Podcast #68

Navigating the GA4 Migration: The Future of Healthcare Analytics

Healthcare organizations rely on accurate data to make strategic marketing decisions and gain a better understanding of the patient journey. With Google announcing the end of Universal Analytics in favor of Google Analytics 4, healthcare groups are encouraged to migrate to the newer platform ASAP, before the automatic switch on July 1, 2023. Though GA4’s capabilities are beneficial, data is only stored by default for 2 months. That’s why it’s important for healthcare groups to stay informed to ensure a seamless transition with no lost data.

Episode Highlights:

Rich Briddock

Rich Briddock: “For healthcare companies, there’s much more ease of compliance around user data that can be retained through GA4 and the settings that you can apply there. Then the other thing too is GA4 is future-proof for like a cookieless world. It’s much more accurate in terms of when there’s missing data with lack of third-party cookies, it can do a lot better data sampling and it can fill in the gaps when data is missing.”

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: What’s up, everybody? We should have launched this podcast two months ago. We are behind. Usually, you think of us as industry trend leaders, but we’ve been so busy implementing this for clients that we forgot to tell you all about it. Today, we’re talking about new GA4 analytics. This should be exciting. I’m going to be asking, just like you’re asking, what the heck is it and where do we go from here?

We’ve got Rich Briddock. He’s our head of media and analytics. He’s helped building the whole analytics platform that we have here, and he runs the media, so perfect integration of knowledge between media analytics. Also, talks to our clients more than he’d like to, so he knows the frustrations they’re feeling. Rich, what’s up?

Rich Briddock: What’s up, Alex? How are you?

Alex: What’s up? This is a casual interview. What is GA4? What is this? Google Analytics 4.

Rich: Google Analytics 4 is a major revamp of Google Analytics. We’ve been using Universal now for many years. Before that, it was Classic. This is the biggest revamp that they’ve done in a long time. Essentially, it’s for a number of different reasons. Primarily, one of the things is tracking users as opposed to tracking devices and sessions.

Google wants to use a more event-based tracking system to track users across all the devices that they now use to make cross domain tracking easier from all the different websites and platforms, and be able to track on websites and on your app. Before, you used to have different systems where you could track activity on your app if you had an app and then activity on your website if you had a website. Now, you can do that all through GA4.

It’s more about consolidating activity by the user as opposed to by all this different sort of technologies that users are engaging with to get a more complete picture of what’s happening in terms of user behavior across all these different devices and the ways that they engage with your business. That’s a big shift.

I think the most important thing for a lot of our listeners may be like, “I don’t really use an app and I don’t really have all this fancy stuff. Most of my users come to the website once and then they avert, so why do I really need this?” It’s not really a question of whether or not you need it. It’s happening. Google is making a shift.

Alex: They’re making us and they’re yelling at us to make it happen for our clients. What is it going to do? Most of our clients are these low-acuity, peeing back, multi-site healthcare groups where decisions made in a day influenced over months. They’re made in the day whether you’re getting a derm, or dental appointment, or behavioral health therapist. How does this impact them? Are they going to get new insights, or this is mostly for e-com?

Rich: You see, we’ll get better insights. There’s a lot of features that are going to be available in GA4 that were not available in the free version of UA. That were reserved for the premium version, a 360 version of UA.

Alex: Like what?

Rich: Things like funnel explorations, better user pathing reports. It’s hard to describe, but more event-based reporting to understand what users are doing. They have this whole new section now called funnel exploration or explorations, where you can see different patterns of behavior that users are taking on the site. It is more powerful. You can do more custom-based reporting directly in GA4 than you used to be able to do through UA.

Obviously, you’ve got to want to do it. You’ve got to have the ability and you’ve got to have the appetite to be doing that kind of analysis inside of GA4. For those that are interested, there’s some pretty powerful reporting tools now in GA4, which maybe you used to have to have a custom analytics solution to provide.

Alex: This is for those instances where the decision’s been influenced over months. It’s going to tell you whether the people clicked on Google’s display ads and remarketing in the end. Is that like–

Rich: Yes, stuff like that, but then also more simple use case. Let’s say, a lot of our clients have online booking. Now, in GA4, you have great funnel exploration where you can measure each stage of the funnel where users are falling out of that funnel, and then you can slice and dice that data by a number of different things. Maybe you want to look at, where are people falling out of my funnel? Oh, they’re trying to select a doctor. Maybe that’s the bit where they fall out of the funnel in the booking flow.

