If you're still using Universal Analytics (UA), it's time to make the change to Google Analytics 4 - the new gold-standard of tracking data on your website. On 1st July this year, Universal Analytics (UA)—or Google Analytics 3—will stop measuring website data. Your previous data will not be transferred to GA4 and you can only begin collecting data on the new service after setting up an account. With July just around the corner, let's look at what Google Analytics 4 means for your website.
Universal Analytics is heading into the sunset
Web analytics are crucial when it comes to measuring the activity and success of your website or digital marketing campaign. For almost a decade Universal Analytics (UA) has been the industry standard for tracking and measuring this activity. In March 2022, Google announced that Universal Analytics is to be 'sunsetted' on July 1st 2023. All data that has been processed on Universal Analytics until this date will be stored for six months following the ‘sunset’. It's important to remember this data will not be transferred to your new GA4 account.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics (or GA4) is the latest version of Google’s web analytics tool. More powerful and flexible, it aims to give users new opportunities to understand their audience with a wider range of features, including better integration with Google Ads and Google Tag Manager.
If you're used to Universal Analytics, you will probably be comfortable with data such page hits, event hits, ecommerce hits, and social interaction hits.
There are notable differences between Google Analytics 4 and UA. GA4 focuses on event-based data instead of the session-based, pageview-centred model you would be used to in Universal Analytics. But what is an event? More granular and descriptive, an event is interaction with a webpage, giving insights into user actions such as clicking a link or completing a purchase.
GA4 will instead take a wider view of the user journey across platforms and devices, analysing events and user interactions across devices and platforms. It also allows you to have a better better picture of how users navigate your website through improved cross-device tracking.
New metrics include engagment rate, which is the percentage of engaged sessions on your website. Engaged sessions are those that last longer than 10 seconds, have a conversion event, or at least 2 pageviews. This makes a lot of sense - in UA a user could have spent ten minutes reading the content on one of your webpages - but without any further action they would have been included in the bounce rate despite having engaged with your content, albeit without an additional interaction. The event-based approach will let you see how users are really interacting with website, giving you a better understanding your engagement and conversions. Some events will be automatically collected, some require additional work to enable enhanced measurements, and some will be completely custom. There's so much scope - it's a great opportunity to review your entire tracking.
Other features include machine learning insights such as predicted metrics and anomaly detection, streamlined conversion tracking, enhanced analysis tools and real-time reporting. It's privacy-centred approach means GA4 will not track third-party cookies - its focus will instead be on first-party cookies. It also seamlessly integrates with other tools within the Google Marketing Platform, such as Google Ads and BigQuery.
What do you need to do?
Don't panic - for those who haven’t already made the jump to Google Analytics 4, Google will have automatically created GA4 properties for you so that your tracking should continue. To get the most out of your tracking though, please feel free to reach out to us at Green17 for all the advice and help you need to make sure you're set up and ready to go.
One more thing....
After July 1, 2023, you'll be able to access your previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property for six months, but at some point after this, it will no longer be available. We recommend export your historical reports during this time - you will need a different application to view it though.
Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete. Meanwhile, Google Analytics 4 operates across platforms, does not rely exclusively on cookies and uses an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement.