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Google Analytics 4 For Hotels

In April, Google announced that Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will replace Universal Analytics in July 2023. It wasn’t unexpected, in fact most hoteliers have been waiting for confirmation since the release of GA4 back in 2020. Universal Analytics has been a go-to resource for hotel marketers looking to evaluate their website and digital marketing performance for over a decade, so its retirement is a big deal. What does this change mean? And what do you need to do to prepare? Read on. 

WHAT IS GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4?

Google Analytics 4 (or GA4) is the next evolution of Google’s popular web analytics service, an invaluable tool most, if not all hoteliers use to track website, app and marketing performance. As of July 1st, 2023, Google Analytics 4 will replace the previous iteration of the service, called Universal Analytics (or UA). 

WHY IS GA4 REPLACING UNIVERSAL ANALYTICS

GA4 is being introduced to tackle the growing importance of GDPR and user privacy online and to reduce our reliance on cookie data, filling any potential gaps in data using advanced machine learning (ML). All while making data analysis simpler too. Used effectively it will help hotel marketers to capture business critical first-party data, which is even more valuable now that third-party data is becoming increasingly scarce.

WHAT’S CHANGING IN GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4?

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 just the pages they visit along the way. 

WHAT IS AN EVENT?

Events are essentially any interaction a user has with your hotel website or app such as a page view, scrolling, clicking on an outbound link, downloading a menu, or making a room booking. Some of these Events are common to all websites and will be automatically tracked (via ‘enhanced measurement’) within GA4, but you will want to add more hotel-specific Events to track the full range of a user’s behaviour when navigating around your hotel’s website. For example, booking funnel analysis, engagement with certain Calls to Action (CTAs) etc. 

WHAT OTHER CHANGES WILL I NOTICE?

Some staples that you have become familiar to seeing in Universal Analytics have gone. Bounce Rate, Pages per Session and Average Session Duration have been replaced by Engaged Sessions, Engagement Rate and Average Engagement Time, still measuring user engagement but with slightly different metrics. 

Analysis will now be underpinned by machine learning with Google applying Conversion Modelling to anticipate a guest’s user behaviour ahead of time. This should help to direct our attention on higher value segments within our data, but the value of the output will depend on the input. In short, you must ensure you’re gathering first-party data and using it effectively with GA4.

REPORTING IS CHANGING TOO

The way reporting is organised and displayed is changing too. You’ll see a different layout, centred around the guest lifecycle, with shorter reports and summarised data making it easier to identify key trends. Gone are tables upon tables of difficult to interpret data, replaced by scorecards and simplified overviews.

INTEGRATION WITH GOOGLE ADS

GA4 will offer even greater integration with Google Ads, allowing you to build, maintain and share audiences that can help direct your paid search activity. For example, if a user completes an Event for booking a room, you can remove them from the retargeting audience in Google Ads accordingly. Or perhaps a user views the family room type page on your website, you can add them to a family-related audience on Google Ads and serve them a more personalised advert if they don’t convert first time round. 

SHOULD I DO ANYTHING NOW?

Universal Analytics is to be sunsetted on 1st July, 2023. Universal Analytics properties will no longer process new hits after this date and for Universal Analytics 360, this date is extended to 1st October, 2023. You’ve probably seen the message each time you open your Google Analytics account. Data that has been processed until these dates will be stored for six months but cannot be transferred to your new GA4 account.

If you’ve not already set up a GA4 property for your hotel website, we suggest you do it today even if you don’t plan on fully utilising GA4 until 2023. Year-on-year comparisons are going to be more challenging in 2023 as the data from GA4 and Universal Analytics aren’t always easily comparable. That’s why it’s so important to get GA4 setup as soon as possible – so you have a more valuable point of comparison when the switchover is enforced in July 2023.

Setting up a GA4 property doesn’t mean you lose access to your Universal Analytics property and all the data you’ve gathered so far – you can continue to make use of Universal Analytics in parallel until the switchover in July 2023.

WHAT NEXT?

It’s absolutely critical to invest time and effort in an optimal analytics setup today, to ensure that you have the data you’ll need to make better marketing decisions tomorrow. In fact, it’s an opportunity to carry out a long overdue Google Analytics audit to help you identify where and how you could be improving your data collection, after all for data to be actionable it first needs to be reliable!

Google have provided some guidance on how to setup GA4 within their support documentation. Of course, this is universal advice for everyone, rather than specifically for hospitality businesses. We’re implementing Google Analytics 4 for our hotel clients and have devised a bespoke hotelier-focused approach to capture as much first party data as possible through the advanced implementation of GA4. Contact us to find out more.

On behalf of 80 Days

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