We are getting more and more questions about making the switch from Universal Google Analytics to GA4, so we thought we would answer some questions to help keep you in the know.
At the end of the turbulent year that was 2020, the next generation of Google Analytics was officially rolled out by the search giant in the form of Google Analytics 4. The most significant development here was its step towards combining both app and website user behaviour to deliver more comprehensive and accurate data sets.
Fast-forward to the start of 2023, and marketers are taking the time to understand precisely how Google Analytics 4 enhances the tracking and marketing analytics processes. Not only do the new tools need some getting used to, but decision-makers also need to determine when to make the switch permanently.
Let’s start by taking a few moments to circle back and explore the fundamentals of Google Analytics 4.
What Exactly is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) started its life with the title of Web and App Properties within the Google Analytics tool. Currently, businesses and website owners are able to continue using the old analytics tracking set-ups; however, Google has recently announced that this will soon come to an end.
New hits on Universal Google Analytics properties will no longer be processed from 1 July 2023, with new hits on 360 Universal Analytics properties ceasing to be processed from 1 October 2023.
It is important to emphasise that GA4 isn’t a Google Analytics upgrade. Instead, it presents entirely new ways of tracking users across both apps and websites. And as we have seen, in just a few short months, it will become the only way that tracking can be done.
Google has been moving away from session-based tracking in favour of both event-based and user-based tracking. So, this switch has been in the works for a long time and the reason is simple: Google wants to position itself as the go-to tracking option for businesses and website owners.
GA4 is prompting businesses to approach audience understanding in very different ways. Why? Because the search giant knows that it is simply no longer enough to look for user behaviour insights by tracking individual app or web sessions.
Ultimately, GA4 will make marketing analytics more insightful because users are already engaging with websites via different devices and browsers at varying stages of the customer journey. Naturally, this means that analytics tools need to offer more comprehensive tracking and reporting functionalities to reflect this increasingly flexible user behaviour.
What Will Change?
As GA4 transforms the existing Google tracking process, it’s safe to say that essentially everything will change. Universal Google Analytics tracked numerous types of hits, including social, event, and page. However, GA4 is an event-focused tool that will capture all interactions on app and web visits as events.
But the important thing to emphasise here is: don’t panic. Yes, change can be an intimidating prospect; however, this transition will present marketers with a range of exciting advancements that will power digital strategies long into the future.
These new features include automated and custom event tracking, cross-platform and cross-device tracking, even more, engagement metrics, and integration with BigQuery that will allow businesses to combine information with their complete data stack.
When Should I Make the Move?
There is a lot of potential to be tapped into here. However, since many features are yet to be rolled out, including attribution modelling, complete eCommerce reporting, and rollup reporting, now is not quite the right time to make the move to GA4 marketing analytics forever.
But do we recommend setting up your GA4 property to run alongside your existing universal Google analytics? Yes, absolutely! Taking the time to transition over a period will ensure that you and your team are prepared for the changes and have access to enough historical data to continue making the best possible business marketing decisions.
On July 1st, businesses using UA must switch to Google Analytics 4 in order to get their data and insights into their customer behaviour. Google will begin upgrading Google Analytics accounts to GA4 in March, but users should be aware that existing advertising conversions may not be set up as needed.
We strongly advise switching to GA4 now as it provides more precise segmentation and detailed customer behaviour information. It is possible to run both UA and GA4 at the same time, allowing businesses to start learning the new platform, and having plenty of data when the switch takes place.
Need help switching from Universal Analytics to GA4?
Get in touch today, and we will help get you set up on GA4 and continue to collect important website and customer data.