Google has announced its plan to expire the current version of Google Analytics, known as Universal Analytics (UA) in July 2023. What does that mean for the average business owner trying to understand analytics and the stories they tell about our businesses?

Let’s clarify - Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is here. It actually launched in October 2020, when it came out of beta-testing, which means that any property entered into GA3 after that defaults to the new platform.

GA4 brings with it functionality that UA doesn’t have, and as Google explained, a next generation approach to “privacy-first” tracking, cross-channel measurement and AI based predictive data all in one clever bundle.

So what does this actually mean?

GA4 has the capabilities that future-proof the way that data is collected and stored, and will operate in compliance with progressively tighter privacy laws.


Privacy-first is GA4's response to issues that UA often experienced as a result of cookie consent options implemented by privacy protection laws such as the CDPR. These laws gave consumers more control over the personal information that business analytics collect about them, in the case of browsers and websites, via their whole IP address. The blocking of cookies in some cases led to the reduced stability of analytics.

GA4, with these privacy laws front and centre, now anonymises IP addresses by default permanently. Only part of the IP address is collected that is relevant to tracking the experience or events over than the user. The privacy-centric design works well with or without cookies and ensures its compliance with privacy laws.

X-Channel Measurement

GA4 capabilities of cross-channel measurement also work well when users shift between devices and platforms. The App + Web system that it’s built on, released in 2019, focusses on tracking across apps, software and a website. It’s about the understanding of the customer journey across devices, not just individual metrics across devices, pages and segments.

This supports the new way that GA4 presents the data around ‘events’, as opposed to ‘sessions’ and ‘hits' in the UA model. It’s about tracking the user journey, the events and interactions that take place from initial visit to conversion.

In addition to automated event tracking (‘first_visit’ or ‘session_start’) GA4 offers Enhanced Measurement enabling the collection of more events such as ‘video_start’ or ‘file-download’, as well as additional parameters within these events. Unlike ‘event tracking’ in UA, editing, correcting and fine-tuning of event tracking can be undertaken through the GA4 tools, without having to edit on-site code.

Machine Learning: AI Powered Insights and Predictions.

Sure it’s still in its infancy, but machine-learning processing of data measurement in GA4 enables it to fill in the gaps of missing data. Using modelling that’s extrapolated from existing data, it makes intelligent assumptions about website traffic and user behaviour, when users or browsers block cookies or engage data collection permissions.

AI powered insights don’t have to rely on ‘hits’ from every page, they offer predictive data and trends for better understanding of customer behaviour. They uncover patterns and connections that may have been missed.

A New Look

The interface of GA4 is also very different. The overhaul gives the platform new, simpler navigation and is more user-friendly.

The default reporting includes Life cycle and User collections which centre around the customer journey. It also offers a simpler holistic view of real-time data with improved visuals and tables. Interactions with the data have also been upgraded; it is dynamic and more intuitive when looking at comparative data sets such as between devices.

Next Steps

July 2023 will see UA stop processing new data, and in October 2023 it will cease processing data completely. Importantly, even though the existing data will remain within UA for 6 months, GA4 is forward-facing, and there is no capability to pull the data across from UA.

GA4 is being touted by the experts as the analytics tool we need now and for the future, and many recommend that you start collecting data with the tool now.

It’s still in its initial design phase, and will undoubtedly experience more UI changes moving ahead.

Google recommends parallel tracking is the best way to move forward on their own website.

Setting up GA4 right now alongside UA will help machine learning and AI accuracy in GA4 moving ahead as it improves, and will assist in getting to know and understand GA4’s full capabilities.It will also offer time to import data from non-website sources that are relevant to your analytics now, before making the full transition.

The recommended course of action for existing Google Analytics users is to dual tag your pages. That is if you already have an existing Google Analytics 3 property tracking data, continue to track data in that property, but also create a new Google Analytics 4 property and start collecting data in that property simultaneously.

If you are using older tracking code (like analytics.js) you’ll need to upgrade to gtag.js, or talk to your tag management tool vendor about modifying your GA installation to begin dual tagging.

Using both platforms simultaneously means you get all the benefits of both as bugs and functionality issues are fixed in future updates.

What if I don’t upgrade?

For now, nothing will change, but you won’t benefit from the new functionality that’s getting rolled out. Dual tagging gives you historical data when GA4 becomes your primary property type, and the old version is laid to rest.

Also, the new naming conventions and event types that Google recommends will make your setup future proof as the new features rollout, ignoring action now means you’ll miss out.

