Wednesday Dec 21, 2022

Is GA4 really that bad? EP047

Blake Beus  0:00  
Google Analytics. So I've been getting a ton of emails about me to the changes on this. And I've actually converted a few sites already, from Universal Analytics to GA for Yep. is what they're calling it. But you had some questions about that.

Greg Marshall  0:14  
Yeah. So actually, I had a client asked me about it last week. And I said, I'm not really the professional and this particular aspect. So I knew I wanted to ask you. So I'm going to literally ask you, because I don't even know what the differences are between, you know, the Google Analytics, and then g4. Yeah. So what is the main difference? Why, why is this shift happening?

Blake Beus  0:39  
Because Google sets up

Greg Marshall  0:42  
the Google gods. Google said,

Blake Beus  0:44  
so I mean, every This is, I mean, it's called G a four. So this is the fourth iteration of Google Analytics. And Google Analytics first came out in probably the late 90s, early 2000s. And so in that time, we've we've had four iterations. And this is the fourth one. As far as why Google decided the way they were doing analytics needed to change. And so they

Greg Marshall  1:11  
think this has anything to do with privacy.

Blake Beus  1:13  
I mean, probably, it probably, I mean, you're seeing a lot more things. So the initial way back when Google Analytics use relied heavily on third party cookies, right, and as new privacy standards, get updated, and things third party cookies aren't a thing. So the last version of Google Analytics, which was I believe, they called it Universal Analytics, relied on first party cookies. And essentially, I mean, for most people, third party first party doesn't really matter, most users, but essentially, first party cookies mean that Google Analytics is installed on my site. And when I set a cookie, which stores some information about my session, that cookie is stored based on a domain name. So it would be that Google Analytics cookie would be stored based on my Blake domain. And as I browse to other sites, those sites don't have permission to read that cookie. Whereas third party cookies, Google would set those cookies based on the domain, and then as a third party cookie, and then as you browse around, all the other websites would be able to see the data stored, or at least some of the data stored in that cookie. That's a very big generalization. But we're starting to see, we've talked about this too, we're starting to see cookieless the future right? Oh, cookies go away. And again, we're moving to a different type of technology that that offers more privacy and offers better isolation of data. Yep. You know, probably, you'll probably see more data being stored in an in an encrypted state, on your computer instead of just in a plain text state. Yep. And this is this is I haven't read their specific why. But if I were to guess these are all the things that you're starting to see.

Greg Marshall  3:05  
Got it. So essentially, for a business owner, what is it I know, I've gotten those emails? What do they basically need to do in order to switch over? Does it automatically happen? Or do they need to go through a step by step process? Yeah,

Blake Beus  3:18  
it does not automatically happen. If you have a very simple Google Analytics install, all you really need to do is swap out the tracking code. And it's not just a pixel ID, you actually because Google Analytics will give you some code to copy and pasted some JavaScript code, you need to swap out that code entirely. And you're, you're good to go. You can actually run them in parallel. So the site's I've converted, we just put both on there. Okay. So to start gathering data in one or the other, any cons to that to running both? Yes, you might have a slight decrease in site speed, but we're talking about that significant 10th of a second, maybe not Not, not a big deal. Okay. The other problem you're you're going to bump into is, if you have a complicated Google Analytics install, maybe you're tracking some values, you're passing some values from some event values from from Google Analytics into your Google ads, as conversions, or you have custom funnels built. And all of those things, then you're setting up Google Analytics for is going to take a lot more time. And some of those things you have set up don't have a direct translation from the old version to the new version got the concept of funnels, and these things are different conceptually from one to the other. So you're going to have to spend some time rethinking how you have that setup. That being said, most people don't rely on Google Analytics heavily like that, unless they have a tech team or marketing tech team or something like that, that knows what they're doing and is technical and can check and help with that implementation?

Greg Marshall  5:01  
Got it? So are there any, I guess, new features that that are of benefit to a website owner or business owner? Or is it kind of pretty much the same? Just a different kind of layout or format?

Blake Beus  5:15  
Yeah. So, um, I mean, if you go read their documentation on it, or their introduction on it, they're pitching all sorts of great new things. And honestly, I read through a lot of those, and it's just more of the same, okay. But you always got to put a positive spin on it, because because you're forcing hundreds of millions of people to change. Right? That's, it's a, it's a big change. of the people that I've worked with that are actively using GA for most of them don't like it. Really? Yeah, that and why is that? Well, first and foremost, the Well, first, you always have a learning curve. Okay. So the dashboard for GA four looks significantly different than the dashboard for the Universal Analytics. So it's a new dashboard. Okay. Second is an I agree with this. I mean, I like learning new things. But I agree with this part. They don't make it really very easy to say, what's the traffic look like on this page? Yep. You would think that that's in the old dashboard. And the old way of things that was, you would obviously, you looked at that all the time, you would just go say, hey, what's the look? What's the traffic, like on this page? And with this new version, they have it split up into different concepts that essentially talk about you know, we had this before, but But you have acquisition, you have different channels and things like that. But if I just want to look at what's a page doing, it's not easy. Yes,

Greg Marshall  6:52  
you can still do it. But it kind of takes some work. It's really hard.

