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      Making the Switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)


      In 2019, Google introduced Google Analytics 4 as an alternative to Universal Analytics. Users were free to choose between using standard analytics properties or jumping to the new version. Now, Google plans to sunset Universal Analytics in 2023 and transition all users to Google Analytics 4.

      If you use Google Analytics and haven’t made the jump yet, you need to understand what Analytics 4 offers and how it’s different from Universal Analytics. Fortunately, you have plenty of time to acquaint yourself with the service and make the change before Universal Analytics ceases to function.

      In this article, we’re going to talk about what Google Analytics 4 does differently from its predecessors. We’ll also show you how to transition your account to Google Analytics 4 and discuss some tips to help you get the most out of the platform. Let’s get to it!

      What’s Happening With Universal Analytics?

      For almost a decade, Universal Analytics has been the standard for measuring performance and engagement for websites. It has also been a vital tool for determining the success of keyword strategies.

      However, the platform was initially designed for an era where we mostly interacted with sites through desktop computers. Although Universal Analytics can also measure mobile and app metrics, it doesn’t offer a unified experience for properties across multiple channels.

      “People expect to interact with businesses when and how they like, such as browsing a brand’s website to research a product and then purchasing it later using the brand’s app. Getting insight into these cross-platform journeys is critical for businesses to predict customer needs and provide great experiences—but it can be very challenging.”

      – Russell Ketchum, Director of Product Management for Google Analytics

      Google Analytics 4 was designed to help remedy that problem and improve privacy standards in collecting measurements. Since its introduction in 2019, it has existed alongside Universal Analytics so that users could choose between both experiences:

      GA4 Setup Assistant

      Now Google plans to retire Universal Analytics, starting on July 1, 2023. Existing analytics properties will stop collecting data on that date. If you’re using Universal Analytics 360, you get a few extra months of data collection, with the service retiring on October 1, 2023:

      Universal Analytics data collection end date message

      That gives you plenty of time to get acquainted with Google Analytics 4 and make the transition. Before we talk about how to do that, let’s go over the changes to the service.

      An Introduction to Google Analytics 4

      For a long time, analytics focused on helping you measure desktop web metrics, with mobile data being almost an afterthought. Google Analytics 4 changes that approach by helping you unify multiple types of properties into singular user journeys:

      GA4 Setup Assistant tags

      With Google Analytics 4, you can see measurements for your websites and apps. You can also gain insights from machine learning algorithms into how to optimize those properties.

      Another key aspect of Google Analytics 4 is that it doesn’t rely solely on cookies. It offers an increased emphasis on user privacy.

      “Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.”

      – Russell Ketchum, Director of Product Management for Google Analytics

      Arguably, one of the main drivers behind the shift in how Google Analytics collects data comes from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR has had a massive impact on how websites and platforms can legally collect and store user data.

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      Cookies have come under fire in recent years due to increased privacy concerns. That means many companies are looking into alternative data collection streams.

      With Google Analytics 4, measurements no longer rely on sessions. The platform is capable of recognizing and measuring multiple types of human interaction “events”, including:

      • Page views
      • Scrolls
      • Outbound clicks
      • In-site searches
      • Video engagement metrics
      • File downloads

      With previous versions of Google Analytics, measuring several metrics involved manually setting up complex events. Now, the platform can automatically tag the events for you, which gives you access to more data from the get-go.

      Finally, Google Analytics 4 brings better funnel reports to the table, including cross-platform analysis. You can use the platform to identify key steps in the customer journey and see where users enter it and drop out. The service also enables you to understand what users are doing in-between steps in the funnel:

      GA4 funnels report

      If you’re moving from Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 can seem very different at first glance. However, setting up and configuring a Google Analytics 4 property is relatively simple. Fortunately, the platform offers an onboarding process.

      How to Move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4

      Although we’re talking about transitioning from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, you can use both services simultaneously for now. That means you can still collect data using cookies until Universal Analytics retires in 2023. At the same time, you can begin collecting data from events with Analytics 4.

      Step 1: Create a Google Analytics 4 Property

      Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not already using Google Analytics 4. If you set up a property after October 14, 2020, it’s likely already using Google Analytics 4. To verify this, access your Google Analytics account and look at your list of properties.

      Properties using Universal Analytics will have a UA prefix in their analytics IDs. Properties using Google Analytics 4 will display G4A designations:

      GA4 properties list

      To get started, select a property using Universal Analytics and access its ADMIN settings. Select the option that says G4A Setup Assistant under the property’s name.

      Now click on the Get Started button under the message that says, I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property:

      GA4 Setup Assistant not connected message

      After clicking on that button, Google Analytics will show you a brief rundown of the setup steps. The platform will set up a new property for you without deleting your Universal Analytics configurations. It’ll copy data from the Universal Analytics property and enable “enhanced measurements” immediately. That means you can start measuring complex events from the get-go:

      create a new GA4 property

      Click on Create property to get the process started. You’ll return to the GA4 Setup Assistant tab, which will indicate the property is ready.

      Step 2: Configure Your Google Analytics 4 Property

      Now click on See your G4A property to configure its settings:

      successful GA4 connection

      To get started using Google Analytics 4 correctly, you’ll need to configure one or more data streams.

      When you open a new Google Analytics 4 property, the platform will send you to the Setup Assistant page. Here, look for the section that says Collection and select the Tag installation option:

      GA4 Setup Assistant

      The Tag Installation option lets you configure “data streams”. Each Google Analytics property can have streams of information from websites and apps. Typically, you’ll have one stream for the web and one each for iOS and Android devices if you utilize apps:

      GA4 add new data stream

      When you select the Add stream option, the platform will ask you what type of stream you want to set up. If you’re adding a web property, Google Analytics will ask for its URL, the site’s name, and which measurements you want to track:

      set up a new GA4 web stream

      To confirm that you own the website, Google Analytics will ask you to add a tag to it. You can complete this step by adding a JavaScript tag manually or by using Google Tag Manager:

      GA4 add new tag

      Once you verify ownership of the property, Google Analytics will start collecting data from it. Like with Universal Analytics, you’ll be able to track all of that information from the dashboard.

      Once you start setting up custom insights, you’ll get an idea of how big the difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 is:

      GA4 User Reports

      If you want to experiment with Google Analytics 4 before setting up a new property, there’s an official demo account that you can use. Additionally, keep in mind that you can switch between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 properties by selecting either option from your list of properties.

      Common Issues With Google Analytics 4

      Although transitioning to Google Analytics 4 is simple, users report some common issues when first using the “new” platform. Let’s talk about some of those issues and how to tackle them!

      Configuring Google Analytics 4 Takes Time

      Google Analytics 4 automatically sets up tracking for several types of events when you configure it for your website. However, the platform really shines when and if you take the time to set up custom events and reports.

      If you don’t configure Google Analytics to track custom events, you’re missing out on what is perhaps the most powerful feature the platform offers. With custom events, you can collect data on the measurements that matter the most to you, all without adding custom code to your site.

      Reports in Google Analytics Are Limited

      Out of the box, reports in Google Analytics 4 are somewhat limited. For the platform to provide you with deeper insights into your customers’ behavior, you need to configure it to track the specific events you want and show that data in the way you need.

      Google Analytics 4 makes this process relatively straightforward, depending on what type of events you want to track. However, even after setting up custom reports, accurate numbers may take a while to show up on your dashboard. This is because Analytics 4 uses machine learning to improve how it reports information.

      There Are Differences in Reports Between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4

      One of the most common complaints among new Google Analytics 4 users is that the numbers you see in the dashboard might not match your Universal Analytics property. This difference in data is because both services collect and count data differently. Whereas Universal Analytics relies on cookies and sessions, Analytics 4 tracks events.

      For now, you can rely on metrics from both services to inform your decisions. However, you’ll need to get used to the Analytics 4 approach as we near the retirement date for Universal Analytics.

      Google Analytics 4 Doesn’t Track Bounce Rate

      There is a lot of discussion about whether the way bounce rate is currently measured makes sense or not. Google Analytics 4 does away with bounce rate entirely, and instead, it measures “engagement”:

      GA4 events report

      Engagement reports use a broad range of metrics to provide a comprehensive overview of how users first perceive your website. If you want to continue measuring bounce rate, you can use Universal Analytics while it’s still active.

      What the Future Holds for Google Analytics

      The transition to Google Analytics 4 hasn’t been entirely smooth. Reception to the new platform has been somewhat lukewarm among users. However, if you use Google Analytics, it’s essential to start getting acquainted with Google Analytics 4, even if you plan on using Universal Analytics for the time being.

