#54 The current state of play with GA4

The Measure Pod
The Measure Pod
#54 The current state of play with GA4

This week Dan and Dara reflect on the current state of play with Google Analytics 4 (GA4), with migrations being a hot topic at the moment for Measurelab. But they try to also look beyond purely the migrations, and discuss what they think might be coming around the corner for GA4 – especially when Universal Analytics (UA) is turned off in July 2023.

Since the recording of this episode, news about a new US-EU data transer agreement has come out and more information is expected to be shared next week! – https://politi.co/3fsRVo7.

Denmark’s Danish Data Protection Agency ruling on the legality of GA (Universal and GA4) – https://bit.ly/3fqOZYX.

In other news, Dan finally gets through all the weddings and Dara tidies his office (and goes to a gig)!

Follow Measurelab on LinkedIn – https://bit.ly/3Ka513y.

Intro music composed by the amazing Confidential – https://spoti.fi/3JnEdg6.

If you’re like what we’re doing here, please show some support and leave a rating on Apple, Spotify, or wherever really.

Let us know what you think and fill out the form https://bit.ly/3MNtPzl, or email podcast@measurelab.co.uk to drop Dan and Dara a message directly.

Quote of the episode from Dan: “Time and time again, we get people with Universal Analytics and they’re using their data and just assume it’s complete, without realising their cookie banner is not tracking a bunch of stuff when people don’t accept the cookie to be set.

Quote of the episode from Dara: “People who are desperately trying to get upskilled on GA4 then have to explain GA4 to the wider business, who maybe still don’t really fully understand Universal Analytics.”



[00:00:15] Dara: On today’s episode, Dan and I reflect on the current state of play with GA4, with migrations being a hot topic but we try to also look beyond that and discuss what we think might be coming around the corner for GA4.

[00:00:28] Daniel: And speaking of what’s coming around the corner, me, Dara, and the rest of the Measurelab crew we are going to be at MeasureFest next week going to Brighton. That is the Wednesday, October the 5th for MeasureFest, part of the brightonSEO fringe event, analytics meet up. It’s going to be fun, we’ve got beer and kombucha and stuff to give away, so come see us if you’re there. We’ll also be at brightonSEO on the following two days, the 6th and 7th. So if you’re around for brightonSEO, give us a shout and we’ll meet up for a coffee if you want to chat anything analytics.

[00:00:54] Dara: In the meantime, enjoy today’s episode.

[00:00:56] Daniel: Enjoy.


[00:00:57] Dara: Hello and welcome back to The Measure Pod, a podcast for people in the analytics world to talk about all things analytics. I’m Dara, I’m MD at Measurelab.

[00:01:06] Daniel: And I’m Dan, I’m an analytics consultant and trainer also at Measurelab.

[00:01:09] Dara: It feels like it’s been a while since it’s been just the two of us, but it is so we’ve had quite a few really great guests on, and we also had our special episode, but it’s back to you and me this week, Dan. It feels strange almost to not be joined by someone else or to have me in the hot seat trying to answer a bunch of questions that I’m probably not qualified to answer.

[00:01:28] Daniel: Yeah, it does feel different but I think that’s a good thing actually. I think maybe we have to change our strap line of, you know, a chat between us and the occasional guest, and maybe it’s the occasional chat between us and then always being blessed with someone else that knows a lot more than us.


[00:01:40] Dara: So because we aren’t today we’ve been kind of reflecting, haven’t we? And we’ve been thinking about what we could cover, and something actually came up for us today in a conversation in our, in our normal day to day, stating the obvious, but we’re dealing with a lot of GA4 migrations at the moment, and I’m sure we’re not, we’re obviously not the only ones in that boat, but it made us kind of think about, you know, the current state of play with a lot of focus on people moving to GA4, and probably for some people thinking about whether they actually are going to move to GA4 and what happens next. So not just for us as consultants, but also for website owners themselves, if they’re on that journey to GA4, you know, what happens next once you’ve moved to GA4, what do you do then? What’s going to change? What might be on the horizon? What should you be thinking about next?

[00:02:24] Daniel: Yeah, very much so. I mean, everyone with a small toe dipped into the ocean of analytics right now has been on some level of GA4 migration or conversation, or it’s been around them in some way. Whether it’s news from, you know, one of the many EU rulings that is now quote unquote illegal. Or whether it’s, you know, the fact that Google’s announcement came out of the blue into a lot of people and means that they’re having to move away from a tool they’ve used for 10 plus years. So it’s very much around right now the conversation of Google Analytics as a whole. And of course we’re talking, it’s predominantly about GA4, right? It is a new product and it comes with a lot of new things, some bells and whistles that makes it pretty special and pretty cool, but also a lot of things that aren’t there or won’t be there that people may be more familiar with like Universal Analytics, and I think, you know, there’s a lot of content out there to go through. Top 10 features we think it should have from Universal Analytics, or Top 10 Things I’m waiting for. That’s not the point of this conversation, because it’s so prevalent right now, there’s a lot of people that are kind of in the moment of this, I suppose we can still consider it early adopter phase, maybe, we might be kind of nearing the end of that, but the reality is it’s a secondary interesting R&D project I think in a lot of cases.

