Google Analytics

Google Analytics: The Rise of Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Last year Google rolled out the newest form of Google Analytics, Google Analytics 4 or “GA4,” followed swiftly by the announcement that the current version of GA, Universal Analytics or “UA,” will no longer be available starting in July 2023.

In this article, we will discuss what’s new in GA4 and what you should be doing now to prepare and handle the transition from Universal Analytics.

Introducing GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest iteration of Google Analytics and was launched in October 2020. Unlike previous UA versions of Google Analytics, GA4 is built to measure website and mobile app interactions (past iterations were built to measure website visits and sessions).

GA4 also fills knowledge gaps many non-technical users face when tracking more in-depth interactions occurring on their sites. While many important interactions are trackable in Universal Analytics, more technical events are not easily tracked using UA.

The GA4 platform is actually easier to use (once you get familiar of course!) for non-technical users. It also prioritizes tracking page interaction events (i.e. clicks on your site), focusing data on user engagement, from the first visit to final conversion.

Other features that set GA4 apart from UA:

  1. Predictive Ecommerce Analytics– When proper tracking is set up for purchase events (i.e. add-to-cart or checkout), Google’s predictive AI will create specific audiences for people who are more likely to purchase on your site.
  2. Create Custom Reports – In GA4, you get access to “Explorations” (previously “Analysis Hub”), which enables you to create customized reports with greater insight and flexibility vs. Universal Analytics.
  3. Create & Track Up to 300 Events – GA4 will allow marketers to edit, correct, and alter the way events are tracked in their analytics without having to edit on-site code.
  4. Anomaly Detection – GA4 flags site “anomalies” (i.e. if your site typically generates 300 leads a day but did not generate any leads one day) automatically and will deliver reports on its findings, eliminating the need to determine the statistical significance of unusual site occurrences yourself.

How to Migrate from UA to GA4

With just a little over a year until Universal Analytics is obsolete, now is the time to move from UA to GA4. This shift will require digital marketers across the globe to reassess and become more thoughtful about data collection since they now have access to more user information than ever before.

Migrating now allows enough time to fully understand the new platform and to ensure proper tracking is in place before UA is no longer available.

Steps to take as you begin the migration:

  1. Take inventory of all existing site goals in UA, and see which are still relevant and which you can remove.
  2. Create a GA4 reference sheet to track the way you set up each event to help you structure your GA4 account consistently so it can scale with your business.
  3. Create properties and data streams in GA4. You can now collect and analyze multiple web and mobile app data streams within a single property, so strategize how you want to track and see your data.
  4. Use Google Tag Manager’s configuration tag to initiate your GA4 analytics tracking code on your site.
  5. Set up GA4 data collection.
    • Enable enhanced measurement events
    • Activate Google Signals
    • Set event retention to 14-months
    • Create a tag management plan and use Google Tag Manager to deploy custom event tracking.
    • Integrate with Google Ads, Search Console, Google Optimize, and Merchant Center if applicable when you set up GA4. For data sharing & collecting – earlier is always better.

Leaving UA in the Rear View

UA will continue tracking data in the way we all know and love until July 2023, so as you set up GA4, you can leave UA installed, running both until you feel confident that your GA4 setup is correct and complete, and you feel comfortable in the new environment.

Before you leave UA in the rearview, export your historical data from Universal Analytics to ensure you never lose access (do this before July 2023!).

Going Forward

While GA4 is the future, it is still being built out. So it is paramount that you begin this migration process early, allowing for a methodical transition, and allowing you and your team time to learn as updates occur.

While this transition may feel daunting, it is an update that will eventually make the lives of marketers of all skill levels much easier.

If you are looking for support with the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4, our team is happy to help! Please contact us here.