If you’ve visited your Google Analytics dashboard lately, you’ve likely seen a message at the top of the screen telling you to make the switch to the latest version, Google Analytics 4 (GA4). That’s because Universal Analytics (UA) is going to be a thing of the past. For some, UA is intimidating enough. Now a new version is coming into the mix? Don’t fret. These changes usually come with a better understanding of your website’s performance and what you can do to both lead visitors to your website and convert them into sales.
That sounds like a win right there.
So what should you know about GA4? How does it differ from UA and why should you care? How can you use Google Analytics to improve your content marketing efforts? We’re answering all these questions.
Image via Unsplash by @jonathan_francisca
For those not in the trenches with metrics, let’s start at the beginning.
Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to better understand how visitors interact with your website. The metrics in Google Analytics can help you make marketing decisions, understand why people visit your website, and learn more about your audience. The tool lets you see important metrics like the number of return visitors, which pages and posts are the most popular, how long visitors stay on your site, and how many pages on your website the average person visits. As a robust tool, you can also set up goals to measure conversion opportunities. Think of Google Analytics as a partner tool in your content marketing strategy.
Google Analytics isn’t going away, but what’s now UA is making way for GA4. It’s nothing to be too concerned about at the moment. You have until July 1, 2023, to make the switch, but consider how much more of a seamless process you’ll experience if you learn more about the changes now. Think about how you can start planning for what you can do with the increased understanding of these additional metrics.
As we mentioned, GA4 is just the newest version of the current Google Analytics tool. And GA4 isn’t really as new as you might think. Google launched this version in October 2020. Any new businesses set up on Google Analytics after this date automatically received GA4 as its analytics version. The only ones impacted by the 2023 change are the analytics accounts set up before this date.
While UA can give you so much information about your website, GA4 provides even more in a more digestible way. After all, Google usually hits the mark with user experience, and that goes for companies like your own that want to use the Google Analytics tool to influence your next moves.
We could get into the nitty-gritty of the technical aspects of both versions, but you don’t need to know that to understand how this affects your content marketing plans. Here are some differences to be aware of:
In the current UA setup, you receive metrics based on sessions. It breaks sessions down further with metrics like page views and transactions. In GA4, you can still track user activity, but each click, scroll, or hover is a separate event rather than a grouping by session. This helps you have a more complete picture of user activity.
GA4 reporting may look different from what you’re used to. Your current reporting methods may disappear completely, or give a very different look at your metrics, depending on what data you pull. For example, you can create up to 500 events in GA4, up from the four that UA permits. This gives you a greater ability to track what your website engagement is like.
UA relies more heavily on cookies than GA4. UA may not have been able to show you certain metrics because a user didn’t give consent for tracking. GA4 uses machine learning intelligence to bridge that gap, helping your company understand user activities without cookies. This allows for a greater perspective on the whole user, or buyer, journey.
UA uses a single identity space to track a single user to your site across multiple devices. GA4 uses three. More linked identity spaces lead to more knowledge of your customer’s journey, allowing you to meet your customer where they are, accurately, with well-placed pieces of content, calls to action, and more.
UA requires the use of Google Tag Manager (GTM) to measure clicks on anything that doesn’t load a new page in your domain. That means it’s much harder to track if someone clicks on an interstitial video or clicks a button to download an asset that’s housed off-site. With GA4, while you may need to use GTM for some of these measurements, others are more readily available.
Because GA4 data is based on events and not sessions, there are a handful of new metrics you’ll have access to, including:
This is the average time a user remains engaged on a particular page. Are they scrolling, reading, or playing your videos? This all counts as engagement. Engaged users are more likely to become quality leads that you’re able to convert. They are more willing to explore what you offer, performing activities like signing up for courses, chatting with your customer service representatives about your products, or sharing your content with their network.
Google identifies an engaged session as one that lasts longer than 10 seconds, results in a conversion, or has two or more page views. In UA, viewing a webpage for 11 seconds before leaving contributes to the bounce rate. In GA4, an 11-second session is an engaged session.