[00:03:28] Daniel: I need to get GA4 put on the website because everyone else is telling me to in a sense, which is great you do, you know, speaking from experience, you do, but right now it’s not really being stress test to an extent where it’s the predominant and or only should we say, only analytics tool on a website, or apps for that matter. And so what I’m very much expecting is that we’ve got this kind of lul, I suppose, before maybe even May, June, definitely July next year, where everyone is kind of taking it a bit easy implementing GA4, but then very much so I think that as we get closer to the 1st of July date next year, where they’re going to be switching off the old Universal Analytics, I think it’s going to kind of create this sort of mild sense of panic again because a lot of people just aren’t in the industry, they’re not subscribing to the newsletters or following people on Twitter or LinkedIn.

[00:04:15] Daniel: So I think that we are going to find another round of kind of urgency and panic appear next June or July, depending on obviously how Google sort of messages it I suppose, closer to the time. So it’s going to be an interesting one. I do feel like it’s the calm before the storm or maybe just some leaves are blowing in the wind, but very much not quite at the epicentre just yet.

[00:04:33] Dara: Or the storm before the bigger storm.

[00:04:35] Daniel: The gust before the storm.

[00:04:37] Dara: Yeah, but I’m going to stop butchering analogies, but yeah, I think you’re right. And the only thing I was going to add, and I’ll try not to make any more weather references in this, but it is almost like there’s going to be a double, double hump, double spike, not really sure what to call it, but where, you know, the announcement came out and obviously anybody who’s the really active GA (Google Analytics) users, people in the industry, people like us will have immediately reacted to it and then it’ll kind of, you know, it has dropped back down again. But there’s probably like a steady stream of panic as well where companies who aren’t maybe as active with GA (Google Analytics) or ignored the news at first cause they thought, oh well that’s something for me to worry about later. So there’s probably this kind of like ongoing level of panic as well as people think, oh we should probably do something about this. And then you’re right, as it comes up to d-day next year, there’s going to be that second, oh, actually time is about to run out, we really need to get this sorted now.

[00:05:33] Dara: I wonder even if there’s going to be people who did initially set up GA4, but do a pretty basic job of it and think, oh, that’s fine, that’s done, and we’ll continue to make changes to Universal Analytics over the course of this year and then coming close to next year, they’re going to think, oh no, we’ve let it fall out a sync massively again, and we need to almost do a, maybe not a full re-implementation, but bring them as close as they can realistically get, given they’re two different products in advance of the date in July next year when they stop collecting Universal Analytics data. So, you’re right I guess that’s a very long winded way of saying, I think you’re right, I think there’s going to be more panic still to come, and that might even include people who are already aware of GA4, and may even have it set up, but just aren’t quite using it you know, to the full extent.

[00:06:16] Daniel: I think that’s a really interesting segment of people actually, or organisations, and a lot of people probably listening to this know a lot of the nuance that with GA4 and some of the things that doesn’t back date, and you need to set things like data retention settings to adjust that, set up the BigQuery export, connect Ads and other accounts. All these kind of things that are part of setting up GA4. And if you were to just go onto GTM and throw the GA4 Config tag on your website that’s not quite enough. And what I’m almost worried about and I think where the kind of the second hump maybe is as you described it Dara. When that kind of second wave comes in, I think a lot of people are going to be like oh, it doesn’t affect me because I’ve done it. I’ve done GA4, I’m not even talking about the kind of custom events or ecom or any of the other additional tracking. It’s more like, oh, but I didn’t do it properly enough the first time, which means in a sense, I’ve got to draw another line in the sand and they’re back to square one. And in all intended purposes they may as well not have implemented GA4 to begin with. And I’m worried that there’s a level of, it’s a tick box on someone’s to-do list rather than a considered or thought out approach. And I know not everyone has the luxury of time to do that and money or budget.

[00:07:16] Daniel: I’ve actually found that through kind of teaching GA4 as well, and over the last 9 to 12 months, the whole of 2022, for example, all I’ve done really is taught GA4. We train a variety of different tools and software, but the reality is it’s only GA4. Sometimes with a flick of GTM (Google Tag Manager) or Data Studio thrown in for good measure, but it’s all GA4. But we’re starting to see that die down a little bit and that’s a really interesting perspective because in a sense, I think that a lot of organisations have ticked that box of we have done Google Analytics 4, we’ve beat the majority of people because, you know, we are ready for this 1st of July, but I’m just wondering, and semi worried that these companies might come around and be like, oh, it wasn’t done right to begin with and we’ve got to start again in a sense. And it’s going to be interesting to see that reaction because that might be post July the 1st, when that starts to affect them because it’s not something that’s really rearing its head right now because they’re not really dependent on this thing, they’re not really pushing it to its limits and stress testing it really. Yeah, it would be interesting to see how that segment of companies react alongside people that are like, oh, I’ve never done this the first time round, and actually they’re both kind of coming at it from the same perspective.

