As of July 1, 2023, Google will officially replace its standard Universal Analytics program with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This means the Universal Analytics program will cease processing data for users who have not yet made the switch.
GA4 first became available in October 2020, and many users already converted over the past several years.
For those not fluent in digital measurement, Google Analytics collects data from websites and applications and produces important business insights. Those can include anything from website referral traffic to keyword discovery searches and sales conversions.
If you are in the process of converting before July 1, or just want to make sure everything is running smoothly, we asked a few PR measurement experts for tips on making the switch. While GA is for everyone, they’ve based their advice on what communicators who use the tool need to know.
From Katie Paine, CEO, Paine Publishing, LLC, Founder and Member, Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission:
- For PR folks who never paid attention to GA in the past, heads up! Make sure you are in the room when GA4 is being set up so you can be made an “editor,” which will enable you to make changes and add metrics going forward.
- Ensure that you create events and conversions that will tell you how people are viewing your content. For example: set an event that indicates how many visitors scroll all the way to the bottom of your press release. Did they read the press release, and then click on “tell me more?”
- Set up parameters for a PR-specific audience—people that come to your site from domains like www.nytimes.com, or that come in organically immediately following your press conferences.
- Change the length of time data is retained. It can take months to see results for PR activities, so make sure you change the Data Settings—specifically Data Retention—to 14 months (Google’s default is just two months).
Mary Elizabeth Germaine, Partner/Managing Director, Ketchum Analytics:
- One major change for GA4 is more focus on engagement, prioritizing metrics that reflect the quality of traffic and visitors who take action on a brand’s website. For example, bounce rate is no longer a key traffic quality metric. Instead, GA4 is evaluating active conversion metrics—like if a visitor downloads a PDF or clicks a purchase button. This shift in web analytics measurement will challenge PR practitioners to have smarter targeting strategies, so they’re not only driving digital traffic, but also real brand engagement.
- GA4 no longer relies on cookies for tracking. Instead, it favors an event-based data model for measurement. The event-based data model means that we will be able to understand all events a single user completes, no longer creating a new session for returning users. It will allow us to better optimize content to drive toward conversions— seeing how users engage on the website and what they’re actually doing, rather than just how they got there.
- In GA4, data retention is only up to 14 months (versus unlimited with Universal Analytics). That means teams will have to proactively review historical data to more critically inform future strategies.
- And…a warning: If a company does not switch to GA4 by July 1, all web data from July on will be lost. This is major for any measurement campaigns (current or future), as there’s no way to get that data back.
For more information on GA4 and measurement:
Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal