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Google Analytics 4 is Coming: 12 Things You Need to Know

July 11th, 2022 by

On July 1, 2023 the marketing measurement landscape will change dramatically when Google sunsets the current version of Google Analytics (known as Universal Analytics) which has been in place since 2012, in favor of their new service – Google Analytics 4 (aka GA4).  

It’s important to understand that GA4 isn’t just a slightly updated version of the Google Analytics experience that you’ve been using to collect and organize data for the past decade. This is a completely new system from top to bottom that — while different from what you’ve been used to — ultimately gives you more flexibility to measure user experience and marketing performance data across your website.

For those of you with Dealer Inspire websites, you’ve already been set up with a GA4 property that is collecting data as we speak so that when Universal Analytics shuts down, you’ll have a full year of historical data in GA4 to reference and use in comparison performance reports. 

If you don’t have a Dealer Inspire website and you aren’t sure whether you have a GA4 property created for your website or not, then you’ll want to check with your website provider to ensure that one has been, or will be, created for you in a timely manner. If you wait until the last minute to create the property, you’ll be missing out on having any historical data to reference once GA4 becomes the only analytics platform available.

With that said, this guide is meant to get you comfortable understanding and navigating the main differences between the outgoing Universal Analytics and the all-new Google Analytics 4 so you can prepare as needed to officially make the switch well before July of 2023. 

More of a listener than a reader? Want even deeper context? Watch our latest live streaming event The Day The Data Stood Still on demand over on Inspire+. We take you through some of the most notable changes coming to GA4 and discuss what you need to do to prepare before the big day arrives!

WATCH ON DEMAND


WHY IS UNIVERSAL ANALYTICS BEING SUNSET?

Before we get into the differences between Google’s old and new measurement solutions, you might be wondering why Google is even sunsetting Universal Analytics in the first place. The simple reality is that Universal Analytics was built during a time when the desktop computer was the main device for surfing the web, and session data was more easily observable from cookies. 

As you know, the web today is much different than it was a decade ago. Today it’s a mobile-first web. It’s cross-platform. It spans devices. And most importantly, the premium on privacy is at an all-time high and the cookieless future is upon us.

Simply said, Google Analytics 4 was built to measure the way the world consumes information on the Internet today relying on machine learning and statistical modeling. In addition to being built for the modern web with a privacy-first mindset, GA4 was also built to be a more flexible platform that can adapt for whatever the future may hold.   

So now that we know “why”, let’s dive right into the 12 things you need to know about Google Analytics 4 before making the switch.

1. PROPERTY “VIEWS” ARE NOT A PART OF GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4

In Universal Analytics (henceforth referred to as UA), you could create multiple account “views” of your analytics property that would allow you to apply different filters, create various segments, and feature customized reports for each view — all while maintaining a “master view” of unfiltered raw data.

One of the most major, and immediately noticeable, changes in GA4 is the removal of these account “views” as all data manipulation is now done on the property itself. This streamlines the data into one single reporting property where you’ll find up to 3 data stream types: Website, iOS app, and Android app. 

Why This Matters: Many third parties set up their own “views” of your data within UA to be able to track and measure the metrics they feel are most important. With GA4 that capability is gone, so you’ll need to work with those partners to make sure that they’re pushing their intended events and actions to your property ensuring consistent reporting.

2. GA4 INTRODUCES AN EVENT BASED MEASUREMENT MODEL

While UA is very much based on tracking independent session data, GA4 aims to give you a complete view of the customer lifecycle with an event-based measurement model that isn’t fragmented by platform or independent sessions.

Because of this dramatic shift, it’s important to note that the data between UA and GA4 won’t match between these versions due to these different models.

Why This Matters: This will start looking at the users and audiences of your website/app for shopping behaviors vs a session, meaning that we will be more in tune with the actions and behaviors of the customers (clicks, page interactions, etc).

3. COMMON METRICS THAT ARE BEING UPDATED OR REPLACED IN GA4

For years, you’ve relied upon certain metrics within Google Analytics such as Bounce Rate and Conversion Rate to inform the effectiveness of your marketing and website experience. With GA4 however, some of those common KPIs will mean something different than what they used to, and some won’t be a part of the new platform at all.

For example, in Universal Analytics, Bounce Rate was defined as the percentage of single page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. In Google Analytics 4 Bounce Rate is the percentage of sessions that were not engaged sessions. In other words, Bounce Rate is now defined as the inverse of Engagement Rate, one of the new metrics that are a part of GA4. 

With the new measurement model mentioned above giving you better insight into how users are moving across your purchase funnel, it was necessary to provide more meaningful metrics that present a clear picture of your key objectives.