[00:08:18] Dara: Yeah, and there’s a couple of, you know, a couple of things come to mind. The first one is even if people have GA4 setup, and even if they’re starting to use the data in the interface, or maybe if there’s analysts within the company and they’re using, if they have got the BigQuery export setup and they’re using that data, they might be more standardised reports that are shared across the business that might be using Data Studio or even, you know, shocking but some people might still be using the sheets GA (Google Analytics) add on and and doing stuff I used to do basically where you’re pulling data into Sheets and you build dashboards in Sheets. Some people will probably be listening thinking why on earth would you ever do that? But they could be still configured to use UA (Universal Analytics) data, Data Studio could be connected up to UA data. So I wouldn’t be surprised, even if some people maybe have GA4, it could even be set up quite well, but maybe they haven’t migrated all their reporting over. So that’s another thing you’ve got to think about. It’s like it’s not just about moving the data collection over to GA4, but it’s actually reconnecting all your reports and not just reconnecting because they’re not the same, so it could be trying to review them and see what’s fit for purpose of GA4 and redoing them.

[00:09:20] Dara: And then the other thing is, which we talked about on The Measure Pod before, and we’ve also got a blog about it, but stressing the importance of setting up that BigQuery export, even if you’re not planning to actively use it immediately, because there is no back filling, you really need to get that set up and start collecting that data into BigQuery in case you do reach a point where you do want to use it and you think, oh, I wish I set it up 9 months ago.

[00:09:43] Daniel: It’s going to be interesting to see how these things fall together I think, because quite rightly, as you said, it’s like as much as we would love it to be, the world doesn’t end at the end of Google Analytics’ interface. And whether it be the API or the export through BigQuery or through any other method actually. I think what we’re starting to see is a lot of systems starting to use things like Measurement Protocol, so a lot of like, you know, even things like Infinity, ResponseTap and the call tracking platforms that had a measurement protocol integration, which sent in these phone call events into Universal Analytics. I don’t know if they’ve built the GA4 version of that yet, and of course when we spoke to Ed Upton from Littledata on the podcast as well, they’re waiting for measurement protocol to kind of come out of a beta phase so that they can kind of update their Shopify solution to track into GA4 in exactly the same way.

[00:10:27] Daniel: So I think we’re starting to see sort of products and organisations come around to the idea of using and upgrading to the new versions of these things. And I think that actually extends within the organisation too, so not just to kind of does my vendor support GA4 now, but actually it’s going to be well, if we’re building a data warehouse or even just a kind of marketing data warehouse, or even just a backup in a cloud warehouse somewhere, doesn’t have to be BigQuery. But if I’m using Universal Analytics data, whether it’s through the 360 connector through BigQuery, or whether it’s through the API or some other custom solution like Stitch or Funnel or something else, that whole system has to be changed. And unfortunately the whole schema, I say fortunately actually it depends how you look at it. The schema is completely different, the data schema that is so it is not just a process of technically pulling in a different API, it’s actually, well then how do I process this data? How do I pull it into the tables to kind of create a level of consistency between the two products if possible. What if some of those numbers don’t exist? How do I recreate them? Can I recreate them? So I think there’s a world of change beyond the platform beyond just learning something new. And I suppose we know more than anyone that sometimes where these things can fall down is the communication between the analytics specialists and maybe the analysts or the merchandisers or something else like that.

[00:11:36] Daniel: So I think there’s a communication thing that, for one thing we’re talking about, does the analytics people or no GA4 yet, and have they done a good job of implementing it, but we’re also talking about how do they then communicate that within the business and it just hasn’t been around long enough for it to kind of extend beyond that, to have a really concise way of kind of explaining it I don’t think. It’s almost just like a lot of people might just assume it to be the same, and if they’re assuming the same, that’s I think where we might find the stumbles.

[00:12:01] Dara: Well, yeah and interestingly just kind of taking that step on, I was just thinking as you were saying that, that we were still pretty busy training people on Universal Analytics until the news came around about GA4. So the people focusing on GA4 is still likely to be the people who are working with analytics day to day. So those people who are desperately trying to get upskilled on GA4 then have to explain GA4 to the wider business who maybe still don’t really fully understand Universal Analytics. So there’s a lot to be done in terms of, you’re right, communication’s key, but training, but not just training of the analysts or the people within a marketing team or product team that are responsible for GA (Google Analytics), but also actually spreading that message out in terms of differences between the two tools, which is always a, you know, a hot topic for anyone who works at analytics. It’s like, why does this number not match that number? Well, that’s just become even more complicated with why does GA4 not match what we used to think we had in Universal Analytics.

