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Episode 30 | March 22, 2023

Get ready
for GA4

Whether you’re ready or not Google’s GA4 is rolling out this July and UA will be sunsetted.

Jill Quick, an analytics consultant, and trainer for The Coloring In Department, joins us as a special guest host to help us get a better grasp of GA4.

Join us as Jill sits down with hosts Crystal Carter and Mordy Oberstein to discuss what SEOs need to know about the new GA4. From how the data in GA4 differs from UA to the mindset GA4 demands - you don’t want to miss this one if you plan on continuing to use Google Analytics past July 2023.

With all the talk of analytics, Crystal, and Mordy will help you explore how much “analytics” are actually useful so that you don’t overwhelm yourself out of the gate.

Listen in to learn the differences between UA and GA4 and more in episode 30 of the SERP’s Up SEO Podcast.

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SERP's Up Podcast: Get ready for GA4 | With Jill Quick

This week’s guest

Jill Quick

Jill Quick is an analytics consultant and trainer and has been working in digital marketing for a very long time. She helps brands get the most out of their measurement strategy through training, reviews, and audits, to troubleshooting and consulting. She works with small startup founders, agencies, and brands you own in your home. She has a knack for creating guided, practical, step-by-step, paint-by-numbers style templates to get you where you need to be, faster.

Transcript

Mordy Oberstein:

It's the new wave of SEO podcasting. Welcome to SERP's Up. Aloha. Mahalo for joining us for SERP's Up podcast. We're pushing out groovy new insights around what's happening in SEO. I'm Mordy Oberstein, the head of SEO branding here at Wix.com, joined by the fantastic, the amazing, the person without any musical references this week, head of SEO communications, Crystal Carter.

Crystal Carter:

How do you dooby-dooby-doo? Mordy.

Mordy Oberstein:

I feel like I’m on Scooby Doo now. Hey Scooby.

Crystal Carter:

This show is not about scatting, it's about Google Analytics. That's what we're going to talk about. But thank you for that lovely introduction there, Mordy.

Mordy Oberstein:

It's my pleasure. And speaking of Google Analytics, the SERP's Up podcast is brought to you by Wix, where you can easily create a connection to GA4 and have your site or even upgrade your site from UA to GA4 with the Google Analytics, Wix marketing integration right there inside of our marketing integrations where you can easily set your site up with Google Analytics, walks you right through the whole process. So isn't that great? Because today we're talking about GA4, which Crystal already said so redundant. Canonical backdoor, Crystal said it before, SEO jokes.

Crystal Carter:

Yeah, so today we're talking about GA4. Why are we talking about GA4, Mordy? Why?

Mordy Oberstein:

Oh, because they're coming for your data, hide your kids. That's right. They're coming for your kids and there is no hiding because the boogeyman is coming for your data. Your UA data. Well, it's not a boogeyman, it's Google, and they're changing your analytics to conform to the new web. So they're moving over from Universal Analytics to GA4. Either way, scare mongering aside, just for a minute, we'll get back to scare mongering later. If you're used to Google Analytics as you know it now, you can kiss it goodbye as GA4 is just around the corner. We have analytics maven and consultant and trainer over at the Coloring in Department, Jill Quick will join us as a guest host to help us make sense of GA4. Thank God someone's going to be here to help us and make sense out of this thing.

Also, crystal and I will take a little bit of a deep dive down the analytics rabbit hole. We have a deep thought moment about how many of those darn analytics data points do you really need? And of course we have the snappiest SEO news for you and who you should be following on social media for more SEO awesomeness. Let's get right to the point, the data point, as episode number 30 of the SERP's Up podcast enters the final analysis, or should I say the final analytics analysis or should I say the final UA analytics analysis? Either way, take it away, Crystal.

Crystal Carter:

Yes. So today we're talking about GA4, Google Analytics for the fourth iteration of Google Analytics. That's what we're talking about. And the reason why we're talking about it is because the end is nine, it's coming. It's coming whether we like it or not, it is coming. And a lot of people have said that they do not like it. However, it has improved since they said that it was coming. So basically if we think about the timeline, they launched the beta for GA4 in 2019. Then in 2020 they announced the official release. Then in 2022, they announced that there was a deprecation date for UA because until that point, everyone had been pretty much with the exception of fine analytics professionals like Jill had been sort of burying their heads in the sand around GA4. And then after that point people started going, "oh my gosh, yeah, maybe we actually should deal with this".

And then deadline for deprecation in June 2022, and then they finally gave us the full deprecation date, which is the 1st of July 2023, which is not that long from right now. If you look at your calendar and if you look up and you haven't done anything with regards to GA4, that is one of the reasons why we are bringing this up because it is time to take your head out of the sand. It is time to step into the light, face the music as it were, and to get involved with GA4. There was a recent email that came around that said that Google was going to migrate it for you if you didn't do it yourself. And this is something that we think that you should probably do that yourself if you can. I'm sure Jill will get into that a little bit more.

But that's why we're talking about it. It's super important. And whether you are really into your analytics or not, the team that runs your marketing is almost certainly relying on quality analytics from UA or from a tool that is using UA backed data. So this is something that you should be thinking about and something that you should definitely make sure that your team is covered by because they also announced that at a certain point, you won't even be able to see or get access to that data. So this is something that you should be thinking about and this is the reason why we have Jill here and we are so grateful for Jill to be here to shed some light. I've seen Jill speak on this topic and I found it incredibly illuminating. So we're pleased to have Jill here.

Mordy Oberstein:

Hi, Jill.

Jill Quick:

Hi. I've never been called a maven before. I kind of like it.

Crystal Carter:

I feel like it suits you.