Here are a few of the common UA metrics that will not be a part of the GA4 experience:

UA Metrics Being Redefined

  • Bounce rate (inverse of Engagement Rate)
  • Conversion rate (separated into User Conversion Rate & Session Conversion Rate)

UA Metrics Being Removed

  • Pages per session
  • Avg. session duration

Newly Introduced Metrics in GA4

  • Engaged sessions (default is 10 seconds on site or triggered an event marked as a conversion or viewed more than one screen)
  • Engagement rate (engaged sessions compared to total sessions)
  • Events per session
  • Avg. engagement time per session

Why This Matters: Google is focusing more on users and their engagement in GA4. This data will provide a better understanding of your engaged audience — the ones who are taking action on your site searching for their next vehicle.

4. NEW EVENT CATEGORIES IN GA4

With the previous changes mentioned, it only makes sense that the way events are tracked would change within GA4 as well.

Within UA, events are all defined using Category, Action, and Label. GA4 simplifies things by using an event name with parameters to see identified custom dimensions and metrics associated with the event.

There are four types of events  within GA4:

Automatically Collected Events: As you might guess, these are the events that are automatically tracked once you’ve set up your GA4 property. 

Enhanced Measurement Events: These are also automatically collected once GA4 is actively collecting website data, however these can also be enabled or disabled depending on how meaningful each event is to measuring your key objectives. 

Recommended Events: These are events that Google recommends you setup based on what industry you’re in. Typically these are broad, and for an industry like automotive retail, probably won’t be widely applicable.

Custom Events: These are going to be the most important and powerful events to set up, as they’ll provide insight into how every engagement within your digital ecosystem plays into the overall experience of your website. With custom events you can track engagement with your inventory, your media, your messaging platform, your digital retailing experience, and pretty much anything that’s a part of your website. 

At Dealer Inspire, our Connected Platform will be set up with custom events within GA4 to track engagement with your Website, Conversations, and Online Shopper.

Why This Matters: GA4 allows for more flexibility with each event and will provide more insightful and meaningful reporting. With that, it will be critical to work with your third-party vendors to ensure proper events are created within your GA4 property to track the engagement with those tools.

5. GO DEEPER WITH FEWER REPORTS IN GA4

As I’m sure you know, Universal Analytics has many out-of-the-box reports that are immediately available for users to inspect various aspects of user activity. For example, in UA there are twenty  standard Acquisition reports — in GA4 there are only three. 

Instead of a long list of predefined reports that try to cover every use case, GA4’s simplified reporting interface was made so that it would be easier to spot key trends and irregularities in data, while also providing you with powerful tools to build your own reports to quickly reference the information you care about.

Why This Matters: While on the surface having fewer standard reports within GA4 may seem like a downgrade, it actually gives you more flexibility to create your own collection of custom reports that’ll provide deeper and more meaningful analysis for your key objectives.

6. SEGMENTS & COMPARISONS IN GA4

In analytics parlance, a segment is simply a subset of your data, and they’re extremely useful for drilling down and focusing on a group of users based on common attributes or conditions. For example, of your entire set of users, one segment might be users who arrived at your website via organic search.

In UA, segments are saved for future use and are available in most standard and custom reports. In GA4, comparisons take the place of segments.  Just like segments, comparisons allow you to narrow down and analyze a specific subset of data, but don’t have the ability to be saved for future use. 

For example, let’s say you built a comparison to examine your mobile website traffic and you noticed that the engagement rate for these users has decreased over time. You could then determine when the trend began, and match that up with any changes that might have been made to your mobile website experience that could have caused that drop in engagement and correct the issue. 

7. FEWER DATA RETENTION OPTIONS IN GA4

The ability to reference historical data is essential for performing granular and comparative analysis over time. When it comes to data retention, UA has the following options; 14 Months, 26 Months, 38 Months, 50 Months, or Don’t Automatically Expire. This means you are able to access historical data within the Universal Analytics interface based on the above choice, for potentially a lifetime.

In GA4 however, retention of user-level data only has two options available: a default period of 2 Months along with an option to increase that time period to 14 Months. With longer, or even lifetime, data retention options no longer available, you may want to consider developing a data export strategy using GA4’s BigQuery integration to warehouse your analytics data in a secure and scalable platform.

Why This Matters: With the default retention period being 2 Months, at minimum you should make sure that you’ve enabled the 14 Month collection option within your GA4 property to ensure that you’ll always be able to compare YoY data.

8. MORE DEFAULT CHANNEL GROUPINGS IN GA4

Google Analytics 4 also comes with revised default channel groupings that more accurately reflect the various ways traffic can be driven to your website without needing to set any rules to make sure it’s bucketed correctly. 

