If you work in marketing, you’ve probably heard about Google sunsetting Universal Analytics and making us switch to GA4.
It’s been hard to miss with the outpouring of memes, including my personal favorite:
So what does the end of Universal Analytics mean for B2B digital marketing? SEO? PPC? Content? And how in the world do you navigate the new platform that looks vaguely familiar but doesn’t have any of the information you’re used to?
I’ve got good news: It’s not as bad as you might think. In fact, GA4 reporting gives you more control and deeper insights—but there is definitely a bit of a learning curve.
Here is what you need to know.
Why Should B2B Marketers Switch Now?
Google is sunsetting Universal Analytics (what they now call the OG version of Google Analytics) early next year. It will stop gathering data as of July 1st, 2023.
This means you have a few months to get used to the new platform before the old platform stops collecting data.
There’s another reason to set up GA4 now: the new platform uses predictive analytics, which means it uses historical data to predict future metrics. If you start collecting data now, you’ll have more accurate metrics when you fully move over to GA4.
Note, traffic data between Universal Analytics and GA4 will not be identical. That’s because GA4 uses a different tracking method. Some metrics have also changed, for example, bounce rate is different in GA4:
The biggest difference is GA4 tracks events, not hits. That means you can collect data about any interaction in far greater detail. (I’ll cover this in more detail later.)
Pro tip: The KoMarketing team recommends exporting primary reporting data from Universal Analytics to maintain an archive of historic traffic information and benchmarks.
GA4 vs. UA Navigation
When you first log in to GA4, you’ll notice things look a little different. Take a look at the old UA dashboard:
On the left sidebar are all the reports you’re used to — realtime, audience, acquisition, behavior, and conversions.
Now, take a look at the new dashboard:
It looks like there’s a lot of data missing. Don’t worry, all the data you need is still there—but it might be in a slightly different format.
Click on the reports tab and you’ll start to see some familiar data:
Now you can see things like acquisition, engagement, retention, and other data. Note this is from Google’s demo account. Since you can do a lot of customization, your dashboard might look a little different.
Here’s the cool part — not only can you create custom reports in GA4, but you can actually add those reports to Google Analytics in several places.
This means, no more having to search around for that report you need every month🙌. You can create a new report and add it to the reports snapshot so you can see it right away. It’ll also show up in the recently viewed section on the home page.
Another thing I love is the improved search bar. You can ask really detailed questions, which makes it easier to find data.
That’s the basics. I recommend playing around with the demo account to see how to get familiar with the new navigation.
Key Differences With GA4 Reporting & Measurement
This is one of the key differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics and it’s definitely causing some confusion.
Let’s talk about the difference between how the two platforms measure things, then I’ll show you a few of the main reports and what they mean.
The difference in measurement between GA4 and Universal Analytics
The main difference you’ll notice between GA4 and Universal Analytics is how the platforms measure data.
GA4 measures everything as an event, while Universal Analytics measures them as hits (or sessions, if there are multiple hits.)
What does that mean for B2B marketers?
UA groups data into sessions, which are the foundation for all reports. These are groups of hits, such as if a user reads a blog, watches a video, then clicks on your demo page. A single session can include multiple hits.
In GA4, you can see session data, but it breaks down every interaction and tracks it as an event, so you can see what’s happening in more detail and get more insights into what actions increase the chances of conversion or move users down the purchase path.
There’s one other big change—GA4 supports cross-platform tracking. This means you can track data on your app, website, and even your connected POS all at the same time.
This shift also supports cookie-less tracking and improves user privacy.
Where to Start with GA4 Reporting & Measurement
Now let’s dig into the reports most important for B2B marketers. Note, the platform is easy to customize, so if you need different reports, you can create them.
Home page report
This is the main report you’ll see when you sign into Google Analytics 4. It includes users, average engagement time, and total revenue (because this demo is for an e-commerce site) for the last seven days.
If you scroll down you’ll see “recently viewed,” which is a list of recent reports you’ve looked at—convenient if you often look at the same data.
Scroll down a bit more, and you’ll see insights. These are automated announcements that share data Google thinks is important to you.
You might see that organic traffic is down or what source drove the most conversions.
Life cycle report
From the home page, click “Reports,” and you’ll see even more data, including the reports snapshot, realtime report, and (about halfway down the page) Life cycle.
For B2B marketers, this is one of the most important groups of reports. It helps you see how
buyers move through the buyer journey. That’s crucial in B2B, where lifecycles can be incredibly long and less direct than B2C.
The Lifecycle tab includes the following reports:
- Acquisition that focuses on where your traffic and users come from.
- Engagement shows user activity by event, time on site, and how often they return.
- Monetization helps e-commerce businesses track revenue generated.
- Retention shows how often users return to your site.
The first three tabs have additional reports you can view by clicking on the drop-down icon. For example, you can see an overview of each section, user acquisition, traffic acquisition, different events, etc.
This is where most of the reports you’re used to seeing live.
You can also adjust the time period in each report, compare the data to other hours, or share the data.
Traffic acquisition report
Wondering where your traffic is coming from? You need to access the traffic acquisition report. Here’s how to find it.
From your main reports dashboard, click Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition.
Traffic acquisition tells you about new sessions from both new and returning users, including organic, paid, display ads, organic social, paid shopping, etc.
Here you can also see the number of users that come from each channel, how engaged they are, and how long users from each channel stay.
This will show you, for example, if the most engaged users come from social media or organic traffic.
Scroll right on the table and you’ll see event count for each channel, conversions, and total revenue.
GA4: Important Next Steps for B2B Marketers
Now that you understand the basics of GA4 and GA4 reporting, you might be wondering what’s next. For B2B marketers, the first step is to install GA4 tracking and run it side by side with UA for the next few months. You’ll be able to compare data and take your time getting to know the platform.
I really like Kayle Larkin’s Youtube channel Analytics in Minutes. Her videos are really short but informative and can help you find the exact information you need.
Here’s the next steps for B2B marketers:
- Decide if you need to track app or POS data as well and get that set up.
- Establish the most important metrics for your organization or clients and set up events to track them. Some events are collected automatically, but you may need to create additional events.
- Explain to stakeholders there will be shifts in traffic and site performance in the coming months, but it is due to changes in reporting, not necessarily due to something going wrong.
Finally, connect GA4 to any third-party tools that access Google Analytics. For example, Google Data Studio, your CRM, lead generation tools, etc.
Struggling to manage your marketing data? KoMarketing can help you zero in on the metrics that matter most for your business.