Mordy Oberstein:

I try to switch things up a little on people in the intros. I try to make it unique, although Crystal's is pretty much the same every week.

Crystal Carter:

He just throws compliments at me, which I'm not mad at.

Mordy Oberstein:

Like Rose is at your feet.

Crystal Carter:

It's fine.

Mordy Oberstein:

But first off, do you hear that sound? That's me slowly taking my head out of the sand, just so you know. I guess I want to know, Jill, just top level, what's the difference between Universal Analytics, the Google Analytics we're all very fond of and used to and GA4?

Jill Quick:

So I am going to use my little analogy of methods of transportation because I know Crystal seen it. Mordy, you've heard it.

Mordy Oberstein:

Yes.

Jill Quick:

Listeners, you might be bored of me talking about this, but here we go. For those of you that are new with it, the way that I like to think of the journey that analytics has been on is that if analytics was a mode of transportation, then the first version that we got, GA1, if we're going to call it, that was Urchin around about 2005. And that was a bike. And I am old enough to remember hit counters and other weird and wonderful things from the very early days of the worldwide web marketing. So we were honestly delighted when we started to get Urchin and it was free and it was really popular. And actually... And we'll come back to this point about servers.

I'm going to put a pin in that thought later. I don't think Google expected it to be as popular as it became and it swelled and we wanted more. And then we had an upgrade with Classic analytics around about 2007, and that was getting rid of the bike and giving you a moped, a scooter. So we had a little bit more with our data. We got a new user interface. And I'm saying this because we have gone through multiple interface changes. We've just forgotten because it was so long ago. Now, Universal Analytics, where Mordy's super comfortable at the moment...

Mordy Oberstein:

Very comfortable.

Jill Quick:

Yeah, this was 2011, 2012, and it is the equivalent of getting rid of the moped and the bike and giving us the keys to our very own universal analytics car. Now, majority of people, we've had this car for over 10 years and you've either been the driver, the passenger, the engineer, I have met people that don't even know where the car is parked or who has the key.

We like the car, we know the car, it's comfortable. And again, it was free and you just kind of started a job. They gave you access and you drove away and got what you needed from it. With the transition to GA4, as Crystal mentioned, we had the very... Not necessarily best name of app and web, and then they rebranded it to GA4 is the fourth version of that analytics platform. And despite Google saying it's an upgrade and it is an upgrade, but it's not an upgrade as in get rid of my crappy old card that could do with a wash and some reupholstering and give me a new one. They're taking away the car, setting it on fire this year, so we can't have it anymore. And they've given us the keys to a helicopter. That is the equivalent shift that we have.

And that's where I think, and I've been in the same bucket when they announced this, it was like, not now Google. It's the pandemic. I'm teaching my kids, we’re going to get the plague not now. Read the room. We don't want to be doing any of this. And there are lots of people that, and I'm sure some people are still in this bucket, they log into GA4 and they're like, what is going on? Where are the things? Because you are used to a car and the steering wheel and the dashboard and you've now got a gear stick and there's toggles that are above your head now, and it's just really not that familiar. And I know that there's a lot of people, as I said, they love the car, they're happy with the car, but with GA4, there are some similarities. Both of them have doors and seat belts and windows, but it is a completely different data model.

And if you're trying to get GA4 to do what GA3 did, you're going to be disappointed. You can't make the helicopter a car. The car can't be a helicopter. They're similar, but they can't interlink with each other. So going into what the data models are, we'll think about this as the engines of these methods of analytics, transportation, the data model of universal analytics was a hit based model that ran on users and hopefully they had multiple sessions and anytime they did anything on that website, a hit was fired, A page view was loaded, PDF downloaded, bought a product, filled out a form, that kind of thing. When it comes to the data model of GA4, because it's an adaptation of Firebase, which was the product for app and web and rebranded to GA4, they have adopted that Firebase model. So they're moving away from this hit based model towards a user and event data model. And events are slightly different to events in GA3. And we can go through that unless there's a talking point on here what those different events are.

Mordy Oberstein:

If you gave me the keys to a helicopter right now, I will tell you exactly what I'll do with the helicopter. I'll crash that thing so hard into a cliff between a hot fiery mess, which is exactly what's happening to me in GA4, not because I don't think I understand... I think I understand what I'm looking at once I find it. I'm just having... On that car, you said, I know where all the buttons are, I feel like I'm in the cockpit. Forget a helicopter, of a 747 and there's all the switches and I don't even know where to go to find the data because GA3 or Universal Analytics, it was to me at least so simple, it's on the left-hand nav.

When you go into the report, you see, okay, I can switch the medium, I can switch this metric, I can add a secondary metric. God, I can compare periods. God, it's all uniform across the board. But I feel like when I go into GA4, at one place that functions this way, at one place it functions that way. In one place that functions like this and it feels like it's a hot mess.

Jill Quick:

I would say that the data story is still pretty similar. So there are four different reporting areas in GA4. One of them is the reports, the standard aggregate. You have that data for as long as you're tracking reports. And in that life cycle you've still got acquisition. How do people find you? Behavior, what did they do? Conversions, monetization, am I still in a job? And on the right-hand side, you've still got the date range. And I would point out with the date range actually, there's the ability to do a comparison between different dates and match the day of the week, which is really useful when you've got certain cyclical cycles that move around and you can still add secondary dimensions.

It's just the layout's different, the buttons are different. I mean Google if you're listening, I love you. I do work in this all the time, but I don't think usability was a big thing and I don't think you've done a great job in communicating how to do it. Selling the helicopter's great. Oh, you can fly around and get loads of stuff and BigQuery and all this. It's like, no, no. Can you just go through a crash course for a better word of how to do it.