There are a total of 16 default channel groupings spanning the categories of manual traffic, Google Ads traffic, and DV360 traffic. Most notably though, the following additions to the channel grouping specifically will make it easier to understand where your traffic is coming from:

  • Paid Social
  • Organic Social
  • Paid Video
  • Organic Video

It’s worth calling out that with Universal Analytics, you could customize your channel groupings to match your UTM structure for your various marketing campaigns. With the new groupings in GA4, you’ll need to customize your UTM structure to match the channel groupings.

Why This Matters: By having better visibility into your specific marketing channels, combined with the new engagement metrics tracked within GA4, this will allow for more easily digestible data to determine the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. 

9. GA4 HAS A NEW DATA-DRIVEN ATTRIBUTION MODEL

All Universal Analytics properties were set up with the default “last click” attribution model, meaning the last touchpoint a user took on the site before conversion would get 100% of the credit for that conversion. 

GA4 however is able to assign attribution credit to more than just the last click, and helps you understand how your marketing activities collectively influence your conversions using a cross-channel data-drive model. 

While you can change your attribution model in GA4 to Last Click, First Click, Position-based, or Time Decay — using the cross-channel data-driven attribution model gives equal conversion credit to all touchpoints on a conversion path, showing you more clearly the effect your marketing is having on your ROI. 

Why This Matters: GA4 uses machine learning which provides a custom attribution model based on your historical data that will automatically adapt  as we head for the cookieless future.

10. GOING FROM GOALS TO CONVERSIONS IN GA4

Speaking of conversions, we want to make sure we discuss the changes happening here too because it’s a notable difference from what you’ve been used to. In Universal Analytics, you’re probably familiar with “Goals”. For example, you could create a destination goal, such a “thank you page” that’s loaded after a user submits a form, and the number of times that destination goal fired would reflect the number of conversions for that action.

Because Google Analytics 4 is an event-based tool, those goals from UA would all be configured as events now. So if you want to track conversions within GA4, you have to configure your event tracking first. 

From there, you can then tell GA4 which events should be marked as conversions simply by toggling them on, and you can have up to 30 toggled on at any given time.

Why This Matters: In Universal Analytics, goals were configured separately from events, and were only triggered once per session. In GA4 conversions may be triggered multiple times per session, giving you better insight into your overall user engagement.

11. GA4 OFFERS FEWER OPTIONS TO FILTER DATA

With UA, you had the ability to apply filters that would limit or modify the data in a view. For example, you could use a filter to exclude traffic from particular IP addresses, include only data from specific subdomains or directories, or convert dynamic page URLs to readable text strings.

With GA4 eliminating having multiple views of your property, they’ve also reduced the ways you can filter your traffic only providing two options:

  • Internal Traffic: Filter event data that you’ve identified as internal traffic
  • Developer Traffic: Filter event data from your development devices 

12. ANNOTATIONS ARE NO MORE IN GA4

Last on our list of differences between Universal Analytics is Google Analytics 4 is the removal of annotations. I’m not going to lie, this one hurt me in particular because I’m big on notes. For those unfamiliar, annotations were a way for you to manually record within your property when you made notable updates to things like your website, strategy, or budget. You could then overlay those annotations over your reports to quickly recognize positive or negative effects as a result of what was updated.  

Why This Matters: If you’re an active user of annotations, then it will be critical to implement a process for recording those notable changes in a separate space, such as a spreadsheet.

And that’s it! Those were the top 12 things you need to know to get ready for GA4. Keep in mind that Google will continue to iterate and refine the features and capabilities of their newest analytics platform over the years to come, so there is always a chance that something that’s missing in GA4 now, could make a triumphant return in the future. 


STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME

By staying ahead of the game and proactively preparing our partner’s websites for the transition to Google Analytics 4, we’re fulfilling our mission to help future-proof your dealership so you can sell, buy, and service more vehicles, more efficiently with a proven ROI backed by real data.

Want to know more about how we can help you grow your dealership’s business? Drop us a line and we’ll show you how.

LET’S TALK!

You’re Marketing Backwards: How To Maximize ROI In Reverse

March 1st, 2020 by

I recently had a chance to take the stage at NADA 2020 to share some new insights with attendees. The feedback I got was so positive, I felt it was important to share that same message with those of you who were unable to attend my session, or those who did attend and simply want to revisit the material. Either way, this blog’s for you!

Joe Chura presents at NADA 2020

What if I told you that we’ve all been marketing backwards all these years? Most dealers are hyper-focused on customer acquisition with the mindset that the more traffic you can get, the better. While that may sound good on paper, the reality is driving traffic without first considering the destination will lead to poor — if not catastrophic — results.

