If your business uses Google Ads or depends on Google Analytics to track your marketing efforts, the switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is an important element of your marketing strategy. Are you one of the business owners and marketers still wondering when you should make the switch?
Although plans to move to GA4 won’t take place until summer 2023, the short answer is right now. In fact, what you really want to ask yourself is whether you have already missed the boat to make a smooth transition. Here we look at GA4, why making the switch as soon as possible is a good idea, and what’s involved with migration.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Simply put, GA4 is the next generation of Google’s Universal Analytics (GA3). It is next-level data analytics designed to collect website and app data so users get a better understanding of their customer’s journey. Aside from that, it provides information based on events triggered by visitor actions as opposed to session-based data. Moreover, it also includes improved privacy controls to help keep pace with changing regulations. It provides “cookieless” measurements as well as insights such as behavioral and conversion modeling. Marketers also have a less complex way of tapping into the tool’s predictive capabilities.
Why is GA4 necessary?
Because user privacy is impacting digital marketing methods and, in turn, measurement, new measurements are required to ensure the right data is collected in a more meaningful yet acceptable way. Customer journeys also tend to cover multi-platforms thanks to more complex marketing strategies.
As a result, businesses need to access not just website data but also data from other apps they use to interact with their customers. This updated version provides new, far-reaching insights offering a cross-platform data analytics solution. Because GA3 was designed for desktop users and relied on cookies, new privacy rules require a new, cookieless measuring tool.
How does GA4 meet the needs of your customers?
As privacy is a major concern for consumers, Google Analytics 4 is designed with privacy in mind. Google is always looking to improve its user experience, and by putting users first, they remain the favored search engine. GA4 allows you to do the same because you can become more predictive and meet the changing needs of your customers.
You’ll have access to far more data focused on user experience, interaction, and activities. When privacy is so important, you can access important data with privacy protections in place that provide consumers with more control over how their data is used. You can:
- Gain a better understanding of your customer’s lifecycle across all touchpoints using event-based measurements
- Improve ROI with analysis that tells you how your marketing impacts the customer journey
- Respect your customers’ privacy but still have access to better measurements to improve their customer experience
- Use machine learning to access user behavior insights and create new target audiences
- Optimize your Google Ad campaigns and SEO
- Improve branding by understanding your target audience
- Meet the analytic needs of all team members, departments, and marketing partners
Data-driven decisions become more predictive, while you also make smarter investments for your marketing spend.
When should I upgrade/switch to Google Analytics 4?
Google plans to stop processing new hits measured by GA3 on July 1, 2023, and newer Analytics 360 properties on October 1, 2023. You’ll only have access to your historical data for six months after the upgrade BUT the data can be exported so that it won’t be completely lost. Since data becomes far more relevant when it is compared to historical data, you’ll want to start generating usable data now.
Ideally, you should make the switch as soon as possible, so you collect data for comparisons and have information to analyze. This is the time to make a move, so your tracking is set up, and you can export your GA3 data while it’s still available.
What is the difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics?
The main difference between GA4 and GA3 is the measuring model. GA3 captures hits on pages, events, eCommerce, and social interaction, while GA4 is based on events. “Events” are based on user interaction and activity either on your website or mobile apps. There are four types of events in GA4:
1. Automatically collected events that are logged based on user activities you define.
2. Enhanced measurement events logged on defined activity such as someone watching a video, downloading a file, or searching your website.
3. Recommended events by Google such as retail/eCommerce, travel/hotel, or gaming that are manually implemented in order to be logged.
4. Custom events you create using either Google Tag Manager or the more difficult Global Site Tag that requires hard coding.
The events have four sub-categories:
1. Web events recorded strictly on your website
2. App events recorded on mobile apps
3. App + Web events, which of course, record both
4. Android events specific to android apps
GA4 allows you to view events under the All Events report.
What are all events report in Google Analytics 4?
The All Events report allows you to review your data, including:
- Logged events
- Number of triggers for events
- Percentage of count change for logged events
- Number of users triggering each logged event
- Percentage of user changes for each logged event
You can also downland an Events Report as a CSV.
Under All Events, you can also perform tasks including:
- Disabling or enabling logged events as conversions
- Searching for events
- Modifying events
- Creating custom events using an existing event
- Creating custom dimensions
- Creating custom metrics
- Accessing detailed reports for logged events
Events are far more meaningful and help you peel back the layers to reveal what is driving conversions or failing to generate the desired results.
How to migrate from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4
Here are some tips to help make the migration process easier:
Use the GA4 setup assistant
Whether your website pages have a Google Analytics tag or a Google Tag Manager (GTM) container, you can use the GA4 Setup Assistant as long as you have an Editor role for the account. Click Settings Admin in Google Analytics and select your account in the Account Column if you have more than one. Under the Property column, select the Universal Analytics property collecting your data and click GA4 Setup Assistant. Under “I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property,” click Get started and Create Property.
Know your implementation structure
How your Google Analytics was implemented will impact your GA4 setup. There are several options, including:
- Directly in the code
- Google Tag Manager
- CMS integration
You need to understand your implementation architecture so you can ensure your tags are set up properly for efficient, accurate tracking.
Once the property is created, you can select the standard events you need based on the data collection you require.
As mentioned, there is a new measurement plan. Event Name makes it easy to replace the Event Category, but you have to take steps to create your event tracking. Make sure you record previously tracked destinations as events, and also decide what events you want to track along with the parameters you need for your main events. You can use the parameters to create a GA4 Events tag with triggers for the events. You add parameters under “Manage Custom Definitions.”
Add eCommerce events
If you have an eCommerce site, you have specific perimeters in GA4, which can be tagged either on your website or GTM. Under Google’s support page, they list eCommerce events to make it easier to understand the relevant tags you can create.
Apply non-KPI custom tracking
The non-KPI tracking options can be customized based on things such as your business goals, events, or user interactions with your website.
Audit your account set up
To make sure the data collected by GA4 is accurate, you should audit your account for any errors. Many of the GA4 defaults might not suit your needs. Some tips for an effective audit include:
- Time Zone: Under property settings, be sure you select the correct time zone so day boundaries are accurate.
- Google Signals: Make sure you activated Google signals under Data Settings> Data Collection to collect data from different devices.
- Data Retention: GA4 defaults to two-month data retention, which means you can only access exploration reports for two months. Ideally, this period should be 14 months.
- Attribution Model: This helps attribute conversions more accurately. The default is the last click, but you might want to know all the ads clicked before an event is triggered. You can choose the attribution model, so you see the entire customer journey through clicks.
- Enhanced Measurement: We mentioned enhanced events measurements above. However, to track this measurement, they have to be enabled. To do so, switch the option to ON under Property> Data Streams > Web> Enhanced measurement.
- Data: Filters improve accuracy. Under Data Setting> Data Filters, you can choose internal traffic and developer traffic to make sure your team is not being counted. Also, unwanted referrals such as third-party payment methods can lead to inaccurate counts. The customer goes from your site to a site such as PayPal and back again, so are counted twice. You can remove referrals under Data Streams> More Tagging Settings and select unwanted referrals or go to Tag Configuration to set specific conditions for unwanted referrals.
These are just a few examples of the settings and defaults that can interfere with the accuracy of your data.
While it’s never too late to make the switch to Google Analytics 4, the clock is ticking, which means you’re missing out on precious data with every minute. Now is the time to start the migration process to make sure you export your historic GA3 data and start collecting data you can review next year.
If this process sounds complicated, reach out to the website design and development experts at Digitally Grounded. We can set the ball in motion so you can start leveraging the power of this valuable analytics tool.