      In the coming year, Universal Analytics will cease to collect data. You should have a Google Analytics 4 property set up and configured by the time that happens. If you want to get the most out of Google Analytics 4, we also recommend taking the time to configure custom events and reports for your property.

      Analytics tools can help you measure the effectiveness of your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and marketing strategies. If you don’t have a plan, we can help you with our Pro SEO Marketing Services.

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      Making Fullstack JavaScript Apps


      How to Join

      This Tech Talk is free and open to everyone. Register below to get a link to join the live stream or receive the video recording after it airs.

      DateTimeRSVP
      October 20, 202111:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. ET / 3:00–4:00 p.m. GMT

      About the Talk

      Fullstack applications span backend and frontend. You’ll need to have knowledge about many tools like databases, backend languages, frontend tools, and APIs to glue it all together.

      What You’ll Learn

      • How to build a fullstack JavaScript application with Node and vanilla JavaScript
      • How a Node.js backend and JavaScript frontend can work together
      • Deploying all this together in a monorepo

      This Talk Is Designed For

      JavaScript developers looking to build dynamic applications

      Resources

      Node.js docs
      Getting Started on DigitalOcean



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      11 Secrets to Making a Successful Website


      Affiliate Disclosure: DreamHost maintains relationships with some of our recommended partners, so if you click through a link and purchase, we may receive a commission. We only recommend solutions we believe in.

      Whether you’re a writer looking to reach a wider audience, a boutique manufacturer needing to boost sales, or you’re someone who just wants to make money online — you’re going to need a website. And not just any website — a great website.

      Unfortunately, the World Wide Web has been saturated with sites for some years now.

      Standing out. Making your mark. It’s not easy.

      But here at DreamHost, we know a fair bit about websites and what makes them work — so here are our 11 secrets to making a successful website.

      1. Defined goals
      2. A good domain name
      3. Quality web hosting
      4. A clear description
      5. A top-notch CMS
      6. A great e-commerce platform
      7. Engaging web design
      8. SEO optimization
      9. High-quality content
      10. Using Google Analytics
      11. A site maintenance plan

      1. Define your goals

      Before you do anything else, you need to decide what you want to achieve from this website.

      • Is it going to be an e-commerce website that you use to sell products?
      • Are you looking to promote a service?
      • Do you want to make money via affiliate links?
      • Are you simply after a platform to share your thoughts and ideas?

      It can be hard to change the direction of an established website. Make sure you know what type of website you want to create and what you need to get out of it.

      2. Choose a good domain

      Picking a good domain name is easier said than done. It’s also seriously important since it’s tricky to change it once you’ve started establishing your site and brand. (Yes, you can migrate to a new domain, but that comes with all sorts of complications.)

      So what is a good domain? What does a good domain look like?

      • It is your brand name or includes your brand name.
      • It’s memorable.
      • It’s easy to spell.
      • It’s short (ideally under 14 characters; but the shorter, the better).
      • It’s free of numbers, hyphens, or other unusual characters.
      • It has a recognized, trustworthy extension (.com is the ideal).

      It can also be a good idea to choose an SEO-friendly domain that includes one of your most important keywords.

      3. Get secure, quality web hosting with good tech support

      It can be tempting to skimp on web hosting and choose the cheapest service you can find. Don’t do this.

      A cheap web host can cost you in other ways: excessive downtime, slow site speeds, limited or non-existent support.

      It’s not worth it.

      If you’re serious about making your website a success, invest in quality web hosting you can rely on. You won’t go wrong with DreamHost web hosting.

      4. Include a clear description of your business

      This is something a lot of companies get wrong. They know their industry and their business, inside and out. That’s great. But it often means they forget how to describe it to people that don’t.

      Ideally, you should be able to sum up what you do in a couple of sentences. This summary should be displayed prominently on your homepage. And anyone should be able to read it and understand it.

      If you have any doubts, ask someone who knows nothing about what you do what they think. Better yet, enlist the help of a professional copywriter.

      5. Use a top-notch content management system

      A content management system (CMS) is where you’ll manage your website’s pages and content. The right one can make this quick, easy, and fun. The wrong one can be the source of endless headaches and can even limit what you’re able to do.