Crystal Carter:

I think one of the tricky things is that with UA, essentially, so all the things are on the side, it's really easy to browse and there was very much as a marketer and doing audits on sites, it would be very easy to sort of go log into an analytics account and just have a look around at various things. And sometimes I'd find stuff I wasn't even expecting to see because there was so much data there and I could see and I could compare and things like that. And the thing that I find really tricky about analytics, and I said they say, oh, you can build this, you can build that, but I'm like, I don't want to build it.

Mordy Oberstein:

Exactly. I want to go in there, I want to see what's there and have fun, look around and see... But I feel like in GA4 there is no looking around, unless I specifically said it, I do not see it.

Crystal Carter:

So what I'm asking is what's your advice for people who are used to browsing and to streamline the process of rebuilding or resetting some of the reports that they're used to or that they like or even that they see other people reporting on.

Jill Quick:

So GA4, the success of your GA4 implementation will come down to the quality of the events that you are tracking. And I think that's been the biggest flex that... You've still got dimensions and metrics. So that terminology and that language is still the same. However, pageview is now an event and pageview was an event in GA3. So if we do a couple of minutes on what is the difference between the data model. So Events in GA3, so if you heard the word events, you typically were thinking about the behavior reports and anything outside of a page view was loaded. If you wanted anything else to be tracked in GA3, in the car, you would have to send those as events in Google Tag Manager and you'd have. . .

Crystal Carter:

So you downloaded something or something like that.

Jill Quick:

Category was a big broad bouquet. Video, the action, the doing, play the video, pause the video, label gave context of the thing that they just did brings and repeat to all the things that you wanted to track for your measurement objectives. When it comes to GA4, everything is an event. They want it all lowercase and underscore like snake case because it's a computer program. So it likes things built that way so that everything works and you now have an event name, event parameters and then there'll be values assigned to those parameters. And the way that I have done training on this and the talks I've done and the audits that I do, I'd like to think of it as event DNA. So if you can picture in your mind now the old science lesson where you did that nice little helix string of a DNA sequence, imagine that's the events that you've got in your GA4 data stream.

You would have an event name up to 25 parameters, so there's 25 nodes max, and the DNA is just going to dissolve and not work and there's a certain length that we can have with each of these parameters and the values. Now, out of these events in their DNA, they are grouped into what I like to call four parent categories. These parents are made up of event DNA and we've got the auto enhanced recommended and custom. So the automatic collected events are a bundle of events that you get when you say I'm going to have a GA4 instance and I'm going to put that configuration tag on and it's going to start collecting data that's going to give you information like the page location, session start, first visit, engagement, which is like time. Great. The enhanced measurement are additional events you get in your data stream so you can further tweak what you can get.

That's going to have things like page view data. It's going to have files downloaded, site search, a really crappy named event called click. But that event click has a number of parameters like link URL, which is tracking all outbound links. And for most sites that's really useful because they're sending people to Glassdoor or TripAdvisor or review sites or Google Maps. It also tracks telephone numbers and email addresses because they're technically outbound links. So these were things that were actually quite hard to track in GA3 and I've done enough audits that there were always something wrong with somebody's account, but there's a lot that comes out of the box, but you just need to know these parent categories and what you get out of it. Recommended are a bunch of events that Google has given us a list basically. So sign up events, generate lead events or forms, purchase events, they've got some pre named ones and we want to use those so we can get more information into the reports because they're listening for these.

And then you have custom, which is basically anything that doesn't fit in the previous three. So I did one recently which was a B2B company that had Calendly booking so that you could book an appointment with them. There isn't a recommended event for that, doesn't come out of the box in auto and enhance, so we'd have to track it. So we've got these four parent events and if you just look at the four parents when you log in to GA4, and I think this is where the frustration comes from, you go to events and you might have nine and an event count and it'll say like, "click, file download, scroll", and you are like, "but I want to know the page that they were on. I want to know the file that they downloaded". And you can add a secondary dimension and you can play around with that if you want.

But there's another concept to get your head around, which is that you can create an event from an event. Now, if we go along with my little story here that we have our four parent categories all made up of event DNA, if I wanted to create a new event, I have to take the DNA from a parent. So I'm making a child. Now, for SEO listeners, you're familiar with this concept because you've got parent categories and subcategories, children that we like. You've got all that structure. So if I wanted to create a new event to make it easy for people to see that somebody clicked mordy@website.com, then I can go into the user interface, create a new event where I say, "please create me a child and I'd like to call this email_high and where the event name equals click and the parameter equals link_URL and the value of that is mordy@website.com. Please fire a new event called email_high" and then I've got that in my reports and I can report on it.

So there's some tweaking we have to do within the user interface, but it's not obvious when you log in because there's no tool tip and Google just goes, "it's flexible, you can do anything". And people are like, "give me a fricking use case". And common ones are you'll probably want to create child events for the type of file that was downloaded, see the PDFs, the zips and the docs. You might want to break out those click events for outbound links to your review site, Google Maps, telephone numbers, email addresses. And when you start getting familiar with the events, the parameters, the parents and the children, it becomes easier to understand how do I go into the user interface and ask it? Because it's a different language, isn't it?

It's like hieroglyphics almost when you first start because you are not familiar with what you need to do. And it reminds me, and I think I've had this conversation with both of you before, it reminds me when I remember people showing me WordPress websites and I was like, "oh wow, that's great". I'm like, "why does mine not look great? Why does mine go hello world and there's a crap at the site, like why?" And then somebody goes, "yeah, you got to think about your information architecture and your images and your placement". I was like, "I thought it was going to build it for me. I thought it was going to do the thing and I'm not..." and GA4 is a bit like that where you have to go, "oh, I've got to do some thinking".

