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Data visualization: How to transform analytics data into actionable insights

Tired of buried insights in complex reports? Turn overwhelming analytics data into clear insights with data visualization.

Dashboards and data visualizations are great for quickly and easily keeping tabs on campaigns and tracking progress toward your goals.

But you know where they really excel?

Keeping your stakeholders in the loop.

Data visualization tools that provide real-time updates with user-friendly interfaces, including drill-down options, give your stakeholders visibility they can use themselves.

Whether it’s tracking a paid social campaign, assessing the impact of recent SEO efforts or reviewing an email blast, up-to-the-minute data empowers them to make timely, informed decisions.

Read more about the power of data visualization in Alan K’necht’s latest column for Martech.

PubCon 2024 March 4-6

This March, Alan K’necht will be speaking at Pubcon in Las Vegas. Pubcon, is the premier new media and optimization conference, was founded in 2001. K’necht has been a regular speaker at it for about 20 years.

His session is entitled “Google Analytics 4 – Navigating the Transition“.

K’necht will be joining two other speakers (Adam Proehl) and Scott Hendison on a session focused on Google Analytics 4 and what people need to know about the transitioning from the former Google Universal Analytics (GA3) to GA4.

Image shows session title and speakers

Why a GA4 Audit After Migration

The Pitfalls of the UA to GA4
Automated Migration

picture at the buttom is a row of coloured pencils and above them in movable block letters is the work ANALYTICS The world of digital marketing is in a constant state of evolution, and Google Analytics is no exception. Nearly 2 years ago, Google introduced Google Analytics 4 (GA4), a major update to the widely used Universal Analytics (UA). Many people ignored this new version simply because it didn’t function like the old UA and when released and  it functioned more like a beta version then a production version. Still Google gave us a warning that the old UA would stop working by June 30, 2023. Around mid May 2023, Google started to automate the migration for businesses who still hadn’t migrated themselves from UA to GA4. Many businesses who relied on automated migration process from UA to GA4, are now raising concerns about data accuracy, tracking implementation, and the overall performance of their analytics setup. In this blog post, I will explore the challenges associated with the transition to GA4 and why it’s essential to hire a professional for a GA4 audit of your configuration, especially if you let Google do your migration.

The Automated Migration from UA to GA4

Google’s decision to discontinue support for UA has left businesses with no option but to transition to GA4. While the transition was necessary, the automated migration process had its problems. Here are some of the key issues that have been reported by businesses:

Data Discrepancies:

Many businesses are noticing discrepancies in their data after migrating to GA4. These inconsistencies are frustrating and make it difficult to trust the analytics data for decision-making. Inaccurate data can lead to misguided marketing strategies and wasted resources. Some of these discrepancies, may simply be misunderstanding how Google Analytics now measure things differently and in other cases, the configuration is causing these issues.

Complex Setup:

GA4’s configuration is complex and challenging to set up correctly. The new event-driven model, user-centric tracking, and event parameters require a deep understanding of the platform. Misconfigurations can result in missing or inaccurate data, making it difficult to gain actionable insights.

Learning Curve:

Migrating from UA to GA4 often involves a steep learning curve. For businesses without dedicated analytics experts on staff, this can be a significant challenge. If your organization let the migration to gA4 happen automatically without a strong understanding of its features and capabilities may have led to suboptimal results. That’s why K’nechtology offers both GA4 end-user and administration training.

Loss of Historical Data:

GA4 does not support the import of historical data from UA. This means that businesses lose access to valuable historical data that could help them analyze trends, track user behavior, and make informed decisions. Without historical data, it’s challenging to evaluate the impact of changes in your marketing efforts over time.

Limited Documentation:

GA4 is still relatively new, and as a result, there is limited documentation available to assist users. This lack of resources can make it difficult for businesses to troubleshoot issues and maximize the potential of their analytics setup.

