Rest in peace Universal Analytics
Keep an important date in your diary. As of July 1st, 2023, the Google Analytics you’ve grown accustomed to over the last ten years will be no more. I know – on its tenth anniversary as well! That’s the official date that Universal Analytics properties will stop processing data. This data signals the start of a new era under Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
You’ll still be able to see old Analytics reports for at least six months afterwards, but only new data will flow into GA4 properties from that date on.
What do you need to know about GA4?
The biggest changes to take note of are the layouts of dashboards and changes in metrics and terminology. This is ultimately driven by a change in analytics methodology, which is a shift from session-based hit types like page hits, events hits etc to ‘event-based’.
Simply put, all hits like ‘page-view’ are now events. If you want to get into the technical details, Google’s official documentation is here.
Where have all my metrics gone! What does this mean for content marketers?
One of the big things for content marketers, who love analysing content performance to get used to is the metrics. Nearly all the metrics we’ve been using for the last 10 years are going or have been replaced.
Try not to scream. It’s going to be just fine.
It’s a good thing. Really.
Here’s why – most of the metrics we used were flawed in one way or another. That’s because Google Analytics was never built to measure content. Look at it like this:
- Time on page – this was always subject to users who multi-tab, leaving tabs open for a full maximum session duration. A good guide on engagement but not accurate.
- Bounce rate – This was always misleading. For example, high can be good! Someone who visits once, reads a whole article and solves a problem might leave once they’re done. And they’ve only visited one page. This contributes to a high bounce rate as that person didn’t trigger a secondary action on your website. In short, a bad metric for content.
- Unique page views – A massive skew on what matters, which is engagement. This is not, and never has been, a good indicator on how many people start to read your content. People browse, click, and go all over the place.
Historically, this has been a big problem for content marketers. This data, while an interesting proxy to content performance, isn’t fit to help you measure or improve content.
There are no clear answers from the data. I mean, who’s making better content based on a dwell time or a bounce rate? You’d just be guessing. And that doesn’t feel like a solid foundation for creating great content.
GA was never built to measure content. It’s time to embrace change. So long, old friend.
Out with the old – in with the new. How to measure content using GA4.
The metrics that matter
Users – This is a key metric to establish ‘unique readers’ of your content. Universal Analytics used to focus on ‘total users’, whereas GA4 is focused on ‘active users’ – users who are currently engaged.
You will see a margin of error when comparing reports, mainly as GA4 at this point does not support filters. You can find more in this Google guide.
Average engagement time – Out with dwell time, in with user engagement. This, in essence, measures how long you’re ‘active’. That means all the time you are scrolling, moving your mouse etc.
Even if these are lower than your existing ‘session duration’ times, don’t fret. Most people are multi-tabbing. Switching in and out of your content among other things. Bear that in mind.
Engagement rate – This is the one that’s closest to replacing ‘bounce rate’. Engagement rate is the number of engaged sessions divided by the total number of sessions.
An engaged session could be it one that lasts longer than 10 seconds, had a conversion event, or had two pageviews. The lower the engagement rate, the less your audience is enjoying that content.
Unique user scrolls – If ever I was to have a favourite metric (I know – I’m great at parties), this would be it. For years, content marketers set up custom-scrolling scripts in Universal Analytics. You don’t need to do that anymore!
In GA4, scroll depth is automatically calculated at 90% depth (you will need to turn on enhanced measurement in GA4: Admin> Data Streams> Select website/stream> Turn on enhanced measurement)
In essence, this means someone has scrolled to the bottom of your content. They are most likely to have read the full article. This is a key metric when you compare it with users to determine how many people started and finished your content.
Conversions – Formerly known as ‘goals’, conversions work much the same. This is where you can start attributing content to business outcomes. In GA4, you’ll need to set these up yourself, as the pre-defined metrics are very app centric.
We’d recommend you set up goals that relate to events that really matter. We’re talking form-fills, chatbot engagement or key CTAs to your platform sign-up page (if you’re SaaS of course). Linking content to impact has never been easier.
Combining GA4 and Rockee Insight data
Here’s the fun bit (ok, we’re biased). Now it’s time to understand the ‘why’ behind the analytics, when measuring content performance. Once you’ve set Rockee up on your website (read our how-to guides here), you’ll see people leaving ratings and feedback in your Rockee dashboard.
The unique logic-based questions Rockee uses will quickly allow you to understand user sentiment towards your content. Have you helped solve a problem, was something missing, what could you do better? In short, it’ll help you make sense of the numbers with feedback from the people who matter most – your audience.
Improved content optimisation
With GA4 and Rockee, you’ve now got all the tools and insights you need to improve your content.
Where to start?
Which assets get the biggest audience? Your big SEO winners are your priorities. Getting under the skin of how that content performs can unlock bigger lead driving opportunities. Combine the high volume unique user page visits from GA4 and Rockee feedback scores to understand how you can improve the content on these pages. Pro tip: Use the Rockee audience identifier questions to measure whether high performing keywords are bringing in relevant target audience traffic.
Which content gets the lowest rating and what does the feedback say? This is where users aren’t getting what they need from your content. Too much detail? Not enough detail? Hard to understand? Too simplistic? These are the kind of things your audience can tell you. All you need to do is listen, learn and iterate to improve your content quickly. As we say, the only bad feedback is no feedback.
High performing content
On the flipside, where are people getting what they need from your content – enjoying it even? You’ve got high engagement rates, lots of unique user scrolls and great Rockee ratings – there’s something going down with this content! Look at the feedback and use it to repeat what you’re doing well in other pieces.
More than helpful content
The GA4 update will take some getting used to. But crucially, we’re moving to more meaningful metrics and data to help us understand what effective content looks like. This is vital as Google is placing ever more emphasis on ‘good’ content – as well know from the Helpful Content Update.
So, before we start thinking about creating more content, let’s focus on making better content.
Be on the side of quality, not just quantity.