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GA4 a good opportunity to evaluate own data critically

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For many years, Universal Analytics was the standard for marketing professionals using Google. But from 1 July 2023, it will become Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and it is important for companies to switch in time so they can use all the functionalities of the new analysis tool. We asked Mark Grooteman, Sr. Tech & Data Consultant for Online Company, what is going to change.

What exactly is happening?
,,Google has announced that it will stop collecting data with Universal Analytics as of July 2023 and that you therefore need to switch to GA4. That means companies should actually start deciding what data they need now. It is a good opportunity to look carefully at what data they collect now and what they really need to be able to do their work.''

For them to take a critical look at what data they actually use?
,,Indeed, so you keep the amount of data you collect to a minimum. You should naturally only collect the data of people who fit your target group and objective and nothing more.''

Because a primary reason for switching to this new tool is that you get the privacy rules built in?
,,The most important change to the new rules is that you can no longer store IP addresses. It remains to be seen whether GA4 also complies with all recent EU GDPR regulations.''

The inevitable disappearance of third party cookies means there is a greater focus on companies' own data. Can this enable you to organise it more easily?
,,Google has some tools that allow you to predict the effects of a campaign based on your own data a little more. So that helps if you have gaps in your data. For example, they try to predict the number of returning visitors so you can still do a bit of planning without using too many cookies.''

Are companies actually ready for the disappearance of third party cookies?
,,The technical players of this world are fully engaged in this, but the 'normal' companies involved in online marketing still have work to do. It is up to the media agencies to inform them about it effectively. I do think GA4 and the stricter privacy rules will make them consider a first party strategy more, while they now leave much of the strategy to the agencies. They could take a bit more control now.''

You can use your customer journey as a basis a little more with GA4?
,,This makes segmentation by target group better and that is where gains can be made. You need to ask yourself: what are my target groups and how am I going to activate them? Another striking new function for marketeers is the "smart" target groups that GA4 will have based on the aforementioned prediction. For example, you can learn which people are expected to return as buyers. These could be new target groups that are of interest for remarketing and lookalike campaigns, for example. ''

Can you give an indication of what worked less well with UA and will work better with GA4?
,,Do you know where the biggest gains can be made? That you can compare different 'journeys' with one another far better. Previously, a journey via an app or via a website was a separate data environment, but you can now follow these in a single environment. It is far better attuned to people's web behaviour where you constantly switch between searching for something via the app and via the website. Gains can certainly be made. GA4 also encompasses new metrics as standard, for example, engaged sessions. That way, you can evaluate your campaign and gear it towards qualitative visits without a custom implementation.''

Will it be more difficult, or not?
,,It is certainly a learning process, but whereas you primarily received standard reports with the previous system, you can now use it to produce customised reports. Agencies must involve companies in the collection of data and that will take time. I would focus on data collection first and then you need to consider how you will use that data. It will be a challenge to see how you can implement Google's predictions in your marketing strategy. People may naturally show some resistance, but it is an opportunity to make a fresh start with data collection and to examine it critically. It might seem a little daunting for people now and that is why we recommend a step-by-step plan with a roadmap: what data do you need, what target groups do you want to reach, which conversion points, which links in Google Ads? Just take it easy and get started.''

Do you help with that?
,,We guide companies through it. From developing a plan, a roadmap, to technical implementation. It is a kind of new system and we will monitor the new opportunities presented by GA to reach people as optimally as possible.'' 

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    • Michael Bottenheft

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