[00:13:01] Dara: So there is a big education piece, and I guess initially it’s the people who are responsible for analytics, they need to get to grips with the differences and the advantages. You know, GA4 is a good product and it is going to offer a lot of improvements. It’s brand new, but there are differences, you need to understand those and then gradually roll that out to the rest of the business where you might be the analytics person and then suddenly you have to upskill yourself. But then also try and translate that to everybody else or your colleagues and help them understand why things have changed and what that means.

[00:13:30] Daniel: I tell you what’s going to be really interesting as well come next year, this time next year, is to see if Google Analytics 4 sits in the same part of the organisation as Universal Analytics did, because currently it’s exactly the same, right? It’s the people doing Universal Analytics, It’s their responsibility to upgrade to quote, unquote, the new version. It’s almost like an iterative version from a kind of a marketing perspective within Google. It’s like, here’s GA4, it’s actually quite clever to call it number 4 because, you know, we know that there wasn’t number 3, 2, or 1, Like, it’s really hard to get a concise idea of what was number 3, what was number 2, and what was number 1.

[00:13:59] Daniel: So like they’ve called it GA4 and it feels like an iterative version of the one before, but actually it’s a brand new product. And I know we say that a lot, but it is technically from the ground up, it’s a completely different system. And so it’s the stuff that I’ve said time and time again actually on this podcast, but more recently, With Rick Dronkers and Jim Sterne around the idea that this is a marketing tool now. I know Universal Analytics also was, but Universal Analytics from my perception, was a data tool first and a marketing tool as a kind of optional extra, like a bolt on an add-on that you can add on top to become a marketing product. Whereas I think GA4 is a marketing tool more so than ever before in other iterations, and it’s a data tool second, it’s almost like the BigQuery connector for the raw data and playing with the explore workspace. That’s like an optional extra, you know, that’s getting into the data that’s playing around and being an analyst, I suppose. Whereas the primary function is connect to Ads, sync it to Google Ads, connect it to DV360, SA360.

[00:14:49] Daniel: Get your YouTube engaged view conversions through automatically and model Google advertising really efficiently. And I think what I’m going to be interested to see is, let’s say we’re speaking to an organisation that has an analytics team that are currently responsible for their software. They’ve got a marketing team and a bunch of analysts separately, does GA4 sit more in the marketing team now, but is there a point where the analytics team are responsible for the implementation? Maybe the analyst for the BigQuery part, and I’m wondering how that internal responsibility or accountability for Google Analytics, I wonder if that will evolve. It’s probably not going to evolve anytime soon, but as things start to become more apparent, as people use it more day to day, it’s going to have more of a primary function within the marketing side and I’m wondering if that transitions the accountability or responsibility for this product over more towards the marketing.

[00:15:37] Dara: It might do, but it’s also interesting I think that even though I don’t disagree with you, I do think it’s become even more clearly a marketing tool, but whether by design or by a happy coincidence, it’s also become a much better product analytics tool because of the event based data model. I know we’ve had Bav on, and maybe it was somebody else that I’m not thinking of now that talked about product analytics as well. GA4 wasn’t one of their kind of key tools in their toolbox, but that might change. I think GA4 is a better tool for product analytics compared to Universal Analytics but that’s not really something that’s getting too much attention. Maybe we’re the only ones talking about that, but it’s definitely better for that kind of level of granular tracking of onsite product compared to UA (Universal Analytics) where the event model was pretty bad and rigid and you had to kind of hack it and everybody hacked it and then nobody really knew what any of the events were that were being tracked.

[00:16:26] Daniel: I agree, it is definitely a more friendly product analytics tool, and I think that’s purely because of the event schema and they don’t have to worry about these weird things in the middle called sessions right. Slowly but surely Google’s been, you know, tail between their legs coming back and they’re introducing session-scope stuff. So, it would be interesting to see how far they backtrack into the Universal Analytics world, to my dismay and to your joy, I’m sure. But the other side of it is actually, I think that is maybe a not a bigger deal as maybe we’re thinking it to be. So yes, it becomes a tool option for product analysts, and I think that, you know, they will maybe consider it going forward. However, there’s a lot of stuff that happens in Google Analytics that is, again, a marketing thing that kind of diminishes the usefulness in some way. So the conversion modelling, behavioural modelling and things like that.

[00:17:09] Daniel: So a lot of the things that Google does on top of the data that maybe isn’t what a product analyst wants, which is called marketing focus, especially the focus around attribution and marketing analytics. Yes, you can make it a product analytics tool, but I think there’s going to be a couple of these annoyances in the way that maybe a dedicated product analytics tool wouldn’t have and I think if you’re not using the additional features, the connectors to the Google world and the BigQuery connector, and if you’ve got another tool that does it already, maybe it’s not going to win out in those kind of re pitches or against the incumbents.

