Keys to a successful transition to Google Analytics 4

What banks need to know, and why they need to know it right away.

By Scott Stellwagon

For a decade, banks have used Google’s Universal Analytics to track their website metrics. As technology has evolved over those years, the data tracking needs of websites have changed as well. A greater focus on privacy and a need for tracking across multiple online platforms, with the advent of mobile apps, has caused Google to begin the transition to their new platform, Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

As of July 1,2023, Google will officially sunset Universal Analytics in favor of GA4. New website data will no longer be available through Universal Analytics, though banks will continue to be able to review historic data in UA for a limited time. This has left many banks wondering how to make the transition to GA4 as smooth and seamless as possible prior to this deadline. Here are a few key factors your bank needs to know about GA4:

When is the best time to transition to GA4? The short answer is: As soon as possible.

Historical data collected in your Universal Analytics account will not be available in GA4, so making the transition to the new platform immediately will allow you to begin tracking website metrics for 2022. You will only be able to view data beginning on the date that you configure GA4 for your bank. So the sooner you switch, the more data you will have at your disposal.

Additionally, adopting this new platform sooner than later will give you time to acclimate to the system, learn how it differs from the UA that you are used to, and configure reports that let you review your website data for actionable insights.

What is different about GA4 for banks?

As you begin making the transition to this new platform, you may want to know how GA4 differs from Universal Analytics and how this will impact your bank. In addition to an updated look and feel of the platform, here are key takeaways about GA4:

Improved user privacy. GA4 offers a greater focus on user privacy, and is built to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act and the General Data Protection Regulation. Thanks to this emphasis on compliance, websites will have less of a need to rely on cookies to track users.

Greater compatibility. As mobile apps become synonymous with a bank’s digital presence, the need for reliable and streamlined tracking of mobile app usage has increased. To accommodate this, GA4 is fully compatible with both websites and apps, eliminating the need to track mobile app data through secondary tools such as Firebase. This will make it easier than ever to see how your customers are engaging with your mobile banking app.

Track multiple domains. GA4 allows for easier cross-domain tracking. This is great news for banks that want to track their customers all the way through the sales funnel for loan and deposit account application platforms, which are typically hosted on sub-domains.

With GA4, banks should be able to track not only the number of users who click to begin an application, but also the number of users who complete the application process. Additionally, if your bank has a blog hosted on a sub-domain, you will be able to view this data alongside your primary website metrics.

Evolving website metrics. One of the biggest changes to GA4 is that it will track user data more accurately by using an event-based tracking system rather than the session-based tracking in Universal Analytics that grouped user interactions within a given timeframe. This new event-based system will allow you to gather more specific and granular data about how individual users are interacting with your website. Additionally, bounce rate will no longer be a trackable metric. Replaced by engagement rate, which instead tracks which percentage of your visitors are engaging with your website once they have landed on a page.

Updated reporting. Whereas Universal Analytics provided dozens of reporting options nested inside a collapsible menu, GA4 puts a greater focus on customized reporting. In addition to real-time reporting data, marketers will now be able to build reporting templates so that they can review the data that is most important for their marketing needs.

What steps do banks need to take by the deadline?

To help businesses make the transition as smoothly as possible, Google offers a Setup Assistant to guide users through the process of converting their Universal Analytics accounts over to GA4 ahead of the July deadline. While this transition process isn’t perfect, it does offer some next steps that you can take to begin tracking data in GA4 as soon as possible:

Set up your GA4 account. When you login to your current Universal Analytics account, click the Admin button in the left sidebar. On the following page under the Property column, there is an option for GA4 Setup Assistant. On the following page, select the option to create a new Google Analytics 4 property. This will initiate the process of creating a GA4 account, but you will need to install your GA4 Measurement ID on your website. The Setup Assistant should walk users through this process. Your website manager can assist with this step, though this code can also be implemented through Google Tag Manager with relative ease. This is the most crucial step in order to begin collecting user data.

Link your Google Ads account. If you run Google Ads, link this platform so that ad data can feed into GA4. This process is fairly easy once the setup procedure has begun. On the Setup Assistant page, just click the Link to Google Ads option near the bottom of the page and choose the account that you would like to link. This will allow you to begin feeding your advertising data into your GA4 account.

Reconfigure tracking in Google Tag Manager. If you are currently tracking conversions in your current Universal Analytics, take the necessary steps to set these up in GA4. If you are using Google Tag Manager for your tracking, the process of converting your UA conversions to GA4 is relatively simple. Just create new Tags using the GA4 Event tag type. You shouldn’t need to make any changes to the Triggers, as long as they are tracking correctly in your current Universal Analytics configuration.

Need help making the jump to GA4? If you are not sure where to start with getting your bank set up in GA4, you may want to consult with a digital agency that can assist in configuring your account and provide insights into reporting data. This will be especially important if you hope to capture advanced cross-domain reporting data and comprehensive goal tracking.

Scott Stellwagon is a digital analyst at BankBound, a marketing agency focused exclusively on growing local financial institutions.