And that's the difference between getting the helicopter off the ground and driving away on the car that the car was pre-built. A lot of these things were already there and GA4 looks wonderful. There's some great things you could do, which we were talking about in a moment. But you've got to get your head around what is an event? What are they called? Because it's taken me some rewiring of my brain to go page_location when I'm like pages, all pages, why am I having to remember new things? So there's a lot of rewiring of the brain, I think, some neuroplasticity going on to make it a little bit easier.

Crystal Carter:

So on the plus side, I will say for Wix users who are listening, the team at Wix have worked with Google to create some preset events for certain Wix properties. So you should have a little bit of a headstart with regards to that. But I would also say what's interesting in the events thing is that I was following along while you were chatting and starts to make a lot more sense and there's two things that stood out to me was that I think a lot of people, I've seen a lot of people when they're talking about their reporting and how they set up their events and how they set up all of the different things using additional tools to help make it easier to understand.

So I know a lot of people are using Looker Studio, I'd be interested to know what you think about that. The other thing that I think is interesting is that you talked about a few other third-party tools and you talked about people trying to square peg round hole, the old of universal analytics and I've definitely done cross domain tracking and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't make sense and I believe, and maybe you can shed some light on this as well, that cross domain tracking is a bit better.

Jill Quick:

Yeah, it's easier. Use the same measurement ID of your data stream. You've got to make sure you go in your admin settings and do the usual that you would have to do in things in Universal, configure your domains to say Google, it's this subdomain in this domain referral exclusions. Do not pat yourself on the back for traffic and they got all the credit for the conversions, the usual. But yeah, I have noticed that a bit like Mordy be like, "my head's out of the sand". I think I spoke to a lady last week and she went, "I'm in gone past the denial. I'm in the acceptance phase now. They're not changing the deadline. I'm going to have to do it". I'm like, "yeah, you are". And I think some of the other providers like there was... Had a client that's using Drift widget for their chat box and they just announced in February that they're now able to push those events with the measurement ID and I'm like, "yay, why have you done it so close to the deadline", Shopify, they're getting it done this month now in March.

They're like, "yay, Shopify's going to be working". So I think maybe the slow adoption is because we've also been waiting for other tech stack support to help that migration because you're looking for the events and now Drift widget, if you've got the chat bot is going to push those events to you. I don't have to touch Google Tag Manager. If Shopify's doing it, great, I don't have to build loads of events for e-commerce if it's going to seamlessly push that in and going to your point on Looker, Looker's using the GA4 API, so it's only as good as your data collection. So yeah, use Looker, but if you haven't got the child events and the events and the other things you want to track that's useful to you, you are not going to get as much fun in those Looker reports because it's only as good as what you've got in that data collection.

Mordy Oberstein:

That's exactly the point. To me, that's exactly why one of the first things we did was automatically trigger those events in GA4. But it makes me wonder at the same time, from a business point of view, do you think that people like yourself are going to end up with a lot more clients who are... Let's say SEOs, whereas before in universal analytics, I never felt like, Hey, I need to go to an analytics expert. I have a general handle on this unless I come to a specific problem, which case I need to go to somebody one level up, but the way that Google construct this, are they... And I wonder if it's purposeful or not or whatever it is, are they creating a dynamic where professionals are now going to say, "you know what? Forget this. I am just going to sub this out to somebody else to handle".

Jill Quick:

Yeah. I think for people it might be for time they know enough to be dangerous but they haven't got the time to do it and they want to trust that somebody else is going to do that for them. I think that when it comes to why is Google doing this and I think there are a number of reasons. The way that GA3, the previous versions work don't really work with the way that it's going to be going in the future with cookies and consent mode and things like that. I think there's another part of me that I for fun was reading some of people's financial statements to see what they were doing and they were mentioning their servers and I'm like, "oh, I wonder why they're doing that?" And a hundred percent they're going to be taking all of the servers from the old Universal analytics when they've been it and they are going to be repurposed for service side tagging and BigQuery and all the other cloud stuff because that's really expensive.

When it comes to putting investment into your analytics because it's been free for so long. I don't think people... And I've made a living out this for a decade, I've done hundreds of audits and there was always something wrong. There was always a... I've got a phrase I like to use, a confabulation of data, lies, you say, honestly because nobody goes, I'm going to tinker with my data and try and fake something for my boss. They think the data's solid because they didn't know how the data model worked and how the data got there. They just took it for granted and thought, "well, that's somebody else's problem". That leads into conversations of, well, who owns analytics? Is it dev? Is it your IT department? So it kind of just drifts around in a very ephemeral way and now people are having to put some time and money in some cases to get GA4 to work, but it's probably the first time they've had to really sit down and think, what are our measurement objectives? What is it that we're trying to do with this data?

You don't want to have number soup and have reports for the sake of reporting. You want data so that it's going to give you an indication of what you should be doing with your strategy and tactics. And when you report to somebody, it's only really one or two people that get that report that can action it. Here's your purchase order, carry on, you are still in a job, that kind of thing. And when you narrow that down, it makes it a little bit better and more competitive in a way for that business owner because they've really considered what do they need and how are they going to get that data? I would say out of everybody using GA4, I reckon a good 10 million or so accounts will not move over to GA4, and that's not necessarily because they're not ready or they don't want it, they're just not going to use it.

They're like, do you know what? I don't do a lot of marketing or we don't invest a lot, so I just want to know that the phone rings. People come into my shop kind of happy with that and they'll find as an analytics solution that fits those measurement objectives. The people I'm working with, they've got an SEO agency, a PPC agency, a CRO agency, 50 staff, a million pound of money to spend on marketing. They need more than what you can get from other data sources and that's why they're transitioning to GA4. So I think there's going to be a real mix and from us as marketeers as SEO people listening to this, we're going to need more analytics acumen. There's going to be more accounts that you're going to look after where it's not GA as the default. You'll have people that go, well, we use Piwik, we use Amplitude, we use another software.

