Graphic: The new Google Analytics 4 with machine learning and artificial intelligence - what it means for you as a Madison WI business leader

What’s Poppin’? Google Analytics 4 (G4)

Graphic: The new Google Analytics 4 with machine learning and artificial intelligence - what it means for you as a Madison WI business leader

Collecting Actionable Marketing Data in 2021

Welcome to “What’s Poppin’?” Today, we’re looking at two specific trends impacting marketing in 2021 and Google’s response to both.

#1. Cross-device behavior

Most of us have surfed the web on our phones and eventually purchased a workstation or laptop. Or our purchase may have been triggered by an email with an offer or a deal “so good it doesn’t cost, it pays.” The more thrifty among us may have done “versus” searches (“Thinkpad vs.”) on our “work from home” laptop before proceeding with a transaction. This trend is called multi-channel cross-device behavior frugal style.

#2. Data privacy

I recently shopped for new hiking boots. The “Thursday Boot Company” is now seemingly stalking my every move online. A little scary, right? Tools like “Incognito,” Duck Duck Go, private VPNs and the Brave Browser are popping up to address our perception of being tracked and stalked online. These tools help us protect our privacy by restricting how much data may be collected on our browsing, search, and shopping behaviors. Even browsers such as Chrome won’t allow third-party tracking cookies for much longer. Data privacy is our second trend.

Enter Google Analytics 4

As we move into the future, operating systems, browsers and websites will use these tools and other extensions to block data sharing. Google’s old platform, Universal Analytics, relies only on the data it collects, which is getting more difficult.

According to Acxiom, part of the Interpublic Group, 96% of marketers agree that connecting data across channels and technology platforms is critical to their marketing success.

Analytics 4 uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to fill in the gaps caused by the growing portion of users who use tools to restrict the data that they share.

As a business leader, why should I care about this?

According to W3Techs, Google Analytics is being used by 52.9% of all websites, more than 10 times the next most popular analytics option. That’s estimated to be between 30 million to 50 million installations.

Most digital campaigns are optimized for “conversions.” Conversions are user actions like buying something, submitting a lead generation form, adding an item in a shopping cart, making a phone call, viewing a specific page, etc. Encouraging users to take these actions is the bedrock method of measuring the success or failure of a campaign.

When setting up a Facebook, Instagram or Google Ads campaign, the first thing to do, other than entering payment information, is to “Define your conversion objective.” That is actually the question “What are you trying to accomplish and how are you measuring it?” Google Analytics Universal is the most popular method to collect, measure and report on the results.

Should we Start Using Google Analytics 4?

The answer is yes, but… G4 is a work in progress, with a steep learning curve. G4’s machine learning requires a massive amount of combined data.

Adding G4 data tracking to your infrastructure now may provide a competitive advantage in the future as the gaps in data grow. You can gather data in G4 now and make a reporting switch 12, 18, or 24 months from now.

Is Universal Analytics going away soon?

No. The platform will be around for many years to come. But the rumor is that the bulk of Google engineering time is being spent improving G4 and not on Universal Analytics.

Can I just flip a switch and change from Universal Analytics to G4?

No. G4 is new, almost from the ground up. The data gathered by Universal and G4 is not shared or compatible. You can switch to G4 anytime, but your “Universal” data is not joining you in the moving truck. (How Google defines “Universal” and Amazon Kindle defines “Unlimited” are both highly suspect.)

I have a new website. What should I do?

You can set up both a Google Analytics 4 property and a Universal Analytics property at the same time. See Google’s instructions on how to do it.

Is Analytics 4 that different?

I think so. The new analytics automatically tracks click, file download, session start, user engagement, video complete, etc. as events.

While this seems great in theory, pulling out the metrics that matter to your business as conversion goals or dashboard reports is not as intuitive as Universal Analytics.

Anything else I should know about these two trends?

Apple is about to roll out an update to its iOS 14 operating system that prompts users to give apps permission to track their activity across other apps and the web. That change may seem small, but Facebook derives a significant percentage of its $80 billion-plus in revenue from targeted ads on Apple platforms. Facebook is throwing a fit.

Is this a big deal? The Harvard Business Review says Facebook is overreacting. "These customers would have generated high revenues anyway," the Review found. "That's why they were targeted in the first place. So it would be a mistake to conclude that these customers spent more because of the personalized ads." This goes against the 2020 trend of “personalized experiences” but is full throttle with the 2021 trend to “prioritize and know your audience first before defining your brand.”

Facebook Tracking Update

If you are using WordPress and running Facebook conversion campaigns, please check your Facebook Pixel insertion method.

The most popular plugin used for this purpose, the Facebook for WordPress Plugin, has a security issue that was announced on March 25, 2021. If you are using this plugin, please update it ASAP.

Craig helps The Creative Company deliver high-quality, goal-driven outcomes for retail, B2B, and eCommerce clients.

Craig Hadley

The Creative Company
Content Experience Analyst

Contact Craig