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The Ultimate Guide to GA4: Everything You Need to Know | #187

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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Kate is an eCommerce consultant & growth marketer specialising in Shopify & Shopify Plus with a decade’s experience in eCommerce. She’s often called a “digital Swiss army knife” by clients, with a wide skillset spanning data & analytics, digital and platform strategy, paid media and customer lifecycle marketing. She works with retailers including Nimble Activewear, The Daily Edited and Steele label.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Kate Collinson from Kate Collinson Consulting.  One of the most requested topics for us to cover is the impending change from Google Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.  So, to satisfy this need for knowledge around the topic, I immediately turned to eCommerce marketing extraordinaire and friend of the podcast Kate Collinson. Kate is an independent consultant and has worked with eCommerce brands including Nimble, Kat the Label, Vinomofo, The Memo and heaps more. As you’ll hear, Kate has written a comprehensive Google Universal Analytics course and is about to release her new course helping marketers get up to speed in Google Analytics 4. In this conversation we cover the change that you can expect between Universal Analytics and GA4, how to implement GA4 on your store and why the hell conversion rate has disappeared. The shock! The horror! 

“When they talk about sunset, what they’re saying is that universal analytics will actually stop recording data

Kate Collinson

The sun is going down on UA as we know it

“Google Analytics 4, came a little bit out of the blue. It’s the latest version of Google Analytics that they released relatively quietly in 2020, and it’s likely that you’re not currently using it because the majority of us use Universal Analytics, and that’s been around since about 2013. Since then a couple of additions like Enhanced ECommerce and some new advanced reporting have been added, but really largely the platforms stay the same, and so the Google Analytics, we all know and love since about 2013.

But then cut to October 2020, GA 4 was announced. It was relatively quiet. You might have seen a little pop up in your Google Analytics account that prompted you to create a new account with Google Analytics 4, but it still felt very much like it was in beta and no one was really paying too much attention to it and everyone was really just exploring it.

But March this year, Google cracked the whip and actually announced that there’ll be sunsetting Universal Analytics by July 2023, which is next year, so that gives us just over a year to actually move onto that new platform because we’re basically being forced to.”

Bounce rate has got bounced

“It’s actually gone from GA 4, it’s been replaced by engagement metrics. I think this is actually a really good change because bounce rate in many ways, particularly when you’ve got single page websites and the sorts of behaviour we see with users with multiple tabs open, browsing around it doesn’t give us a lot of Intel or a lot of contextual insights. 

Engage sessions, which is what replaces bounce rate, is sessions over ten seconds or sessions that had an event, or that had two on one page views. It really actually gives us a better idea of the quality of that traffic and engagement rate is the percentage of engaged sessions.  The reason why is that gives us a lot more context for the traffic.  Bounce rate, it’s always a little bit dodgy because analyzing the number of single page sessions, in this day and age, when we have long scrolling pages, a one page visit could still be really valuable, but it depends on how the user engaged with the page, so engagement rate is much more of a nuanced metric.”

Comparing data will get harder

“It’s a brand new platform as we discussed. There’s no data history, so your Universal Analytics account probably contains years and years worth of data and you’re very comfortable comparing that year on year and digging back, having a look at how that sale performed or how that month performed year on year, particularly if you’re a seasonal brand or a fashion brand.

But Google Analytics is like a printer, there’s no retrospective changes to data once it’s recorded, and GA 4 is unfortunately a brand new platform. We’re not able to import historical data from UA, and it doesn’t seem to be much in terms of the integration to enable us to compare that data.  

Really, really frustrating and I think that just means that there’s going to be a lot of fun trying to compare year on year and get your Excel skills ready because you’re going to need them.”

Questions answered in this episode include
  • Why do retailers need to move over to GA4 asap?
  • What is different about GA4 compared to Universal Analytics?
  • What tips can you share for eCommerce managers who want to start getting familiar with GA4?

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