So we're all going to have to learn more because we're going to be seeing more people choosing a different provider. And that's quite exciting, but it's work either way, isn't it? But it feels like its analytics time to grow up a little bit, I think, because you are having to really think in a measured approach. What's a nice point though, isn't it a measured approach into what you should be doing doing and why you're doing it.

Crystal Carter:

And I think from the Wix side, and I'm sure there's other people who are thinking this way, we've been investing in our analytics stack, so the reports that we're able to provide people, we just added another Google Search Console one, Google Search Console has been investing a lot and improving a lot of the visibility there as well. So yeah, I think you're right. I think there's going to be people who maybe don't use it as a default. I think also a lot of people aren't going to port over to GA4 because they haven't touched that website in years. There's definitely a case where there's websites that were set up ages ago, nobody pays. It goes into that GA4, nobody's going to look at it.

And I think a lot of, certainly if you have a CMS like Wix, then we have analytics built into the CMS, so if you are not doing, even if you are doing a super complex thing, we have a lot of filters and things within it, but if you just need a bird's eye view, for instance, you can absolutely see that from your...

Jill Quick:

I think what's really useful for that, you know you've got an alternative there. Questions you should be asking yourself because yes, if you want to continue to use Google Analytics, you're going to have to get a wiggle on and get it moved over, but go through some questions around, do you use the data because there are people that go, not really, or I log in or I get a report and it makes me feel comfortable, but I don't really do anything else. How are you currently reporting on your marketing performance? You've got to look at dashboard. Well, what's in that dashboard and is there stuff there that doesn't need to be there? Are you trying tangibelize the stuff that marketing does with a report because so much of what we do feels mystical, if that's the right word. Are you ready to invest in your data quality and collection? Because if they go, "yeah, no, I can't be asked or I have no money or there's no budget", how are you currently doing your data collection? Do you trust any of the points? These are all questions you need to ask yourself.

Crystal Carter:

Yeah.

Jill Quick:

And If you come out of it and go, "yeah, do you know what? I just need to know that the SEO stuff that we're doing is useful, that the content is engaging for my readers and that I'm building my database or the shop is busy with people because they've got other sources of truth for other marketing performance stats". Then just because people are saying you should move to GA4 doesn't mean that you actually should, if it's right for you with those measurement objectives and I've had many discovery calls with prospects where I've gone, "I don't think you are ready". Like the stage of your business, which is another important thing, how big is the business and what is your stage of growth? If you are in the mature phase, you're a market leader, yeah, you're going to be using GA or Adobe or Snowplow or so you're really investing in what you're doing.

But there's a lot of people at the early phases of their business and they just want to grow. They're like, what am I doing to get that hockey stick of growth? What am I doing to improve the quality of the leads and business that I'm getting? Does that mean you should be learning about GA4, setting up BigQuery, building audiences with time? You're not going to use any of that information, get your information from somewhere else and when you are ready, you review the same questions. Are we using the data? Well, how are we reporting? Are we ready to invest? Oh yes, we are. Let's move to the next step then. And then you can always go back to another provider and if some of the people that are listening, if you viciously hate it and you're not going to... Well, don't use it.

If you're a consultant, you might have clients that are like, yeah, tough, you're going to have to use GA and you're just going to have to get used to it. But there's a lot of people listening that just because... I mean I do it for my job, but you don't have to do it if it's not right for you. So it's getting the right fit so that you get a dashboard that answers the questions that you need at this point in time.

Mordy Oberstein:

I have so many questions.

Crystal Carter:

So many.

Mordy Oberstein:

And you mentioned questions. For example, for the love of god please explain the custom creation of reports and how to get started with that, but time is ebbed away. So where can people find you, Jill, in case they have questions about analytics. Where can I find you later if I have questions about analytics?

Jill Quick:

Probably more active on LinkedIn. So I'm Jill Quick. I'm a cartoon face. There's not many people with the name Jill Quick. I am on Twitter, but I'm a bit of a lurker. I just log on, read what's happening and then I kind of log off. I don't really engage because certain parts of Twitter are just not for me.

Mordy Oberstein:

I envy you.

Jill Quick:

Elon Musk is ruining it for us all with the feed. But yeah, LinkedIn's probably if you want to reach out and say, hi, and then there's my website, which is the coloringindepartment.com and I'm in the process of building some more easy step guides and content to get people started in this.

Mordy Oberstein:

I will link to a couple of those in the show notes if you're interested. Jill, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. It was really insightful and I have a million more questions. I'll find you somewhere.

Jill Quick:

That just means you need to bring me on for part two, doesn't it?

Mordy Oberstein:

That's true.

Jill Quick:

Shoot myself.

Mordy Oberstein:

I need to recover from part one though.

Jill Quick:

I like being called maven as well. So just for that. Yeah, marketing maven, analytics Maven, Jill, a little bit.

Crystal Carter:

We'll have to bring you in after July. It’s done. What?

Jill Quick:

Calling over your keyboard, so bad.

Mordy Oberstein:

If you see, by the way, you see a helicopter crashing somewhere. That is me using GA4.

Jill Quick:

Yeah. Okay, got it. But you can learn. I mean, one final note from me on this. Honest to God, if you can learn SEO, if you can understand Google's algorithm and do your log file analysis and make sense of Google Search Console, you can learn GA4. It is a learnable skill. You just have to get over the hump of the stages of grief, isn't it? Like ignoring it, anger, frustration, acceptance. And now we're in the doing part. Yeah, you can do it though, Mordy. I believe in you.

