What to Expect When Migrating to Google Analytics 4


You've probably heard by now that Google is sunsetting the previous generation of Google Analytics, known as Universal Analytics, on July 1, 2023. This means that support for the platform will be unavailable by the middle of next year, and standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process new data. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is set to replace Universal Analytics as the new solution for tracking website activity.

Transitioning from session-based tracking to event-based tracking requires a shift in thinking, and getting the structure right is critical to ensuring that the data you collect is logical and efficient. It requires a better understanding of how to create event-based goals.

Businesses and organisations that are affected must make the switch immediately in order to obtain a full year's worth of data. This article will assist you if you have not yet made the switch or plan to do so soon.

What is Universal Analytics?

In the fall of 2012, Universal Analytics replaced the previous version of Google Analytics, establishing a new standard for collecting and organising user data. For the last 15 years, Universal Analytics has been the most recent data collection technology for web-based analytics. It saw the introduction of new website tracking codes as well as features that allowed for more accurate measurement of user behaviour.

Universal Analytics was the first to introduce a user ID, which enabled the reporting of all activity coming from a single person; the use of analytics.js tracking code for measuring how a user interacts with a website; an SDK tracking code for mobile devices; and the Measurement Protocol for collecting data from other digital devices, as well as much more.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a new property designed for the future of measurement. Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 tracking is event-based, with the premise that any interaction can be captured as an event. This next generation of analytics will collect data from both websites and apps to better understand the customer journey, using events rather than session-based data.

This will include privacy controls such as cookieless measurement and behavioural and conversion modelling. Predictive capabilities will offer guidance without complex models, and direct integrations to media platforms will help drive actions on your website or app. Find more information on Universal Analytics versus Google Analytics 4.

Why is Universal Analytics being replaced by Google Analytics 4?

Google is moving on from Universal Analytics due to its inability to deliver cross-platform insights. GA4, on the other hand, can measure data across websites and apps. According to Google, the model on which Universal Analytics is based has become obsolete. Whereas, GA4 can run on multiple platforms because it does not rely solely on cookies and uses an event-based data model. As a result, it is more future-proof.

GA4 is intended to achieve a variety of key business objectives, including increasing sales or app instals, generating leads, and connecting online and offline customer engagement. GA4 is also said to provide greater privacy protection, which is becoming increasingly important to web users.

What you’ll find when navigating Google Analytics 4:

  • User discrepancies

One of the first differences you'll probably notice when comparing GA4 and Universal Analytics is the difference in user numbers, with GA4 appearing to have more. This is due to the fact that the two systems employ different user-identity methods. GA4 does not currently support filters and focuses on active users (users who are actively engaged), whereas Universal Analytics reports the total number of users.

  • Navigation bar

Instead of five key menu options for data segmentation, the navigation bar now has one main menu with multiple sub-menus to help present the data in a more user-friendly manner.

  • New dimensions and metrics

As Google Analytics 4 transitions away from session-based statistics, some of the dimensions and metrics we've grown accustomed to will become obsolete after July 2023. Google has recently announced, this July 2022, that there will be new dimensions and metrics which will enable account holders to see bounce rate, additional UTM parameter values, and conversion rate across various surfaces, including explorations, segments, audiences, reports, and the Google Analytics Data API.

  • Engagement

Google has developed a new metric called "user_engagement," which sends an event whenever a user navigates away from the page. This happens when a user closes a tab or window or navigates to another page or screen. Instead of the previous exit rate which is calculated when a user visits a page and then leaves the page or the site without completing a second interaction/event.

Within Data Stream > More Tagging settings, you can change the length of time from the default 10 seconds to 60 seconds. This allows you to identify users who spend less than 10 seconds on a page and is a useful tool for gathering data on blogs or landing pages used for PPC ads.

We can segment the data obtained using a secondary dimension such as session source/medium by including a comparison tool. If you haven't already enabled enhanced events in the data stream, we recommend doing so now.

Unlike Universal Analytics, which requires a separate implementation to track key engagements, GA4 will begin tracking key engagements if this option is enabled. This includes scroll tracking, outbound clicks, site search, and file downloads. The setting can be found in the data stream section of the admin page. Simply click the gear icon next to Enhanced Measurement.

  • Conversions

Goal conversions remain the most important metric for any business in GA4. Whether your site's primary function is lead generation or ecommerce, make sure Google Analytics has goals to report on so you can measure your performance and see if you're on track.

GA4 includes five predefined goals. However, the majority of these objectives are better suited to apps rather than websites. To create new goals in GA4, first, define the condition that will result in the goal being completed.

Navigate to the Events tab (Configure > Events). A list of all the events on the account can be found here. The toggle in the far right column allows you to treat the event as a conversion. Then return to Reports > Engagement > Conversion to see that events have automatically counted as conversions. You can now drill down into the performance of each conversion and add a secondary dimension for devices, sessions, and acquisitions, among other things.

What’s next?

Google Analytics 4 is fully equipped to meet your measurement requirements now and in the future. We encourage you to migrate to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible, as support for Universal Analytics will be discontinued on July 1, 2023. This is recommended so that your business can track a year's worth of new data before then. More information on how to navigate Google Analytics 4 can be found here.

If you currently use Zapier for Universal Analytics integrations, you should be aware that it does not currently integrate with GA4. As a result, whatever you use to integrate events into Universal Analytics cannot yet be transferred.

If you need assistance making the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, we can help you. Contact us to discuss moving over to GA4 now.

If you need assistance making the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, we can help you.

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