Thoughts from the Google Analytics 4 Migration Process
And Why Does it Remind Me of My Lotus Notes Days?
So I’m going back into antiquity here. It was a time when Google was young, and some were still running around with BlackBerry phones. Lotus Notes dominated what was then referred to as the middleware space – which is another way of saying the email and collaboration tools marketplace. Microsoft’s Outlook platform was building market share, but never eclipsed Lotus Notes – that is, until Bill Gates somehow recruited (aka bought) Lotus Notes founder and CTO Ray Ozzie and named him Chief Software Architect of Microsoft. Shortly before that, IBM had acquired Lotus Notes, and the downward spiral was well underway. Gates pulling in Ozzie simply accelerated that process.
Lotus Notes; to this day, is the most brilliant platform I have ever known. I was a Computer Science student at nearby Monmouth University, and my then company was fully invested in the platform. Starting out as a computer technician, I was offered the opportunity to become a full-time Lotus Notes developer. I really was not sure what that entailed at the time, but it did come with a big raise so yes, I accepted. I had no idea what type of journey I was about to embark upon. While the platform did offer a highly innovative ‘formula language’ engine which empowered non-developers to facilitate developer level functionality (such as automated and dynamic database lookups – which was unheard of at the time), my undergraduate pursuits had me writing code in the C++ language. C++ is an object-oriented language and – as a matter of fact, was the first of its kind. Being ‘object-oriented’ means that you could create your own ‘classes’, aka objects, which could be reused to carry out various automated actions against direct (human input) data, against database lookups of existing data, or both.
So what really interested me was the ‘lotusscript’ language engine that was built natively into the Lotus Notes platform. By the time I became a Lotus Notes Developer (and the ‘CLP Domino R5 Principal Application Developer’ certification remains one of my proudest achievements – still hangs on my wall at home), lotusscript was already a full blown object-oriented programming language. Therefore, I was able to take the theory of that which I was learning in the classroom, and turn it into practical application in the workplace – via Lotus Notes and specifically, lotusscript. And it was GAME ON. Suddenly, I saw how those painfully laborious binary truth tables were were learning in Discrete Mathematics were not simply devised to torture defenseless undergrad students. I once wrote a program using lotusscript which entailed logic that required factoring for x number of scenarios. Using truth tables, I was able to break down those logic deductions in a precise and, yes, dare I say ALGORITHMIC way! I’ll always miss those days, and anyone who was on board at Wheelock, Inc, back then will remember the amazing ways in which we were leveraging that platform.
Anyway, several years later I was terminated from the company that acquired Wheelock, and I planned to take the frameworks for all of those (what I thought to be, at least) great software constructs I had created and started a business application software company. Well, the universe had other plans, and Core and More Technologies instead became a multi-million dollar digital marketing operation. It is what it is. I love it and I am grateful for the experience. Along the way we have had some wonderful clients, and some amazing experiences. Working with AtHoc in San Mateo, California led to our presence smack in the heart of Silicon Valley – where we continue to have a presence today. I never thought I would end up hanging around on El Camino Real, where Steve Jobs and Woz were driving around selling the first Apple computers out of the back of a VW bus – and buzzing around Oracle Headquarters in Foster City. It has been quite the journey. The high point back than may have been when I found myself in a Silicon Valley boardroom, being told to “get rid of that #*@# tie”!
Anyway, fast forward to the subject of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) migration. Earlier today, I was putting together the announcement to our client-base regarding the looming migration to that platform from the existing Universal Analytics (UA) platform. Through the process of gaining an understanding of everything that GA4 is, I realized that everything that GA4 is addressing (in terms of marketing functionality and the transition from a user-based model to an event-driven model), is exactly what we had already rolled out to our client base almost two years ago already. Leveraging Google Tag Manager, in collaboration with our partners at WhatConverts and the amazing attribution capabilities that their platform enables, the entirety of our reporting paradigm for all of our clients is built upon a model that pushes ‘event’ data from WhatConverts into Google Analytics (UA), and then wraps that event data with ‘goals’ (which we then push into the various advertising platforms such as Google and Microsoft Ads). Finally, we have created a fully cross-platform reporting dashboard that ties it all together using Google Looker Studio (formerly known as Google Data Studio). Here, we are doing what no one else in the industry is doing; each and every one of our clients has a dashboard that shows lead volume, cost per lead data, quotable lead volume, cost per quotable lead data, total pipeline value, total sales value, total traffic data, organic results, social media results, and it is all segmented to show individual accruals across all platforms including but not limited to Google, Bing, Facebook, and others.
All of this is documented and rooted in standard operating procedures (SOP’s) that we attach to every single client that we bring on board. The result: FULL TRANSPARENCY and complete reporting capability. That’s one of the ways that we TRULY differentiate ourselves. In my opinion, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT way. It creates true accountability, from us to our clients. And even from sales to the organization.
There are a million templates through which one with minimal experience can now create a slick landing page, a nifty website, and cutting-edge, innovative looking graphics. And the plethora of options now available via AI for content development and graphic design has largely if not wholly commoditized those functions. GA4 brings this model that we built two years ago closed that much closer to the same status. It will now be easier for those who are so inclined to mirror the complex models required to power these reports in a much simpler way. The GA4 documentation says as much, almost verbatim. But I do not believe that many will leverage the GA4 platform to create the level of reporting I have described above. For us, necessity was the mother of that invention; we challenged ourselves to report in ways that were not easy to report upon at the time. And if an agency does not have that same propensity, that hunger to have already done likewise, that is not something that the availability of a platform will cure. Are you getting that level of reporting today, right now? Why not? How much money are you spending? Is your agency saying ‘no we can’t do that’ when you ask them for the data that I have outlined above?
If they are, let’s talk. You deserve better.