#58 In the GA4 trenches (with Stacey Harper @ Sharper Digital)
This week Dan and Dara are joined by Stacey Harper, a fellow GA4 expert and trainer! They discuss war stories, hidden features and the huge importance of a migration strategy/plan for migrating to GA4. And remember, never ever push the ‘UA events in GA4’ button!
Stacey’s website Sharper Digital is https://bit.ly/3fa9WaO where you’ll find all her social links and details on her GA4 training.
Measurelab’s GA4 training can be found at HERE.
And a big shout out to KEYNOAT (thank you Bhav!) who helped connect us with Stacey. You can sign up to KEYNOAT at https://bit.ly/3DcSKtq.
In other news, Stacey goes all Disney, Dan goes all Viking and Dara goes to Oxford!
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.
Quote of the episode from Stacey: “I was looking at the SEO for my site and one of the queries that came up was “I hate GA4” and it was hilarious“
Quote of the episode from Dan: “it probably took me longer than I’d care to admit to really understand GA4 well enough to realise that it’s actually pretty good.”
Quote of the episode from Dara: “the business is only just about starting to understand analytics in general and now they’re being told there’s this new version of all of that data.“
[00:00:15] Dara: On today’s episode of The Measure Pod, I have the pleasure of sitting back a little bit and listening to Dan speak to fellow trainer and GA4 enthusiast, Stacey Harper.
[00:00:24] Daniel: And speaking of enthusiastic training, you can find links to both Measurelab and Stacy’s GA4 training courses in the show notes. Enjoy the episode.
[00:00:32] Dara: Enjoy.
[00:00:33] Dara: Hello and welcome back to The Measure Pod, a podcast for people in the analytics world to talk about all things analytics related. I’m Dara, I’m MD at Measurelab.
[00:00:43] Daniel: And I’m Dan, I’m an analytics consultant and trainer at Measurelab.
[00:00:46] Dara: And we’re really excited to be joined today by fellow analytics expert, enthusiast and trainer, Stacey Harper from Sharper Digital. So Stacey, firstly, thank you for agreeing to come on The Measure Pod, very good to have you here.
[00:00:59] Stacey: No worries, nice to be here.
[00:01:01] Dara: So rather than me do a really bad job of introducing you, we always turn it over to our guests to introduce themselves. So in as much or little detail as you like, could you just tell us what got you into analytics and then a bit of a whistle stop tour up to where you are today and what you’re working on currently.
[00:01:18] Stacey: Yeah, sure. So I’ve been in analytics now for about six, seven years, and prior to that I was actually working in a call centre and I saw the job role come up for a digital analyst. So I already had kind of experience but it’s more MI reporting type of analysis. And I applied for the job, the digital analyst job and of course, I didn’t have the right experience for it, so I did a bit of like an internal apprenticeship where I was doing that part-time and then the rest of the time still in the call centre. And then from there, just kind of gradually went, applied for the job when it came up again as full time, as a junior and progressed from there really. Just gradually learning across the board, measurement strategies, implementation, reporting analysis and insight and CRO, A/B testing. So, just gradually over the time spreading across wide with skills as well.
[00:02:13] Dara: And what about now, what’s your kind of area? Do you have a focus or are you still quite broadly spread?
[00:02:19] Stacey: Yeah, so I do have a focus now, mainly kind of industry driven, I guess, with GA4 but it’s always been a bit of a specialism of mine is implementation, putting measurement plans and schemas together, but now even more so, that is pretty much at least 80% of my time now is doing implementation for GA4 and yeah, GA4 migrations.
[00:02:41] Daniel: We’ve definitely heard of that. So I think we’ll have a lot to talk about in terms of the migrations, the war stories and some of the success stories as well. But firstly Stacey, again, welcome as Dara said but I found you or we connected through KEYNOAT, so that’s Bhav, a previous guest of ours, his new platform that he’s set up. So yeah, I think it’s already successful Bav if you are listening, that is. But I just wanted to hear from you Stacey, how did you find out about the keynote platform? How did you get to being on there saying that you’re into analytics wanting to do podcasts?
[00:03:09] Stacey: Well, really I wanted to kind of support his idea, to be honest. I saw on his Twitter, and I think he also made a comment as well about the lack of diversity that was appearing on there organically. And I thought, well, that felt a bit of a call in to put myself on there and say, yeah, I’m ready to chat to people. And yeah, as I say, kind of support his idea as well.
