Fred Bean, CEO of HotelPORT, on GA4 being a 'good thing'
Guest Post: Does Google Analytics 4 live up to the hype?
In case you haven’t heard, and if so then I’m sorry to break it to you, as of 1 July Google’s Universal Analytics will be no more. After 17 years the organisation is shutting the system down and putting it to bed.
There have been mixed feelings following this announcement particularly among people in the travel industry and that’s completely understandable. After almost two decades we’re having to deal with something new, and change is never easy. Google UA is being replaced with Google Analytics 4 (GA4) which has been described as a whole new generation of web analytics. A game changer in fact. So does it live up to the hype?
The main difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics is that the latter enables you to report on activity that occurs on websites and applications. That’s pretty cool but it goes deeper. It also makes it much easier to track users moving between multiple domains. This makes tracking much more accurate for tour operators using booking software solutions where customers are sent to a domain extension to complete their booking.
This cross-platform tracking will enable travel operators to see the complete customer journey, which includes acquisition, engagement, monetization, and retention. This is incredibly useful information as it enables better understanding of the cross-platform experience and allows travel businesses to gather information for a generalized demographic and build more accurate customer models.
GA4 also has new engagement metrics which enable you to drill down on engaged sessions, rates and times.
This data can be a goldmine for tourism boards looking to to optimize their marketing strategies and fine-tune their overarching business plans. For example, by analyzing user behaviour across devices, they can identify areas where the user experience could be improved and make changes to improve their site functionality and responsiveness.
When we talk about the tourism industry, the million-dollar question businesses want the answer to is “Where are my customers coming from?" GA4 enables you to check where the main traffic originates from and what they’re interested in when they arrive. With this information, you can set up personalized ads to your clients' geographical data and create content destined for that location. For example, if your traffic is coming from the UK, you can write a post, "All you need to know if you're flying from the UK to our location.”
Another example is if you notice an unexpected surge in traffic from Germany via organic search, you could delve into what specific keywords are leading these users to your website. Perhaps they are looking for 'sustainable travel options in Berlin' or 'best hiking trails in Bavaria', enabling you to tailor your content and SEO strategy to match these interests. Furthermore, the 'Interests' report in GA4 reveals what your visitors are interested in, such as 'Adventure Travel' or 'Luxury Hotels'. If you find a significant portion of your audience is interested in eco-friendly travel, you could focus on promoting your eco-friendly services or partner with local sustainable businesses to offer exclusive deals to your visitors.
Despite the numerous advantages of GA4, why are people in the search engine world having a problem with this new platform?
The main issues, it seems, are that it’s difficult to use, the user interface is not intuitive, and many search marketers claim that it’s geared for enterprise level users - not smaller businesses. One search marketer actually said they got so frustrated trying to implement GA4 that it reduced them to tears.
Make no mistake, there are challenges with GA4, just like there are with any new platform, but new features are being added to make life easier for those at the front end. The most recent additions include new metrics allowing for better product and service analytics and an improved reporting experience for businesses with large and complex data. There will be a myriad changes and additions coming along making implementation and easier with each one.
I’ve heard from many of my business colleagues and people in travel about GA4. Some have said that they’re not excited about the switch. Change is always hard, and we’re a long way from perfecting the transition but I firmly believe that this move is going to be a good thing.