Many brands are implementing the upgrade now, so the question is really how soon should you upgrade?

Google’s Property Migration tool is here.

This helps you nominate primary GA3 properties that you want to migrate setup configuration for GA4. It should save you time to make the transition easier.

So the bottom line is while you don’t need to action anything right now - to take advantage of the new innovations, you may want to - or risk having to play catch up.

It can be overwhelming but it doesn't need to feel that way if you have a partner who has your back. At The Big Smoke+ we are dedicated to carrying the burden of digital marketing responsibility so you can focus on what you do best - growing your business! Book a complimentary audit call with us today to see if we are a good fit!

Whitepapers, originally, were how legislative documents explained and supported solutions in politics. Today, they are authoritative, convincing and in-depth documents or presentations outlining a problem and supporting the solution - often with evidence - across any industry that wants to produce them.

Fundamentally, they are about educating an audience, and ‘gated’ whitepapers for marketers now embrace many formats. Research reports present data and research findings, and ultimate or buyer guides offer content that covers a topic in-depth or holistically. Then there are ebooks or long-form content that can cover anything, and case studies that present the how, what and why of complex business outcomes. They come with support links, images, graphs, infographics and other media enhancements.

Hours, days, and, in some cases, weeks are spent researching, cross-collaborating, writing and editing these illustrious pieces of content. They are valuable documents and, in the past, we were encouraged to put our most valuable online content behind a form or a ‘gate’ to convert our equally valuable customers and visitors into qualified leads.

Whitepaper Whitewash

One of the realities in 2022 that begets the opening question is that the internet is inundated with ebooks, ultimate guides, checklists, infographics and every other type of content garrisoned behind forms. The result is many buyers or customers are fed up with shelling out their personal details to receive content that doesn’t help them, doesn’t answer their question or doesn’t solve their problem. Producing content is now a central aspect of marketing for many businesses, which has resulted in mountains of questionable online content not worthy of being gated.

To add insult to injury, the frustration of the customer or buyer increases with an onslaught of incessant email pitches and phone calls trying to push even harder for a conversion. Buyers are now smarter, more web-savvy and view forms like a black cloud. With increased levels of suspicion towards forms, and the secreted content that’s behind them, they’ll often abort engagement or use fake personas to gain access.

To Gate or Not to Gate?

The glaring overarching question should be: is your content valuable enough to be gated? Is the content worthy of someone paying for it with their contact and related details?

Most experts on content believe that long-form content - including whitepapers - is the most suitable to sit behind a form. A whitepaper can also include images and infographics to complement. Topics that are presented should be developed for the specific audience that you want to attract and engage with. Whitepapers and content that’s gated should be unique, as should be the lead you are aiming at. A great whitepaper or eBook can be a lead magnet, in some cases those who seek this type of content are a step closer to deeper conversations or even conversion.

Whitepapers should also serve the company or business that produces them. If the content is on topic - it’s researched properly, includes meaningful and relevant data, and is organised and structured logically - it can offer the business that puts it out there credibility, authority, and trust.

While the benefits of gated content for the publisher can be increased sales, analytics and insights into your audience and better segmentation for marketing, there are also a few downsides. Benefit to your SEO when content is behind forms is varied, depending on the type of content and gate. Coupled with form abandonment sitting at around 67% in 2021, benefits from page views or increased traffic is redundant.

B2B Behaviour is Changing

The overuse of gated material, as mentioned before, has made consumers - especially businesses and professionals - more suspicious of content promotion behind forms. Under-delivery of promises has abused the trust of end-users, as forms for gathering data became a default content marketing strategy.

In a LinkedIn (ungated) report, only 25% of B2B customers were willing to share their contact details to access interesting content. It’s definitely worth taking the time to consider why you are gating your content, and if it’s justified. Buyers and users are now very aware of the value of information, so the value of that content should be justifiable before you consider it a fair trade for an email address or mobile number.

Valuable or Not?

Making the right choice will increase your qualified prospects. If you are publishing original research with insights and thought leadership pieces, odds are your audience will part with their details. Look at the performance of existing content; if you have gated content that's doing well, leave it alone. What about the traffic on your ungated content? Repurpose it in more depth, make it more valuable, more targeted and gate that.

If you need to generate more traffic to your website and business, don’t put your content behind barriers, because search engines at this stage won’t rank it. It needs to be out there front and centre. Those whitepapers, ebooks, and ultimate guides that you spent so many hours sweating over and creating could be just the right content for search engines to find. Let somebody actually read your whitepaper to start generating qualified leads that are closer to conversion.