[00:03:31] Daniel: Yeah, for sure. It’s a great idea and I’m looking forward to finding more guests for The Measure Pod on that platform. It’s really cool actually where that’s going to go and where he’s taking it. So Stacey, I think, you know, there’s loads there we could talk about, like, we’re talking about GA4, you’re working a lot on GA4 migrations, so are we. You know, this is the stuff that we live and breathe, that’s why I find it really fascinating and that’s actually why we invited you onto the show really, is just to have that natter, to have that chit chat around Google Analytics 4. We’ve had lots of people over the many many months now of doing this that you know, we can talk to, to some extent about GA4, Google Analytics and the industry as a whole. And one of the things that keeps coming up is that idea that this space is a very hard thing to explain to our friends and family, for them to really understand what it is we do for a living. And so the only people we can really kind of like chat with and discuss are people at like analytics themed events or conferences or meetups or even start your own podcast and invite them on to keep that chatter going. One question I always love asking is, how the hell do you explain what you do for a living to your friends and family? And do they understand?
[00:04:30] Stacey: I explain it by saying I use data to help people improve their website. And from that they take that I work in IT, I build websites you know, SEO, she does something with computers you know, family tech support, friends tech support, that’s normally kind of what it actually turns into. So no, they don’t get it, and that’s fine by me, so I’m just forever the tech support gal.
[00:04:58] Dara: Yeah, we get it, the amount of times I’ve been asked to fix a printer and I have absolutely no idea how to fix a printer.
[00:05:04] Daniel: Or get me on Google. How do I get on Google? That’s the other one, isn’t it? Because again, everyone thinks SEO is web dev is analytics. Sorry slight tangent, but I love asking people in the same space that question, because in a sense, I just need to know how I can do that better. I still think my wife of many years now doesn’t have any clue. As a joke, I get her to explain to other people when they ask what I do for a living and see her put on the spot, that’s quite funny. But down to business Stacey, so GA4, it’s everything that we are living and breathing right now, and I know you’re doing a lot in terms of the GA4 migrations and so are we.
[00:05:33] Daniel: So I just wanted to sort of open up the conversation and start talking about sort of GA4, your general thoughts about it. How long have you been using it? Obviously over the last couple of months we’ve had the announcement that they’re turning off Universal Analytics. So there’s a huge spotlight being put on Google Analytics 4, and thus people like us to kind of help people migrate over. I’m just wondering, you know, we are kind of a couple of months into it. We’re a couple of months away from the Universal Analytics deprecation. How are you feeling about Google Analytics 4, what are your thoughts about the product and I suppose the quote, unquote, evolution of Universal?
[00:06:00] Stacey: I’m feeling really positive about it. So, I actually about three, four years ago did my first app analytics implementation and then it was called App and Web, and the UI was still very similar to UA (Universal Analytics). So I’ve kind of gone with the evolution of it since it was app and web and we did both implementations, Firebase Analytics and using the App and Web property using Tag Manager. So yeah, that was kind of my first introduction to really the users and events model by accident. And it was quite, it was pretty challenging because there was a massive lack of training documentation on doing that at the time. And yeah, a lot of it was just fail fast basically. I remember the first time I was trying to debug the event on an Android app and like I wanted to cry. Like, I think I dreamt about it through the night, it was an absolute nightmare. But now I reflect on that time and I think, well, actually that was really beneficial because I experienced it kind of the, the first, I guess, phase of moving to GA4 and thinking about a more event structure data model, which I think is benefiting me massively now because I kind of went through that phase.
[00:07:26] Stacey: So I guess the second part of your question, how do I feel about it? Fine, ready for the change. This is a complete sidetrack, but I was looking at the SEO for my site and one of the queries that came up was “I hate GA4” and it was hilarious and I just thought, why am I ranking for that I don’t know, but must be positive. But anyway yeah, I’m fully on board with it, I think the new evolution of the new data model is going to be really important. I think it’s important that we’ll be looking at measuring more real life scenarios of what’s happening because as we know with attribution, users don’t just come on and just necessarily convert in that first session, they have multiple touchpoints. And I think the future with GA4 is it’s going to force marketers to think about the value that they’re bringing to users. So I think it will make marketers better as well and think about their measures of success a bit better too.
