Almost Timely News, July 10, 2022: Real Talk About Google Analytics 4, Content Marketing Trends

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Almost Timely News, 10-July-2022: Real Talk About Google Analytics 4, Content Marketing Trends (7/10) :: View in Browser

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Almost Timely News, 10-July-2022: Real Talk About Google Analytics 4, Content Marketing Trends

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What’s On My Mind: Real Talk About Google Analytics 4

A quick followup from last week’s newsletter, Mai wrote back with a suggestion for marketers who want to donate their time to causes – Catchafire. It looks very interesting – you look for non-profits who need specific skills (like marketing, analytics, etc.) and then apply for either consultations or projects. I haven’t personally used it yet, but I’m going to give it a try.

Now, onto this week’s main item: some brutally honest real talk about Google Analytics.

First, so we’re clear, Google Analytics 3/Universal Analytics will stop working on July 1, 2023. That’s less than a year away. If you haven’t already installed it and configured it, you will be missing data for year-over-year comparison – 10 days worth, as of the day I send out this newsletter.

Crass, commercial plug: my company, Trust Insights, helps with these migrations.

Now, here’s the real talk: it might be better for you to abandon Google Analytics entirely.

(boy, that sure is awkward after pimping a service for migration, huh)

I don’t say this lightly. I’ve been an ardent fan of Google Analytics since 2005, when Google first acquired it by buying Urchin, the company that made the original version. I’ve promoted it relentlessly for the last 17 years. I sell a course about it. It’s as old as one of my children. It’s safe to say I’m fairly invested in it and the Google Marketing Platform.

So why would I even suggest this, this heresy? Because what Google Analytics has become is not for everyone now. The product up until now has been appropriate for almost every company from the mom and pop coffee shop to the Fortune 10. I run a Google Analytics instance for my martial arts teacher, a little sole proprietor. I run a Google Analytics instance for one of the most well-known brands in America, AAA. The tool as it was flexed nicely to serve both needs.

But Google Analytics 4 is a different beast entirely. Instead of one Swiss army knife that sort of does a lot of things okay, it’s evolved to be a powerful analytics point solution, and it’s a true analytics tool. It’s a business intelligence tool. It’s very, very powerful.

And that’s not what most people use it for. Most people use Google Analytics as a reporting tool, and Google has moved that functionality largely into Google Data Studio which is a very capable tool, but it doesn’t have anything out of the box that you can just use as easily as the built-in reports in Google Analytics 3. And a LOT of people have become accustomed to those reports, for good or ill.

Google Analytics has evolved from a little pocketknife into a beautiful sword… but along the way lost its saw, can opener, mini-scissors, tweezers, and all the little utilities people have used it for in the last 17 years. And the learning curve for Google Analytics 4 has literally tripled, because to maximize its capabilities, you need to be fluent in the new interface, plus Google Data Studio, plus Google Tag Manager.

Which means it’s still a fine match for the large brands, the large enterprise, and those smaller companies with marketing technologists who are savvy and adaptable to what is effectively an entirely new piece of software.

It’s no longer a fine match for my martial arts teacher. For the mom and pop coffee shop. For the understaffed marketing team. For the non-technical marketer. It’s now a poor fit. Can you learn it? Yes, of course. I wouldn’t be selling a course about it if it were unlearnable. But do you have the time, the resources, and the aptitude to learn an entirely new way of doing things?

It didn’t have to be this way. I really don’t love the change management Google has – or rather, has not done with Google Analytics 4. Not having an option to import your previous data was a gigantic miss. Not having an interface that at least preserved the features people were used to was an even bigger miss. I understand and wholly agree with their choices to modernize the infrastructure and the underlying object model, but in terms of making a change smooth and seamless… this wasn’t it. This is pretty much how not to do it, and I suspect it will cost Google Analytics a fair bit of market share, which will make the analytics landscape even more complicated.

So, what are your options? Learn GA 4, yes – especially if you’re going to be in the job market, because for good or ill a lot of companies will simply adopt GA 4, even if they set it up horribly. There will be quite a cottage industry for the next two years in fixing other people’s horrendous implementations. Crass plug again, we do that, too. But also give yourself some amnesty if learning it is hard, because it’s not an upgrade. It’s a totally different product. It’s like trading in your 2022 car and suddenly your dealership has given you an airplane. Don’t beat yourself up because you don’t get the new version right away.