[00:17:40] Dara: Yeah, and I think you’re probably right, and maybe that’s why it didn’t come up as a kind of key tool. Here I go again with my analogies, key tool in the toolbox, if that’s even a phrase for people who do work in a kind of product analytics role. So maybe you’re right it’s getting better, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the first choice for somebody who is, you know, running a product and analytics team and is looking for something a little bit more, a little bit more bespoke. But yeah I know GA4 was not top of his hit list.

[00:18:05] Daniel: It’s interesting though, because for apps it is right. And I think maybe when we spoke to Derek, actually it might have come up then around the app analytics, but yeah, when we talked to Derek around the app analytics, it was really interesting from an app world, there’s a difference between the analytics and the attribution or the analytics and the marketing analytics specifically. And so you have these things called MMPs, which you would implement alongside your analytics choice when it comes to apps at least, and so Google Analytics or Firebase or whatever term we want to use for it. GA4 for apps isn’t good enough from a marketing analytics perspective. So then what is its primary function and it actually becomes a product analytics tool. And I think that’s interesting from an app perspective is trying to blend these two worlds together within the interface, within the kind of GA4 world.

[00:18:47] Daniel: But actually one of them is very much a marketing tool, one of them is very much not a marketing tool and they’re trying to join it all in this kind of weird data tool in the middle. It’s an interesting blend with two completely different use cases. One other annoyance when it comes to integrating app and web data together is just the kind of the functions they would sort of fulfil or sit within the organisation. Something we are starting to see already is actually the knock on effect that Google Analytics 4 replacing Universal Analytics would actually have on the other tools and specifically thinking about GTM (Google Tag Manager). And GTM is currently a great tool, but it’s also a mandatory tool pretty much if you’re using anything to do with Universal Analytics, especially from an eCommerce perspective. I’m talking about data layer scopes, Enhanced Ecommerce, all of the kind of events around that, as well as some custom events you might be implementing. For any event, actually, speaking of that, any event you have in Universal Analytics has to be customly implemented, and why not use GTM it’s a convenient tool to use.

[00:19:37] Daniel: Going over to the GA4 world, it’s got a bunch of automatically collected events, it’s kind of putting you 3 steps in front of Universal Analytics to begin with, assuming they work small print there, but actually you’ve got tools like the event editing and the event creation tool, which actually does a bit of the job that GTM does as well. So you can actually duplicate events without having to put more code on your website, or whether that’s through GTM or through some hard coded methodologies. So I think there’s going to be an element actually where, maybe not the dependency, but the focus of being able to use GTM as a predominant skill for analytics specialist might actually start bleeding over to something else because there’s less of a need or less of a basic GTM need, more of a advanced GTM need. You might still need to use GTM of course, but actually that’s where it might go into the kind of server-side implementation of Google Tag Manager and managing crazy amounts of consent banners and privacy policies and things like that.

[00:20:29] Daniel: Whereas implementing a basic event tag actually probably won’t necessarily need to do, or in some cases won’t need to do in the future in GA4, because you can just use the GA4 interface to kind of use the data you’ve got and kind of create new stuff and edit stuff that you’ve already got. You don’t have to go back into implementation world and do something new.

[00:20:46] Dara: I’m going to force a segway here, but one thing you mentioned there is about privacy and that’s something else that’s for obvious reasons has come up a few times recently, and we talked about it quite a bit with Rick, but with all of these rulings from the various data protection agencies, it’s not a GA (Google Analytics) problem by any stretch or a Google problem obviously, but that’s kind of world and we’re spending our day to day working with clients on using Google Suite of tools. Where do you see that going in terms of the kind of evolving picture with these rulings and these, you know, often with quite scaremongering headlines that come with them, but how do you see that evolving over the next year?

[00:21:23] Daniel: Well, I’ll start with a valid piece of advice Rick Dronkers gave us and start everything with a preface and a caveat that we are not lawyers and we are not giving legal advice, so that’s out the way. So what I genuinely think, and I take his perspective on this actually, I think it’s quite aligned to the conversation we had with Rick the other week. My perspective on this is that we are not going to see a slowdown of especially EU territories that are going to come out with clickbait headlines of GA (Google Analytics) is illegal and I don’t think that that’s actually click bait by intent. So the most recent one is from Denmark and they’ve got a really good article, which I’ll put on the show notes actually for this. It’s got a really interesting FAQ that basically answers, can I use consent for GA (Google Analytics)?, can I do this in GA (Google Analytics)? What is personal data in GA (Google Analytics)? And it goes through that stuff. But the reality is these people aren’t GA (Google Analytics) experts and a lot of them, you kind of scratch your head a little bit and think you know, do I agree with that? Is that something that, that rings true to me?

