Google launched the first version of Google Analytics in 2005. Since then, the demand for web analytics has increased significantly, and there have been numerous updates to the platform. The current version - Universal Analytics (UA) – was officially introduced in October 2012 and has been the dominant player in web analytics platforms ever since. But now, as even greater demand and unique new requirements arise, it’s time to make the move to the next generation of analytics: Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
More than just an upgrade to the existing platform, GA4 is a distinct new property that has been designed for the future of measurement. Let’s dive into why Google has made such a big change, what exactly Google Analytics 4 offers, when you need to jump on board – and how to make the transition.
Why the change?
Realising the need for significant change and understanding that the UA framework could not support any more upgrades, Google began work on a distinct new platform. Upon its official release in October 2020, Google cited changes in user behaviour and privacy standards as the major reasons for the development of this new platform.
Google Analytics 4 offers more privacy protection as it:
- helps businesses meet evolving needs and user expectations
- has more comprehensive and granular controls for data collection and usage
- will no longer store IP addresses.
Designed with the future in mind, GA4 operates in a privacy-focused world without cookies. It gives [AW1] you continuous access to essential visitor data, making it more stable to industry changes and preventing future gaps in your data.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Current and previous versions of Google Analytics have all been upgrades to the original. While GA4 carries the Google Analytics name, it is in fact a distinct new platform.
Unlike Universal Analytics which tracks screen views in separate mobile-specific properties, GA4 offers cross-platform capabilities, enabling you to measure traffic and engagement across your websites and apps.
What are the main benefits of GA4?
GA4 offers enhanced measurement and provides the ability to do more than UA can. Some of the main features at this stage include:
- Data-driven attribution: GA4 assigns broader attribution credit beyond just the last click. This helps you understand how different marketing activities collectively influence conversions.
- More valuable data: GA4 uses machine learning to deliver predictive insights about user behaviour and conversions.
- More actionable data: GA4 has greater integrations with other Google products, such as Google Ads. Its combined web and app data makes it easier to use Analytics insights to optimise ad campaigns.
- Built for enterprise: You can customise the structure of your Google Analytics 4 properties to meet data governance needs.
- Privacy-first event-based tracking: A combination of privacy-first tracking, AI predictive data, and machine learning helps you understand user behaviour via an event-based operating model.
- Better privacy: GA4 does not rely on cookies and instead leverages machine learning to fill data gaps as Google continues to increase its data privacy regulations.
- Cross-channel view of customer behaviour: GA4 provides a cross-channel view of the customer lifecycle. It focuses on active users rather than the total number of users.
- Simplified reporting: There are fewer standard reports in GA4 making it easier to create custom, ad-hoc reports. The simplified reporting interface enables marketers to spot key trends and irregularities in data.
When do I need to make the change?
Being a completely new platform, GA4 does not carry over any historical data from UA, so the sooner you implement it, the sooner you start collecting your required data.
Remember, this is not an upgrade – it is a complete migration to a new platform that you will need to learn how to use from scratch. We recommend giving yourself at least 90 days to become familiar with GA4 before you stop using (lose access to) Universal Analytics. All standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023. The 360 Universal Analytics properties have an extra 3 months and will stop processing new hits from October 1, 2023.
Can I continue collecting data from Universal Analytics?
You’ll still be able to access your previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property for at least six months after July 1, 2023. Because we understand how important your data is to your business, we recommend that you export all your historical reports prior to the cut-off date.
How to migrate from UA to GA4
If you created your property after October 14, 2020, you’re probably using a Google Analytics 4 property already, so you don’t need to take any action.
However, most people who created their property before October 14, 2020, will likely be using Universal Analytics. If this is you, you’ll need to make the change as soon as possible.
Google has created a helpful setup wizard to make the transition. The basic steps to get started are:
- login to your Google Analytics account
- click admin via the gear icon on the bottom left navigation
- select and confirm your desired account
- confirm the desired property is selected
- click GA4 Setup Assistant and follow the prompts.
Sounds simple right? It should be, but it can be quite intimidating.
To ensure you get the most out this new platform, it’s imperative that you get the set-up process right from the very beginning. Integral can manage this process for you to ensure your setup is correct, and you’re able to collect the required data straight away.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you transition to the future of analytics.