[00:08:27] Dara: You’re preaching to the converted here, especially Dan, I was probably a little bit more reluctant early on, UA being my bread and butter for a long time. I was probably one of those people who initially just thought, oh, this is all very different, I’m not really sure. But Dan was a bit like you, he was kind of really on board with GA4 from very early on. What’s your experience been like with the clients that you work with or the people that you train? How have you found kind of trying to share that enthusiasm and getting people beyond that kind of initial fear of this all being very different and very new?
[00:08:58] Stacey: The truth is it’s been quite challenging. I’ve had a bit of a dichotomy I guess, I’ve had a set of people that are really keen to grow and learn and move with it, which is usually those that book the training, that inquire that, you know, they’re really keen to learn more. And then the other side, which are people that know it’s getting kind of forced upon them or kind of a bit early, you know, in the change cycle, a bit of denial. They don’t want to do it at all and that can be a bit of a fight. They’re even considering looking at different analytics solutions, which is fine. So it has been pretty challenging and I guess my suggestion to those that are struggling to come on board with it is that my prediction is this is going to happen with most analytics platforms. This is going to be the norm, so either you do it now or you know, in a couple of years time, you’ll think I probably should have just done that earlier on and do implement it now like, do think about your migration strategy now. We’re going to be really busy like June next year, don’t leave it till then. You should have done it yesterday don’t, you know, don’t leave it till July next year.
[00:10:10] Daniel: I couldn’t agree more actually, I think making sure people are aware and having a strategy. The thing I picked up on that is having a migration strategy, going in blind or going in assuming that it’s easy or automatic or things back date, or things move over from Universal Analytics, which they won’t. That’s the worst approach to have and what I found working with people is that, especially when I’m doing training, when I’m doing GA4 training, it’s actually more, I’ve got GA4 now what, how do I use it? How do I stop being annoyed or hating or scared of it? And how do I use the tool? And what I kind of find is that people kind of feel like they ticked the box where they put the GA4 tag, the Gtag on their website moved away and they’ve done the parallel tracking, but in most cases, let’s say as an e-commerce website, you know, for them, without the e-commerce data, without the purchases, without the revenue, without the product details that’s redundant data and it doesn’t matter.
[00:10:53] Daniel: And so they think, oh, we’ve done it now, we are going to have a year on year data next year when it gets turned off. But actually the realisation sinks in that actually data doesn’t really start until they’ve done this next phase, once they’ve done their kind of recommended events once they’ve done it maybe some custom events. That’s the thing without having a strategy, it’s a very Google-ism thing which is everything is one button, the whole thing is super easy, just deploy and walk away. Whereas actually I think a lot of people are realising that, well, even though we put the tag on the website four months, five months, two years ago, we really can’t class data as really starting until we’ve done this next thing, which I didn’t know we had to do, and now all of a sudden we are now within nine months of it being kind of like the only Google Analytics tool. So it’s interesting to hear people’s reactions, especially when doing training and you’re kind of opening their eyes a little bit, helping them understand what they need to do in the platform, and it’s not as simple as kind of drop a tag and walk away.
[00:11:40] Daniel: But yeah, I think that’s, It’s not very clear, is it? This is actually one of the most interesting things that when talking with people such as yourself, Stacey, is like, it’s a job, right? Analytics is a job, and actually that’s the harder thing to convince a lot of companies about. But the analytics itself is a role. And when you ask someone that’s you know in IT or marketing or tech to kind of just go do analytics, it’s not very easy for them to kind of fully get exactly what’s needed and so they kind of do the guidelines, which is drop the tag and walk away, but it’s not doing anyone any favours without having that thought through strategy. I suppose a question over too then, Stacey, what do you kind of advise when people are saying, I need a GA4 migration, where do you start? Like how do you approach that?
[00:12:14] Stacey: So where I start with clients, and I feature this in my training as well, is actually just to take a step back, take stock of what you’re measuring currently, whether it’s in UA or you know, what else you are using. What are you collecting at the moment? And kind of how reliable is that? And usually that’s through an audit. And then second of all, what’s your business objectives and how can we link that to the data, the digital data that we collect? So whether that’s just building a brand awareness, the acquisition, how people are engaging with the website, then new and returning user behaviour. And I go through like a bit of a framework of each of that kinda steps of the funnel with clients and as they go through it in my training as well.