[00:22:15] Daniel: Let’s say all of that does keep going. Let’s say every EU country decides that GA (Google Analytics) is illegal first of all, without going into the whole conversation again, it’s not just Google Analytics, it applies to a lot of US-based companies that have especially AdTech, but obviously focusing on Google being the most prevalent. I think there’s going to be a point where Google, first of all, I 100% expect them to be lobbying right now, they’ll be lobbying like hell to the EU and the US are going to be kind of speaking so that they’ll get another framework in place and yeah, Schrems 3 might come along and take it down, but that they’ll get another one back up in place. So I think there’s definitely going to be a legal approach to this that can rectify or to address some of these. For the ones that can’t, I think Google is just going to come out with more tools that help us reduce the quality of the data that it’s collecting. So we’ve already got ones that reduce granular device information, so that basically takes away the browser data, so like the browser versions and the operating system versions, as well as the granular location data like city and region. So it takes away some of the bits like that, but it still keeps some of the personal data.

[00:23:12] Daniel: So there’s an idea there I think when we’re speaking with Rick was around reducing that even more so it becomes almost like a basic non-personal data collection tool. But then I suppose that defeats the point of using Google Analytics in the first place. So I’m wondering how far Google would go down that path. It’s going to be an interesting one to see that develop. I don’t know if Google, again, from my perspective, they’re built an advertising tool here, marketing product. How far would they go down to retrofit that backwards into a data tool for the sake of this. I’m wondering if they’re just going to stand their ground in a way and the reality is most people continue using Google Analytics. You take the, you know, the 5 countries now I think, or the 4 or 5 countries that have made that ruling. I wonder how many, you know, how many websites actually stopped using Google Analytics? Maybe a handful, maybe the big ones that’ve got the eyes on them. But the reality is I bet most people are still using Google Analytics for every blog, every website, every shop out there.

[00:23:58] Daniel: And I think in a sense, Google knows that. So I don’t think it’s necessarily going to change, the privacy landscape isn’t necessarily going to change from a product perspective in terms of the Google Analytics product I mean specifically. But I think it will have to just by the nature of existing in this year and next year and just the modern age it’s going to have to create maybe not compromises, but it’s going to have to create tools to accommodate. It’s going to have to be accommodating because they want to be in every market. This is the future of the Google marketing platform, right? So you don’t want to penalise anyone in any country for not being able to use any other Google product if all of their eggs are in this one basket. I’ve probably done a terrible job of trying to address that Dara, I kind of riffed a little bit on the conversation of privacy. If I was to wrap that in a bow and give it back to you, I think ultimately Google are going to have to accommodate by releasing new features, but I don’t think they’re going to, you know, go out of their way in any great extent to become 100% GDPR compliant, set up and EU subsidiary of their company, have everything run out of there for the sake of, you know, what could be a small percentage of their customers marketing spend. I just don’t think it’s within their interest and on their radar that much, to be honest.

[00:25:03] Dara: No and I think that, to be completely GDPR compliant, I think it would venture into the world of it not being the tool it was intended to be anymore. Because the whole point about, you know, the different definition of personal data and PII. I’ve got two questions for you this isn’t necessarily a Q&A but I’ve got two questions for you. One is, and it’s a rubbish question because I think I know the answer, but when the news was announced about GA4, there was an ambiguity around what would happen to the historical data once they stop collecting UA (Universal Analytics) we’re none the wiser, are we? That’s still an open question unless I’ve missed the headline.

[00:25:38] Daniel: We don’t have any more information, I suppose is the way of phrasing it. So on the announcement they said you’ll have access to your Universal Analytics data for at least 6 months. So that basically means until the 1st of January 2024. But we don’t know if that is a maximum or minimum, you know. So we don’t know if on come the 1st it’ll be deleted forever and their service will be purged. They might even back out of that and say, oh, we’ll give you an extra year. Or, you know, they might even come up with some solution of importing, aggregated historical data into GA4. We honestly don’t know and I think that’s an interesting point of silence from them still, and it’s not unlike Google to do either one of those 3 things actually. It’s not like I have a vote in this that I think, oh, I think they’re going to do that because of what they did in the past. I think Google have shown signs that they could do all 3 of those very, very comfortably, very equally.

[00:26:25] Dara: I feel like I say this all the time, but we’ve never been in this situation before. They’ve sunset the code, but not the collected data so we’re in uncharted territory here, so we don’t really know, we haven’t been through anything similar before, so all we can do is guess.

[00:26:39] Daniel: Yeah and my guess is one of 3 options, which is basically anything.

[00:26:44] Dara: Yeah, they could do something or they could do something else.

[00:26:47] Daniel: Or they could do nothing.

[00:26:48] Dara: I said two questions, I haven’t forgotten the second one. On your Christmas wishlist, what would be your number one GA4 feature.

