This time of year, I like to say something about year-to-year blog stats. A change to Google Analytics makes them harder to find.
One of the best ways to determine if your blog is growing is to compare year-to-year blog stats. Checking numbers year-to-year used to be easy in the old days of Google Analytics. Those days, it would seem, are now over.
Last year, Google Analytics dropped its “Universal Analytics” in favor of “Google Analytics 4.” It wasn’t necessarily better. But it was a mandatory change to bring Google Analytics in line with various privacy laws enacted around the globe.
I’m all for protecting privacy. As a website owner, I’m all for following rules.
At the same time, I need to know where my site stands. Any changes that make that harder to track won’t be changes I like.
Apples to apples? Not quite anymore
One of the biggest changes we heard about before the switchover was that GA4 would measure page views differently. It seems they may have made an adjustment there. But GA4 favors “engagements” over page views.
The reports that I found so simple in UA aren’t the same in GA4. So when I wanted to do a simple comparison, I realized it would be complicated.
But the worst part was this: UA stopped working around September of last year. GA4 didn’t kick in until March or so. There’s still some overlap — in my case, both measured the blog for about six months simultaneously. The numbers between the two don’t match, which leads me to believe I should add the totals for those six months.
If I’m right on that, the numbers look pretty good for 2023. If I’m only supposed to rely on GA4 numbers as of March, some of the numbers don’t look so hot.
I don’t exactly trust the numbers
It may be that when 2025 rolls around, I’ll be able to better compare year-to-year blog stats. But I still won’t have that full 2023 to compare against this year.
When I look at unique visitors, it looks like I’m up 29%…year over year. I’ll happily take that.
When I look at page views, I’m up almost 25% over 2022. I’ll happily take that as well.
The amount of time spent on the site jumped 84%.
The number of pages viewed per visit also went up a bit and the home page bounce rate dropped a bit. When it comes to bounce rate, I only pay attention to the home page. I explained why I think that single page’s bounce rate is far more important than the overall sitewide rate here.
The visitor and page view counts look good if I count the total of those six months where both UA and GA4 counted them. If I only count one, the two drop about 10% each. That’s quite a difference. But based on a few other factors, I think counting all of the numbers makes more sense.
In April, I’ll be able to go back and count most of the month of March — at least from March 6 on — and do a year-to-year comparison of that month. That will hopefully give me a decent idea of any trends.
The lowering of the home page bounce rate is good news. I’ve been working to tweak the home page layout to try to improve that stat.
I can’t really explain the jump in time on site, though. I haven’t done anything substantially different enough to cause that big of a jump. That could be an peculiarity of how GA4 measures things verses UA.
There has to be an easier way
I’m not a statistician. Like most blog owners, I do the best I can to decipher the data platforms like Google Analytics provide.
There may be an easy way to pull in old data from Universal Analytics into Google Analytics 4. I would like to think there is.
But Google should understand that most people would need very simple, very easy-to-follow directions. It should then provide those simple instructions right on Google Analytics’ home page.
Better yet, the platform should see which sites have switched over from UA to GA4 and automatically transfer the old data to the new platform. If you don’t have old data to compare the new data to, the new data loses a great deal of context.
If I find those instructions, I’ll update this post when I get a more accurate picture — assuming there’s a “more accurate” picture out there.
In the meantime, I’ll say this: If you’re frustrated trying to figure out what to do with the GA4 numbers, you’re definitely not alone.