Blake Beus  6:55  
It's like, they don't want you to do that. For some reason. I don't know. I don't know. It could just be that could be something that changes. Yeah. But again, most of the people that I've done conversions for they they needed the conversion, but they don't like what they're seeing. And, and and it's complicated to set up the reports and things got that that they used to, which has led to conversations with several people saying, what else is out there? Yeah, Google Analytics can't be the only analytics platform out there. What else is out there? So I've had some of those conversations,

Greg Marshall  7:29  
which if you think about it, I don't know, I'm sure Google's done the you know, the benefits pros and cons. Because if you're gonna get a bunch of people feeling like it's too complex, or you're not getting the information that you want, it is gonna raise a question. Well, I've always used Google Analytics, but it's getting too complicated. So maybe I'll go use something else. And so they could lose, they could a lot of their data and our customers when it comes to that. So they

Blake Beus  7:56  
really could and I mean, Google is a smart company, but also they're a big companies with lots of people making decisions. And when you have a big organization like that, it's completely feasible to make some decisions that impact a lot of people that are just not great decisions. That happens.

Greg Marshall  8:13  
Well, what do you think about? What's a secondary option? Let's say someone doesn't feel like he's in GA for? Yeah, what could you use.

Blake Beus  8:23  
So what I would recommend people do if you have a more complicated kind of setup, or whatever, I would look at some other options. But the first thing I would do is, because Google owns search engines backwards and forwards, Google is the biggest search engine out there. And if you find GA for too complicated, all I would do is I would put, I would create an account. And I would put the simple, simple tag on your site. And maybe don't even look at the dashboard at all, but putting it on your site, we'll help you rank better, because Google's going to know more about what's happening on your site, and, and all of those things. So I would put that on there. Even if even if you want to show up and be represented in Google Search, having that on there is going to help with them. Even if you don't look at that. So if you want to look at other solutions, other free solutions, you're limited gotta there's not as many free solutions out there. And oftentimes, the free solutions are going to require a little bit more technical setup. But I mean, let's take a step back and say why Google offers it for free. They offer it for free because it benefits them in their ad play or on their search engine. Yeah, out of the goodness, no, no, they're not doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They're doing it because it benefits their company. That's why it's free. It's it's actually kind of crazy that Google Analytics is free if it were a standalone product by some company. Yep. It's so complex and so many moving pieces and is updated so much and it would be absolutely insane for it to be free. You have to reason that they offer it for free is because of their ads platform and all these other things. So some free some free options out there. If you're looking at free options, if you have a high traffic website, I'm talking, you know, 500,000 page views a month, or viewer, or a high traffic would be that or more, you're going to probably end up paying because a free tier is not going to work for you. But if you have, say 500,000 or less, you can find some free options out there, right, because a lot of the other analytics companies will have a model where they want you to use it for free. But once you start using it to a point where you're making some money, they need to make some money because they gotta pay engineers, and all of these things to like, maintain it. And then there's some open source solutions out there. And open source solutions are oftentimes free with maybe a paid support tier or something like that. So one that I really like is one called post hog, that's an open source one they have, if you are a technical person, you can actually install it on your own server. So you can have your own analytics server, and your own code snippet that you can put on your sites, to look at how everything works there. And that would be free for you to do if you know how how to do. If you don't know how to do that, you can that you can use their hosted service, which is free up to I think it's like 500,000 pageviews, well, they call it 500,000 events is what they do. So a single page view is an event. But also if you're you can set it up to track button clicks nine. So every button clicked, every one of those would be an event. So a single person could have multiple events on a page view or a session or whatever. That's a really interesting one, it's a much simpler ad platform. But I I think most people would find that the the information in there is quite a bit more valuable. Got it. Because it's more consumable for a regular, regular regular user, I find it more consumable for me. Yep. And I find the data on that a much more actionable data because it's, it's simpler, and it's not superduper hard to set up, say like a simple funnel, and get a Funnel Report and things like that. But then you have some other platforms that are more geared towards enterprise users you have segment is one mix panel is another one, this is gonna cost you, you have Oh man, I'm I can see their logo, but I can't think in the name. Anyway, there's a bunch out there, you can just do a Google search for, you know, Google Analytics alternatives, and you'll find a list of them. And most of them are going to be paid. I think a lot of the paid ones start at 30 bucks a month. So it's not the end of the world. But they get more expensive. If you have more traffic, a large volume of traffic got it. But a lot of them will do extra things to they'll give you a heat map. So you can see where people are scrolling through on the page where their finger is pointing or things like that. So there's there's a lot of things a lot out there you can do above and beyond just what Google Analytics stuff got.

Greg Marshall  13:12  
So I know we got to keep today's short. Yeah. Is there anything that were that were missing as far as the analytics? And what to look out for what not to do? Or any and maybe any pitfalls that people may run into? Anything like that?

