You may have heard the collective groan from digital marketers everywhere when Google recently announced that they’ll be sunsetting Universal Analytics on July 1st, 2023. Why? Because Google Analytics 4 has a very different approach to data collection & visualization, and as a result, marketers will be spending much of the next year configuring & getting to grips with a new way of analyzing data.
Why is Google Moving to GA4?
A huge influencing factor is that changes in privacy & data handling have required Google to adapt measurement standards and develop a new method of tracking & reporting that offers greater security and compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and other similar legislations.
Elsewhere, with behaviour being much more multi-device, multi-platform based today, Google needed a solution that offered a more holistic approach to reporting across apps, websites and user devices. Combined with this, as the industry becomes less reliant on cookies, Google needed a solution that doesn’t rely exclusively on cookies. As Russell Ketchum, Director, Product Management, Google Analytics states: “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.”
So, what does this mean for your business?
Set Up GA4 Now, Not Next Year
Although you still have a year to get ready for Google Analytics 4, the sooner you set up GA4, the sooner you’ll start gathering data. You can’t take data from Universal Analytics and put it in GA4 – you need to start recording from scratch. Getting the initial GA4 set up done will serve you well for the year ahead.
You’ll Need a GA4 Setup Checklist
The ‘default’ settings in GA4 won’t suit all businesses, and a big component of setting up GA4 is customizing & configuring the platform accordingly. At 1UP Digital Marketing, we have an extensive GA4 checklist that we’ve curated after several GA4 setup processes, but we also recommend delving into Analytics Mania’s GA4 course for a robust checklist.
Export & Backup Universal Analytics Data
After July 1, 2023, Google has said that you will be able to access previously processed data in Universal Analytics for at least six months. In any case, you’ll want to export that data in an appropriate format for historical reference.
Take An Event-Based Approach to Analytics
One of the biggest wins with GA4 is that the most basic events are already tracked for you, between the automatically tracked events and enhanced measurement events. That said, there are lots of events that require configuration in a way that wasn’t required in Universal Analytics.
Your team should take time to set up custom events and conversion actions properly – including defining the custom dimensions associated with those actions (a requirement in GA4). We also suggest looking at Google’s recommended events list first to identify appropriate events for your business that may already have a recommended naming convention. Once you’re comfortable in doing so, you can create custom events – and the good news is GA4 supports up to 300 events and 30 conversion actions!
Get Ready to Explore in GA4
In Google Analytics 4, whilst some of the data you’re used to seeing is visualized in the ‘Reports’ section, a lot of the more granular and specific analysis has to be built out using the ‘Explore’ tab. These exploration reports let you go beyond the standard reporting available in GA4. You can create your own custom analyses to uncover specific details about your site and/or app.
Explore offers a template gallery of exploration reports to choose from, as well as a ‘blank sheet’ version. Data Driven’s article offers a really helpful step-by-step guide to building and understanding exploration reports in GA4.
Not sure where to begin with your GA4 migration? 1UP Digital Marketing has expertise in tracking & analytics, and can help you get your Google Analytics 4 journey off to a smooth start.
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