[00:12:59] Stacey: Well how are we going to measure each of those steps for your users? And measure it kind of in a clear and concise way as well. So that’s really important with GA4 now because of the data structure, some of the limitations that’s on the free property is that you need to be really thinking about how you, what you’re going to measure and how much of it. So that’s really important to think about that upfront. Definitely don’t click that button that says just to transfer all UA events into GA4, oh, I cant tell you the frustration and then trying to undo it as well, is a nightmare. So, yeah, that is where I start with everyone. Think about, take stock, what are your business objectives? How are we going to measure them? And kind of having a bit of priority on those KPIs as well. So, you know, and it really nice to be able to track every click from this blog post to that PDF download and whatever. So having a kind of level of priority with those KPIs as well, because you can go on forever a bit with it. But yeah, like I say, just being mindful of those limitations is really important. And I think that’s a great place to start for particularly non-analytics people as well, to just say, right, okay, what is it I’m even trying to do here? What am I trying to achieve? And then help them come to a way of measuring that.
[00:14:24] Daniel: That’s really great and I think it’s a really good opportunity for a fresh start. If everyone took Universal off the website and had a go again at implementing it, I’d do the same thing. Doesn’t really matter that it’s GA4, it’s basically we get another go at this, let’s do it properly from the beginning. And I think that’s the reality, that button, god, when you said it made me kind of have sort of like anxiety sweats that, that kind of like button to transfer from UA. Especially people that click that button and do GA4 tagging and you end up doubling up a lot of stuff and unpicking this category, action, label parameter stuff within GA4, oh it’s a bit of a nightmare. So yeah, I definitely feel you on that.
[00:14:54] Daniel: I love that actually when we come to implement GA4 and this is, I suppose more on the kind of training side, at least. My view is that if you know Universal Analytics really well, learning GA4 is actually a harder challenge because you have to unlearn a lot of stuff. And you mentioned there about the kind of the data schema, you know, the events and users model. And actually it’s a very elegant and simplistic and obvious approach to tracking data and in GA4, obviously that’s the whole thing it’s built on. But what I’ve always found is, like I always do at the beginning of any training session, I always get people to put their hands up or kind of do an emoji on Zoom or whatever we’re doing it on of like, who here knows Universal Analytics? And who here now thinks they know it pretty well? Who’s used it for the last couple of years? And yet a couple of people put their hands up and I’m like, okay, well I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve got the hardest job today going through GA4 because you have to unlearn these weird scoping issues, you know, combining session level and page level and hit level and all that crazy stuff.
[00:15:45] Daniel: I bet for everyone else walking through the door for GA4, it’s actually a very neat and tidy solution. I don’t know if you’ve experienced that at all, but I very much class myself, like Dara, in the Universal Analytics camp and it probably took me longer than I’d care to admit to really understand GA4 well enough to realise that it’s actually pretty good.
[00:16:01] Stacey: Yeah, definitely. I couldn’t agree more and I put myself in that same camp as well. I in particular struggled with the UI in comparison to UA when I was first kind of trying it out and had been like, oh, okay, this looks different to what I’m used to. Yeah, completely agree having to like you say, unlearn and get used to looking at reporting in a different way, not just, I think as I said before, focusing on more about the user than the sessions. That’s something that I kind of drill into a lot about getting that idea out of your head now about just the traffic that you are driving. You need to think about the user and yeah, and unlearning what you understand today of Universal Analytics. And that is challenging for a lot of people and I think that’s why mostly we’re seeing a lot of people are a bit against it at the moment, but I think we’re gradually getting there.
[00:16:57] Daniel: Also, the other side of it is you’ve got no choice, right? So it’s eventually you’re going to come round to it or you’re going to hate it. And I think, you know, just for your own sanity, just accept it. There is some joy to be had in GA4, I’ve always said that, what I’m really hoping is that come July next year, hopefully a long time before, but definitely July next year. Hopefully what we’ll stop doing is thinking of what does GA4 have, because already right now there’s a lot of features in GA4 that UA never had and never will have. And it already surpasses in a lot of different ways, but because it’s so different, it’s not, do you know what I have the biggest problem is calling it number four, GA4, because it’s not a number four. You know, three, two, and one we never had numbers there, but this is, it makes people think that it’s like a new version of an older product, whereas actually this is built from the ground up. For me, it’s like, don’t go in with your Universal Analytics kind of like hat on. Go in with an open mind and it actually does a lot of cool stuff, and that is the biggest blocker actually. A lot of the kind of toughest students I’ve had over the years have been people that are like so determined to hate GA4 because it’s like, it doesn’t have this yet and it doesn’t have that, it doesn’t have that. Once you show them that, that maybe doesn’t matter as much and maybe there’s other things that they could use, they kind of start coming around and yeah, I think as of July next year, I think we’ll have a lot more people that are just willing to accept and move on.