      Good content management systems allow you to build pages and posts on a site with no prior knowledge of coding. They cut down the barrier to entry and enable anyone to create their own site.

      But how do you know which is the right one for you?

      The following questions will help you decide:

      • Do I want a basic website with no frills?
      • Do I want to be able to build the website in the future to have more features?
      • What’s my budget?
      • Will I want to add the ability for a website visitor to buy products in the future?
      • Am I happy to pay ongoing costs, or do I just want to pay a one-off fee?
      • Do I need to integrate with other parts of my business (such as a lead generation tool or a payment platform)?
      • Is it SEO-friendly?
      • Will it scale with my business?
      • Can I use a website builder to make the design process easier?

      Depending on what you want to use the CMS for, you may have other questions, but these basic ones should set you off on finding the right content management system for your needs.

      6. Choose a great e-commerce platform

      If you know that you’ll want to sell products on your site, you need to know what e-commerce platform you need to choose. You can choose from many platforms, but not all of them are built to scale or fit for your purposes. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

      If you’re running a business website, you need to make sure that the platform you choose is reliable and sturdy. You don’t want to deal with customer complaints because you chose a platform that can’t deliver.

      Before selecting a platform, ask yourself the following:

      • Is it SEO-friendly? While there are many cheap and easy-to-set-up e-commerce platforms, not all of them are particularly SEO-friendly.
      • Is it mobile-friendly? We live in a mobile-first world, and if that platform is even a little bit clunky, you’re going to be losing out on revenue.
      • Is it a trusted and secure platform? One of the most important considerations for customers is that their details will be safe when purchasing. Your platform needs to be fully secure, and it needs to communicate that to potential customers.
      • Will it scale? We all have high hopes for our businesses, and while not all succeed, a fair few do. When choosing an e-commerce platform, ensure that it will scale with your online business.
      • How do the systems work? One of the critical areas to investigate is how well the platform deals with product and order management. You need it to be swift so that you aren’t wasting time on the back end, and you can get on with delivering the best service to your customers.

      Your Online Store Deserves WooCommerce Hosting

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      7. Create a beautiful, engaging, accessible website design

      When you imagine a design that matches usability, one company usually springs to mind: Apple. They have managed to combine both of these into a wildly successful business.

      Users appreciate good design, and when it’s combined with solid usability, you have a winner. A site that people want to revisit. A site that people want to buy from.

      Google has always said that you need to create websites with the end-user in mind — and it’s more true today than it’s ever been.

      Here are a few tips for creating sites that ooze design quality.

      • Know your target audience and design accordingly — what features would they want, and how design-savvy are they?
      • Don’t skimp on cost. With design, you get what you pay for. Don’t try to cut corners. Use a professional, experienced designer (like team of pros at DreamHost).
      • Look at the competition. Find some sites in your niche that perform well and study them. Google will rank sites based on niches, and design is crucial. If your competitors’ websites are winning with simplistic colors and designs, take notice. Then make yours better.

      8. Optimize for search engines

      One of the simplest, fastest ways to help make your site successful is to optimize it for search engines. While search engines might be smart — and every day they get better at understanding the meaning and context of web pages, their content, and users’ intent — they still need us to help them along.

      In most cases, the first step to optimizing for search engines is keyword research. This will help you identify the sort of keywords you should be targeting through optimization.

      Popular keyword research tools include:

      If you want to take a more sophisticated approach to keyword research, try Semrush. It’s a great tool for advanced digital marketers, and it’s accessible to people with less experience too. We love it so much, we’ve set up a free 14-day PRO trial for our readers!

      SEMrush

      Semrush’s keyword research section works similarly to most other keyword research tools; however, in addition to keyword suggestions, search volume, and difficulty scores, you also get global volume data, keyword variations, and questions linked to your starting keyword. You also get insights into the current state of the SERPs.

      How to Choose Which Keywords to Target

      The right keywords to target can generally be determined by three things:

      1. Search volume
      2. Difficulty/competitiveness
      3. Relevance

      Ideally, you want to target keywords that lots of people are searching for (how many searches you can realistically expect this to be will depend on your industry), that have low competition (which increases the odds that you’ll be able to rank), and that, of course, are relevant to your site!

