Felipe Bravo, Head of Roiback Digital, the performance digital agency from Roiback, explains the Google Analytics change and how it affects every company that uses the web analytics software.
As I'm sure everyone is aware by now, Google officially announced just over two months ago that Google Analytics Universal (GAU) will disappear. Yes, disappear. Disappear because, although they use words in their communications such as “will stop processing”, “will be discontinued”, this simply means that it will be no more; so, either you switch to the new system or you won’t be able to measure, period.
However, before reading on..., please keep calm; there is plenty of time and your webmaster, agency or trusted partner has likely already started working on it.
If you are a Roiback client you are covered. At Roiback, we have been working on it for some time now and we have been getting ready to ensure that our clients have complete peace of mind.
All the new websites we are launching already have a DUAL integration in GAU and GA4 to be able to continue measuring normally, but also to collect historical GA4 data.
For the hotels already working with us, we are proceeding with the GA4 roll-out plan with a view to it being ready in October 2022 for all our clients.
Furthermore, we have already rewritten our Web Analytics Plan to adapt to GA4, which consists of 3 phases:
- Measurement Plan.
- Implementation Plan.
- Visualisation Plan.
External training courses with specialised GA4 agencies were delivered to all our employees in January 2022 and we have put all our specialists to work on this project. All with the objective of making a controlled, specific and oriented migration to exploit the functionalities of the new tool.
How does it affect me?
The Google Analytics Universal (GAU) standard will stop processing data, or rather, “hits” (data collected through the GAU tracking code implemented on your website, which are sent to Google Analytics servers to learn about the user's online behaviour), from 1st July 2023 and for properties that have Google Analytics 360 (the paid version) until 1st October 2023. As of this date, only the last 6 months’ history will be available (we do not yet know for how long). In other words, virtually nothing, in particular for hotels and hotel chains that have been measuring through GAU for years, roughly 95%.
What should I do?
This long-awaited news has made more than one person shudder and wonder, “What should I do?” Over the last few months, I can see three ways to face the situation between hotel managers.
- Some still don't quite believe it and, as there is still over one year to go, think it will be left on the back burner.
- Others are getting ready and are starting to read specialised blogs or consult with their partners and agencies.
- The most far-sighted, are those who have already been working on it for a few months.
All positions are normal and understandable.
However, if you are in the first group, please change your mentality. The vast majority are in group 2, the “we are running out of time” group. However, again, I would like to convey a sense of calm. There is time; Google will surely extend the dates as it always does, but we must act now and start getting ready, now that the countdown has begun. We’ll explain how, but first let’s go over the facts.
How did everything get underway?
It all started in 2005 when Google bought Urchin, renamed Google Analytics in 2007, the same year in which the legendary Steve Jobs released the iPhone and completely revolutionised the way we live.
APPs started becoming more widespread and, by 2015, Mobile searches already surpassed Desktop searches. The use of APPs was rising exponentially and therefore there was a need to understand how users interact with them. For this reason, “Firebase Analytics” was set up, as a tool to help understand how users interact with applications. Meanwhile, Google Analytics 4 started to evolve back in 2018, no longer a Beta product by 2020 and focused on being able to bring the two “worlds” of WEB + APP together. At that time, it was a rather basic tool with many limitations compared to GAU and, what’s more, if you didn't have an APP there was really no reason to stop working with GAU and start implementing a new GA4 account, which would duplicate the work.
This has been the primary reason for the accelerated migration to Google Analytics 4, because, according to Google, GA4 is designed with privacy at the heart of the product.
Are the tool versions very different?
Moreover, GAU and GA4 are totally different. It could be said that they are worlds apart. This is why it would not really be right to speak of “migration” from one platform to another; it is a new implementation altogether.