Mordy Oberstein:

Accepting is hard for me.

Jill Quick:

Yeah. You can do it. I believe in you.

Mordy Oberstein:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for coming on, Jill. We really appreciate it.

Jill Quick:

Thanks for having me.

Crystal Carter:

Thank you so much.

Mordy Oberstein:

Talk to you soon.

Jill Quick:

I'll see you soon. Off now. Bye.

Mordy Oberstein:

Well, since we're talking about analytics and learning and questions, and since you're... I'm going to guess if you're like me, somewhat overwhelmed by what you just heard, this is a segment for you because in this segment, Crystal and I are going to dive into how much of that do you really need to know as we take a deep thought into how to even use or how much of analytics in general, not just GA4 to even use.

It's a deep thought with Crystal and Mordy.

I have many thoughts about GA4 and analytics. Most of them are not deep, most of them are salty.

Crystal Carter:

Most of them are just, I don't want to.

Mordy Oberstein:

Right. This is not a salty thought with Crystal and Mordy. This is a deep thought.

Crystal Carter:

But why? No, I think it's... Well, a deep thoughts like the salty ocean.

Mordy Oberstein:

Right. Here we go. So let me just put it out there. There's so many data points. So let's set GA4 aside for a second. Let's stick in our comfort zone. I'm imagining myself still in Google Analytics 3 or universal analytics, the real analytics, you want to call it that. And in there is a ton of data, an enormous amount of data. And this could be applied to your SEO tools. This could be applied to Google's search console, even though I think that's a little bit less, but even to Google Search Console and of course at GA4, how much of that data is, wow, so cool. I have access to that data versus, you know what? That's really good data point that I need to make sure that I'm reporting on and tracking carefully.

Crystal Carter:

I don't know. People love data. They love a chart. They love a chart. And to be honest, you have to have some kind of data in order to back up the things that you want to do. And in order to get proof of concept for the things you want to do.

Mordy Oberstein:

Of course, this is not, should you use analytics, the question is how much of it, and I will put my foot on the landmine and say sometimes it's too much or sometimes it's not worth the while. Although, I am a data nerd, so I kind of get it.

Crystal Carter:

Yeah.

Mordy Oberstein:

But I think that sometimes it might like less is more. I feel like that phrase in reality is usually not true. You give me a steak, I want more, not less, give me a house, more, not less. But with analytics sometimes less is more.

Crystal Carter:

I think that's true. Certainly I think that when you think about reporting to decision makers, you can blind them with science. And sometimes if there's too many numbers, people don't trust the numbers...

Mordy Oberstein:

Science.

Crystal Carter:

I think people don't trust the numbers that you give them because they can't see the wood for the trees as it were. So that's definitely the case. I've also seen it sometimes where I've had clients who were tracking the wrong thing and they were really, really, really worried about one particular metric or another. We had the fantastic Jill Quick here talking about GA4, yesterday we had the fifth or the... Sorry, not yesterday in podcast release time, but yesterday in podcast recording time.

Mordy Oberstein:

Yesterday in our recording time.

Crystal Carter:

We had the amazing Christian Simon and she was talking about bounce rate and how she hates bounce rate. And I know that there's an entire contingent of SEOs who really hate bounce rate as a metric. So there's metrics that people get hung up on and sometimes make big poor decisions over those metrics.

Mordy Oberstein:

Yes.

Crystal Carter:

And you say, oh God, we really need to sort this out. And they're trying to find a solution for a problem that doesn't exist because they're looking at the wrong metric. And sometimes when you have lots and lots and lots of metrics to choose from, people will pick the shiniest one and that will be the thing that they worry about. But it's not actually worth the bother, to quote you from a previous podcast, "sometimes it's a nothing burger".

Mordy Oberstein:

That's right. So that snore, what should I say about my meta descriptions being too long or short? By the way, I want to start optimizing meta descriptions by converting them from actual text, like wing dings, like symbols and see how that goes on my SEO. I think also at the same time when I find this, I get sometimes caught up in this is that what you end up doing is, and it's going to apply to any sort of data and analysis. Let's say keywords, keyword analysis, whether it's rankings or impressions or whatever it is, you could get so far down the rabbit hole. You can start looking at minutiae of minutiae. You can do this with any. You can dive into, let me see how I'm doing in the US. Okay, fine. Great, that makes sense. Let me see how I'm doing in New York. Okay, that kind of makes sense.

Let me see how I'm doing in West Hempstead. Does not matter. I will tell you, unless you're a local business located in West Hempstead, New York, it doesn't really matter, but you could go that far. You can go so far down the rabbit hole that you end up creating problems for yourselves that if you took a minute to stop and think they are problems, you probably could fix them. You might see some benefit, but what's the opportunity cost? Does it really matter? Or is my time better spent focusing on larger problems? And I feel like that's sometimes is the danger with data and analytics.

Crystal Carter:

And I think also benchmarking. Benchmarking is really important in this whole conversation around GA4. There's a lot of people talking about migrating your data and storing your data from UA. So they're going to make it so that you can't access the UA data. They're going to make it so that the UA data is not available or stops collecting or that sort of thing. So if you want to get insights on what is good for your business, because that's the thing, if like someone says, "oh, we got 4,000 clicks this month", on whatever thing it was, or it's like, "is that good?" I don't know if that's good for your business. What if your business is used to having 400,000 clicks and this month you had 4,000 or what if it's used to having 4,000 and this month you had 400, then how do you know what's good? If you're used to having 40 and you have 4,000. Wow, brilliant.