[00:26:57] Daniel: It sounds like a really boring and uninteresting one but there’s one thing that I have for the longest time thought that would be a bit of a game changer in the world of sort of Google Analytics and Google Ads specifically, and that is the export of conversions from Google Analytics to Google Ads. So currently you can do that, you mark anything as a conversion in Google Analytics 4, and you can use that as a conversion within Google Ads, and that’s pretty standard, you could do that in Universal Analytics as well. The difference is when you export or connect the GA4 conversion to Google Ads, it uses a cross channel last click model. So you’re exporting basically a last click attribution into Google Ads. And yes, we could talk to how irrelevant attribution is in the modern day and all of that crazy stuff. The reality is it’s still really relevant for buying advertising and measuring advertising. So whether we like it or not, it’s there to stay for a little while at least.

[00:27:46] Daniel: What I would love to see is Google to lean into the data-driven attribution export to Google Ads. So you can do data-driven attribution in Google Ads using Google Ads data. You can do data-driven attribution in GA4 using multi-channel data. What I’d love to see is finally an automated way to be able to optimise your bids to cross-channel data-driven attribution data. And that feels so obvious to be able to do, considering they’re doing, you know, all these different models in two different systems. But if they could unify that, basically what that means is that in a sense, that could kill off the need for the Google Ads pixel. That kills off the need for any other measurement other than GA4. Google Ads being the biggest one, obviously it will be great for DV360, SA360, Campaign Manager, all that kind of stuff as well. But obviously 98% of their revenue comes from Google Ads, right? So let’s just say Google Ads for now. If you can export your attribution data from Google Analytics that you could be embellishing with offline uploads, measurement protocol hits, and all sorts of other cool, you know, store conversions as well.

[00:28:45] Daniel: Pull that, do some machine learning attribution, and then pass that back into your ad platform to automatically optimise to. I think that is going to be a game changer and that’s the change I’d like to see sooner rather than later, because I think it will reach not just people like us, it’ll reach the marketers too and be a big deal basically because of the extent that it’ll have a knock on effect to things like Floodlights and the Google Ads pixels and the other sort of, I suppose, becoming very quickly redundant technology. I have a question for you, Dara. So if you could make anyone know one thing about Google Analytics 4, what is it you think’s the most important thing to know about it as you’re kind of going through this kind of phase of the, what do we call it? The gust before the tornado.

[00:29:24] Dara: That’s a tough question, I feel like I’m back on who wants to be an analytics millionaire. I just really think it’s so important to connect BigQuery. I think that’s a big deal that before you could only get the BigQuery export if you were a 360 customer. That and sampling were probably the two things we heard the most from people who wanted to, and maybe the Ads platforms integration as well. But the BigQuery was a biggie and people had to kind of hack their way to exporting data using the API and then get it into BigQuery, which if you’re the kind of company that’s using BigQuery, you don’t really want to be having to to do it that way around. So I think the potential for that to open up bigger, broader analysis to companies who maybe previously were a little bit hamstrung by not being able to get the export really is a big deal.

[00:30:08] Daniel: No that is really important, I couldn’t agree more. Yeah, that BigQuery collector is just such a game changer, isn’t it for GA4 just because it’s there for free now, and I suppose if you’re not using it, then there’s a question mark of like, why not. And if I can hijack that answer actually, because it reminded me of something that I had a conversation with them this week actually, and that was, if you are currently on a GA Universal 360 contract and you are paying for 360 because of something like the BigQuery connector or the BigQuery data, that you can now get for free. If I could implant any bit of information into anyone’s heads that are doing this kind of stuff, it is just to assess that and to see whether you actually need to continue paying the, I mean, this isn’t a cheap product that we’re talking about, and if there’s a way for you to not spend that money and invest that elsewhere, whether it’s in growing your team or however you want to spend that money as an organisation, that’s great.

[00:30:54] Daniel: I mean, if you are using the BigQuery export and paying a lot of money to do so, then I’d love you just to kind of know that that’s now available for free. So I know I asked you a question, Dara, and then I took the answer and I run with it myself, but it came to me and I thought it’s really important for people to know that other side as well, the people that are paying through the nose for something that they might not need to.

[00:31:11] Dara: And the modelling, and I think there’s a way to go with this still, but you know, the anomaly detection, some of the predictive elements around churn and likelihood to purchase and the consent mode, behavioural modelling, which is helping to close the gap for users who don’t consent to having the cookie, the Google Analytics cookie set. And obviously this is a bit of a double edged sword because on the one hand, you don’t want too much of the data to be modelled. You don’t want to see too much of the, too much of a decline with the observed data, but because of the nature of the way things are going, this is necessary and it’s kind of good to see GA4 going in that direction where there’s a lot more kind of clever machine learning going into the product as well.

