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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser interviewed Darren Rogers, the founder and CEO of SEO Rocket. Darren shares his useful insights on the benefits of moving to Google Analytics 4 and also discusses several tips and tricks for website owners to move safely from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. Watch the episode now for some valuable insights.
We’re in a mobile-first world, and Google’s all in on that. The older versions of analytics were from an era of desktop and cookie tracking, which way precedes the concerns about privacy.
Oh, very detailed. I took a lot of pride in understanding the subject matter. I would say I have a natural sense of curiosity. You know, my interests go in a lot of different directions. I find something I’m interested in and then I dive into it. I’m pretty tenacious about it. I will get into the details.
Well, I would say History, I have always been interested in that. As far as subject matter goes, that probably was my favorite.
You went exactly where I was going to start because it didn’t exist. So, I had no idea there would be such an opportunity. And I just fortunately migrated step by step into a position where I had an opportunity early on before you knew anything about the Internet. Doors would open for you. But the challenge was you had to have the initiative to be self-taught. So, you had to dig into forums and books that were available and technology, teach yourself a lot of things, but be willing to ask a lot of questions and experiment and then teach other people.
Well, I think it started with a genuine interest in seeing that technology was a great career choice to get into. I knew a little bit about programming and took some courses in that. I had some friends that were sort of into technical, nerdy stuff that I was buddies with and I glommed onto it, got fascinated with the internet, and saw that there were some opportunities. Started saying, hey, I think I’ll teach myself how to build websites. This was back when we were head handling things by editors, and learning how to work with servers, all of which greatly helped set a foundation for promoting sites and things like that. So, I got an opportunity with a startup agency to become one of their first employees for building websites for their clients and things. And then they came to me early on and said, hey, we’ve heard about this thing called SEO, that a lot of you were interested in. Why don’t you look into it and see what it’s all about? Is there something there? And so, I dug into it. And it was like a door to a whole new world opened for me. Opportunity all over it. So, I got really excited and dove into that subject matter. I had early successes with it, which is very encouraging by applying things I was learning for the clients we were working with, which was exciting for them. So, it was a great Wild West opportunity day. It was really exciting. I was doing this just before Google Inter SEO Arena. So, it was organic and then a little bit after that paid search came along. I don’t know if anyone remembers Inktomi, an overture.
Getting into that stuff, you know. But anyway, that sort of is how I started and migrated into this. And helped create a department at the agency. And then from there started SEO Rocket afterwards and said, hey, I can help a lot of people with this stuff that I’m doing and it was exciting and show other people. I had a great talent pool of folks to bring aboard. So, it’s been a great experience. It’s been a great career, and I’m just fortunate to have an opportunity to be here with you and share some things.
Okay. Well. I think that it was necessary. I think GA4 represents Google’s need to modernize analytics and address privacy-driven changes to industry standards. Those universal analytics, which commonly I refer to it sometimes as UA or GA three a lot. Yeah, they just can’t keep up with it. For example, you’re looking at things such as the general data protection regulations, the GDPR in Europe, and then the EPA from California. You know, we’re in an era where there’s an ever-increasing concern about privacy. And so, data collection practices that used to be okay are now considered unethical, in some cases illegal. But I get skeptical. To be fair, we were a bit skeptical when we first looked at GA4 back when it was first announced. An impression of it is, what is this? You know this is something different. It seemed rather strange to us and honestly looked incomplete when you’re used to GA3. So, moving to GA4 makes me rushed to some people since it’s still in beta and it’s under rapid development, and I think those folks are correct to recognize it may be a little too early for them to migrate away from GA3 right now completely.
I think for most people, that would be all right. I think, you know, they’re developing things that are a really torrid pace, and there’s a lot that comes out. For most used cases and most of our clients. I think the capabilities are already there to do what needs to be done. Now, the challenge is that it’s still changing, and it’s under development. So, in all honesty, when we did initial installations for clients a few years ago, we have to go back and revisit them because there were new configurations that have come out since then that we’re like, okay, now we have to go revisit and make sure we dotted all the I’s and cross all the T’s. But I think when you look at all the advantages and things that it offers, I mean, there’s just a lot more upside.
