Although it may seem that Google Analytics 4 (or GA4) is something new, it officially launched in the 4th quarter of 2020 in beta status, quickly being pushed to the front of the queue over Universal Analytics (UA/GA3) by Google when it came to installing analytics tracking on a new website.
You may or may not yet have come across GA4. You may, like some have taken a look at it and quickly reverted back to UA. However, with the recent announcement of Universal Analytics being put to bed in July 2023, it’s now time to start taking GA4 seriously and start using it.
What Will Google Analytics 4 Offer?
Dubbed as a new, more intelligent Google Analytics, GA4 will offer:
- Smarter insights to improve marketing decisions
- A more complete understanding of how customers interact with a business
- Privacy driven and Future focused experience
What are some of the differences between UA and GA4?
Universal Analytics was solely for recording website data and relied on cookies, you know, those evil things that tracked your every move across the web. On the other hand, GA4 can be implemented not only on your website but also your apps, allowing all of your analytical data to be under one system.
This is a change compared to its predecessor, as GA4 does not solely rely on cookies and introduces an event based modelling system which utilises machine learning. (Yikes, we all saw what happened with machine learning on T2 Judgement Day…).
Machine learning will help fill in the gaps where users do not accept cookies on a website and not attempt to take over mankind, allowing site owners a better understanding of their visitors’ interactions.
Event Based Data
GA4 is Event based, every interaction can be recorded as an event.
Built with privacy in mind, GA4 will not store user IP addresses and offers comprehensive control over data collected.
The User Interfaces are notably different, on the surface GA4 has been simplified, however, it does require a little exploring.
Bounce Rate, Bounced
One notable omission is that of “Bounce Rate”, this is now being replaced by “User Engagement”. Let’s face it we all had the view that the lower the bounce rate the better, however, bounce rate never told us if a user was actually engaged with our content, regardless of how long they spent on the page in question.
The User Engagement metric will be set at 10 seconds with the option to adjust the timing to fit your own take on an engaged user.
On a whole the technology behind the scenes is different with GA4 built for the future and not old, now archaic, methods of data collection.
Many don’t like change, however like most digital marketing developments this is a change we have to make if we want to continue tracking usage data on our sites. Sure there are going to be a lot of moans, but remember the outcry last time Facebook changed their interface or the several times they have done it previously?
People vowed never to use the platform again, yet the same people today are still using it and completely forgot what it used to look like. It’s a poor analogy but simply put, start using GA4 and eventually you are going to see its benefits and forget UA ever existed.
With any major change there will be questions so here are a few answers to some you may have.
How easy is it to install GA4?
Similar to UA, GA4 can be implemented through a snippet of code in the header of your website. Alternatively you can use Google Tag Manager or a third party plugin that your website CMS may offer.
Should I remove UA from my site?
No, GA4 will only store up to one year worth of data (data can be moved to a third party cloud storage system) so right now it is best to run the two alongside each other until UA is sunset. This way you will have historical data for a few months at least.
What will happen to the data on UA?
Google has stated it will be available for at least 6 month once UA is decommissioned in July 2023. The advice is to export your data if you require a historical record. More information can be found here.
When should I install GA4?
There is no time like the present, however, we strongly advise to install GA4 by July 2022 so that when UA is sunset you will have 12 months of data stored within GA4 for reporting purposes.
Can we merge UA data with GA4?
No, is the short answer. The two versions of analytics use different data modelling so it’s strongly advised that you run the two analytic tags alongside each other, the sooner the better, to ensure you maintain a year’s worth of data for when comparing year on year.
What happens to my current goals/events?
Depending on your setup Google has all the answers on the next steps you need to take. View their event migration guide for more information.
The above may sound daunting, especially if you are not a marketeer and look after your own analytics, however, it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Hopefully this has given you some insight into what to expect from Google Analytics 4, and how to begin steps before the switch.
For those of you looking to setup Google Analytics 4 on your website but do not know where to start, Wriggle Marketing will be offering a setup package to install the analytics on your website as well as setup basic goal tracking. We’ll share more on this soon!