Taking a look at Google’s upgrade to Analytics
Google’s Universal Analytics is shutting shop next year and being replaced by GA4. This is a huge shift in the way businesses are able to collect, arrange and interpret data from their digital presence. Ultimately, if used properly, it will help you to make better marketing decisions.
While June 2023 is the deadline for UA, it’s beneficial to set up GA4 now alongside your existing analytics so you can get to grips with it in the coming months. Let’s take a look at why.
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4 is an ‘upgrade’ to Universal Analytics. It has a different data structure and data collection logic, though it still utilises the gtag.js library. It offers robust cross device and cross platform tracking, so you can now smoothly track user behaviour across your website, subdomains and apps with ease.
GA4 is built around users and events rather than sessions — each user interaction is processed as an event. Moving the focus from sessions to events offers benefits to marketers, such as cross-platform analysis and enhanced capacity for pathing analysis.
In order to tackle the issue of loss of user data thanks to exclusionary cookie policies, GA4 uses enhanced machine learning to overcome data gaps when user consent is not given to track cookies. This will help track the user journey for all data that’s linked to their (anonymous) identity.
Unlike UA, GA4 automatically tracks the following actions as events:
- Page views
- Outbound clicks
- Site search
- Video engagement
- File downloads
Custom code is still required to track custom events, third-party elements and form submissions, which can be implemented via Google Tag Manager (which we recommend keeping on board throughout the migration process. It is not yet clear how GTM will interact with GA4 once it’s out of beta phase).
GA4 has a useful free connection to Big Query and has a handy debug view, so you’re able to validate analytics configuration for all your platforms.
What will GA4 look like?
Compared to UA, GA4 dashboards are stripped back. The home screen shows where new and returning users have arrived from, the top performing campaigns, views of pages and screens and engagement time. Don’t expect to see the same reporting on audience, acquisition, behaviour and conversions as before. Goals are now called Conversions. Even bounce rate has been redefined for GA4 — it’s now engagement rate.
GA4 offers Realtime reports, showing events that have occurred in the last 30 minutes. Within them, you can click View user snapshot in the top right corner to see a literal snapshot for a single user. It also presents Life Cycle reports, which allow you to analyse how users enter your funnel and how they behave once they’re in it. The new Analysis Hub gives you access to advanced reporting techniques and a suite of templates, including Exploration, Funnel Analysis, Path Analysis, Segment Overlap, Cohort Analysis and User Lifetime.
And you’ll have the option to make dashboard collections to show the information you’re most interested in without having to wade through each section to find reports.
Of course, as this is a brand new property, you’ll have to migrate or reconfigure all your settings in the backend to ensure GA4 is reading your data correctly. This includes:
- Adding your domains and apps
- Setting up site search tracking
- Excluding internal traffic
- Creating audiences and segments
- Activating Google Signals
- Enabling Enhanced Measurement
- Linking to your ad accounts
- Configuring events and conversions
Why do you need to migrate now?
Universal Analytics is closing down. So there’s no way around it — you need GA4 if you want to continue measuring what people do on your website and with your content.
As GA4 uses machine learning capabilities, it requires time to build up a repository of data for it to read from. Creating a GA4 property now means it can work in tandem with your UA properties until June 2023, building a fuller picture of your website and app traffic and user behaviour. Now’s the time.
Need support in migrating to GA4? We can help. Get in touch with us today.