The switch to Google Analytics 4 is happening during tremendous change for marketing teams. The barriers to cloud computing are dropping quickly, presenting marketers with new and extremely powerful tools to manage customer data. But, at the same time, expectations for data privacy are surging, eliminating capabilities previously considered best practices and creating new challenges for marketing teams to solve.
In this final chapter, we will explore how Google Analytics 4 fits into a larger ecosystem of products that Google is developing to help marketing teams adapt to these challenges. We will also share four principles that marketers embrace to navigate these emerging challenges.
THE FUTURE DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THE PAST
Marketing teams have been racing to collect as much data as possible since Google Analytics was released nearly 15 years ago. We shared a common vision that the most successful marketing teams build a “360-degree view of the customer” by consolidating everything we know about each individual who interacts with our business. This “single source of truth” promised to solve our most complex marketing problems:
- “What message will most likely influence a specific customer’s behavior right now?”
- “How many conversions did I see as a result of my advertising campaign?”
This vision has been crumbling in recent years. Rising expectations for customer privacy have created new technical and regulatory obstacles, and individuals’ customer data can no longer be consolidated into a single system where it is stored forever (at least not consistently across your entire customer base).
At the same time, marketing teams are quickly gaining access to cloud infrastructure, making managing customer data easier than ever. Every Google Analytics 4 property can now be integrated into BigQuery, which gives every marketer access to join this data with other sources, conduct sophisticated analysis, and then push audiences back into advertising tools. This makes it possible for marketing teams to solve highly complex problems, such as:
- Generate new text, images, and videos that are optimized to influence the behavior of your specific customers
- Deploy media mix models to measure how well your advertising campaigns are driving conversions
Marketing teams must rethink how they solve traditional marketing problems in the current context.
A NEW VISION OF SUCCESS
This is the final chapter of the Complete Guide to Google Analytics 4. Up to this point, the team at Search Discovery has attempted to create a vision of success with GA4. This vision shows what it looks like when marketing teams are maximizing the value of GA4 to solve business problems, but GA4 is only one piece of a larger puzzle. Marketers also need a broader vision of what successful marketing teams look like in the future. This broader vision of marketing success will let go of old best practices no longer aligned with customer privacy expectations (such as depending on multitouch attribution) while creating new best practices for managing data in the cloud. As Seth Godin says:
“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.”
THE RISE OF MODERN MARKETING
Luckily, smart people are working hard on this problem, and the term “modern marketing” has emerged in the past year or so to describe marketing teams who proactively and successfully navigate these changes.
In August 2022, the Google Marketing Platform team released a series called “Embracing Modern Marketing” (watch the five-minute intro HERE, or see the full YouTube presentation HERE). In this series, the Google team shared many of the same challenges facing marketing teams that I have already discussed above, and they introduced the term “modern marketing” as the solution.
Google’s head of digital marketing transformation, Matthew Kelleher, defines modern marketing this way:
“Modern marketing means adapting to trends… it is rooted in innovation, it’s 100% consumer-centric, and it’s always on the right side of morally responsible”.
The Google team presented three ways that every marketer needs to modernize, and I will give a summary of each:
The foundation of a modern marketing program is strong data management capabilities. Modern marketing teams are highly skilled at collecting data, blending it, conducting analysis, and pushing it out to advertising products for activation. Google Analytics 4 is one part of a larger ecosystem. The full ecosystem looks something like this:
This diagram might look different for every modern marketing team. Still, you can see that data is shared between various products for different purposes: conducting research, building audiences, setting goals, measuring success, etc. Modern marketing teams must overcome the challenges of connecting data between systems.
Innovation is about embracing new best practices that are emerging in response to the environmental changes described in the opening section of this chapter. Marketing teams will continue to face the same challenges (the 4 Ps of marketing):
- Product – Bringing products to market
- Place – Determining where products should be sold
- Promotion – Creating a strategy for advertising your products
- Price – Setting a pricing strategy
For a brief period, the best practice to solve many of these challenges was to build a single source of truth with a 360-degree view of the customer, but new approaches are needed in the current context. Modern marketing teams must innovate with alternative methods of accomplishing traditional marketing problems.
Google has released a series of new technologies that support innovative marketing teams, and many of these technologies are built into Google Analytics 4 (such as conversion modeling, behavioral modeling, and consent mode). Right now, Google is releasing another wave of technologies to help marketing teams connect their data and apply AI to drive better performance without sharing personal user data:
Connect Their Data:
Use your online and offline data to reach and re-engage with your customers across Search, the Shopping tab, Gmail, YouTube, and Display.
Targets people most likely to convert (based on real-time campaign conversion data, e.g., what people who convert recently searched for).
PAIR with Ads Data Hub
Gives publishers and advertisers the option to securely and privately reconcile their first-party data for audiences who have visited both an advertiser’s and a publisher’s site.
Bid-to-Value (or value-based bidding)
Allows you to tell Google if a customer who clicked on your ad was valuable to your business or not. Google can apply machine learning to adjust your bids to find more high-value customers in the future.
Define a criterion for how much an impression is worth, and allocate more value to impressions that align closer to your goals and less value to impressions that don’t.
Find more converting customers across all of Google’s channels—YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps—from a single campaign.
Finally, modern marketing teams must experiment, see what works for their business, and make iterative changes. Google calls this embracing an “everything-is-a-test mindset.” It’s about making small changes, learning from mistakes, and pushing forward.
I have had many conversations with marketing teams over the months since Google released this series, and I have recently launched a new series of blog posts that explore the concept of modern marketing in more detail.
Google Analytics 4 is very different from prior versions, and many of my clients have been frustrated that this adjustment was forced on them. But marketers across the globe must adjust to the environmental changes around us, and I believe that Google Analytics is a helpful tool for defining a new vision for marketing in the modern era.