Guest Post: Top tips for a seamless transition to GA4

Guest Post: Top tips for a seamless transition to GA4

Andy Headington, CEO of a digital marketing agency specialising in travel and tourism, Adido, shares advice with us on how to navigate the move to GA4

Google Analytics 4, the latest version of Google's web analytics platform, is now live. 

For everyone who uses GA4, you can't have failed to notice that the way you need to think about website data, as well as your reporting, are now fundamentally different to the previous Universal Analytics (UA). 

And unfortunately, we're not helped by the accompanying GA4 documentation. The user interface is quite different and we've gone from 78 reports to just 19, which is a lot to adapt to.

We’ve run three GA4 training courses on behalf of ABTA in the last few months, and the recurring question we’ve been asked is, 'I used to be able to do this before in UA, how do I do it in GA4?'. 

Stop the comparisons and start afresh

You need to approach GA4 with a fresh mindset - don't compare it to how you used UA. It’s a more powerful tool, albeit far less intuitive, and if you stop to understand the differences, your business will reap the benefits in time. 

Firstly, GA4 ideally requires some input to customise the way data is collected and tailored to your business. It’s a much more effective way to manage the results, rather than reacting to the data as it arrives, although this is a new mindset to take.

It's not too late to set GA4 to your own needs, and in fact it can be done at any point, but we’ve noticed a lot of travel businesses haven’t got this right and therefore aren’t making the best use of data that could be collected.

Some real-life examples that we've worked on include:

  • Building custom events to record the destinations flights are searched to and from, along with ticket type. This enables the boxes to be pre-populated, and makes it easier for users to search common routes and save time.
  • Capturing product searches, which can then be used to retarget if someone abandons their basket, i.e. doesn't complete the booking
  • Registering login events to filter out new and existing customer traffic to get a better understanding of the differences in behaviour

Secondly, you must review your website and consider how to improve your user journey or build a target audience. Rather than simply reporting on top level numbers, the more meaningful your data is to your core business and marketing activities, the more useful it will be to help grow sales across the year.

Finally, be warned - some of the measures that have been reported on for the past decade, such as sessions and bounce rate, now collect fundamentally different data. This means a year-on-year analysis is meaningless: it's like comparing apples with pears, as both might look the same from afar, but bear no resemblance up close. So unfortunately, you might need to start again here and educate others internally.

In summary, while we can work around different areas and set up dashboards which resemble UA, we’ll simply end up repurposing what was in place before. This means risking making mistakes and not embracing the new tools and advantages GA4 offers. So be patient, get to know GA4 and seek external advice if you get stuck. 

Finally, it's worth remembering there are many other great analytics tools available, such as Piwik and Matamo, both of which might be much more suitable, but just don't have the familiar badge you know.