Hotelier’s Guide to Google Analytics 4

We promised each other not to get emotional, but hey, it’s the end of an era. Google recently announced that it will discontinue (no longer track, no longer support) Universal Analytics effective July 1, 2023.

Universal Analytics has been a go-to resource for hotel marketers looking to gauge their website and digital marketing performance for over a decade. Its withdrawal is therefore a big problem.

However, as sure as the sun goes down, it rises again. Enter the successor: Google Analytics 4.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 (or GA4) is the next evolution of Google’s popular web analytics service, an invaluable tool used to track the performance of websites, apps, and marketing since Google acquired Urchin in 2005. As of July 1, 2023, Google Analytics 4 will replace the previous iteration of the service, called Universal Analytics (or UA).

Ultimately, GA4 is introduced to address the growing importance of GDPR and online user privacy, reduce our reliance on cookie data, and close any potential data gaps with the help of learning. advanced automatic. While also simplifying data analysis. Used effectively, it will help you capture business-critical internal data, which is even more valuable now that third-party data is becoming increasingly scarce.

If you haven’t already, we strongly recommend setting up GA4 now to start collecting data, ready for the July 2023 switchover.

What’s changing in Google Analytics 4?

A lot, in fact.

The very core of Google Analytics, the data structure and data collection logic it employs, is evolving. In plain language (or as plain as possible), instead of focusing on session data, GA4 will primarily look at users and the events they complete. It’s more focused on the entire guest lifecycle, rather than the pages they visit along the way.

The good news is that some of these events will now be automatically tracked (via “enhanced metrics”) in GA4. Examples include: page views, scrolling, outbound link clicks, and file downloads. These events are quite common to all websites, and you’ll probably want to add other events to track a user’s overall behavior as they browse your hotel’s website. For example, booking funnel analysis, engagement with certain calls to action (CTAs), etc. All of this can be implemented using Google Tag Manager with custom code.

Blah, blah, blah – where’s the advantage?

Ultimately, this new event-based approach will allow for more flexible and predictive analytics when it comes to evaluating a guest’s online behavior. And it’s all backed by machine learning. This should help you anticipate a customer’s future actions and focus your marketing attention on some of the most interesting segments of your audience. Essentially, this could become an extension of your revenue management function – if you are able to better monitor and anticipate demand for a certain type of room online, you can make necessary adjustments to room rates and increase performance accordingly.

Another benefit of this new approach is that it should allow for better cross-platform performance analysis. For example, providing better understanding when a guest searches for your hotel on mobile but books on desktop.

The way reports are organized and displayed is also changing. You’ll see a different layout, focused on the guest lifecycle, with shorter reports and summary data that makes it easier to identify key trends. Gone are the tables on hard-to-interpret data tables, replaced by simplified dashboards and overviews.

Unsurprisingly, GA4 also offers even greater integration with Google Ads, allowing you to create, maintain, and share audiences that can help drive your paid search activity. For example, if a user completes an event to book a room, you can remove them from the retargeting audience in Google Ads accordingly. Or maybe a user is viewing the family room type page on your website – boom! – add them to a family-related audience on Google Ads and show them a more personalized ad if they don’t convert on the first try. You can even import micro-conversions (e.g. phone clicks, email clicks, first booking engine step reached, etc.) to further optimize your campaigns.

The possibilities are almost limitless. You can even export GA4 data to BigQuery (Google’s data warehousing tool that enables larger-scale data analysis), which opens up even more analysis opportunities like building data models. attribution.

Sounds great, but it can’t be all good news, can it?

Historical comparison (year over year) will be more difficult in 2023, as data from GA4 and Universal Analytics are not always easily comparable. That’s why it’s so important to get the GA4 configuration as soon as possible – so that you have a more valuable point of comparison when the switchover is applied in July 2023.

Also, some of what is presented is guesswork, though it is powered by advanced machine learning models that fill in the gaps in your data. Some may have concerns about this reliance on technology rather than the recorded data itself.

Should I do something now?

Yes. Affirmative. Definitively. In fact, stop reading this and start immediately! If you haven’t yet set up a GA4 property for your website, do so today even if you don’t plan to fully utilize GA4 until 2023. Why? For two reasons;

  • You will collect valuable historical data, which will give you a future point of comparison.
  • You’ll strengthen machine learning models by working behind the scenes, making future analysis more meaningful.

Don’t panic though. Setting up a GA4 property does not mean that you lose access to your Universal Analytics property and all the data you have collected so far. You can continue to use Universal Analytics in parallel until the switchover in July 2023.

What will happen in July 2023?

We’ll all raise our glass to Universal Analytics, before Google stops processing new calls from July 1, 2023. After the move to GA4, your Universal Analytics property will stop logging data, but will remain accessible for “at least six months,” according to Google. The smart move would be to export all of your Universal Analytics data in July 2023 to keep a copy of everything you’ve learned over the years. Set a reminder now!

The only exception to the above is for Google Analytics 360 users. You will have until October 1, 2023 to collect and analyze Universal Analytics data. Lucky things.

And after?

It’s absolutely essential to invest time and effort into an optimal analytics setup today, to ensure you have the data you’ll need to make better marketing decisions tomorrow.

Google has provided guidance on configuring GA4 in its support documentation. Of course, this is universal advice for everyone, rather than specifically for hospitality or travel businesses. But now is the time to start.

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