As buyers get smarter and content marketing trends adjust to accommodate user behaviour, some say that gated whitepapers and content may have outstayed their welcome. In the interim, being guided by your data and applying a little common sense is the best way to decide whether you gate your content or not.

Many companies looking to raise their profile in targeted media often believe a PR campaign positioning them as a thought leader is the best way to achieve their goals. Through regularly monitoring sought-after media outlets and identifying opportunities for involvement through company news, expert comment, insights and opinion articles, a good PR campaign is seen as a way to expedite your brand awareness goals. But there is a significant flaw to the traditional PR model, and that is that small businesses need content in front of eyeballs and credibility - not endless press releases and fruitless pitching. It’s frustrating, and tough to justify.

When an agency bills for hours worked for a client, the accrued time isn’t necessarily indicative of a tangible result; media exposure is never guaranteed. The account’s team can spend a considerable amount of time brainstorming concepts, approaches and ideas which never see the light of day. Editorial content of a very high standard may be written, but not approved and therefore never published. Consequently, having no media exposure is seldom indicative of ideas lacking merit or efforts made not being noteworthy.

The secondary issue is that many media outlets are cutting down on free PR because they are trying to sell sponsored content and native advertising, so it’s better to shape yourself to be of value to the audience than aiming to simply advertise your product/service.

There is another way.

The answer is not to avoid PR, but to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

The key to a successful engagement with an agency is the knowledge that they can be reactive to news, trending topics and buzzworthy stories of note, and can adapt the message to suit the needs of a client in real time, translate the message into shareable content and therefore see tangible results.

Here are some examples showing how The Big Smoke did it.

Smart Company:

Since Alex Burke took the reins at Education Perfect 12 months ago, it has expanded into 42 new countries: Here’s how he did it

The Canberra Times:

Welcoming nature into your house through biophilic design

Smart Company

Job ads have hit a record high, but businesses are struggling to fill vacancies

Business Insider

16 Australian Entrepreneurs Share Their Most Valuable Life Lessons

Kochie’s Business Builders:

How to Zoom like a pro in 8 easy steps

The media exposure matters, but if you aren’t paying the outlet you can't guarantee they will cover you or get your message exactly how you’d like. An alternative is to continue putting together great article ideas that audiences will love but also working to get content published in credible places that are outside of pitching.

PR in and of itself is great, but it’s equally as important to also have the right messaging on third-party-credible websites.

You have in these, an opportunity to craft a message through a well-received article that can be shared with clients and the broader industry, while bolstering your digital footprint in a positive manner. The Big Smoke has done this in an expert manner over the years.

Xero CEO Steve Vamos spoke about the Cloud, change, and the challenges in encouraging emotional intelligence in business. Marie Mortimer, of spoke of how merging a background in investment banking and IT brought about a way to get customers more directly involved in the wholesale mortgages market. Canva’s Head of Marketing Zach Kitschke spoke about his industry, the future, and managing change in a $3.2 billion company.

Among our clients’ profiles include Peripheral Blue Founder and Managing Director Mellissa Larkin, and Director of Policy and Compliance, Kara Birch. Our client Education Perfect (EP) teamed up with the South Australian government to help international students studying within the state. We covered the ADMA Data Day, and spoke to leaders from Telstra and The Iconic.

These clients also had their profiles amplified across Linkedin, via EDMs and other social media, ensuring reach across targeted B2B audiences. Content posted on The Big Smoke is also an effective way to leverage great content and competitions, as we found when we asked several industry leaders to reflect on Fathers’ Day.

A business’ digital footprint is the complete expression of how the brand is represented online. Everything that you've said, or everything that others have said about your company or brand on the internet. Managing your digital footprint is a kind of online reputation management.

At TBS, we work with clients to bolster their digital footprint through generating content such as CEO profiles and through leadership pieces on our website, as well as blog posts on company websites as well. Improving a company’s digital footprint outside of the traditional PR machine helps support your company’s overall PR push by increasing your online presence, and through properly executed backlinks and optimising certain words and phrases, place you atop Google search ratings for your business type or field.

Changing attitudes and increasing market awareness throughout a community or industry require substantial insights, as well as the skills inherent in broad mass media coverage in the digital era. Businesses should always be focused on the ‘endgame’ of any given campaign.

This is best achieved with PR as a key part of an engine, constantly influencing your digital footprint and market share. Book a time to speak with us today about how media placements and thought leadership articles can impact your digital footprint.