Well, let’s see.
I think it’s a new approach. Basically, I would list them out in order. First of all, it’s customer centric in its measurement. So, you’re measuring what your users are doing across devices, and I think that was something that’s needed in this era. You have great things like customer lifecycle reporting and much more control over data. Data controls are like, of course, back to privacy, automatically baked in or IP anonymization. If needed, you can disable things at Google Signals, that’s going to be an issue. You have more control over what data you’re collecting, and you can even delete data if you need to. I think a lot of people are excited that you can free export data into BigQuery now instead of having to be like an enterprise GA 360. That was quite expensive. I think having that opportunity is exciting for a lot of people. I think they’ve made setting up events and conversion tracking easier. That’s a big deal.
And they’ve simplified many things, subdomain and cross-domain tracking.
And even the number of accounts we’ve come into investigating their analytics and they weren’t tracking across domains or you know and things like that, and we’re like, wait a minute, your historical data is all screwy. So, now that subdomain tracking is already in place and they’ve made cross-domain tracking easy.
It’s greatly simplified if you use Tag Manager because they have a configuration tag template ready for you to go with. So, I think you would be smart to use a tag manager. For instance, configuring installation and configuring events and things like that.
Yeah. I think it’s easier and there are a lot of other cool things that we didn’t touch on, you know, the machine learning capabilities that come with.
Well, I mean, you get to tap into Google’s AI to look for patterns in your data, and it can help you in predictive modeling and things like that.
No, It’s just more blended with data gap-filling capabilities and things like that. So, I think it’s improved, and everything is possible
We’re in a mobile-first world and, and Google’s all in on that. And I think this is one of the things that this reflects. I think older versions of analytics were from an era of desktop and cookie tracking, which is way precedes, you know. Concerns about privacy and things. I think it was just like I said, a Wild West and people crossed the line with that. And there’s been pushback. Hence, we have this legislation and things. I think this is a response to those needs.
I would just say, it depends on how you’re doing your tracking and things like that. But yes, I think if you have log-ins and things, you have user IDs, you have things like that the whole transition, as I see it with G4, is that it’s meant to help you track your users across different platforms and interactions and things like that. So, they’ve made all of that involve much better.
Right. The session-based tracking would change on different things. Yeah. So now it’s more of an event model. It’s, like I said, customer-centric, the user. Google is tracking all that. You know you get a number and basically, they can track it to you as opposed to things about session address. So, Have you had any experience in regards to integrating that with a CRM so that you can get even further?
I’m sure that’s coming. I’ve got clients that have expressed interest in that. But, for most of ours, not yet.
That’s phenomenal. Even going on my wish list.
With clients that have had CRM systems that have operated in one silo and then analytics and then analytics in another.
And you know, how do we bridge these worlds and now again come back to big query is a possible solution for that.
Well, I think we have to reassure people, too, that we don’t have access to their personally identifiable information. And I think that’s where most people feel like privacy concerns cross the line or it’s going to be shared or used with other parties that they’re not comfortable with, you know, that they didn’t authorize. I mean, that’s the crux of that concern, I think.
Well, you know, you look at what California has done, and I think that’s an example here in the states where we can’t just say, if you’re not dealing with international marketing, you don’t have to worry about it. I think unless models like this are adopted, and people pay attention to them, there’s going to be a lot of pressure for legislation to address it and force marketers to take these kinds of actions. In this way, Google is sort of taking the lead in offering a solution to marketers heading toward this cookie-less, more privacy-centric world. And I think that’s why G-force time is necessary. So, this hearkens back to what you had asked earlier. Are they moving too quickly? And it’s like, I would say, no. I’m saying, well, no, I wouldn’t say that either because I think that’s the challenge. It’s a little bit of giving us a chance to get used to it, but if you’re GA3, it’s just not going to keep up, it can’t protect people like that. So, they’re forcing us to get away from that. So, I understand where they’re coming from with the deadline.
