Understanding the Impact of Google Analytics 4
What Should Businesses Know About Google Analytics 4?
Welcome to the changing of the guard. Google has made the decision to update and modify their current analytics service to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). In a nutshell, Google Analytic 3 (GA3) or Universal Analytics (UA) will sunset as of July 1, 2023, paving the way for GA4 – the next generation of Google Analytics. Expected changes include updates with Google Tag Manager, Google Site Tag, Audience Center, Optimize, Surveys, and Attribution. Released in October of 2020, GA4 is already being widely used in preparation for the eventual Google Analytics UA sunset.
A quick note for Google Analytic 360 (GA360) customers: An extension on the use of UA until October 1, 2023, is possible, but this extension will be rare and will only apply to companies utilizing Google’s full suite of tools. For all intents and purposes, July 1, 2023 should be regarded as the transition date.
The Question Is Simple: Why Do I Need to Transition to GA4?
As of July 2023, data will no longer be collected within UA. It is imperative then that you take the time to set up and prepare for GA4 now. Changes will need to be made with audience pools, conversions, attribution models, third-party connections, and extended reporting. After July 2023, UA will become read-only, which will only allow users to view historic data.
During the Google Marketing Live 2022 event, Google highlighted its focus on cross-platform enhancements to allow for more seamless integration with other services like Google Ads. Here, the goal is to improve advertising performance, gain better insights on performance, and increase overall engagements to drive a greater Return on Investment (ROI). GA4 introduces a simplified approach making these insights more readily accessible and therefore, actionable for your business.
While GA4 will lean heavily on machine learning to discover insights on your audiences and adjust accordingly, you will also want to remain unique among your competitors; therefore, consistent updates, adjustments and exclusions will remain necessary.
On the topic of machine learning Google is focused on a privacy-focused future. The future will become “Cookie-less”, which may be concerning for marketers. But the main transition will focus on users with a unique ID or device-centric identification. This basically means that a person won’t be identified with a name, email address, phone number and so on. They will be identified with certain aspects of demographics, geographics, intent, and behavior. Aspects of even device-centric identification can be turned off across certain browsers or devices. This all allows for both the consumer and marketer to benefit from a “Cookie-less” future.
The Overall Benefits of GA4
Optimization and tracking will be of more value within GA4. The main goal will be to collect numerous audience pools and events through analytics. With this, you can utilize the data to benefit both your GA4 metrics and Ad performance.
Think about it like this – Google is going to take millions of data points to summarize a journey to a marketer. This becomes more seamless with cross-platform updates. With this seamless integration, marketers can utilize many variations of copy, assets, landing pages, audience pools, and keyword grouping. While this is all possible now with UA, with the emphasis on machine learning in GA4, the process becomes much more streamlined and tailored to your audience and their interactions with your website.
When Should I Transition to GA4?
We recommend transitioning to GA4 as soon as possible. This will enable you to start to collect those metrics prior to the July 2023 UA sunset. The main goal is to collect historic data, audience pools, conversions, and extended event tracking and use these metrics across connected platforms, such as Google Ads, Data Studio, and Google Search Console. This will make the transition to GA4 much more manageable.
What Is the Difference Between UA and GA4?
The major difference is that GA4 is an event-based data model, while UA is based around sessions. As previously noted, the new setup will be based around cross-devices as well as cross-platforms. This is in addition to the increased emphasis on AI information within GA4 that enhances insight discovery and trends.
While there are significant changes, GA4 and UA do maintain similar aspects such as:
- User Access
- Filtering Data
- User ID Focused Tracking
- Signals & Notifications
- Customized Metrics & Dimensions
- Data Imports
- Measurement Protocols
- Insights Reporting
- Real-time Reporting
- Customized Reports
- Data Segments
- Multi-channel Funnels
- User Explorer
- Cohort Analysis
- User Lifetime
Keep in mind that with GA4, data retention is only up to 14 months (vs. unlimited with UA). With that, you will need to approach your reporting and review of historical data more critically. How are you pulling reports? What needs to be customized to get the best results?
With Google’s enhanced machine learning, comes more data-driven attribution models. This was previously only available to certain accounts and setups. It’s now widely available across all GA4 accounts. Without getting into the weeds of various attribution models, data-driven has become a top option for enhancing campaign performance.
Adding on to all the above information, Google is giving standard properties access to data that was previously only available to GA360 accounts. The management of all these insights demands accurate preparation and setup to garner the benefits of these additions.
Moving Forward with GA4
We recommend utilizing Google Tag Manger (GTM) when and if possible. While GA4 is becoming more seamless across platforms, GTM is still very much relevant for both smaller and larger websites. It is recommended to establish GA4 properties within your GTM setup. In addition, it is best to keep UA active, at least until the official sunset.
GTM allows for larger updates across websites, which includes added tags, triggers, and variables. This will support updated events for primary and secondary conversions. It will also allow for a structured approach across value approaches, attribution models, and user journeys. With this, the transition to GA4 can be a step up in better understanding audience pools and events.
The Future is Here
It is time to get ready for GA4 in advance of 2023. Prepare for a privacy-focused and AI future, which exceeds the standards set in 2005. A future that includes more machine learning with enhanced audience groupings that still protect a user’s privacy. This is the next step to a data-driven approach. Enhanced user’s journeys, attribution models, and improved ROI strategies. Structured fully around an event-based model. Google is focused towards a more seamless approach with their enhanced measurement functionality.
There will surely be learning curves, issues, data retention problems, and features that no longer exist. Certain approaches and strategies will need to change in 2023. Therefore, preparation now is critically important. Use these newer methods of tracking, while taking the appropriate steps towards this transition. In addition, use everything else Google has to offer, which includes GTM, Data Studio, Google Ads, Search Console and so on.
Ready to Get Started?
Prepare for the future of Google Analytics with Media Genesis by your side. We’re here to guide you through this process and ensure that your integration is seamless. Contact us today with your questions or concerns. We’re available for consulting and to help you implement G4 throughout your website.
Want to Learn More?
Download our PDF for a summary on why to make the move from Universal Analytics (UA) To Google Analytics 4.