If you aren’t already using Google Analytics, it’s time to start. Like, yesterday. Being able to view data that supports your efforts or helps you establish new campaigns or strategies will only serve your company for the better. Here are some ways you can use GA to improve your content marketing:
If you want to try out Google Analytics 4, but aren’t quite ready to make the gigantic leap, it does no harm to set up a second property for your website to connect with GA4. In fact, Google encourages it. It’s better this way, as it’s likely that some of the third-party services connected to your current UA don’t work with GA4 just yet. And having both UA and GA4 versions running independently doesn’t skew your metrics either.
Plus, if you set up a second property, you’ll start collecting data in GA4 now. That’s valuable data that you don’t want to miss out on once UA data eventually becomes obsolete.
Understanding what drives people to your website and where they come from can help you further refine your content marketing strategy. Consider this real-world example from CopyPress. We create content on topics we are experts in, like content marketing, SEO, and content writing. Our analytics support this work, and we’re able to create content that really resonates with our target audience. This helps us connect and engage with readers and take the steps to turn them into clients in a really organic way. Our analytics support an increase in traffic to posts that just make sense for us.
To use UA to review what pages and posts are the most popular for your company’s website, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages in the GA menu. Here, you can select how many rows to display and review metrics for each, like page views, average time on page, and bounce rate.
Remember that just because a page has a lot of page views, that doesn’t tell the entire story. It doesn’t automatically mean that content is successful for your purposes. For example, high page views combined with a high bounce rate means you’re getting a lot of visitors to a particular page, but they aren’t sticking around for very long. Why? Is the content boring? Have you not engaged the reader with an interesting call to action? Is the content really off the mark for the search query? Ask yourself these questions and refine your content appropriately, so it’s mutually beneficial for your visitors and your business.
To curate your content means to gather up core content you know, through data, your target audience wants to read. It’s your chance to show your website visitors your best work. How do you decide what to curate? You guessed it: Google Analytics.
At CopyPress, we decided to curate our top-performing content so that when visitors come to our site, they see pieces that bring us the most traffic. Why? Because this is clearly what people want to read based on search queries. Why wouldn’t you give the people what they want? As we produce more content, our analytics will probably change and we’ll curate different posts. This is why it’s important to use GA as another tool in your content marketing strategy. Optimize those curated posts for search intent and the user experience so your content makes an even greater impact, then continue to watch their performance in GA to make sure they fulfilling their purpose.
With GA4, you’ll have the ability to track when visitors scroll a page and when they stop. This is great so you know where you should place CTAs, if your placed CTAs are actually capturing the attention of your visitors, and what part of your content is making visitors stop and read. Having this information at your disposal is helpful to see what isn’t working too. Is your content just not resonating? You may notice minimal scrolling and a big bounce instead.
How can you make sure users stay on your page and they stop scrolling to read what you have to say? Quality content. At CopyPress, we create blog posts, articles, eBooks, white papers, and more for our clients. We’ll help you stop the scroll and bounce and get your audience to take action instead.
The new customer lifecycle reports available in GA4 help you understand your customers and clients as they journey from acquisition to conversion. To make the most of these deep analytics, you have to have quality content that appeals to them, speaks to the part of the journey they’re in, and keeps them coming back for more.
Using Google Analytics can be great, but at CopyPress, we take it one step further with our proprietary tool, Thematical, to help our clients identify areas for opportunity within their content. What are your content gaps? What kind of content and keywords are working for your competitors but that you have no sign of on your own website? We’ll help you find the answers, then create content for your brand or business that successfully fills in these gaps. Want a preview of how Thematical works? Request your free content analysis report today.
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Switching from UA to GA4 is, admittedly, a massive undertaking. Understanding more about the tool and trying it out now can help your team get comfortable and start gathering the data you need to make informed decisions over time. But it’s all for nothing if the content isn’t also at the top of your priority list. Schedule a free call with CopyPress today so we can get started on a strategic partnership to bring more value to your visitors and your business.
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