Five Things to Know about Google Analytics 4

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By now, many of you have heard that Google is rolling out a new update for their analytics product, Google Analytics. Dubbed “GA4”, this new analytics update is part of a series of steps that will bridge the divide between database driven analytics and privacy concerns. For the sake of this blog, we won’t touch on Google’s grand plans of privacy considerations, instead I’ll impart some first hand knowledge of what’s inside GA4. 

Google Analytics’ usage across hotels is staggering. As a free tool, hoteliers have used Google Analytics to understand traffic, usage patterns, engagement rates, production values and campaign analysis. This one simple tool is now used by upwards of 50% of all websites across the web, or 80% of all websites that use a traffic analysis tool. You may be thinking, “yeah, ok great, why does this matter”? 

Any revolutionary update to a near-ubiquitous platform will set off ripples far and wide. It’s huge and any business owner, marketer, advertiser or service provider should look towards new ways of thinking about analytics. But first, a little history behind Google Analytics. 

In April of 2005, Google purchased a web analytics tool, Urchin. Google had a strong appetite for analytics after launching their AdWords platform a few years earlier. Their desire for data and performance was a welcome addition in their second iteration of GA when Adwords and Analytics could sync and share conversion data. The most widely used version of analytics is called “universal analytics” or “GA3” which advances the cross platform tracking capabilities. It’s important to note this version allows hotels and resorts to collect conversion data from booking engines and 3rd party technology partners. Google Analytics had finally come into their stride for hospitality. 

In late 2020, while the world was consumed with elections, viruses, and the holiday spirit, Google released GA 4 out of beta. It’s worth noting that the release of GA 4 coincides with other corporate strategies including their evolutionary vision of privacy. Most hoteliers think of GDPR or CCPA when “privacy” is brought up within industry conversations. But in all reality, the tech giants are continuing to tighten their grasp on the data they’ll allow us to view.  GA 4 is foundational to this strategy.

GA 4 is now the default profile for all new domains installing Google Analytics. The change from GA3 to GA4 will be quick and daunting for hoteliers to embrace.  There are some significant differences found within GA 4. Here are a few that every hotelier should be aware of:

  1. There’s a new user interface with new metrics. Marketers and hoteliers should not assume that the legacy reporting they are accustomed to will be available. Yes, there is similar data but the formatting is completely different. 
  2. It’s designed to be “future proof” and will work in the cookieless world to protect the end consumer. 
  3. Raw data can be ingested within Google’s BigQuery, their cloud based data warehouse. Partners like GCommerce now have a data stream directly from Google Analytics into Summit. Other marketing agencies will struggle if they don’t use BigQuery. 
  4. GA 4 will track events across “web & app” technologies. Simply put, the new, leaner version of GA along with Google Tag Manager will surface data across your website and your mobile app. This technology bridges the gap between web traffic and on property analytics. This is a huge opportunity for complex properties with multiple revenue outlets. 
  5. Quality over Quantity. Unlike GA 3, the newest iteration of Google Analytics is focused on “event” data instead of sessions or traffic. Many of the new reports with GA4 emphasize what a user does on your site/page/app instead of a raw count of how many users. As such, you will probably see a decrease in traffic once GA 4 is provisioned. 

These are just some of our preliminary thoughts/observations. GCommerce is deep within the testing phase of GA4. As of this publishing, we have more than a handful of clients in testing phases and will continue to share our findings. If you are not currently a GCommerce client and would like to know more about our cloud based reporting platform, Summit, including GA 4 provisioning, please contact us.

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