In March 2022, Google announced that Universal Analytics will be no more from 1st July 2023 – that is to say it will stop processing any new data from that date forward. In the world of website tracking, and understanding your audiences, you could say it’s a big deal.
But while we bid a fond farewell to Universal Analytics, it feels like the right time to usher in its ambitious successor: GA4. Google’s new analytics tool promises to be bigger and better than ever before. If you’re still on the fence though, here are four good reasons it’s time for charities to embrace it.
1. Time is data
The move to GA4 is a lot for most organisations, and indeed charities, to get their head around. You’ve potentially got 10 years worth of data and as many years of analytical muscle memory wrapped up in Universal Analytics. It’s all too easy to make the most of its twilight months and put off thinking about the move until, say, next June? I’d strongly advise you don’t though.
So, why should you set up GA4 months in advance? The answer is that sadly none of your existing, carefully collected Universal Analytics data will be transferable to GA4. Sounds drastic, but there’s no getting around it. It’s important for most of us to be able to review data ‘year on year’. To have roughly a year’s worth of data in GA4 before Universal Analytics is gone, you should set it up now.
Top tip: Even if you haven’t got time to fully get to grips with GA4 yet, complete the basic GA4 setup as soon as possible. At the very least, leave this to just collect data. Then you can fully customise your setup later down the line.
2. It’s a fresh start
Getting to grips with GA4 will be a steep learning curve, but it does bring with it a whole host of positives, not least that it’s a line in the sand and a chance to reset. GA4 uses a different measurement model to Universal Analytics, and presents an opportunity to revamp your charity’s goal tracking.
Starting afresh means the chance to reassess your website (and now app) goals, along with your data collection setup. Out with the old legacy goals that your predecessor set up for a fundraising campaign in 2014, and in with the conversions that matter to your organisation right now.
Top tip: Use GA4 as a good excuse to gather everyone together and firm up your charity’s digital goals. Use these discussions as the foundations for your GA4 setup.
3. The features will ultimately make things easier
There are fundamental differences in the way GA4 works, but it pays to approach it with a completely open mind. GA4 automatically tracks events such as button clicks, file downloads and how far someone scrolls down your webpages – things that could previously only be done if you were a dab hand with Google Tag Manager or had a developer ready and raring to help. This automatic tracking is a goldmine of user insight.
A big difference you’ll spot on first glance is how GA4 no longer displays the huge amount of pre-set reports that Universal Analytics delivered out of the box. But actually this means GA4 is a more powerful and flexible tool – you choose what’s important to you and build personalised reports with none of the distractions.
Top tip: Prepare your stakeholders, trustees and line managers now that reporting will look different in GA4. Set the scene with some initial conversations before Universal Analytics is completely phased out in July 2023.
4. We should care about data, but also care about users
As communicators, it’s so important to get to grips with user data and utilise it wisely to inform comms. GA4 allows you to get better audience insight with emphasis firmly on the user journey and engagement. It can track a digital journey across platforms and devices, and even provides predictive analysis about what users will do next, helping you to target content and increase conversions.
Most importantly though, GA4 is designed with user privacy in mind, by using more machine-based learning, rather than relying on cookies. GA4 uses artificial intelligence to fill in data gaps as we rightly move towards a more privacy-centric future. As caring organisations with a moral compass, it’s crucial to keep the user in mind in this respect and remember it’s their data, not ours. Respecting user privacy is as important as getting user insight, so a move towards cookieless tracking can only be a good thing.
Top tip: When you set up GA4, make sure you also set your event data retention period within the property settings. GA4 allows this to be set to 2 months or 14 months.
Approaching GA4 might seem like an uphill struggle at first, but it really doesn’t have to be. As organisations who care deeply about users, GA4 can be a fresh start and a positive new approach to data collection for charities.
To get started with using GA4, take a look at Reason Digital’s free resources. And look out for our follow-up blog later this month which will have some tips to help you start making the most of your data.
And if you are interested in the world of digital comms do be sure to check out the upcoming CharityComms Digital Conference.
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