Google Analytics: What is GA4 and why do we need to prepare?

What is GA4 and why do we need to prepare

GA4 is the fourth major release of Google Analytics and is the newest iteration of the free website tracking software. GA4 is becoming the default version of Google Analytics and will be the sole option for analytics tracking come July 1st2023.

Introduction to GA4

Google Analytics is a free service that allows you to track any traffic and engagement that happens across your website and apps. GA4 is the new property that is available on Google Analytics and will be replacing the former type of Universal Analytics. GA4 was developed to better focus on customer privacy due to the recent implementation of privacy laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). GA4 is the most advanced property out there as it allows privacy-first tracking, AI-driven predictive analytics, and cross-channel data measurement.

Google Analytics 4 v Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics (GA3) was the third major release of Google Analytics and has been the default workspace version for the better part of a decade since its implementation in 2012. With the introduction of mobile apps, machine learning and new legislation such as GDPR, this version was not designed for today’s analytical needs and expectations.

The major difference between the two versions is that GA4 will allow you to track analytics on both websites and applications, whereas Universal Analytics GA3 only allows you to track on websites. The measurement model is also different between the two, with GA4 using a new model that allows measurement of events and parameters all with an array of new metrics.

Benefits of GA4

GA4 was built upon the need for analytics tracking both across websites and mobile applications. There are numerous differences between the new Google Analytics 4 and the previous mentioned Universal Analytics GA3 properties. Google promises that GA4 has been designed with privacy in mind, ensuring GDPR compliance along with tackling issues that the previous Universal Analytics GA3 could not fix.

Focus on the User Journey

Google Analytics 4 focuses more on a user’s journey and the events that are triggered throughout it. The new data driven model means that you can use a single set of metrics and dimensions to look at both web and app data. Having the ability to track a user that visits on their mobile, comes back on desktop and then downloads, purchases, or registers through your app is a new feature ushered in by GA4

Focus on User Engagement

One of the greatest features of the new Google Analytics GA4 is its powerful new user metrics and dimensions that use AI to predict customer actions. GA4 provides us with new user buckets like ‘Acquisition’, ‘Engagement’, ‘Monetisation’ and ‘Retention’. GA4 also provides you with a separate ‘Audiences’ report where you can define user definitions, further tailoring the platform to your business needs

Simplified Goals and Events

With Google Analytics GA4 you are furnished with a suite of pre-made actions and events which previously required manual setup on Universal Analytics GA3. These pre-made actions and events include clicks, scroll behaviour, transactions, file downloads and user are first visits. Form submissions and e-commerce goals may not automatically be setup; however, the process has been simplified, now requiring much less time to implement than previous iterations of Google Analytics.

AI Insights for Predictive Metrics

Google Analytics GA4 has new predictive metrics that allow you to make data-driven decisions on a larger scale, helping you to better understand your audience. With these new metrics you can create audiences based on predictive behaviours, allowing you to then target them in a Google Ads campaign or on social media. These new metrics allow you to both improve retargeting campaigns and improve website performance by creating custom funnels for different audiences based on behaviours and needs.

Universal Analytics is going away

As of July 1st, 2023, Universal Analytics will be replaced by GA4 as Google Analytics’ new next-generation measurement solution. This means that Universal Analytics will no longer receive any data from your website, making it a priority for your business to transition to the new GA4 sooner rather than later to ensure continuity in reporting. We recommend that you complete this conversion before July 2022, as this approach will allow you to have a years’ worth of historical data already loaded onto GA4.

What is happening

  • Until July 1st, 2023, you are still able to use and collect new traffic data in your existing Universal Analytics GA3 property.
  • After July 1st, 2023, for six months you can access historical data in your Universal Analytics GA3 property. It is recommended that you export your historical reports during this period as you will not be able to access it after the six-month grace period.
  •  Google are yet to announce when existing Universal Analytics properties will no longer be available, and we await a date for when support will be withdrawn. After this date, the property will no longer be accessible, meaning you will not be able to view any reports in the analytics interface.

Our Recommendations

We strongly recommend that you implement a change to GA4 as soon as possible. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with the dashboard and all the options available for tracking data. Also, the sooner you switch, the more data you will have stored in your new GA4 property. This switch let us you gather as much historical data and usage in the new experience, preparing you for when Universal Analytics GA3 is no longer available.

If you are looking for support on changing your Google Analytics property to GA4, then please contact us today.

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