So the benchmarking is really important. So understanding the context of your data is really important. So I think that just a piece of quantitative data in the middle of the ether means very, very little when it's not part of a wider data story, a data profile or business. So I think the context is very important to think about with all of these things with reporting.

Mordy Oberstein:

You just brought up an absolutely amazing point. We just had this, let's break the fourth wall here with the Wix SEO learning hub, where sometimes you look at a data reporting period and you trying to benchmark, which essentially we're trying to do, and you could say, okay, this is the data, now we should do X or here's the data, now let's look at Y. When really you don't have enough data and sometimes it could take months and months and months to get the right data. Let's say for example, you launch a new product or new page or whatever it is. Let's say October, November is Thanksgiving and Black Friday, December is Christmas, January is people are just getting back to the new year. It'll take you to February theoretically until you start seeing normal data. So now you have October data when you launched, which is all right, whatever, you just launched it. November, not normal data. December, not normal data. January, maybe getting close to normal data and February, you have two months.

Crystal Carter:

This is it. And I'll tell you right now, if any SEOs out there who do monthly reporting who say, let's compare this month to last month, February always looks terrible. February always looks terrible because January's 31 days. 31 big old days, and February is 28, so that's 29...

Mordy Oberstein:

Stepchild month.

Crystal Carter:

Three days shorter. So it's going to be less. Tell you right now, if you're looking at hard numbers, it's going to be less.

Mordy Oberstein:

If you look at how much money you saved in February versus January and you're spending, it might be better because, "hey, I ain't spending", it's three days where I could not pull out my credit card.

Crystal Carter:

Right. And March is always way, way better than February. And every March, you're like, "we crushed it, guys. We crushed it".

Mordy Oberstein:

We're so good.

Crystal Carter:

So, yeah. And I think the data point, yeah, I had a look at... Like one analogy I always use is like trees. You could look at trees and that you could do six months of data for trees between May, and you look at trees in the spring, going all the way into September or something and you go, oh yeah, trees are green, they're great, they've got lots of leaves, and then you don't know why you need a rake in November and you're completely confused because your data's wrong. So yeah, the data stuff is absolutely important. You can't make decisions without solid data. What's useful is to... I always recommend having multiple sources of data, but being able to understand what's common across them with no. . .

In the conversation with GA4, and one of the things that's tricky, and one of the things reasons why Jill was talking about events so much is that the things don't always line up. So if you're trying to compare, it's like you're not comparing apples to apples. You might be comparing apples to oranges. So it's very important for you to have some kind of consistent data. So one of the things that's good during this data migration is that Google, sorry, Google Search Console is going to be consistent throughout, right?

Mordy Oberstein:

Yeah.

Crystal Carter:

You can only store data from Google Search Console for so long, so you might need to have an export thing, but she was right. We do need to be more mature about data, and this isn't just about making marketing decisions, it's also about search. Because there's so much machine learning in search and so much machine learning in search advertising right now, and so much like AI, and we say, "oh, there's AI". AI is machine learning in practice.

Mordy Oberstein:

So there actually is no AI, it's all machine learning, but whatever...

Crystal Carter:

It's all machine learning and they say, garbage in, garbage out. So you have to feed the machine good data, and the better data you're feeding it, the better the machine will reward you. So yeah, Jill's entirely right that we need to be more mature about our data. I need to make sure that works well and that includes the way that we think about data, includes the kinds of events we have. It includes the structured data that we have on our site, includes the metadata that we have on our site because that also goes into the data profile, and I've seen it before where we've had clients who were running machine learning advertising campaigns and the machine came back with all these different words that it thought were relevant to the page. Then we made some optimizations to the on page information and the on page meta tags for that page, and then the machine understood it better. So these are things that we need to think about and be much more aware of how we manage our data online and on our website.

Mordy Oberstein:

So I'm want to go back to one thing you said about comparing apples and oranges. There is no comparison. Oranges are infinitely better than apples.

Crystal Carter:

What?

Mordy Oberstein:

How is an apple better than an orange?

Crystal Carter:

When was the last time you had an orange pie?

Mordy Oberstein:

I didn't say pie. Pie is better.

Crystal Carter:

When was the last time you had an orange pie? When was the last time little Debbie's made you an orange pie?

Mordy Oberstein:

What? Orange juice or apple juice? Which one?

Crystal Carter:

I mean apple juice has its place...

Mordy Oberstein:

Two fruits, in an apple and orange fruit, which one would you eat?

Crystal Carter:

Which one would I eat?

Mordy Oberstein:

Yeah.

Crystal Carter:

Depend on what time of year. I like a nice crisp apple. I enjoy nice crisp apple. This is delicious.

Mordy Oberstein:

You're just saying that it's like you could be right and you know that...

Crystal Carter:

No, I live in England, there's so many different kinds of apples.

Mordy Oberstein:

I'm from New York. We have apples. We don't grow oranges, but I still like oranges better.

Crystal Carter:

Oranges are oranges. You got to peel them. Sometimes the rind is thin. Sometimes the rind is thick. Sometimes it's like a whole thing. Sometimes you can peel it with your fingers. Sometimes you need a knife. You can't always just bite into an apple. I'm just saying.

Mordy Oberstein:

We should bite into nail though.

Some snappy SEO news.

Snappy news, snappy news. Snappy news. When it rains, things get wet. Wait, no, that's not how that goes. When it rains, it pours. There we go. We just finished with the February 2023 product review update, and then suddenly on March 15th, Google went ahead and announced the March 2023 core update. So I'll run through my usual spiel here. One, it takes a few weeks for this sort of thing to roll out. Two, there could be all sorts of rank spikes and losses and reversals along the way. So don't panic, let the update play itself out. Three, per tools like the summer sensor, we've already seen a few days of elevator rank fluctuations, but don't be fooled if the tools go back to normal for a few days as there can be spikes and rank reverse at the tail end, like I just said before.

