Crystal ball that reads GA4.

B2B marketers, want to know the best thing (and the worst) about the transition from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

It happened.

Yes, GA4 looks much different from the UA tools and interface that have been around for years. It’s also true that all of your company’s historical website data saved in UA will disappear July 1, 2024. And B2B marketers (if you haven’t already done so) will need to invest time to master GA4 and configure all of its reporting capabilities.

Our digital data world has changed significantly. However, this new reality is by and large beneficial to B2B marketers. So, thanks Google.

GA4 is both a big deal and, meh, not so much. There’s a lot to understand about all the new functionality. That’s why we’re sharing what we’ve discovered from a year of using GA4 daily. Some are hot takes about how GA4 enables us to do a better job for our clients. We hope you find them useful.

We also recognize that switching to GA4 has triggered high-anxiety events for some B2B marketers. Change this massive can affect even the most stoic among us. But GA4 provides a more holistic view of how customers behave across all of a company’s digital platforms. We now can track the entire customer journey across multiple sessions and touchpoints. That’s a good thing — and worth whatever disruption that implementation of GA4 has caused.

How B2B marketers can benefit from what's new in GA4

Google redesigned GA4 with marketers in mind. Key benefits for B2B companies (compared to UA) Universal include:

Event-driven tracking
GA4 enables the tracking of specific user behaviors more effectively than UA. Everything is event-based, such as tracking document downloads, form submissions, video views, and other interactions that B2B marketers decide are important indicators of customer engagement and interest. When used in combination with Google Tag Manager, marketers can tag a wide variety of website actions without the help of their digital development teams.

Cross-platform enhancements
GA4 improves tracking across websites and mobile apps to help marketers better understand the behaviors of customers who interact with B2B companies through multiple channels and devices.

Measuring entire customer journey
GA4 focuses on user behaviors, rather than tracking sessions. This makes it possible for B2B marketers to follow customers across multiple sessions and glean a holistic view of their interactions. B2B often involves more complex and longer sales cycles, so this GA4 capability represents a significant improvement in insights about customers.

Learning and predicting behaviors
GA4 incorporates machine learning and predictive metrics to provide insights into potential customer behaviors and trends. This can help B2B marketers identify high-value leads.

Favorite new features: Counting days to conversion

We’ve been using GA4 with B2B clients long enough to add favorite new features and functions to our workflow. Here are the four main sections of the GA4 interface that enhance what we can do for our clients and make our work easier in real time throughout the entire customer lifecycle:

Acquisition: GA4 watches how customers arrive at a website. This could be by source, medium, location, which search terms they used, or which campaign drove their click.

Engagement: GA4 follows what customers do on a website, how much time they spend doing it, which landing pages or pages they reached, and details about which events or conversion actions they complete.

Monetization: GA4 tracks e-commerce activities, including what customers buy along with what items they add to a shopping cart, what they abandon, and which promo/discount codes they utilize.

Retention: GA4 identifies and analyzes returning customers in addition to new customers.

Converting behavior to customer value

Perhaps the most useful new capability of GA4 is its estimates of the value of customers to B2B companies.

When a customer visits your website or app, GA4 tracks the full lifecycle of that user. GA4 monitors how many days it takes for them to complete an action you’ve identified as an important conversion. B2B marketers can utilize a prebuilt report called Conversion Paths to measure how many times the customer visited before they filled out a form, watched a video, downloaded a white paper or brochure, or purchased something.

GA4 identifies where a customer came from such as a social media post or a pay-per-click ad. B2B marketers can better understand the number of touchpoints in the customer’s journey and estimate the business value of their activities.

This has been helpful for one of our clients in life sciences equipment manufacturing. By using GA4, our client and we discovered just how much latency exists between when campaigns are launched and when customers interact with them. In one case, our client increased its pay-per-click spend in July, expecting an immediate response. We didn’t see an increase in the desired conversions for nearly three months. Without GA4, we would not have been able to accurately trace the delayed customer actions back to the digital ad campaign.

We long have suspected response latency had been occurring; GA4 confirmed it. As a result, we can make better informed recommendations to clients about the length of digital campaigns. And B2B companies can confidently make decisions about when and how to invest in the campaigns.

GA4 widens the view of customer behaviors

Not only is GA4 watching the first or last touchpoint (which we were used to with UA), but it is now paying attention to all of the different customer touchpoints.

A user may first find your site via a paid search result. Later, they may return via an organic search result and, then, a direct visit before finally completing a form. GA4 uses a data-driven attribution approach to assign weight to each channel (assessing how much that channel influenced the conversion action).

Previously with UA, we had one lens. B2B marketers could see the last channel that drove a user to a site when they converted. We didn’t have visibility into all the other ways that user may have found a site prior to converting. GA4 greatly expands your view of a customer’s path to conversion.

New tools and much for marketers to learn

Let’s be clear. We like GA4 because it’s now truly a tool for marketers. It’s also a significant change from what we were all used to with UA. The transition from a well-understood platform to a new one is always accompanied by some short-term discomfort due to its steep learning curve.
Many (if not most) B2B marketers have implemented GA4 at this point. Taking full advantage of its new features to achieve specific business goals requires understanding what lessons have already been learned to avoid potential disadvantages. Among them are:

A new interface, tools and processes that take time to learn. B2B companies should provide the training necessary for B2B marketers to become proficient — and plan that it will take longer than if on UA and other familiar marketing platforms. But don’t panic! You’ll learn how to build every report in GA4 that you’re accustomed to using back in UA.

GA4 offers never-before-available customization of what’s measured and reported — and adds much more complexity. B2B marketers have more options to create and manage reports. All of the possible variables require marketers to become highly skilled at setting up event tracking to reveal highly valuable nuances about customer behavior.

Historical data from UA is not automatically available in GA4. B2B marketers who want to utilize that information for trend analysis and benchmarking need to take extra steps to download and save their data from UA before it disappears July 1. But even when you retrieve it, there’s not a 1:1 match of the data UA archived to compare with what GA4 records today. B2B marketers will have to set up events and create custom reports to be able to evaluate UA historical data alongside measurements of current the activity reported by GA4. Ensuring a smooth migration without losing critical data can be a concern.

Why B2B marketers should embrace GA4

Google is consolidating and standardizing measurement capabilities across website and mobile platforms. GA4 unifies and simplifies tracking and reporting for B2B companies which operate on multiple digital channels. It also represents a shift in digital analytics toward users and events. This presents an opportunity for B2B marketers to review what’s important in their reports.

If the transition from UA to GA4 forces you to hunt for data, it’s a good time to ask whether insights from the historical data are even still relevant. Or are they simply part of a legacy that doesn’t mean much to what you’re now trying to accomplish? Adopting GA4 offers a chance to rethink and refocus your digital analytics workflow.

Fully embracing GA4 also can help B2B marketers save time and reduce costs while improving the accuracy of digital analytics. 
Before, we had to download a lot of data from UA into spreadsheets and analyze it to find insights about B2B customers. Merging multiple spreadsheets together is cumbersome and error-prone. If you forgot to include a metric or later decided to add one, you had to start over in the spreadsheet.

GA4 permits B2B marketers to bypass all that hand processing. Instead, it can track data, compare it, and visualize it with nearly any level of granularity you choose. For example, it’s easy to set up a report within the GA4 interface and see conversions from campaigns broken out by campaign name, channel of origin and the month in which they occurred.

Our bottom line on GA4: Google-built analytics for B2B marketers to use. Finally.