Since I love analogies, let me put it to you like this. Imagine you inherited a restaurant from your retiring uncle. You have fond memories of this restaurant from all the time you spent there as a kid. If you close your eyes and concentrate hard enough, you can practically taste your uncle’s amazing food. Needless to say you can’t wait to fulfill your life’s dream of being a restaurateur.

However when you arrive that first day to sign some paperwork and pick up the keys to the restaurant, you discover things aren’t exactly as you pictured them in your mind. It looks like the place hasn’t been cleaned in weeks, if not months. The waitstaff is lazy and uncaring. And to top it off,  you’re pretty sure you saw a mutant cockroach scurry into a vent when you turned the lights on in a storage closet. Seriously?!?!

So. Knowing these are the current conditions of your new business, what would you do first?

  1. Drive traffic to your restaurant by allocating $20,000 on a digital marketing campaign inviting local diners to come in for a bite?
  2. Deep clean the restaurant from top to bottom, hire a new staff and contract the best exterminator in the biz.

I think it’s safe to assume that you’d pick option 2. Why? Well because it just makes simple business sense, right?

The irony is that as dealers we make the wrong decision month in and month out. We throw our budget in the advertising machine to “drive traffic”, we direct that traffic to somewhere on our website, and then we think about the results of what that traffic did after the fact.

Look, I’m not trying to be harsh here. But if you have a traffic first mentality, you’re the restaurant owner who chose option 1 despite all the evidence staring him or her in the face that was a terrible idea.

Are you picking up where I’m going with this?

 

TRAFFIC IS NOT THE STORY. CONVERSIONS ARE THE STORY

It takes significant dollars to double your traffic, but it doesn’t take significan dollars to double your conversion rate.

Here’s an example using simple numbers. Let’s say you’re spending $500 / month to earn 1,000 web visitors which nets you a 1% conversion rate or 10 conversions.

If you wanted to “double” your conversions, logic would say you’d simply pay 2x more to double your traffic, right? In other words you’d spend $1,000 to get 2,000 visitors and with a 1% conversion rate that would net you 20 total conversions.

So you did it, right? Well yeah. But you had to double your budget to do it.

What if, instead of doubling your budget, you just focused on making sure your website was better equipped to convert the traffic you were already paying for?

Conversion Rate Optimization

You don’t have to pay for twice the traffic to double your conversions.

Think about it like this. If you could double your conversion rate from 1% to 2% with the same amount of traffic, you’d get the same result — 20 conversions — for a lot less money.

So how do you do it? Well if you want to maximize your ROI, you need to start with your website experience first.

 

DESTINATION. MEASUREMENT. ADVERTISING.

The philosophy I’m talking about here is something I call Destination. Measurement. Advertising — or DMA for short. And when I say Destination, I’m referring not just to your website, but to the overall customer experience. When that traffic arrives on your website, where do you want them to go? What do you want to happen when they get there? What is the intended outcome?

It’s important that you think about those questions because the ideal customer experience has evolved and become more demanding of car dealers in 2020. Simply having a fast and mobile friendly website isn’t enough anymore, that’s the expectation.

79% of shoppers will leave and never return to buy as a result of frustrating website performance.1

 

Destination

Above and beyond fast and mobile friendly, your website really needs to be positioned to instantly answer a shopper’s most important questions at any hour of the day (or night).

It shouldn’t shock you to learn that lead form submissions are down across the industry. Why? Because filling out a form and the waiting for a response doesn’t meet a modern consumer’s demands of instant and easy.

For example, a Get E-Price CTA that doesn’t give a shopper an actual price is wasted real estate.  The fact of the matter is 75% of consumers won’t walk into your store until they know what that vehicle is going to cost them based on their credit, down payment, and trade-in. A modern digital retailing solution like Online Shopper: Electric™ can provide all the information a shopper needs to make a personal, educated decision with no friction, and most importantly — no waiting.

With VDP Automated Messaging, you can program CTAs like Evaluate My Trade to launch experiences that take place within our advanced messaging platform, Conversations™ that are designed to provide real and instant value for the shopper all while capturing a lead for your team as well.

So those are just a couple of ways you can optimize your destination website experiences for your shoppers and increase your conversions.

But if you’re not measuring correctly, you’ll have no idea what’s working or and what’s not. So let’s talk about measurement.

 

Measurement

More important than anything – as a basic measurement fundamental — you must define what your baselines are. What are your average metrics right now? You need to know those baselines to understand the impact of any of your marketing efforts.

