The New Google Analytics 4
Google finally announced that it will sunset Universal Analytics (UA) on July 1, 2023—meaning your organization has a year and some change to get Google Analytics 4 (GA4) up and running. So, what does that mean for your organization? No need to panic, but you do need to act.
What’s Changing with Google Analytics?
The new Google Analytics 4 is a significant upgrade to the platform. If you don’t upgrade your website analytics to GA4, the old version will stop working and collecting data on your website.
Universal Analytics will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023. Don’t worry — previously collected data will continue to be available, at least for a limited time. However, to continue collecting website analytics data in the future, you will need to switch to the new Google Analytics 4.
GA4 is the most significant change to this keystone reporting tool to date, and the way(s) data is collected will change.
Previously, Universal Analytics used cookies (tracking code) to gather data. In the future, GA4 will collect data using tags through Google Tag Manager. This shift allows for a more seamless merge of data across web, mobile, and apps.
Some data will stay the same:
- Number of Users — New and returning visitors to your site within a set time frame.
- Basic Demographics — Site visitors including gender, age, location, and general interests.
- Referral Traffic — Data about traffic sources and behavior.
- Revenue — Insights into revenue and sales from your website.
Some data will change:
- Unique Pageviews and Bounce Rates are no longer reported (GA4 still reports pageviews).
- Engagement rate is new (people who stay), and is the inverse of bounce rate (people who leave).
- Referral traffic has a few new categories, including direct search, organic search, display ads, paid search, referrals, and more.
- Improved predictive analysis allows data gaps to be filled in to offer insights for your website.
A new interface is also a part of this upgrade. Custom reports, called Explorations, can be created in GA4. By combining segments, dimensions, and metrics in flexible ways, answers to key business questions are easier to find.
Here are 5 steps to take as soon as you can:
1. Set up a GA4 property today.
This is the most important thing to do now so that you always have access to year-over-year data.
Why? The biggest and most important difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is the measurement model. Without getting too deep into details (that’ll be a different blog), you can’t combine data from UA properties with data from GA4 properties.
The sooner you set up your GA4 property, the sooner you can see year-over-year data in GA4 and the longer overlap you will have with your UA property. Having access to both for a longer period will make the transition easier because you can study data side-by-side to understand the differences.
Setting up a GA4 property is simple. Follow these steps to set up a GA4 Configuration tag if you have Google Tag Manager (GTM) on your site. Use these if you don’t.
2. Audit your analytics.
Review your current reporting and note what metrics you rely on most. Then look at this article to understand how the transition to GA4 will affect your reporting.
For example, GA4 does not track bounce rate. This is a big one that made waves when GA4 first rolled out. Instead, GA4 tracks “engagement rate,” meaning % of sessions that either:
- Last longer than 10 seconds
- Complete a conversion
- View multiple pages
At Taoti, we see this is a positive change. Think about it. A user who spends 10 minutes on your site following along on a help article is highly engaged, yet counts as a bounce. Engagement rate accounts for this case and gives a truer representation of good experiences on your website. That said, many of our clients look to bounce rate as an important engagement signal. When they transition to GA4, they will have to change their reports and educate stakeholders about the change.
There are many examples like this, which is why we recommend auditing your analytics soon. This will give you time to understand the impact on your reports and adjust them to work with GA4 events.
3. Audit your ad campaigns.
If you use UA page views or custom events in your ad campaigns to create audiences or mark conversions, you will need to recreate these settings using GA4’s structure. While you don’t technically need to make this switch until July 1, 2023, it’s better to start now so you can get things set up correctly and understand any impacts on campaign performance.
4. Make a learning plan.
GA4 can be overwhelming if you are used to UA. The interface is different, the metrics are different, the definitions are different, and the reports are different. It’s a totally new way of thinking about data. Start your journey on that learning curve now to make sure you and your team are ready to go by July 1, 2023. Here are some topics to start with:
5. Reach out if you need help.
We are happy to work with you to get GA4 up and running for your organization. Reach out to us!