Several options are available to people who want to save their historical data. You do want to consider backing up your historical data, and that is what I would recommend. A search engine journal published a nice article titled Getting Ready for GA4 Saving Your Historical Data, which walks through the currently available options for how to go about it so you can decide which one makes the most sense for you and your situation. And it includes tips on how to visualize that data with data studio. But I think one of the things they point out that’s important to remember is this data is a completely different data model. So, you’re not going to be able to migrate that to GA4 for now. And when you’re trying to compare the two, that’s going to be like comparing apples to oranges.
Yeah. It’s not going to match.
I wanted to add to that and say, install GA4 Asap. So, you have this data, and you’re starting to feed the AI information. Right now, even if you think you will not use GA4. I think people would do well to install it and have that data because they may find their other option to be a bust. So, it’s better to have the data and not need it than wish you had. So, start collecting that data.
Well, the first thing, of course, is installing GA4 to start tracking things in parallel. And back up your data and I think let’s see what the best way to fire that script still with Google Tag Manager is.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m a big fan of tag managers, and I think you also want to have a migration plan ready for procedures. If I were to take on a new client right now, I would want to start with auditing their GA3. I want to look at their events, goals, funnels, filters, customization, ecommerce setup, and everything else. So mapping out what they’ve had. But I would then have a conversation with stakeholders. This is a great opportunity to do some spring cleaning and find out what reports they need because GA4 may not offer you the reports you’re used to, the earlier versions of analytics. Prioritize what information is helping drive the business. Nice to know information that could be added later on. So, look at mapping your events. You know what events were being tracked in GA3 and what goals you were tracking so you can decide what you need to set up for conversion events, check things like filters, and things like that. I think a plan should include these things and more. I’m a big fan of having a development environment and testing things out. So, ensure you’re careful to exclude that data, which will not get into your production data and things like that and debug. While you’re making changes.
Well, right now, you can have multiple properties, data streams and things like that.
No. I don’t think so. You may set up different properties or something like that and treat it like that, but I just want to have an aside, somebody that’s supposedly in the know officially with Google, they’d hinted that views could be coming back, but I don’t know if that’s needed. I’m just putting that out there, a rumor. Yeah, there’s been nothing since said about it. So, take that with a grain of salt. Believe it when you see it, but I don’t know that you really will need to have views. You can have different properties and things like that.
Well. I would be skeptical. I mean, my personal view on it. I’m not familiar with the other analytics tools you’re talking about. So, I can’t say what they bring to the table that analytics couldn’t do for you through some combination of things. So, I would never advise somebody who didn’t specifically do something. But they couldn’t achieve what they already had with something free like analytics 4. I know there’s been a lot of tests, but I think data-driven did great work, kind of going off on a tangent here a little bit, the data-driven. You did a great article comparing different analytics tools. I think they compared 40 different analytics tools. They had a great article and even a video of that. And they looked at hosted solutions. And when it comes to free and low-cost. Frankly, giving you a spoiler alert, Jeff Sauer.
Oh, cool. I’ve learned a lot from him. Following him, Chris Deciden and others is a great way to keep current. But to keep me back on track a little bit. I think that analytics is ultimately still the gold standard.
Yes, they did a deep dive. They compared. I think I’m right. It is like 42 different.
Yeah. Go check it out, it’s on Data-Driven U. They wrote an article about it.
Yes, let me check. I made some notes because I did want to point that out. Because I know there have been people who are like, oh, I’ll just go to another analytic solution if I’ve got one. But my view on it is even if you do, save your data. You know, you put people in place and get that data. Yeah, I have it. Just give me a moment. I’ll locate it for you.