      How to Optimize for Target Keywords

      The main places for including your target keywords are:

      The title tag

      This forms part of the snippet of information that appears in the search results. For example, this is the title tag for the DreamHost homepage:

      <H> tags

      H tags are header tags. You might know them as H1s, H2s, H3s, and so on. They are used to help organize the information on a page, particularly in terms of hierarchy.

      While search engines use all the text on a page for ranking, H tags have extra weight behind them — particularly the H1 tag. Include keywords in them where you can (but never, ever be spammy about it!).

      On-page content

      Search engines use all of a page’s content when determining its subject matter and what it should rank for. It goes without saying that keywords should be included here. Just be tactical about how you do it.

      Use words and phrases naturally. Use permutations where possible. Consider entities. And most importantly of all, write for users, not search engines.

      If you need more help with optimizing your website, consider adding SEO toolkit to your hosting plan for $4.99/month. It’ll help you improve your search engine rankings and drive more customers to your site with its suite of DIY tools, helpful analytics, and a step-by-step SEO plan.

      9. Create high-quality content

      It’s hardly a secret that websites with high-quality content have a better chance of performing well than those with poor-quality content.

      Great content should be informative, well written, and easy to understand. It should be formatted in a way that guides the user through the copy.

      But “create high-quality content” sounds somewhat subjective, doesn’t it?

      It’s not quite as subjective as you might think. Here are some ways you can ensure you’re writing high-quality content for your niche.

      • Invest in good writers — as with many points in this guide, cutting corners won’t help your website succeed in the long run. Our SEO marketing service can help.
      • Have experts write your content — Google has been working towards making sure only the best and most accurate content reaches the top of the search results. Middle-of-the-road content isn’t going to cut it for much longer.
      • Conduct deep research — you need to find out what your customers want, not what you think they want. Many websites miss this point entirely. If you don’t satisfy your users’ needs, you can’t really call your content high-quality.

      It’s not just about the words — you need to make your content sing. Make sure it appeals to different users. If it’s right for your target audience, then introduce videos, images, infographics, and charts.

      10. Track your progress with analytics

      It’s tricky, if not impossible, to know whether your site is a success if you’re not tracking your progress. While many tools allow you to track your website and even spy on the status of others, there is arguably no better website tracking tool than Google’s own Analytics.

      To get started with Google Analytics, you will need to:

      And that’s pretty much it. You can create filtered views of the data to help you hone in on specific data elements, but the above is all you need to do for Google to start gathering extremely detailed data that will enable you to assess the performance of your site and adapt your strategy accordingly.

      11. Set up a site maintenance plan

      What do you do once your site’s up and running? Should you sit back, relax, and let the visits/leads/money roll in?

      No.

      Depending on your goals, you may be able to slow down. But you can’t just forget about your website. Things will go wrong.

      Instead, implement a maintenance plan, like what we offer as part of our DreamCare service. Your maintenance plan should include a list of periodic must-dos and when you will do them. The most important will likely be:

      • Running security scans
      • Backing up your site’s data
      • Checking Webmaster Tools, primarily for any glaring errors that have gone unnoticed

      Another thing we’d advise is to run Hotjar or another tool that monitors user behavior. While you can use its findings to gain a deep understanding of your website’s user experience (UX), you can also use it periodically to pinpoint specific issues or points of contention.

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      Your New Website Is Waiting

      As you can see, creating a successful website isn’t quick, and it isn’t particularly easy — but knowing the secrets to a successful website will help.

      Get started with these key takeaways.

      1. Define your goals. Decide exactly what you want your website to achieve.
      2. Choose a good domain name that’s relevant, memorable, short, and has a trustworthy extension.
      3. Invest in quality web hosting that’s secure, with great tech support.
      4. Describe your business clearly on your homepage, and anywhere else it’s relevant.
      5. Use a quality content management system: one that’s robust and easy to use.
      6. Choose a good e-commerce platform that can grow with your business.
      7. Create a beautiful website design that’s one step above your competitors.
      8. Optimize for search engines. Ensure they understand what your site’s about and the terms it should rank for.
      9. Create high-quality content; substandard content doesn’t rank.
      10.  Track your progress, starting with Google Analytics.
      11.  Create a site maintenance plan, including backing up data and checking Search Console.

      Ready to get started with your website? If you’re starting from scratch, we can help with our Pro Services. Our expert team can design, build, manage and market your website — everything you need to launch yourself or your brand online. Learn more about what DreamHost can do for you here.



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