For a company? Take a strong look at other options if Google Analytics 4 simply isn’t a good fit for you any more because you’re going to have to learn a new system and start over anyway, so take the opportunity to find the best fit for you. The one I recommend most is Matomo, the open-source product. There’s a version you can install on your own servers. If you run WordPress, there’s even a version that’s a seamless WordPress plugin that requires almost no technical skill to install. And as a bonus, it can import all your old Google Analytics data. Because it’s open-source, if you install it on your own hardware/virtual servers, you have total control over your data, over how often you update it, and it’s always, always yours in perpetuity. No one will ever be able to take it away from you.

Function-wise, it’s where Google Analytics 3 was about 3-4 years ago. It doesn’t have any of the fancy machine-learning features like multi-touch attribution built in. But if you need something that’s straightforward, that behaves a lot like today’s Google Analytics, that works in highly-regulated industries, and that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, give it a hard look.

I’m running Matomo alongside Google Analytics 4. For me, as a very, very technical marketer, it’s not as sufficient as I’d like it to be. Google Analytics 4 is a better fit for me as a highly technical marketer. But if my martial arts teacher or another small business or resource-strapped team came to me today and asked what they should use, I would say they should install Matomo as their system of record and have Google Analytics 4 as the backup, not the other way around.

Anyway, if you want to talk about this, hop on over to the free Slack group I help run, Analytics for Marketers. Bring your own beverage.

Share With a Friend or Colleague

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

Besides the new Google Analytics course I’m relentlessly promoting (sorry not sorry), I would recommend the episode I did on content marketing trends and which ones to pay attention to.

Skill Up With Classes

These are just a few of the classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.



Get Back to Work!

Folks who post jobs in the free Analytics for Marketers Slack community may have those jobs shared here, too. If you’re looking for work, check out these five most recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.

Advertisement: Google Analytics 4 for Marketers

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  • You’ll learn how marketers specifically should use Google Analytics 4, including the new Explore Hub with real world applications and use cases
  • You’ll learn how to determine if a migration was done correctly, and especially what things are likely to go wrong
  • You’ll even learn how to hire (or be hired) for Google Analytics 4 talent specifically, not just general Google Analytics
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With more than 5 hours of content across 17 lessons, plus templates, spreadsheets, transcripts, and certificates of completion, you’ll master Google Analytics 4 in ways no other course can teach you.

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What I’m Reading: Your Stuff

Let’s look at the most interesting content from around the web on topics you care about, some of which you might have even written.

Social Media Marketing

Media and Content

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

Advertisement: Ukraine Humanitarian Fund

If you’d like to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has set up a special portal, United24, to help make contributing easy.

Donate today to the Ukraine Humanitarian Relief Fund »

Tools, Machine Learning, and AI

Analytics, Stats, and Data Science

All Things IBM

Advertisement: Google Search Console for Marketers

Of the many tools in the Google Marketing Platform, none is more overlooked than Google Search Console. Marketers assume it’s just for SEO, but the information contained within benefits search, social media, public relations, advertising, and so much more. In my new Google Search Console for Marketers course, you’ll learn what Google Search Console is, why it matters to all marketers, and then dig deep into each of the features of the platform.

When you’re done, you’ll have working knowledge of the entire platform and what it can do – and you’ll be ready to start making the most of this valuable marketing tool.

Click/tap here to register »

Events I’ll Be At

Here’s where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:

  • MAICON, August 2022, Cleveland, OH – use code PENN150 for $150 off any conference ticket
  • Content Marketing World, September 2022, Cleveland, OH
  • MarketingProfs B2B Forum, October 2022, Boston
  • Heapcon, November 2022, Belgrade, Serbia

Events marked with a physical location may become virtual if conditions and safety warrant it.

If you’re an event organizer, let me help your event shine. Visit my speaking page for more details.

Can’t be at an event? Stop by my private Slack group instead, Analytics for Marketers.

How to Stay in Touch

Let’s make sure we’re connected in the places it suits you best. Here’s where you can find different content:

Required Disclosures

Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.

Thank You!

Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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