Why You Need for a Professional GA4 Audit

Photo of some charges and the corner of a laptop computerGiven the issues with GA4 and the challenges associated with the automated migration, it’s clear that a professional GA4 audit is essential. Here are some compelling reasons why you should consider hiring an expert to assess your GA4 configuration:

Data Accuracy:

A GA4 audit by a skilled professional can help ensure that your data is accurate and reliable. They will review your tracking implementation, identify discrepancies, and fix any issues that may be causing data inaccuracies. This accuracy is crucial for making informed business decisions and optimizing your marketing efforts.

Customization:

GA4 offers extensive customization options, but many businesses underutilize them due to the complexity of the platform. A professional audit can help you tailor GA4 to your specific business needs, ensuring that you capture the data that matters most to your goals.

Improved Tracking:

A professional audit will identify opportunities to enhance your tracking setup. They can configure event tracking, custom dimensions, and user properties to provide a deeper understanding of user behavior and engagement on your website or app.

Compliance and Privacy:

GA4 introduces new features to help businesses comply with data privacy regulations. A professional auditor can ensure that your configuration adheres to these regulations, protecting your business from potential legal issues.

Historical Data Recovery:

While you can’t import historical data into GA4, an experienced auditor can help you leverage the data that’s still available in UA. They can set up a data bridge to connect your UA and GA4 properties, allowing you to continue using historical data for analysis and decision-making.

In-Depth Insights:

With an expert’s help, you can gain more profound insights into user behavior, conversion paths, and key performance indicators (KPIs). This enhanced understanding allows you to fine-tune your marketing strategies and achieve better results.

Continuous Monitoring:

An audit is not a one-time event; it’s an ongoing process. Hiring a professional ensures that your GA4 setup is continually monitored and optimized as your business evolves and the digital landscape changes.

Conclusion

The transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 was a necessary step in keeping up with the ever-changing world of digital marketing. However, the automated migration process and the complexities of GA4 can pose significant challenges for businesses. Issues such as data discrepancies, loss of historical data, and complex setup can hinder the effectiveness of your analytics.

To navigate these challenges and make the most of GA4, it’s crucial to hire a professional to audit your configuration. An expert can ensure data accuracy, customize GA4 to your specific needs, recover historical data, improve tracking, and provide in-depth insights. This investment in professional auditing will ultimately lead to more reliable data, better decision-making, and a competitive advantage in the digital marketplace. Don’t let the pitfalls of GA4 migration hold your business back; take the proactive step of hiring a professional to ensure your analytics setup is optimized for success.

How to Safeguard Your UA Data

Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) data is scheduled to become unavailable to all users on December 31, 2023. This means that the majority of UA users will lose access to their historical data (data collected prior to July 1 of this year) when they were mandated to transition to GA4. The urgency of saving your UA data cannot be overstated. In this guide, we’ll explore effective strategies to safeguard your invaluable UA data.



What can you do to save all your data before it disappears? Here are some options:

Methods for Saving Your UA Data

Option 1: Save Data as PDFs

Step 1: Identify the data you truly need on an ongoing basis by looking at the data you consistently refer to or include in reports.


Step 2: Generate custom reports that capture this essential data.


Step 3: Determine the reporting range, specifying a period like July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, or any timeframe relevant to your organization’s needs.


Step 4: Establish your data reporting periods, typically on a monthly or quarterly basis.


Step 5:  Export the report as a PDF from within UA, working your way backward in time to capture all the historical data required.Image shows the export options within Google's Universal Analytics. They are PDF, Google Sheets, Excel (XLSX), , (CSV) and Unsampled Report



However, it’s essential to note that this method results in static documents, limiting their usability for complex investigations or analysis.

Alternative Approaches to Saving Your UA Data

Option 2: Export Data as CSV or Google Sheets

Benefits of this Option:

  • Greater flexibility than PDFs
  • Suitable for larger datasets

Limitations of this Option:

  • A maximum of 500 lines per dimension can be exported from UA (compared to 5,000 with GA4).
  • Not suitable for exporting reports with more than 500 pages or reports with multiple dimensions exceeding 500 within a given reporting period.