Then you can cross-analyze that with, is it worse on PPC traffic? Is it worse on organic traffic? Trying to isolate those issues where you have that leakage. GA4 makes it way easier to do that kind of analysis than you could do in UA, so that’s really, really important. I think other benefits too is there’s more privacy controls in GA4 with all the compliance stuff, GDPR, all the California legislation.

For healthcare companies too, there’s much more ease of compliance around user data that can be retained through GA4 and the settings that you can apply there. Then the other thing too is GA4 is future-proof for like a cookieless world. It’s much more accurate in terms of when there’s missing data with lack of third-party cookies, it can do a lot better data sampling and it can fill in the gaps when data is missing.

Again, that’s another benefit when you’re trying to understand the whole picture of what users are doing on the site, where they’re coming from, how they’re engaging with you as well. There are definite benefits, but like I said, the reality is it doesn’t really matter what the benefits are because what’s important is you have to do it by July.

Alex: You have to do it. What is it? Just clicking a button or placing a new script in the footer? What are we doing here?

Rich: I think Google would try and present it to you that it’s very, very simple to migrate. It can be very simple. There is a migration process that you can follow like a wizard. However, what we encourage our clients to do and what they should be doing is they should be looking at this as a reset opportunity. Because what you find in analytics profiles is, especially like I said at the beginning of this podcast, Universal Analytics has been around for a long time, which means there’s usually, in a company, been a lot of hands in it, they’ve set it up a lot of different ways.

I think we’ve all seen it. Anybody who’s been into analytics will see there’s like 15 goals set up that are now turned off, or they’re not being used anymore, or they’ve got some label next to it saying z, z, z old. This is a great opportunity to actually go in and not just migrate all of that stuff that you don’t use anymore over to the new instance, but to actually clean it up and put together a good conversion strategy, a good event strategy of what you really want to measure, how you want to set it up.

Those custom reports and visuals that I was talking about, you should be thinking about that in your migration. Like, what kind of custom visuals do I want to set up? Even stuff like, what do I want to connect with? What data do I want to send to BigQuery? That’s another new feature of GA4, is that you can send all Google Analytics data now into a data warehouse.

Alex: Why would I want to do that?

Rich: Because one of the major changes is data retention is changing in GA4. What I mean by that is, how long analytics will store your data for. By default, in the UA, it stored it for 26 months. That’s just over two years. You can do a two-year lookback comparison. By default, in GA4, it’s two months, which you can extend up to 14 months if you change the setting.

If you push all the data into a BigQuery, you can store it for as long as you like. Because once it’s pushed into BigQuery, it’s written in that data warehouse and you have it in perpetuity. I think that’s one of the things that Google is trying to encourage you to do, is to take the data and not keep it in Analytics, but push it into your own data warehouse.

Alex: Where you get to pay for it then.

Rich: Where you get to pay for it. Yes, you do have to pay for BigQuery. That is true. There is– [crosstalk]

Alex: Oh, I know. I see it on my P&L.

Rich: It’s not crazy expensive. [laughs]

Alex: It’s too much. Now, in this funnel thing, 10,000 a month, guys. Careful when you have an innovator guide telling you it’s going to be fine. You need to translate that to see what the estimate on cost is. It’s going to be fine means it’s going to be expensive. Clients need to look at his full reset. I like that.

This is a chance to reevaluate what actually matters. Because it used to be that means, dude, some people that come to us, they’re just tracking the clicks to a conversion pad, clicks to call, clicks to make an appointment. This is silly stuff. This is a chance to look at actual viable calls, make sure that’s tracked properly.

Rich: Correct.

Alex: Not just every phone call. Lead forms is fine, but lead forms for new appointments. Then online booking all the way through. Then tracking them all the way through and then seeing what you want to visualize. You need to get an Analytics. If they’re looking for a consultant, obviously, call Cardinal, but if they don’t want to call Cardinal, what do they need an analytics expert from upwork.com, an agency? What is the skill set to do this right? What do they need to look for?

Rich: It really depends on the complexity. I think if you have one UA property with a few views you’re trying to migrate over to GA4, an Upwork contractor will be fine. Some of our clients may have 10, 15 profiles, and within those, they may have like 20 views for each profile. In that case, you may need more of a true dedicated agency partner. People who used to do or still do GA 360 implementations. That might be the better bet. It’s really going to depend on the scope of the work that you need to do.

Alex: Is the scope generally based on how big the groups are? You find that the bigger groups have–

Rich: Yes, typically.

Alex: Or they’re more advanced and small?

Rich: More advanced or maybe they’ve got more interdepartmental in-house resources that are using channel [inaudible 00:10:01]. [crosstalk]

Alex: Yes, there’s other dashboards and stuff like that. Yes, we’re running into that.