Yes. Here it is, let’s see. Well, you know what? You may just have to go to data-driven U and in search for it.
Yeah, they’re an impressive operation.
So, for user behavior, you know, they have a lot of reports and capabilities that help you. Look at the event, they are event-driven. But I would probably start in the user acquisition report, looking at things like engagement sessions, engagement sessions per user, average engagement time, all that stuff. That speaks to that conversion’s revenue. But you also have an engagement overview report which gives you stats on retention data. Like you will find that in user activity over time snapshot or the stickiness snapshot and tons of stuff.
Yeah. I think when you look at engagement, that’s more useful than looking at bounce rate and you know what? Spoiler alert on this, too. Rumor is that it could be coming back.
Exactly. Exactly. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had that exact conversation with clients who hear about bounce rates.
Right, right. Yeah, we would have that.
Yeah, it doesn’t particularly give you insights. I mean, I get it. You people want to see that you’re engaging with the content. But like you said, accomplishing their goal if they’re just coming there to figure out how to contact you and get that information. Then that was a successful accomplishment. That’s why this event tracking engagement information. That’s why I think it is a necessary transition to GA4 looking at things that are more focused on what’s happening with the user and what they’re accomplishing.
Oh, that’s an interesting question.
Well, they developed so quickly. Who knows, they may have put it in place while we were having this interview. I would say I was curious about things like page speed and things like that. But that was a bit of an iffy thing to look at analytics to provide as far as accuracy is concerned. You know, speed reports and things like that. So, you know, but that was kind of a bells and whistles thing. I don’t think that it’s missing. I think the core stuff that I care about is there, and they’ve added so much new cool stuff, like you value data and stuff, that I mean, it’s a net win.
Yeah. There are a lot of resources in it because it feeds their ads and things like that.
Right. Well, I would say that that’s a great point that you brought up there. I think if you’re using any of Google’s advertising products, you pretty much need to stay with Google Analytics.
I agree. I’ve probably had similar thoughts in the past too because that’s one of the first things. When we’re taking on a client or working on something, we look at making sure the measurables are in place. How do you know if anything’s working? If you don’t have those in place and it’s inaccurate. So, absolutely and so usually one of the biggest problems is they’re either not measuring, or we go in and find it’s not the data is not reliable, and then it’s not the starting point.
That happens because sometimes people are like, I just want more traffic. I don’t care what happens next.
Yeah, it’s like, I just want visibility or traffic. It’s like, we really need to think beyond that point. I tend to work from the result back. I’m measuring and ensuring what we’re doing will work before we just start investing in and bringing people in.
But I knew what I was doing was working, and I knew the reason it wasn’t selling any cars was nothing to do with me and everything to do with the sales department. Because they didn’t like bringing the leads.
And to be fair, some people may not realize we can see that information. So, they may just assume if we just bring in enough people, great things will happen. But we can look deeper and be a little more methodical about it. One of the first conversations we always have with someone is what are your business objectives? What do you want this site to do to contribute to growing your business? And then how do we measure that and work the problem backward? And then, like, light bulbs start going off like, oh, I see. There’s a methodology here for this.
Well, thanks. I think many people sometimes look at SEOs about rankings and traffic. Yeah, but that’s only part of the story, I look at it as more holistic to grow the business with it or why invest in it.
Well, thank you, Matt. This has been a lot of fun for me, and I hope that you know everyone had a chance to learn something from this. I would encourage anyone that wants to reach out to me, to go to our site, SEOrocket.com. You can reach me there if you need any help with this stuff. Especially GA4, in particular, can be daunting, but we would love to help people. But I think it’s necessary going into the era we’re in.
Yes, I am. I’ve got social media profiles and things like that. But I just say if you want to reach me, reach out to me for help. You know, the website is the way to go.
Oh, yeah. Everybody’s welcome.
It’s great. I enjoyed it.
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