Repeat steps 1-4 from Option 1, but instead of exporting the data to a PDF, choose the CSV format (which can be imported into Excel files) or Google Sheets.

Option 3: Looker Studio – A Comprehensive Solution to Safeguard Your UA Data

This option is similar to Option 1 but uses Google’s Looker Studio for creating custom reports. While it may be more time-consuming, the benefits are immense. Looker Studio utilizes Google API for extracting data, eliminating row limits.



Step 1 – 4: Repeat Steps from Option 1


Steps 1 to 4 from Option 1 apply to Option 3, with the added advantage of using Google’s Looker Studio for creating custom reports.


Sample Looker Stuido Custom report showing KPI for landing pages
Example of a a Landing page Report using Looker Studio



Step 5: Export the data from the Looker Studio report to Google Sheets for each reporting period.


Steps 6: Organize and Consolidate



Create a master Google Sheet for the entire date range needed to save your data. Then, access each Google Sheet with exported data (Step 5), rename it with the appropriate date range, and send it to the master sheet. This approach offers unlimited rows (dimensions), ensuring the safety of your data.


Image shows multiple tabs in a Google Sheet. Each tab contains the name of a month and year



The major benefit of Option 3 and using Looker Studio is that there are virtually no limitations on how many rows (dimensions) can be exported.

Other Options for Protecting Your UA Data

While other options, such as implementing Google API for data extraction into a data warehouse or alternative formats, exist, these may necessitate expertise beyond that of most analysts. In such cases, it is advisable to seek assistance from your systems or database team.



In conclusion, taking proactive measures to save your UA data is imperative as the deadline for data inaccessibility draws near. Evaluate the options outlined in this guide and choose the method that best suits your organization’s needs, ensuring the security and accessibility of your invaluable UA data.



If you need help with any of these, feel free to reach out. We’ve helped many people save their Universal Analytics data already.

 

Data Visualization & Free GA4 Dashboards

Here at K’nechtology we are  always on the lookout for ways to deliver more value to you, and today, we’re thrilled to share our latest offering – our advanced Data Visualization Service, powered by Google’s Looker Studio.

In an era where data is at the forefront of decision-making, the presentation of this data (especially with Google Analytics 4 limited built-in reports)  can make all the difference. It’s not just about numbers and graphs; it’s about understanding, clarity, and actionable insights. That’s precisely what our new service aims to deliver.

Why Data Visualization?

The power of visualization lies in its ability to simplify complex data sets, highlight essential KPIs, and provide a clearer picture of what’s happening beneath the surface.  These are frequently called “Dashboards“. Whether you’re a content creator, an eCommerce magnate, or a business strategist, having an interactive  (GA4 or other analytics tool) dashboard can streamline your strategies and decision-making processes.

Dive into our Free GA4 Dashboards!

Screenshot of GA4 Blogger Dashboard page 1, created using Looker StudioTo give you a taste of what we’re bringing to the table:

Blogger Dashboard: Tailored for content-driven platforms, this dashboard sheds light on where your traffic is stemming from, the performance of landing pages, and offers a deep dive into significant KPIs and more. Dive into the Blogger Dashboard here: https://lookerstudio.google.com/reporting/88583d71-7fb0-47cf-870f-7430bd823a9a

Screen shot of page 1 of the Ecommerce dashboard created with Looker StudioeCommerce Dashboard: eCommerce entrepreneurs, this one’s for you! Get insights into trending KPIs, track revenue patterns, explore intricate product details, and discover much more. Explore the eCommerce Dashboard here: https://lookerstudio.google.com/reporting/6f1c6a5f-30f6-405d-8fc2-471df9e5a0cf

Navigating through these dashboards is refreshingly simple. Choose the relevant GA4 property, and let Looker Studio do its magic, populating the reports with precision.

Join the Data Revolution!

We’re excited about the endless possibilities this service offers and invite you to be a part of this journey. Dive into and share the free dashboards. Don’t forget to please share your thoughts and feedback. We’re here to serve and continuously evolve, ensuring K’nechtology remains your go-to place for all things digital.

