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Episode 195 Google Analytics 4: What Building Materials Marketers Need to Know

Google Analytics 4: What Building Materials Marketers Need to Know

Google announced (another) update to how they’ll handle tracking website traffic, and the changes will have a significant effect on how anyone with a website gets information on their site visitors. Today’s episode covers what every manufacturer and building materials brand needs to know about the update and how to prepare for it.

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Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov
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The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

For the last few years, Google has offered Universal Analytics as a means of tracking data on your website. All of that is changing in 2023, and Zach and Beth break down what that will look like for manufacturers and building materials brands who want to understand how users are finding them online.

Google Analytics: Updates + Expectations

If there’s anything we can guarantee about the world of marketing, it’s that there will always be an update to the existing version of something. And Google has made some big updates to how brands can track their website’s user information, along with changes that could create challenges for those of us in the world of digital marketing.

“Google announced in May this year that they were going to basically force all Universal Analytics users onto GA4. This caused quite an uproar because they promised that Universal Analytics was going to live on forever,” explains Beth. GA4, or Google Analytics 4, will replace Universal Analytics, which is how most brands have been tracking and reporting on their website data in recent history.

“Google Analytics 4 is our next-generation measurement solution, and it's replacing Universal Analytics,” Google announced. “On July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. If you still rely on Universal Analytics, we recommend that you prepare to use Google Analytics 4 going forward.”

If you were a Universal Analytics 360 user and paid for more in-depth data from Google, you’ll have access to that data for a little while longer, according to the October 27 announcement. “So those are enterprise people who pay for … more in-depth analytics reporting,” says Beth. “They actually will be able to have analytics through 2024.”

But what does the update really mean for manufacturers and other brands in the building materials space?

Why This Matters for Manufacturers

“So if you want to tune out, let me tell you first why you shouldn't,” explains Beth. “Analytics is the one way for you to be able to show, as a marketer, how what you're doing online is impacting sales. And if you feel like your website can't do that, it's probably because analytics is not properly set up.”

Your site analytics track everything that happens on your website: who clicks what, the content that your users download, which product pages they look at, etc. “If you have analytics tracking set up on your website, you're able to see what's being clicked, what's being downloaded, the paths that people take when they come in from your homepage, how they get to product pages, where they leave, why they leave, where they get stuck — all of that great information,” explains Beth. “It can give such incredible insight.”

The latest version of Google Analytics is a direct response to recent shifts in privacy policies. “So GA4 gathers data about a person or a user on your website in a very different way than Universal Analytics,” explains Zach.

The newest version of Google Analytics will help brands adhere more easily to privacy compliance standards. “The story that we're able to tell is actually going to have to change. What I mean there is that we are used to being able to look at analytics on a session-by-session basis, and Google is trying to move to a more to a flexible event-based data model,” says Zach. “They're trying to roll out more machine learning throughout their platform to give better insights and simplify insight discovery, is what they say.”

Venveo and their clients are already set up on the latest version of Google. Beth explains why. “Number one, we wanted to make sure that nobody lost year-over-year reporting. But, number two, we knew this conversation was going to happen,” she says. “Imagine setting goals of increasing organic traffic or increasing the number of clicks, engagements, downloads, and then the way that those clicks, engagements, downloads, traffic is tracked changes entirely.”

The change will provide more privacy to website users. But Zach explains how this will also advance what Google does with your website, its content, new products and other assets. “What this is going to allow us to do is do that basically in a test environment and get real-time machine learning feedback and understand, ‘is this going to work or not before I ever launch it?’ ” he says.

3 Things Manufacturers Can Do to Prep for GA4

So how can manufacturers prepare for this inevitable change? Zach and Beth offered suggestions about the next steps everyone should take before the official rollout of GA4.

“There's two or three things that we're going to recommend to manufacturers, or, frankly, anybody that's listening to this episode in reference to tracking analytics,” says Zach.

  1. “The first thing is — we've already told you that this is something we've done — we recommend you set up a new instance of analytics, specifically in GA4, but keep your Universal Analytics in place,” says Zach. This will help to harvest the existing information that you already have on your site users. “Because they're going to be sunsetting Universal Analytics, you don't want to ride into GA4 with no historical data on GA4. It's going to really hurt your ability to provide reporting, all of those different things. So step one is, if you haven't transitioned and set up a new instance, go ahead and do that.”

  2. The next step is to set up (and learn) reporting in GA4. “Set up reporting within GA4 separately from Universal Analytics. This is really important because you need to begin to train your team on how to use GA4 as a reporting tool in comparison to UA,” explains Zach. “It’s better to do that now and start that process internally within your marketing departments.”

  3. Finally, take a look at where your site users are coming from. Better yet, ask them. “Self-reported attribution is a fancy way of saying, ‘getting your users to tell you how they found you’ — what did they do before they actually converted?” says Zach. “Getting that information and then reporting on that gives you a much better picture of what your user base [is and] what your audience is doing to get them to become a lead.”

Beth explains why each of these steps is so important for your business and brand. “You'll get feedback about the types of messages [and] the types of mediums,” she says. “It's just an excellent, excellent way to take that attribution one step further, especially as we go into shifting and privacy policies and cookie blocking and all of that stuff.”

Want Even More Insight?

If you want your brand to stay ahead in the digital marketing game, implementing the latest version of Google Analytics (right now) is key.

Beth offers a few final tips to help your marketing team prepare for the year ahead. “Take the extra step of pulling some historical data and keeping that to the side so that you have it to access. You can build it into a Google Studio dashboard. You can put it onto a separate dashboard platform,” says Beth. “There's actually a good number of third parties that will help you do that in a pretty efficient manner, but if you want to be able to look at historical data (because you're going to lose that when you move into GA4) that was something that we would really highly recommend.”

Be sure to listen to the full episode for more information on Google’s update.

“If you're looking for someone to help you with that, too, I mean, that's why we're here as well. So if you need help with your transition, or you need help with anything we talked about, feel free to reach out to us,” says Zach.