Rich: That’s another layer of complexity that you will want to think through.

Alex: Future proof you use a good buzzword there, but the whole thing’s about first-party data going into the cooking, no cookies, everybody’s meat on a diet. First-party data’s going to matter more than anything. Getting your own patient data and using that to market.

Rich: First-party data and then also essentially AI and algorithmic ability to fill in the gaps of like, if I’ve lost some third-party data, can machine learning essentially fill in those voids of data to help me to model out, what happened to the rest of my sample size that I can’t see anymore directly through cookies? I think GA4 is going to be more focused on being able to fill in those gaps through better machine learning.

We’ll see. Because we’re moving into this cookie list world right now, and so we’ll start to understand how accurate the data is through GA4 versus what we were getting in UA once we start doing these migrations. Google is telling us it’s going to be more accurate. If so, we can make decisions based on that data now. We can verify that through some of the third-party tools that we’re talking about. Like better call tracking, are we actually booking more or new patient appointments down the line?

Are we tracking more new patient appointments through online scheduling because of better decisioning that we’re making from our GA4 data than we were from our UA? There’s definite benefits to GA4, but a lot of people right now are looking at it through down the barrel of the gun of, I just got to get this moved out.

Alex: Just got to get moved out, and they’re like, “I had enough information.” I was getting like, “Oh, I care about is my calls, my forms. I don’t need this whole mess.” That’s fine if you’re small, stay small. You just got to do it and then probably you don’t need to invest, but this is an opportunity to improve your marketing feed better information back to the algorithm so that you improve your CPL, et cetera.

Rich: Yes. I think the other disruptive factor that’s probably going to be stressing out people is, how do I have continuation? I’ve got all this data in the UA that I’ve been utilizing and now we’re going to switch analytics platforms, and how do I report out pre and post-switch? That’s another thing that Cardinal can definitely help with. I’m sure, thinking about the benefits of BigQuery and data warehouses is, we have the ability to stitch UA and GA4 data together.

It’s like a seamless link of the pre and post-switch from UA to GA4, so that your reporting doesn’t look crazy. Or your reporting just doesn’t start on the data that you migrated to the platform.

Alex: Right, that’s important.

Rich: Certainly, from a user point of view, you’re not going to want to have to go into UA, pull a report up to this date and then go into GA4. It’s about implementing solutions that are going to keep all the data in one place, and you have that continuity as much as possible.

Alex: Is our analytics director stressed out right now? How’s Turner doing?

Rich: He’s doing better.

Alex: He’s doing better? Okay. All right. That’s good. Don’t need a support system for him? We’ve got clients that can help.

Rich: Yes.

Alex: All right guys, this was good. Retain final thoughts.

Rich: I would say if you have not begun the journey to migrate to GA4, do so immediately.

Alex: What is today’s date?

Rich: Today’s date is February the 27th.

Alex: Right. I just said that to make sure the brand team gets this up tomorrow. If you haven’t, sorry, what’s the deadline?

Rich: 1st of July, 2023.

Alex: Okay, so four months.

Rich: You’ve got four months, but don’t underestimate how long it’s going to take. Don’t underestimate how complex it is.

Alex: Or the fees will charge?

Rich: The other thing that people needs to be aware of is, if they’re using third-party solutions like call tracking in particular that need to integrate with GA4, some call-tracking providers are already integrated with GA4. Some call-tracking providers are not yet integrated with GA4.

Alex: Which ones are rich for the million dollars?

Rich: CallRail is integrated. Line Call Box, sort of solutions that we use and actually prefer are not yet integrated. It doesn’t mean you can’t set up your GA4.

Alex: All right. Charlie and Brad get on it buddies, get on it.

Rich: It doesn’t mean you can’t set up GA4, but it just means you won’t be able to complete the setup. Until those [inaudible 00:14:16].

Alex: I’m sure they’re moving quick. Everybody left is moving quickly.

Rich: March and April is when [unintelligible 00:14:19].

Alex: All right, you all good, moving you [unintelligible 00:14:21] here. If you need anything, talk to Rich. Rich will give you free advice. We’ll going to work, find a consultant, or hit us up.

Rich: Yes, better turn to the clients.


Alex: Thanks for listening. We’re up to eight listeners from three, so I think people are enjoying this content.

Rich: We’ll see if we hold those eight listeners after this one.

Alex: Ooh, I don’t know. I don’t know.

Rich: Slip by down to six.

Alex: All right, good.

Rich: We’ll see.

Alex: Slips down to six and I’ll put a tux on. All right. Thanks for listening everybody. See you all later.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our [email protected].

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