Pubcon 2023 – Austin Texas – Take Aways

Picture of session listings out side of the conference session room. Half way down it list's Alan's sessionIt’s been six years since I last presented at a Pubcon event. How wonderful  it was to return and reconnect in person with numerous friends and colleagues from the Search Marketing industry. As is the case with all conferences, some of the most valuable insights came from casual conversations by vendor booths, during breaks between sessions, and at evening networking events. Naturally, the various sessions provided a wealth of knowledge as well.

The session I presented was titled “GA4: Customize the UI and Reports”. It was held in the largest of the four conference rooms, a space grand enough to accommodate the keynote speakers and all attendees. I interpreted this as a nod from the organizers, suggesting they anticipated my session would draw a significant crowd. Although the turnout was lighter than expected, those present eagerly absorbed the details and methodologies about optimizing Google Analytics 4 by customizing its User Interface and utilizing Looker Studio to enhance & simplify reporting.

Alan standing in front of a large screen point a Looker Studio Report detailing Scroll Tracking

Feedback during the Q&A, as well as comments shared in the hallways, assured me of the session’s success, notwithstanding the less-than-expected attendance.

Photo of Alan delivering his conference address at Pubcon with session moderator Chris Boggs sitting in the background

One observation from Pubcon that stood out to me was the popularity of sessions centered on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Nearly every AI session was bustling with attendees. I had the opportunity to attend several, and one particularly noteworthy session was conducted by Dixon Jones. He spotlighted a case study from his firm, Inlinks, where they evaluated various AI tools to determine which produced the most SEO-friendly content. Although the findings weren’t definitive, a key takeaway was evident: not all AI tools perform equally, and human oversight of AI-generated content remains indispensable.

Another standout moment was the Keynote address by Microsoft’s Sharon Peng. The keynote delved into Microsoft’s free Clarity product. Peng not only highlighted the potency of this tool but also emphasized its ease of implementation and methods to harness a new depth of user interaction with one’s website.

I also had the opportunity to follow up with Peng and her team at their vendor table. During this interaction, I gained deeper insights into the product and learned just how straightforward its implementation can be, particularly if a website already uses Google Tag Manager. Subsequently, I tested it on a few sites, and the results were consistent with the Clarity team’s promises. I will be recommending it to all my clients.

Having been a regular at Pubcons since the early 2000s, I’m thrilled to see the conference persist despite the devastating impact of COVID on the event industry. While it’s evident that current attendance doesn’t match the pre-COVID era (a trend I also observed at various conferences the past 2 year including Digital Summit a day earlier), numbers are on the rise. Here’s to hoping that Pubcon and similar conferences reclaim their former glory in the not-so-distant future.

Highlights from Digital Summit Detroit 2023

Beyond speaking at Digital Summit Detroit, what I enjoy most about attending conferences is the networking and camaraderie outside the session rooms. This is an invaluable opportunity for me to connect with attendees and understand the challenges they face when presenting data.

Highlights for me at this conference was reuniting with an old friend and potentially making some new ones.

Photo of Alan K'necht and Dr. Marcus CollinsBefore his keynote address, I encountered Dr. Marcus Collins in the speaker’s breakout room. I unintentionally overheard a part of his phone conversation, and he later apologized for speaking loudly. We then delved into a discussion on some marketing I’d over heard in his conversation. At the time, I wasn’t aware of who he was, assuming he was just another speaker at the conference. However, our discussion was genuinely thought-provoking.

It was only when he took the stage that I was in awe of the depth of his expertise. Unlike many keynote speakers who often focus on bite-sized information suitable for tweets, Dr. Collins provided a wealth of wisdom and insights. I was fortunate enough to secure a copy of his book, “For the Culture,” which I’m eager to dive into.