[00:18:06] Stacey: I’m not going to name and shame him, but someone messaged me and said, oh, could you help me with something? Can you tell me why UA is better than GA4? And I was like, hang on a minute, I’ve been like trying to convince people for the past year that GA4 is better than UA and funnily enough I was stumped by the question, because I have become so used to it now And I’m very much on board with the benefits and the new features of it, that I do struggle to now think why would UA be better moving forward anyway with the way digital marketing is working and things like that. So yeah, it was really funny when he asked me that, I was like, I’m really struggling with that now. Whereas, say a year ago I’d be like, this, this, this, and this and of course they’re always putting out new features and changing things and still fairly frequently at the moment. So yeah, I think it’s easier now, and I think they’ve been quite good in taking on feedback of feature changes and things like that.
[00:19:08] Dara: Something you’ve both kind of tackled from slightly. Well, you both phrased it slightly differently, but the kind of theme I picked up on there is that anyone who has that prior experience with UA, they’re the trickier ones to convert because you mentioned about that unlearning, but also it’s bad habits, isn’t it? So Stacey, when you said about like, one of the first things you do is you treat it as like an opportunity to review what tracking people have in place. And it’s almost that chance to kind of have that spring clean and say, look, we’ve got a lot of stuff here that’s been layered over the years and nobody really knows what it’s doing and nobody’s really using it. But there’s probably that risk if people are used to UA, that they’re going to try and repeat the same mistakes with GA4, they’re basically going to try and make GA4, Universal Analytics, or as close to as they can get, and maybe that’s the wrong way to think about it. It’s a new product, it should be treated, you know, almost looked at from scratch. It’s a chance to review everything, think about best practice, and do things right from the beginning rather than just thinking right, how do we hack GA4 to be as close to UA and make all the same mistakes that we made in UA all over again.
[00:20:10] Stacey: Yeah, that’s really interesting actually, I’ve got a section in my training that’s kind of GA4 vs. UA, and I hate it. I hate having to do it, I hate it being there as a module in the training, but I kind of feel like it’s a bit of a necessary evil to, I guess, be a signal to some people of trying to connect those dots. But exactly as you said, I kind of hate that because I want people to kind of not think about UA and just move forward and be like, right, this is new data structure, let’s move forward. But without that section in, it’s like, oh but, so is that a bit like this with UA and you know, oh so where’s session-scoped custom dimension? It’s like right ok. So it does feel like, as I say, a bit of a necessary evil, but yeah, I much prefer the idea of just having a clean slate and taking GA4 as a new approach and almost trying to forget everything you know about UA.
[00:21:04] Dara: And on the subject of kind of differences, not to do with the different platforms, but to do with some of the kind of metrics and how some of the data itself is kind of collected and processed. Are you finding, something we’ve talked about before is that all of us that work with this stuff day in, day out, we’ve got our heads around, just about maybe, around some of the kind of differences in how the data kind of collected and processed and some of the metric definitions. And Dan mentioned earlier about scopes and scopes weren’t meant to be part of GA4, but now it looks like maybe they will be. So we’re kind of kept on our toes figuring out these differences and understanding, you know, what data is modelled, versus observed. It’s harder then to then spread that through a client’s business, so like let’s say we’re working with the analytics team, or you are working with an analytics team, you can kind of have that like for like conversation with them but the business is only just about starting to understand analytics in general and now they’re being told there’s this new version of all of that data.
[00:21:59] Dara: Are you finding that’s quite difficult where you’re having to try and explain why reports are also changing and maybe some of the metrics themselves are changing because they’re not quite being recorded or processed in the same way that they were before. And I know that’s not just a GA issue, but it is something that we would probably experience kind of acutely with GA.
[00:22:16] Stacey: Yeah I think that’s the benefit of taking stock and talking about a measurement strategy and the business objectives up front to help with that conversation, to help with that journey that the business is going on and to help them, I guess, get on board with it and come to a bit of a mutual agreement, as upfront as possible, rather than, you know, doing your migration then at the end you’re going, right, this is how we measure this now. And they’re like, well hang on a minute this is completely different to what I’m used to. It’s kind of setting that expectation up front that your data is going to look different moving forward. The definitions are different, your sessions, if you do choose to keep using sessions moving forward aren’t going to be like for like, I think that’s really important for us, kind of tip for us as practitioners is have that conversation up front before you do anything so that it’s not a surprise for them at the end when they’re looking at their UA and putting GA4, putting them to each other or trying to build the same
Data Looker Studio report so that they don’t have that surprise. And you are starting with a good, solid agreement, a mutual agreement, and a trusting relationship moving forward instead of it being a surprise at the end. That’s my biggest recommendation to anyone out there that’s starting to work with clients doing migrations, I think that’s really important.