The technical explanation:
Google Analytics works on a model based on user sessions and the hits that this user generates such as page views, events, transactions, etc... On the other hand, for Google Analytics 4, the data model is built around events. Everything else can be built from these events, including the sessions themselves. Google Analytics Universal is actually an obsolete tool, in the sense that it was designed in a Desktop world where sessions and pages are measured and where cookies are one of the main bases. Today everything is infinitely more complex. Users are hyper-multidevice and omnichannel, touchpoints are countless and renewal in the way they are analysed is necessary.
Google explains it this way in its help centre:
Universal Analytics hit types include page hits, event hits, e-commerce hits and social media interaction hits.
On the other hand, Google Analytics 4 data is event-based, taking into account that any interaction can be recorded as an event. Therefore, the hit types in the Universal Analytics properties are transformed into events in the Google Analytics 4 properties.
The first consequence of this is that the measurement model changes and therefore the historical data is no longer available in the new tool. You have to redo everything, from the implementation to the dashboards or data export you use in your visualization tools (Google Data Studio, QlickSense, Taubleu, etc...).
Everyone is used to GAU and this new era ahead of us will involve effort and a learning curve. It will be tough at the beginning, just like with all changes, however, in the medium and long term, there will be countless advantages.
What are the advantages?
- If you have a website and an APP, you will be able to integrate the data and unify the measurement.
- It offers the possibility of exporting data to Big Query easily and in a few steps.
- The approach is geared much more toward digital marketing and allows to improve engagement with users and analyse of their behaviour.
- It has its own debugging tool (DebugView) that lets you monitor events as they are triggered and detect errors more quickly.
- It has a wide range of predictive and customised reports that will allow you, among other things, to predict the probability of conversion and expected revenue based on user behaviour to help you improve your ROI.
- Improved data sampling. While in GAU this use of sampling is much more intense after a certain number of hits, in GA4 it will be much more straightforward.
- Increased ability to integrate with other tools.
- Much more sophisticated visualisation systems.
- Improvements in attribution models.
- There will be less spam and false data, due to how it can now measure.
- Multidomain tracking has always been highly complex to configure in GAU, with GA4, the configuration will be much more straightforward from the outset.
Can we wait to implement or should we start as soon as possible?
- We recommend starting as soon as possible. In particular, to start measuring as soon as possible with a view to having as much history as you can, so as not to start from scratch when the big change takes place.
- Google Analytics Universal is no longer supported and there are no updates, so it's not worth investing more than you already have right now or putting any more effort into this tool.
- It is a tool much more focused on marketing and business, however, you need to learn how to use it, so the sooner you start, the more you will get out of it.
- There is still time; you can implement at your own pace to solve possible contingencies as they arise and not have to rush next year.
Remember, if you are a Roiback client, you are covered. However, should you have any questions, feel free to ask us. Contact your personal DCS who will be happy to advise you.
Roiback (www.roiback.com) is a technology company that specialized in managing the direct hotel sales channel. Created in 2010 in Palma de Mallorca, Roiback promotes direct online sales and profitability of over 200 independent hotels and hotel chains in Mexico and over 2000 worldwide.
With offices in Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Las Palmas, Milan, Lisbon, Miami, Bali, Bangkok, Singapore, Cancun, Medellín and Bogotá, Roiback offers hotel chains and independent hotels a market-leading booking engine, focused web solutions to the conversion and comprehensive management services of online marketing.
Roiback has been awarded for five consecutive years with the award for 'Best solution provider for hotel reservations in Europe' and in 2021 as 'Best solution provider for hotel reservations in the world' in the World Travel Awards, considered the most important awards of the tourism sector at an international level.
About Roiback Digital: Performance marketing agency for hotel chains to grow their Direct Channel. We are not a traditional and generalist agency.
We solve specific hotel industry challenges and its complex digital technology ecosystem. Our DNA has reflected an authentic WIN-WIN work model. That is why we like to feel part of our client's team as an extension of their E-commerce and Revenue department. We breathe the same air as hoteliers; for us, Digital Marketing is synonymous with Revenue Management. We speak your language.
For any further information please feel free to contact Miguel González, Head of Marketing and Communications at Roiback (firstname.lastname@example.org)