Google Analytics 4 Guide for Tourism Businesses
Over the last few months, you may have seen this carefully crafted email subject line pop up in your inboxes: “We will begin to sunset Universal Analytics in 2023”.
The relaxed wording has done a great job at not instilling panic into business owners, but at the same time it has generated quite a few questions as to whether action is necessary at all.
This article will answer your biggest questions and give you more understanding and a clear path to follow about all things related to sunsetting Analytics accounts.
Ready to get started?
I recommend reading through the whole blog to get the best overview of what is about to happen to your Google Analytics account, but you can also head straight to the answer to any of the questions in this list by clicking on it.
What does the Universal Analytics change to Google Analytics 4 actually mean?
Universal Analytics (UA) has been the default platform for digital analytics measurement in Google Analytics for some time. Hotel owners, just like all business owners, have used it to work out how well their websites are functioning and what site visitors are doing during the time they spend on your site.
At the beginning of 2022, Google announced that Universal Analytics will be definitively replaced by Google Analytics 4 on July 1, 2023.
This means that Universal Analytics will no longer track any traffic that comes to your website after that date and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will become the new standard for measuring traffic and engagement on websites and apps.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 is not a simple update or upgrade of Universal Analytics. It is a whole new platform, the next evolution if you like, that will change how we all collect and analyse our website data.
One of the main differences is that GA4 will collect data for apps, but even if you don’t have a proprietary app, GA4 is designed to provide smarter insights to help you work out how users interact with your website.
Smarter insights sounds great, right? After all, who hasn’t spent time wondering which of the dozens of reports available on UA you should really be paying attention to?
Why has Google made this change?
In 2018 the acronym GDPR poked its way into our marketing worlds. The standards set out in this European roll out of data privacy and security laws led to Google Analytics being considered illegal in France. ¹
As other countries began to roll out their own data privacy laws, Google needed to evaluate and make changes to how it collects, stores, and moves data around.
As a result, GA4 is Google’s response to this changing, cookie-free world. Google has even gone so far as to say that GA4 has been “built for privacy”. ²
It will use an event-based data model for measurement and will enable business owners to capture that all-important first-party data.
Do I need to switch over to GA4 right now?
This is a big question! The short answer is “No, you don’t have to drop what you are doing and switch over right this very minute”; but the correct answer is “Yes, you will have to manually push some buttons to make the switch over to GA4 before July 1, 2023”.
The important bit of information missing from Google’s calm “we are sunsetting Google Analytics” emails is that you can create a GA4 account now, and not do anything with it. You can continue to use Universal Analytics, but once you have created your new GA4 account, Google can (and will) start collating data about your property and feeding it into the new reporting set up over there too.
It is important to know that any data collected and stored in Universal Analytics will not migrate over while doing a happy dance to your new GA4 account. That is why you must create the new one at some point between now and July 1, 2023.
In a nutshell, if you want a year’s worth of historical data to review and evaluate in GA4, you should make the change now.
Another benefit of doing this sooner rather than later is that you will be strengthening the machine learning models that are collecting information behind the scenes. This will make future analysis more accurate and meaningful.
What happens if I don’t create a new Google Analytics 4 account?
This is a good question. Google say that at some point, Universal Analytics will be completely withdrawn. So, if you have not created a GA4 account that has been simultaneously collecting data about your hotel, you will lose access to UA and any historical data that was stored there. Now, I think we can safely assume that you would be able to create a GA4 account at any time in the future, but why wait until the very last moment when there are quite some unknowns about exactly how and when Universal Analytics will be laid to rest.
The only solid time scale we have is this:
On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits.
Until July 1, 2023, you can continue to use and collect new data in your UA account.
After July 1, 2023, you will be able to access all previously processed data for at least six months. Google recommends that you export any historical reports during this time.
Google also say that “over the coming months”, a future date for will be defined and shared from when existing UA properties will no longer be available. ³
I think I might already have a Google Analytics 4 account. How can I check?
This is all down to when you created the account.
If your created it before October 14, 2020, you probably have a Universal Analytics account.
If you created it after October 14, 2020, you probably created a Google Analytics 4 account.
You can easily check this by looking at the Property ID in your existing Google Analytics account.
Universal Analytics property IDs start with UA and end with a number, i.e., UA-XXXXXXXXX-1.
Google Analytics 4 property IDs have only numbers, i.e., (XXXXXXXXX).
After I set up my new GA4 account, do I need to do anything with it?