[00:23:41] Daniel: But the biggest question, Stacey, is where’s bounce rate gone?
[00:23:44] Stacey: Engagement rate? Now that can go straight in the bin anyway for me.
[00:23:48] Dara: I was just thinking exactly the same thing, in the bin where it belongs.
[00:23:53] Stacey: Yeah hate that, hate bounce rate. I think we’re all in probably agreement about that.
[00:23:58] Daniel: This is it, isn’t it? It’s like the least funny joke or secret joke within the industry, isn’t it? Like bounce rate is a joke metric and it’s like if you use bounce rate, there’s a kind of snigger and a little wince from across the room. But you know, most people don’t even know what bounce rate actually means, if you ask people to define what it means, they don’t, but they just, you know, again, a classic Google thing, which is they go into the interface, It’s right in front of you, in Universal Analytics there’s a big red arrow when it goes up, so they just assume that a bigger number’s bad, and it’s like, okay maybe we should reduce bounce rate. What’s a good bounce rate? And all of these questions come from a good place, don’t they? It’s just, you know, once you kind of explain the definition, they’re like, oh, that doesn’t really matter. All of a sudden they kind of world’s upside down but, you know, Google’s caved and introduced bounce rate now into GA4. I think the people with the loudest voices are the majority, right? And I think they end up having a lot of sway, like Dara mentioned before, like reintroducing scopes. I think we’re going to get session scope stuff at some point in the future too.
[00:24:42] Daniel: Stacey, I’ve got a couple of questions for you just because, like, we’re in the depths of GA4 quite a lot. What’s your favourite GA4 feature that doesn’t exist in Universal Analytics?
[00:24:51] Stacey: The audiences and kinda the timing parameters that you can put with audiences are so powerful and I think, I still don’t even fully understand them myself. I’ve played with them and had to go at some like use cases, but where that can take people particularly, well where that can take marketing is incredible. I think that is my favourite part of GA4. Yeah, the timing thing just blows my mind a little bit and as I say, I’m definitely no expert on it, but I fully appreciate that the power that will come with that. Kind of leading on from that is marketers, like paid marketers in particular would be, take GA4, look into that, look at the benefits and what you can do with that and how that will power up your skill set. And yeah, I think that alone will change someone’s mind so yeah, huge.
[00:25:48] Daniel: Amazing, I agree that’s a fantastic feature. So then on the inverse, Stacey, what’s the most important feature from Universal Analytics that’s not in GA4?
[00:25:56] Stacey: Oh, good question, maybe the ease of custom reporting. I think it’s a little bit more like what you see is what you get when you create the custom reports in UA. Whereas with GA4, in the UI it’s still a little bit janky and like getting your head around dragging and dropping and having to save and then apply. Just that whole having to navigate the custom reporting on GA4 is a bit of a nightmare, whereas like with, as I say with UA, what you see is what you get, I think it’s much more easier to navigate.
[00:26:35] Daniel: I saw someone on a forum the other day and they said something that was so obvious actually that Google will never do this, but they should and completely scrap the Exploration section of GA4 and just insert
Data Looker Studio interface in the middle. And so you can build your own reports because they’re trying to recreate in a sense, Data Studio just with so many missing features that just iFrame it in, come on guys, you’ve already built a product over here. Just pull it in over here and you’ve already done everything you guys need but I thought that was a really funny thing. I struggle with the expirations a lot for that exact reason, you don’t just have easy access to the raw data.
[00:27:05] Stacey: No, that’s very interesting. Yeah, it’s like it’s trying to be a bit too in between, isn’t it? Trying to not be as intuitive and have all of the features of
Data Looker Studio, but trying to bid UA custom reports on steroids and I don’t know if I’m quite there with it yet. I guess like with anything, once you’ve had a mess of it and over time you start doing the same things, you do get used to it. But yeah, that’s been the most challenging part so far anyway.