Definitely have a look at Barry Schwartz's search engine land coverage, if you're looking to get more context, as he's got like, I don't know, a gazillion, bazillion, trillion links to the various updates. He's coverage. You can see how the updates have functioned in the past and what's happened and how big they are, and yada, yada, yada. Yes, Barry, we know you've covered them all and now you have the internal links to prove it. Okay, onto the second item of business, and this one's not really an SEO story, but it's, Hey, hi. So who cares? Heard James Vincent over at the Verge. Google announces AI features and Gmail, docs and more to rival Microsoft. Let the AI wars begin. Okay, so basically Google is giving you the ability, or we'll be giving you the ability to enter a few prompts and have the AI create the entire content for you within a Google Doc and so forth.

The example Google shows is in a Google Doc where they enter very bare bones prompt to create a job listing for a sales rep opening, and then Google goes ahead and completely goes bonkers and creates the entire complete listing format and everything in seconds. I'll just reiterate what I've been saying this entire time about AI content. Please, please, please, for the love of God, please use this responsibly. Boy do I sound like a boomer. And last, and you might say least, but I don't because it may not sound like a big deal, but to me this is huge. Again, Barry Schwartz, who else over at Search Engine Roundtable this time "Google Search, save your favorite brand's feature". So back at Google's event Search On in 2022, Google announced that you'll be able to have a setting that will let you see results on Google from your favorite brands.

Well, SEO legend, Britney Mueller spotted this for the first time live in the wild on the surf when searching for something on mobile and the search came back and said, "Hey, save your favorite brand to get more relevant results". Okay, Mordy, this is cool, right? You can go to the SERP, you search for something and you search on our jeans and Google says, "Hey, save this setting so that you can get great results from either the Gap or I don't know where else do you get jeans from, Old Navy or Macy's? And you can get results from all these different companies and brands specifically and take out results from other brands that you don't like in the SERP". It's cool, but was there not a bigger SEO story than this all week, Mordy? No. It was a really quiet week. Just kidding. To me, this is huge because it hinted how the ecosystem will function going forward, where the user will be able to refine what they see at the onset.

So you won't even have an opportunity to rank theoretically based upon how the user set things up. In this case, if the user set up to only see, or their favorite brands were the Gap and Old Navy, but they didn't save Macy's, well, then maybe that user wouldn't see any results from Macy's anymore. So what the user will do with the onset will define what they see, which has implications on everything from ring tracking to the very undervalued idea that brand marketing greatly impacts SEO, which in this case it directly impacts SEO, because if the people like the brand and they save the brand, if they don't like the brand, then they don't save the brand, they don't save any of the results. So there's that. Anyway, that's this week's version of the Snappy News.

Oh, that was the snappiest of SEO news for you. So that was great.

Crystal Carter:

That was great. It was so snappy.

Mordy Oberstein:

So snappy and so newsy, like every week. We say this in every week, I feel this is our most uncreative pivot.

Crystal Carter:

Have you seen Newsies? Did you realize that Christian Bale...

Mordy Oberstein:

Christian Bale? Yeah, obviously. Oh, please. If you going to just try to stump me with a movie trivia thing, it cannot be that.

Crystal Carter:

Okay.

Mordy Oberstein:

Like what letter comes after a? B.

Crystal Carter:

I didn't realize you were such a Newsies fan.

Mordy Oberstein:

I love Newsies.

Crystal Carter:

Okay. I don't know.

Mordy Oberstein:

Brooklyn is here.

Crystal Carter:

Oh, of course. Of course. This is a movie for me.

Mordy Oberstein:

This is for me, it's built for me. It's a bespoke movie. Well, speaking of Newsies, actually, no, this has absolutely nothing to do with that, but before we do leave, we need to leave you with somebody who you, it should be following on social media for more SEO awesomeness, in this case, more analytics awesomeness as if analytics is awesomeness, but whatever leading that little technicality aside for a moment, this week's follow of the week is the one, the only Dana DiTomaso on Twitter @DANADITOMASO. If you can't keep up with the spelling of it so quickly, which nobody can cause I talk way too fast. We'll link to Dana's Twitter profile in the show notes. And Dana is somebody who has been the forefront of the Google Analytics for conundrum. She is cautious. She speaks about it. She's a lot of great resources out there about it. So look for on Twitter. Also, by the way, on LinkedIn, she posts a lot of resources about GA4, so a great follow.

Crystal Carter:

Yeah, she's great. I saw her speak at Mozcon last year. She's very frank, and she's very clear and very astute about analytics and about how people track data on websites. So yeah, she's fantastic. Absolutely, check her out online, and if you see her speaking at a conference of which she does sometimes do check her out as well, because she's a smart person.

Mordy Oberstein:

That's a great way to put it. She's a smart, smart, smart person. No, it'll be smart for you.

Crystal Carter:

What?

Mordy Oberstein:

In the next week, because...

Crystal Carter:

Oh, yeah.

Mordy Oberstein:

... that's going to wrap it up. Thank you for joining us on the SERP's Up podcast. Are you going to miss us? Not to worry, we're back next week with a new episodes. We dive into building the ultimate SEO team with a very, very special guest.

Crystal Carter:

Hint.

Mordy Oberstein:

They may like cheese, they may not like cheese. Look forward wherever you consume your podcast or on our SEO learning hub over at wix.com/seo/learn. Look to learn more about SEO, check out all the great content and webinars on the Wix SEO learning hub over at you guessed it, wix.com/seo/learn. Don't forget to give us a review on iTunes or a rating on Spotify or both. Until next time, peace, love, and SEO.

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