In the unlikely event that you find yourself with nothing to do and time to pore over the inner workings of GA4, then no, there is nothing pressing you need to do as soon as you make the change.
Many hotel owners and marketers will continue to use Universal Analytics as their primary measurement standard over the coming months. However, since we know that UA will not be available at some point after July 1, 2023, it does make sense to factor in some time to learn more about where important KPI information can be found inside your GA4 account.
What is the difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4?
Answering this question in detail is the job of a whole separate blog post, but in short, Universal Analytics focused on session data, while Google Analytics 4 will focus on Site Users and the Events (or Actions) they complete on your site. It will capture the entire site visitor lifecycle, rather than focusing on the pages they visit as standalone points along the way.
GA4 includes something called “enhanced measurement”. This means that Events (or Actions) will be tracked automatically. An example of these Events are page views, scrolling, outbound link clicks, and the downloading of files and published documents.
One job you can be doing while UA continues to function for your business, is to learn how to add new Events for GA4 to track that can have an impact on your marketing decisions and focus for your hotel. An example is setting up Events that track engagement with specific CTAs that move your potential guest along their purchasing journey.
What is the main benefit for GA4 for my hotel?
The fact that GA4 incorporates this new events-based approach means that it will becomes easier to learn more about your target audience’s actions which can help focus your marketing time and spend on those who bring in the most revenue for your business.
Essentially, if you have a better overview of the demand for a certain room type online, you will be able to make more informed decisions about room rate increases allowing you to improve your bottom line.
This events-based approach should also allow you more informed insights into cross-platform performance. An example of this is the enhanced data that will be provided when a guest browses your website from a mobile device, but then books on desktop.
GA4 also offer a more streamlined reports menu. Summarised data will help you to identify trends and tendencies, and the mind-boggling and repetitive data tables will be replaced by scorecards and more straightforward overviews.
An easier integration with Google Ads is also a feature of GA4. Of course, this is to encourage you to increase your ads spend, but it is also in line with the drive towards personalising the information that is dealt to a website visitor based on the interactions they have with your site.
Two examples of how this could work towards increasing conversions:
1. A site user spends time on your family room page, a pre-created Event in GA4 could add them to a family-related audience inside your Google Ad campaigns. This means that if they didn’t complete their booking during their first visit, you can then serve them tailored family related ads over the next few days or weeks.
2. If a site user gets to the end of your “Book a Room” Event created in GA4, you can remove them from the retargeting audience in your Google Ads campaigns, meaning they will not continue to see your ads to sell your rooms. Back to FAQs list
How do I set up my Google Analytics 4 account?
The best way to do this is to follow these screenshots.
Start from the link in the last email you received with the subject line: “We will begin to sunset Universal Analytics in 2023”:
Clicking on the blue button in the email will take you straight to your existing Universal Analytics account. Check you are in the correct account (orange circles), and then click on the blue "Get Started" button. You can also head straight into the GA4 Setup Assistant from the menu on the left hand side (see purple star). However, I found that creating a new account was simplified by going in via the Get Started button :)
Clicking on the "Get Started" button opens up the following pop-up where all you need to do it click on "Create Property".
Google Analytics will then (rather satisfactorily) tell you that you have successfully connected your properties :) Your new GA4 Property ID will be registered on the page (smaller orange circle), and you can head over into your new GA4 property via the blue button.
Once you have clicked on the "Go to your GA4 property button", you can see that the Property ID has changed to the new GA4 number, and you are then offered a virtual tour around the new platform. You can do this at leisure or close the pop-up box and leave it until later.
As you can see here, your new GA4 property connection has been completed and you can click on the "Open connected property" at any time to continue to access your Universal Analytics account.
So, that’s that for now! Great job!
More information will follow in a subsequent blog about where to find the more relevant and useful reports, KPIs, and general website “health checks” in GA4. Meanwhile, carve out the time and get that GA4 account set up soon, if for no other reason than to guarantee you don’t forget about it between now and July 1, 2023. It might seem a super long time away, but your website activity is such a major driver of your marketing focus so getting this job done will avoid any potential data gaps that would inevitably affect your marketing decisions.
If you want to get clued up about how to make Google work for your hotel, find out more here about my most popular Hotel Marketing coaching programme. Included in the programme is the full version of my Google Made Easy for Hotels eBook that gets you clued up about what Google wants and needs from you to start ranking your hotel higher and rewarding you for having such a streamlined and intuitive website.