[00:27:30] Daniel: Yeah, we’ll all get Stockholm syndrome eventually and learn to love it. Okay, so the next question, Stacey, is what’s the most important, I call them secret features of GA4. What’s the kind of features that people don’t know or most people don’t realise exist within GA4?
[00:27:44] Stacey: Oh, ok that’s a good one. Can I say the data retention, like for the love of god change that to 14 months. Why that’s even a thing I don’t know, well, I know why it’s a thing, it’s because of their Google data storage stuff. As soon as you settle that property, change that to 14 months, I feel like I might write on my head or something like, change that damn setting.
[00:28:10] Daniel: It’s one of the most common questions that comes up actually, is the data retention because it’s like someone’s told me, I’ve heard that Google deletes my data is that true? And I’m like, yeah but at the same time, yes it is true, no, it’s not what you think it is and yes, it did exist in Universal. It’s just the date range, isn’t it? It’s just the two months by default, which is crazy short, but like you said, it’s probably for Google’s financial sake, you know, not having to store your data, but yeah, data retention I completely agree.
[00:28:35] Daniel: If I could say my one on that. My feature that I always take people to is that kind of section in the kind of Data Stream settings where you can adjust the cookie length, you can adjust the session timeout and the engagement timer. But since they’ve introduced the Google Tag settings now, They are buried so deep that it’s almost obvious that Google are trying to hide them. You have to go into the Data Stream, then you go into the Google Tag setting admin, it’s all like so buried so deep, but yeah, like obviously Google are trying to hide it from us all the time, but it’s such a powerful little menu, you know, adding your internal IP addresses and everything else, but that little window there is like the secret section I call it, just with the stuff you can do.
[00:29:12] Stacey: Yeah, I just find it interesting that they do have it under the expander thing, like, but at least that stupid UA events into GA4 is hidden amongst that section, so people can’t easily stumble upon that, I guess. But yeah, all the other fun stuff is there too.
[00:29:29] Dara: Not hidden enough though, from this sounds of it.
[00:29:32] Daniel: Not for the people like us Dara. And I promise the last question, Stacey, what is the most annoying or most commonly annoying mistake you see people making with GA4? I want to say, you can’t say clicking that Universal Analytics button.
[00:29:46] Stacey: Not having a proper migration plan in place. I feel like I keep banging this same drum, like the UA event button. But yeah, just trying to approach it the same way. Not really thinking about what you’re doing, just dumping the code on there and just expecting that that’s going to be right, that’s my GA4 migration done, no, it isn’t. Like I’ve had a couple of clients that have inquired about, okay, either someone’s helped us put GA4 on, or our devs put GA4 on and we feel like we can’t really trust it. We don’t really know how to use it and what it’s telling us, and I can guarantee every time in that scenario well, it’s because they’ve not thought about it, they’ve just dumped the code on and then left it. So, yeah, that it has been my biggest issue is where people think they can do it and just dump the code on and it’s like, yeah, we’re done now, and it’s not.
[00:30:38] Dara: How do you keep up to date with your kind of information around GA4? Are there any blogs you like to read or podcasts you like to listen to? And you don’t have to say this one, what are your kind of favourite training resources to keep your own knowledge up to date?
[00:30:51] Stacey: So, Krista Seiden, Charles Farina, I’m saying that right, Analytics Mania. My top three sources of updates, I guess to stay on top of those. The content that each of them put out are so incredibly helpful for the community, I can’t shout about them enough. I think what they do is brilliant in kind of helping the rest of us do our own jobs better. But yeah, for key updates and staying on top of the because, there are quite key changes at the moment, they’re my top three.
[00:31:25] Dara: All good ones, and I think most of our listeners probably are aware of those, but if they’re not, we’ll stick links in the show notes, but yeah, completely agree they’re really great ones. And speaking of updates, do you have any thoughts on the recent change, the rebrand from Data Studio to Looker Studio and maybe what that might kind of mean down the line? Any early thoughts on it?
[00:31:44] Stacey: No, in that I don’t really know where they’re going with that. Like what’s the point at the moment, is my thoughts. I’m guessing it’s going to be very Google and later on it’s going to be like a big shebang and here’s what we’ve been hiding from you, this is what we’ve been planning all along. But currently, no, I’m just a bit like, okay, fair enough.
[00:32:10] Daniel: Yeah, we haven’t seen anything really right? The logos changed, but it’s still got the same Data Studio domain. I’ll believe it when I see it, there’s a lot of whimsical, like, oh, it’s going to be better in the future. But I think I’m a little bit with you there Stacey, just like yeah, no immediate thoughts.