[00:31:48] Daniel: I’d say it’ll be really interesting over the next sort of 6, 12, 18 months is actually going to be the relationship people might forge between GA4 and unconsented data. Because I mean, right now you’re right I think it’s a really great feature where they can start, you know, modelling out gaps that are already there, Google Analytics is not causing gaps. It’s not because of GA4 that gaps are forming. And I think that’s a really interesting thing that you know, time and time again, we get people with Universal Analytics and they’re using their data and just assume it’s complete without realising their cookie banner is not tracking a bunch of stuff when people don’t accept the cookie to be set.

[00:32:21] Daniel: But in GA4, you get that, but you get this modelling on top and again, there’s nuance all behind all of this, the thresholds and things like that. But the reality is there’s a thing where because Google Analytics 4 is addressing something, a lot of people might think that it wasn’t an issue in Universal Analytics where actually it was, but you just had no sight on it, right? All you could see was the observed data. Whereas GA4 has in a sense, it’s gone above and beyond to do this thing for whatever reason, it’s going to be interesting to see that association for how many people that are like, oh, that’s a cool thing on top of what I had before, and how many people are going to be like GA4 comes with this thing that didn’t happen in Universal Analytics. And it’s going to be really interesting because obviously the industry changes so quickly and a change of technology like this happens a bit slower, it’s like running 15 A/B tests on the same page and trying to pick out one set of results, there’s so many variables that are changing at the same time that it’s actually impossible to attribute it to one change. But yeah, it’s going to be interesting.

Wind down

[00:33:12] Dara: So what fun thing, and it has to be fun, you’re under pressure now. What fun thing have you done outside of work in the last week?

[00:33:19] Daniel: Well, it is fun. It is not always fun but this one was, I went to a wedding on the weekend and it was, it was amazing. It was a very big, grand affair in a castle, and we stayed there the night, which was lovely. Open bar, lots of lovely food, good weather, outside garden games, live music. So yeah, it was a real treat actually for a wedding. So, yeah, the wedding was great, but as a double positive, it was also the last wedding that I have to go to for over a year, and because of the lockdowns this year’s been pretty hectic with weddings. I think this was our 5th or 6th wedding that we went to. And so we really enjoyed the day and we enjoyed spending time with the now married couple and all of our friends and their family that were, that it was great. But we’re also really enjoying the fact that was the last one we have to go to for a little while now.

[00:34:02] Dara: What a one to do for the last one, in a castle with an open bar. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that.

[00:34:07] Daniel: It was extravagant and it was lovely. It was really, really fancy. Definitely felt out of place, but, you know, so what. How about you Dara what have you been up to? And again, it has to be fun.

[00:34:15] Dara: Yeah, I realised my mistake when I’d asked you the question, I thought, oh I’ve set myself up here. I’ve done quite a bit in the last week, but I wouldn’t call any of it fun for anybody else. I tidied my home office, which was very rewarding, not something you would classify as fun.

[00:34:32] Daniel: That’s not fun, next.

[00:34:34] Dara: Hang on, let me work my way through. I’m not sure I’m going to actually reach a point where I satisfy you that I’ve done something fun, so, I tidied in my office, which I thought was fun. You know I did do something fun, I can’t believe I led in with tidied my office. All that proves is how bad my memory is because that’s the most recent thing I’ve done. I went to a gig, I went to a live music gig and not just any live music, but my partner Hannah’s well, one of the bands she’s in, sometimes I lose count with how many musical projects she has. But one of her bands, they played in Brighton. So I went in for that, which was really, really good. So, I haven’t been to see too much live music since, well, since pre Covid really, so it felt like a really good thing to do. And now I feel terrible for starting with I tidied my office.

[00:35:21] Daniel: Yeah, I mean, you could maybe find a level of satisfaction with doing that, but not fun. I would never have said it was fun.


[00:35:27] Dara: I did, you know, pre-warn you that particular thing wasn’t fun. But then I realised I had done something interesting. That’s it for this week, to hear more from me and Dan on GA4 and other analytics related topics, all our previous episodes are available in our archive at measurelab.co.uk/podcast, or you can simply use whatever app you’re using right now to listen to this, to go back and listen to previous episodes.

[00:35:51] Daniel: And if you want to suggest the topic for something me and Dara should be talking about, or if you want to suggest a guest who we should be talking to, there’s a Google Form in the show notes that you can fill out and leave us a note. Or alternatively, you can just email us at podcast@measurelab.co.uk to get in touch with us both directly.

[00:36:08] Dara: Our theme is from Confidential, you can find a link to their music in the show notes. So on behalf of Dan and I, thanks for listening, see you next time.

Written by

Daniel is the innovation and training lead at Measurelab - he is an analytics trainer, co-host of The Measure Pod analytics podcast, and overall fanatic. He loves getting stuck into all things GA4, and most recently with exploring app analytics via Firebase by building his own Android apps.

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