overwhelming or over complicated conversation.
It’s, hey, Google Analytics, just rolled out this new updated version, I’m going to set up another view that runs in parallel with what we’re currently collecting.
And that at some point, when they shut off Google Analytics Classic, we won’t have lost any data because we’re running this other one in parallel.
Okay, thanks, bye, going to go back to do my job now.
Like, it doesn’t need to be a huge thing.
And I think that that’s sort of the other PSA is, it’s not a big deal, don’t make it into a big deal.
Just set up a new view and like, turn it on, and just let it run in the background and keep doing what you’re doing with classic because, again, that’s going to be around for another few years.
We still have, we still know that there’s a lot of companies that aren’t even using any sort of proper tracking system at all.
So to suddenly start switching them over to this more advanced thing, it’s just not going to happen overnight.
Christopher Penn 11:47
And definitely Google will be keeping classic around, likely for at least a couple of years, possibly longer than that.
I mean, they had the old legacy ga around for like five years, the old legacy tracking tags and stuff.
So it’s not something people need to worry about being an immediate thing.
But what I do foresee happening is obviously, classical, essentially go into maintenance mode.
It’ll kept running, but you won’t get the new stuff there.
So as new features and innovations come up, you know, that they will likely be put into for.
And if there, there are things that would be of clear benefit to your company, you may have to make that move when those features are announced, like you may, for example, want better cross device tracking, if you suddenly find out that 60% of your audience’s on mobile devices, well, now you got to go go that route, or your company comes up with a mobile app like yeah, we’re releasing our mobile app, like great.
Now, you were sort of having that change pushed on you a little bit faster.
So when we think about the change itself, you know, how does the individual marketer think about? What do they should be doing, like just getting skilled up in terms of working with their teams, or if you work agency side, working at your agency, you know, with your clients, I can say, I’m thinking back to our, our days in the agency world, when we had to be responsible for the training of our own team and helping them communicate changes.
And this is a fairly big change, communicate? how did how do people do that gracefully? Because obviously, when I ran the team, I did a poorly.
Katie Robbert 13:25
Well, and well, I was gonna say you’re calling it a fairly big change in this big change.
And you’re going against what I just said, which we don’t don’t overcomplicate it, don’t overthink it.
So that’s number one is, you know, stop overwhelming people with this notion that it’s this big, huge change that they have to do right now.
Oh, my God.
It think that you know, it was funny.
I think that we were saying last week that I felt like it’s kind of like y2k, like everyone’s getting all hyped up y2k.
Oh, my God, I have to get prepared.
And then you wake up on January 1, and literally, nothing’s changed.
And I think this is very much the same.
It’s not that you don’t need to, you know, not pay attention to it, you do.
But you don’t need to drop everything to suddenly get skilled up on it.
So, you know, the Google Analytics certification, for example, I just took, I just retook mine on Friday, so three days ago.
And this is post ga for being announced.
And the Google Analytics certification is still all based around classic Google Analytics, they have separate trainings for ga four.
But if you’re thinking about education, and if you’re thinking about training certifications, classic Google Analytics is still very valid and still very important to get skilled up on and actually having that foundational knowledge of how the current system works is going to help you then transition into ga for eventually, not overnight, but eventually.
And I think that that as you think about like if you’re working on education with your team, then I think maybe over the next few months, introducing ga four, there’s training courses available through Google already getting the view setup, but again, it’s a, set it up, let it run in the background.
And then, you know, maybe once a month, you pull up both views, and you look at them side by side to say, are they collecting the same type of data? Did I set it up correctly, and then eventually, you start to do more closer comparisons like week over week, day by day to see, am I getting the right thing.
And so you don’t just forget the old one and switch to the new one, you have to do that side by side and keep them running side by side.
For a while, like when I say a while, I mean, you know, at least like a good year, so to say, I’m confident that this other system is set up correctly to collect the data the same way that the first one was.
Christopher Penn 15:51
The one thing I would say might be an alternative is that if you feel like your analytics, infrastructure, and your processes and stuff are not in good condition, this might be a good forcing function like to maybe, you know, speak about as though it could be a bigger deal so that it gets buy in from your stakeholders to say, yeah, we need to reevaluate our KPIs.
We need to reevaluate what we measure, we need to reevaluate the quality of our data, and our our marketing technology, infrastructure, we need to re evaluate the training of our team and things.
So there’s a potential there, not to cause panic.
But to say, we know we have deficiencies, we know we are behind, we know things not working as well, hey, this is a good excuse to make it a thing within the company in order to create those those people and process changes that will lead to growth.
And you use g4 as the excuse to say like, Oh, yeah, we everyone saw the notification, we have to do this thing.
We know it’s not true.
You don’t have to do it right away.
But it might be the good idea to get people to say like, yeah, you know, we haven’t looked at our goals in three years.
We don’t even know if they work anymore.
We just we just kind of look at the website and hope the numbers keep going up.
I feel like there’s certainly a good chunk of of businesses out there that are in that condition.
Katie Robbert 17:16
I agree with you.
I think that, you know, as you’re describing it, yes, I agree with you that it’s a good excuse to get the train back on the tracks.
But the other side of me is saying if you have to use this as an excuse to get the train back on the tracks, there’s probably bigger issues going on.
You know, you should be evaluating your goals.
At least once a year, you should be evaluating your KPIs at least once a year, you should be evaluating your people and your processes at least once a year, probably more often.
So if you have to wait for a new version of software to come out to us as as an excuse to get these things working correctly, then perhaps there’s you know, it’s symptomatic of a bigger issue.
But for the sake of this podcast, Chris, you’re right.
That is a good reason for people to sort of rally around the cause and say, You know what, this is a great opportunity for us to rethink what it is that we’re doing.
So let’s use this as the catalyst for that.
Christopher Penn 18:18
So to wrap up, is Google Analytics for the next big thing.
It is from Google Analytics perspective.
Is it an immediate thing? Absolutely not.
Is it something that you should have a strategy around and a migration plan? Yes.
Should you be taking Google’s free course to get knowledgeable about absolutely free you have nothing to lose? And should you be looking at your marketing analytics infrastructure on a regular basis and tuning it up? 100% all the time.
If you have questions that we didn’t ask answer in this episode about this or anything else, go over to our free slack group at Trust insights.ai slash analytics for marketers.
You can chat with up to 1300 other folks were interested in marketing analytics and of course, if you have not subscribed to the podcast, go to Trust insights.ai slash ti podcast.
Thanks for listening.
We’ll talk to you soon.
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