[00:32:24] Dara: It’s teeing up for something, isn’t it? You hinted at this, this is kind of classic Google. It’s like, make a logo change or a slightly confusing name change and then eventually all becomes clear what the real meaning behind it was. Confusion first and then, yeah.
[00:32:37] Daniel: It’s like the Blue Peter, here’s one I made earlier, kind of thing. Like we make this terrible little puppet out of toilet roll tubes, then this amazing maculate painted one comes out as a, here’s one we did earlier.
[00:32:46] Stacey: That’s what I’m expecting anyway. But yeah, at the moment I’m not thinking too much about it, I’ll wait for whatever the big bang is later.
[00:32:55] Dara: Okay, so this is the bit in the show, Stacey, when we switch gears and we talk about what we do outside of work and we try and sound like interesting people, so to put you on the spot, what do you like to do when you’re not helping people migrate to GA4?
[00:33:09] Stacey: Travelling I love, love my holidays, it’s kind of part of the reason why I chose to go freelance actually is to be a bit more of a master of my own time to allow me to travel a bit more, so my dream aspiration is to be a bit of a digital nomad, actually. So trying to convince my partner to get on van life, not quite there yet, I’m almost there. But yeah, that’s kind of what I like to do, I go on a lot of like, long walks. I live near the peak district, so we go on like a lot of long walks and things, so, yeah, not much more interesting than that really.
[00:33:44] Dara: No, that sounds great. I’m going to even ask you a follow up question. So where’s the best place you’ve been most recently?
[00:33:49] Stacey: Most recently would be Florida. I went to Florida, I was actually there for my 30th birthday this year. So yeah, definitely a big Disney fan, so I enjoyed that one, went with the family, my niece and nephew, and that was really great seeing how much they enjoyed it too, so yeah.
[00:34:09] Dara: Brilliant, what about you, Dan? What have you been up lately?
[00:34:13] Daniel: Nothing quite as exciting as going to the states, but mine to no surprise to anyone that’s ever listened to this before is going to be about a video game. And I’ve got back into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and I picked it up when it came out a couple of years ago, sunk about 60 plus hours into the game and haven’t really touched it since. And last weekend I picked it back up and got straight back into it and I’m a little bit of a Viking obsessive, I love that period of history and I love anything pop culture related around Vikings. And so yeah, I’m back in the world of Viking England, France, and Ireland, playing as a Viking warrior and just cutting people down with swords and shields and it’s amazing, that’s my escapism most recently. So yeah, it’s a great game, I highly recommend it, but Dara, it’s nothing like Flimbo’s Quest, it’s a couple of generations beyond.
[00:34:56] Dara: I’m not interested then.
[00:35:00] Daniel: What about you, Dara? What have you been up to?
[00:35:01] Dara: So I’ve been away, not to Florida sadly, but to Oxford, which is probably not very like Florida at all. But we had a long weekend in Oxford, which is really nice. Went to see the Ashmolean Museum and we went to some of the colleges as well, Christ Church, and I think it’s called Magdalene, is the other one we went to, but there’s like 30, so we went to two of them and it’s amazing just the history and the kind of like epicness of everything. So it was really, really impressive, and I’d originally gone there because I was supposed to do a marathon, which I did, but I didn’t do all of it, but that was the plan. I did part of it because I wasn’t quite, as fit as I wanted to be, so I ran part of a marathon while I was there as well. So it was a bit of a mixed, mixed weekend, but it was really nice, good fun. I’d recommend, it was the first time I’ve been to Oxford and it’s amazing.
[00:35:45] Dara: So final question for you, Stacey, where can our listeners find out a bit more about you, or if you’re happy for them too, how can they get in touch with you?
[00:35:53] Stacey: So I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn, Stacey Harper. That’s Stacey with an ‘ey’, you can probably guess why I always have to say that. And yeah, my company is called Sharper Digital, so I’ve got a website and link in my bios and everything like that, and that’s me.
[00:36:08] Daniel: All right, well thanks for coming on yeah, it’s been lovely having you.
[00:36:11] Stacey: No, thank you. Thank you for having me, it’s been a good chat.
Dara: Yes, we all have our own interests. 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 episode.
Daniel: And if you want to suggest a 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 email@example.com to get in touch with us both directly.
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.