July 21, 2022
Google Analytics 4 was created to help businesses better measure increasingly complicated data coming from multiple sources. In today’s world, we don’t just access the internet from our desktop computer. We access it throughout the day, often from different devices, including our smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, work computers, and perhaps a home desktop. We also interact with companies via their website and associated apps and social media channels.
The old Google Analytics, Universal Analytics, simply wasn’t built for the current tech ecosystem. Our online experiences have become increasingly complex and a number of privacy laws, including the General Data Protection Regulation and the California Privacy Rights Act, have also made it more difficult to track data using the current system.
That’s why Google Analytics 4 will be completely replacing Universal Analytics by the end of 2023, and as a business owner, you should be very excited for this change. Tracking your customer’s journey, across platforms, without relying exclusively on cookies and independent sessions, will give you a clearer understanding of where your business is gaining and losing customers, and how to improve performance. Let’s look at the primary changes coming about with Google Analytics 4 and how they will benefit your business.
What’s changing with Google Analytics 4
According to Google, the current Universal Analytics “was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies.” Now that mobile has become the primary way users access the internet and the GDPR gave users the right to opt out of cookies, Universal Analytics has become outdated in its design.
Overall, the way that GA4 collects data is a big change and one that requires some significant effort on the part of website owners. The last upgrade from standard Google Analytics to Universal Analytics was minor and only required updating some code. This upgrade, however, is an entire overhaul. Google has rebuilt their analytics platform from the ground up and that means that migrating to the new system requires more time and effort on your part. GA4 is a separate platform, so you can be running both Universal Analytics and GA4 at the same time while Universal Analytics is still operating.
How the changes will benefit your business
The extra work required with this upgrade is well worth it for the powerful data tracking and measurement capabilities GA4 promises to deliver. Let’s look at a few of these new capabilities:
Get a comprehensive view of your customer’s journey
Google Analytics 4 doesn’t silo data between platforms. Instead you can easily view data from both your website and any associated apps with an event-based measurement model. With Universal Analytics, the data model was based on sessions and pageviews. GA4 captures significantly more information by counting every interaction a user has on a page — clicks, views, scrolling, video plays — as an event.
Get more insight than just the last link clicked
We know that users often have many interactions with our brand online before taking a desired action like entering their email address or making a purchase. Universal Analytics, however, could only provide data on the last link clicked. What this means is that all credit for the user’s conversion was given to that final action, rather than also crediting the multiple ads they clicked and website pages they visited first. GA4’s data-driven attribution model changes this, assigning credit to multiple touchpoints across the user’s journey.
Stay in compliance with privacy laws without sacrificing data
GA4 keeps new data privacy laws in mind and gives you the ability to manage the collection of data (such as cookies) while still gaining detailed insights into user behavior.
Use AI to uncover valuable predictions
GA4 leverages machine learning to uncover predictions about user behavior and can create new audiences based on these predictions. It does this by analyzing all the actions a user takes on your site and then makes a prediction on the likelihood of whether they will return to make a purchase in the next 7 days or not. This type of data can help you to target users more likely to convert, focusing your ad-spend for better results.
When the change will come
Universal Analytics will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023. For the next 6 months, you will still be able to log in and access historic data, but new data will be collected by GA4. By the end of 2023, you will no longer be able to access any data on Universal Analytics.
How to start migrating to GA4 now
It’s recommended to start migrating well before the cut-off date of July 1, 2023 so that you have plenty of time to get used to the new platform. There will be some time required to become familiar with the new layout and tools provided. To start this migration, we suggest following Google’s step-by-step instructions to ensure you don’t miss anything.
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