Photo of Alan K'necht and Grant Simmons Another memorable moment was catching up with my friend, Grant Simmons. Beyond discussing personal updates, I had the pleasure of attending his packed presentation titled, “The Batman Guide to Internal Linking: Expert Tips for Content Authority, Visibility, and SEO Success.” Grant’s distinctive humor, paired with his knack for imparting knowledge and profiling the use of inLinks, captivated the audience. This was evident from the engaged Q&A session that followed.

For the first time, I met Nicole Ramirez. Although I only managed to catch the initial moments of her presentation on “Harness the Power of UX to Elevate Your Marketing and Drive Results,” to a standing room only audience, it was evident she offered solid advice. However, it was somewhat disheartening to note that some of her tips on UX, like ensuring fast page loading times, clean HTML coding, and optimized imagery, were the same suggestions I’d heard from speakers two decades ago. It’s a sad reminder that despite the strides digital marketing has made over the past 20 years, certain undesirable practices persist.

A takeaway for everyone attending any conference: While sessions are fantastic for acquiring knowledge, don’t underestimate the value of networking and exchanging ideas in the corridors, during meals, or designated networking periods. Reconnect with old acquaintances and make an effort to forge new relationships.</p?

Digital Summit Detroit 2023

Photo of Alan speaking at Digital Summit, in the backgound 1 of his presentation slides and in for foreground many of the attendees

On September 19, 2023, Alan K’necht had the privilege of speaking at Digital Summit Detroit. His session was entitled, “Making Your Data Talk/Sing For You! – Using Data Visualization to Tell Persuasive and Meaningful Stories.”

Text of a LinkedIn message "I tried to attend your session at Detroit Digital Summit yesterday, but unfortunately it was so full I couldn't find a seat! "For 30 minutes, he addressed a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 150 to 200 attendees. His central theme was on identifying the pivotal “hot buttons” or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that senior management truly values. Moreover, he discussed capturing this essential information and presenting it in an enticing and significant manner.

The obvious point in presenting this data is to steer clear of mere spreadsheets, tabular data, or raw numbers taken out of context. Instead, the key is to put them in context and accompany them with an easily comprehensible graphic or image (data visualization). These images can encapsulate data but should aim to grab the audience’s attention within 8 seconds.

Why the emphasis on 8 seconds? Alan referenced a recent study in his presentation from Total Care Therapy (https://www.totalcareaba.com/statistics/average-attention-span-statistics). This research highlighted the alarming decrease in the average human attention span over the last 20+ years: from 12 seconds in 2000, dropping to 8.25 seconds by 2015. Remarkably, by 2015, a goldfish — boasting an attention span of 9 seconds – exceeding a human by 0.75 seconds. While the study did not provide specific data for 2023, it’s a safe bet to assume our collective attention span has further diminished.

Image from Total Care Therapy study: Image states "according to research our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years" Average attention span in 2000 12 seconds. Average attention span in 2015 8.25 seconds

So, how do we counteract this dwindling attention span? His presentation’s conclusion was clear: “Embrace Data Visualization” and let the data sing.

How to Add Google Search Console reports to GA4

Many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals are lamanting the retirement of Universal Analytics (UA) in favor of its successor, Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Their main gripe? The absence of familiar reports they had become accustomed to.

While it’s true that many reports from UA are no longer present in the default GA4 setup, they haven’t disappeared altogether; they’re just a bit hidden.

In this video, discover how you can integrate your website’s Google Search Console data and reports into GA4 in under a minute.

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GA4 Discussion on Webcology

On June 29th Alan K’necht’s feet were put to the fire by Webcology hosts Jim Hedger and Kristine Schachinger for nearly 1 hour. The subject GA4 and “G4-agedden”/”Analyticgedon”. The pending doom many are feeling with end of Google Universal Analytics (GA3) on June 30 and forced migration to GA4.

K’necht’s position: “While I might sound like a “GA4 Enthusiast”, I’m actually a GA4 Realist-Optimist. For months, I’ve been pointing out many of the good things in GA4 plus why they did what they did in this upgrade and even some of its shortcomings”.

Listen to the show “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc0Ljd4ruC0