Remember, measurement is not just about looking at numbers after the fact. It’s also about giving yourself and your team a target to hit because If you never set goals, you can’t score. Period.

To start, gather your KPIs to set your baseline measurements. For example, you may want to just focus on the metrics that most impact the overall health of your business:

  • Traffic by Channel (Direct, Paid, Organic)
  • Conversion Rate
  • Lead Count

Regardless of which KPIs you set as baseline health metrics, it’s important to understand that numbers don’t always tell the whole story without context. Setting a baseline for Bounce Rate for example might sound like a good idea, and you may see really positive or negative numbers, but without context they won’t have real meaning.

Let me explain. True story. A dealer friend recently texted me to say that he’s not happy with me because he’s seen his bounce rate go way up, and his conversion rate go way down. So I hop into his Google Analytics, and yup, it’s plain to see that he’s correct.

Bounce Rate Up and Conversion Rate Down in Google Analytics

If Bounce Rate is up and Conversion Rate is down, what else can we look at for context?

But I also notice that his web traffic is way up. Where is it coming from?

I dig in and discover that a recent SEO blog we wrote for him is the #1 organic result for “How Long Do Toyota Camrys last?”. That piece of content is getting a ton of traffic — 59% of which is from out of state. Well of course these visitors are bouncing, they’re not going to contact a dealer 1,000 miles away!

So let’s look at these same analytics again with new eyes. Bounce rate up, conversion rate down, traffic up… what really matters?

Bounce rate up, conversion rate down, traffic up, leads up?!?! What really matters here?

Well, your leads are up I tell him. Even though your conversion rate is down, the total number of conversions is up.

In the end I tell my friend none of this matters. The bottomline is there are more customers contacting your dealership and the “negative” metrics are because of a positive development — your website’s SEO is ranking on a national level. #fistbump

When it comes to measurement sometimes context is everything and you just need to do a little digging to understand the why.

 

Advertising

Ok so we’ve set up our destinations, defined our goals and set our baselines — NOW we’re ready to advertise, so let’s spend…

WAIT!

Before you start shoveling your budget into the ol’ advertising machine, I need to share a few more secrets with you. Just because you’ve optimized your destination and are prepared to measure your marketing activities — you can’t just willy nilly start spending loads of cash without direction or discretion.

There are two psychological concepts I want to touch on here that you can incorporate in your digital advertising. One is based on the predictably irrational mind and the other has to do with loss aversion. You can use both to help you drive the outcomes you want.

Capitalizing on the predictably irrational mind is actually easier than you think. Essentially if you give some a choice between two options, most people will gravitate toward the cheaper option. And that’s not what we want to do.

We want to add a third option, a decoy if you will, that’s just close enough to the highest price option that make most people think that the highest priced option is the most appealing.

Think about what you can do with this, with your inventory, ads, and landing pages. If you just put these two options, the base Civic vs. the top-line Civic — your brain highlights the cheaper option. Looks like a good deal. What could be so different about the Touring for another 4 grand? But introduce a decoy option, and it totally changes your view. For just an extra $20 bucks I can get the top-of-the-line Civic with all the best tech features? Sold!

Predictably Irrational

Use a decoy price to drive people to take the action that you really want.

You’re probably more familiar with the second psychological concept you can use in your advertising, known as loss aversion.

In behavioral economics and decision theory, loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains (i.e. it’s better to not lose $10 than to win $10).

So how can you use this in advertising? Well, you can position your offers to be less focused on the joy of driving a new car, and more focused on how much it would suck to miss out on these savings.

Look at this display set below. These are actual ads that we A/B tested for a client using loss aversion principals. Same design, same vehicle, but different copy.

Loss Aversion Display Advertising

Can you guess which one of the display ads outperformed the rest?

Can you guess which ad garnered the most interaction? Yup, it was the “Don’t Miss Out” ad that was just oozing with loss aversion.

We tested this at scale as well with paid search ads. Four identical offers with the same exact keyword targeting.

Loss Aversion Paid Search Ads

Clearly the most people are responding to the add with loss aversion messaging.

Again, it was the text ad with the “Don’t Miss Out” headline that drew the most clicks showing how loss aversion messaging performs better than basic marketing copy. Make sense? Of course it does!

So there you go, that’s DMA. Focus on the customer experience first (online and in store), define what success means and how to get it, and then position advertising to drive the specific outcome you want.

The End!

If after reading this recap of my NADA 2020 Workshop you want to know more about how Dealer Inspire can help you focus on your destination, define what success means for your dealership, and drive the outcomes that you want then drop us a line!

Let’s Connect!

Sources:

1https://unbounce.com/landing-pages/7-page-speed-stats-for-marketers/