Blake Beus  13:29  
Yeah. So I mean, I think the biggest pitfall would be ignoring the fact that you need to convert the new, they're going to have a hard cut off. And you'll, if you rely on ads, Google ads specifically, or traffic from, if you don't convert over, you're going to you're going to start seeing it to the quality of data, the quality of that traffic go down over time. So definitely convert over. Okay, if you do have a complicated install, and it's Phil's overwhelming to convert over, just literally copy and paste the code snippet on your site right now run them in parallel, and reevaluate if you actually needed that complicated of an install, got it, if you actually needed all of those custom events, and if you actually needed all of those custom reports, and actually needed those things, because most people over time, I mean, the old version of analytics has been out for over 10 years. So over time, you get all of these things. Yeah. And you're thinking, oh, man, we have all of this stuff. Now's the time for a little bit of housecleaning, yeah. Maybe starts from scratch and say, What do I actually need? And most likely, you only actually need one or two of those reports. One or two of those custom reports or custom events, covers probably 95% of the value you are getting out of the old thing. So I would use it as an opportunity to do some housecleaning and get that you know, getting that set up. And then remember over time, you can add more reports. It's not like you're not missing out right Now this minute, if you don't have all of the reports, and you have a gap in some of these reports, those things aren't going to impact your, your business dashboard much. Sure. So

Greg Marshall  15:11  
So basically, in a nutshell, if you're not using it or haven't set it up yet, run them in parallel now, so that when the cut off period happens, you don't lose your building. You're building up some data. And I think that seems to me that's, that makes the most sense as far as what to do next. Because like you, I've been getting those email, Hey, this is going away. So I was like, Well, what exactly do they want us to do? So I wanted to pick your brain and see what should everyone do to keep their websites up to date? And so yeah, so that being said,

Blake Beus  15:42  
I actually have one other smellies of advice real quick. The other thing I think you should do, you should take this as an opportunity to set up Google's tools. They're called tools for webmasters. Okay. And it's, it's an old school tool. Yep, I heard they still use it all the time. But basically, what it does is it monitors your site over time, and will email you alerts if it detects some sort of a problem, okay, for example, it will kind of get a baseline of your site, if your site normally takes two seconds to load. And then all of a sudden, next week is taken 10 seconds to load, they'll shoot you an email and say, Hey, we've noticed a couple of problems. And then you can go in there and fix and fix those problems. We have, oh, you know what, someone, someone changed our picture. And now and they didn't scale the picture down. So now they're trying to load a 10 megapixel picture on our homepage, and it slowed it down. Or it will alert you if you have a huge increase of like missing page errors or things like that. And then you can go in there and fix those, taking the time, once a month, or once every few months to kind of fix those things, helps. It's like a dental checkup for your your search engine results. It just kind of keeps everything good, fresh, make sure still in line with what Google search is expecting and with Google ads is expecting and all of those things. So I would take this as a chance to use this other tool, set it up set up a super easy, it's it's literally you just have to confirm ownership of the domain. And then it doesn't if you have Google Analytics already installed, you don't have to install any other code or anything. You just need to confirm I own this website. And you need to show me you know, monitor it for me and send me email alerts if there's Scott that's going on.

Greg Marshall  17:22  
So tools for webmasters. Well, I think, and is there anything else? So we've got? I know in a mess, his name walltime, GA for GA for tools for webmasters. And then if you want to look at other alternatives, do a Google search. Yeah, there's lots of them out there, try them out for Google Analytics. And then is there anything else? Are we missing? Those three key points, I think are the main things that the email or the store owners or website owners need? Pretty much. Yeah. And then what if they need help installing this, can they reach out to you,

Blake Beus  18:00  
you can reach out to me just go to Blake And I have a way for you to contact me on that site. And we can have a quick conversation about that. And I mean, a lot of this stuff isn't super hard. If you really if you really need to, and I don't have availability or whatever. You can actually hop on, say Upwork or places like that. There are experts if you've never used up work have used Upwork before,

Greg Marshall  18:26  
I think once like five or six years ago, so I mean,

Blake Beus  18:29  
I have a profile on there. I don't I don't do any do much with it. But from time to time. If I want to pick up an extra job or answer client or something I'll hop in there and, and whatever. But you can find an expert in there that has good reviews that has experienced with GA for interview them make sure they actually know what they're talking about. Get a Quote for most of them will will quote you an hourly rate to do a conversion. But for someone who's an expert, it shouldn't take too terribly long to get you converted over it would probably be three to five billable hours tops. Got it? I would say unless it's a really complicated install. But yeah, so that's another way to get it done, even if you're not a technical person.

Greg Marshall  19:11  
Got it. So yeah, so if you need to contact Blake, go ahead and visit his website. And it's Blake And then if you want a free marketing strategy session, you can go to Greg And fill out the form and we'll reach out so until next time, we'll we'll see you later okay, bye


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