Universal Analytics is coming to an end, so here’s what you need to know about GA4!

So GA4 is here (sort of). The latest version of Google Analytics doesn’t drop until July next year however the update is so large, and such a move away from the Universal Analytics that we all currently use, that getting the change done early is a must for you to being able to continue to learn from Google Analytics.

Way back in 2020 Google announced it was beginning the process of powering down or ‘sunsetting’ Universal Analytics (GA3) and would be introducing the next generation of analytics tracking to its customers.

Citing what it felt were irreversible changes in online platform usage and ever tightening restrictions on Cookie use, Google saw that the time was ripe to rethink its approach to data collection and the types of insights it could provide website owners. Google Analytics 4 does away with UAs, essentially, 15-year-old technology that used session-based tracking for an ‘event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement.’

This has multiple benefits including proper cross-device tracking, minimal cookies (i.e. more privacy for users), and more events recorded including key engagement indication metrics such as clicking and scrolling as standard.

There is a lot to learn and get used to, hence why an early start – especially before the year countdown (July 2022) begins – but the benefits in the long run will allow websites to be better optimised and provide insights into your customers and users that were not available before.

The benefits of GA4

“But!”, I hear you cry “GA3 and Universal Analytics gives me so much, familiar, and historical data – why are they changing it?”

It’s a fair point, however apart from the points outlined above about the increased privacy demands and the outdated way of tracking users, GA4 offers a simpler yet more in-depth look at your users and offers machine learning to provide insights and predictions about how users will access and use your site in the future.

This new predictive metric will be able to identify users, and their actions, that would most likely lead to a conversion therefore allowing you to focus your marketing and web development efforts in the most efficient and beneficial areas.

User journeys are also a big focus and benefit of GA4. GA3 could be used to roughly show and work out user journeys, but with GA4 this is a fundamental function built into its offering. Not only will you be able to see exactly which paths users are taking to get to your key pages, but if you have an online presence existing over multiple platforms – web and app – your tracking will now extend beyond a singular platform.

This is a core part of the GA4s thinking, as modern users are now more likely than ever to perhaps visit your site on their mobile device after seeing an ad on social media, before revisiting on their desktop computer later. They then may go on to download, purchase, or register through another app or tablet. Before, these may well have shown up as different users, with different sessions and different journey but GA4 will allow you to bundle this one journey into a clearer picture.

This multiple point touch path will enable you to get a better picture of your customers, their habits and which sections of the site – and your overall online presence – are the most effective in converting and engaging your users.

GA4 does away with the trusty Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversion menus and instead presents much of this info in its ‘Lifecycle’ section which divides analysis into Acquisition, Engagement, Monetisation and Retention – this boils down the information that you will actually find useful and makes creating reports a faster and more insightful process. There is essentially less chance of you getting ‘lost in the data’.

Meanwhile, Bounce Rate has been replaced by some more powerful, and useful, engagement metrics. These include top-line figures including page views, session start, first visit as well as specific user actions including scroll, click and user engagement. This will be great for understanding barriers and dead ends within your current site.

Why upgrade to Google Analytics 4 so early?

Although the changeover, and sunsetting, of GA3 doesn’t happen until July 2023 getting ahead of the curve is wise for a number of reasons.

The first being, simply, to give yourself enough time to setup, compare and QA the changes between GA3 and GA4. The difference between the two platforms is stark and it will both take some getting used to and having a years’ worth of historical GA3 data running alongside your shiny new GA4 property will give you peace of mind that everything is firing as expected.

GA4 does also require a good understanding and knowledge of Google’s ‘events’ and building up experience adding and configuring individual events tailored to your audience and business needs will take a little time.

However, the short-term pain will quickly become medium and long-term gain as armed with this new insight, you can begin optimising and improving your customer experience.

How do I upgrade to GA4 - the actual doing bit

There are two approaches to this:

1. Do it yourself

So, and this might surprise you, go into your Google Analytics account.

Create a new property, maybe name it ‘Company – GA4’ or similar. When prompted, select your ‘Industry’, ‘Business Size’ and your intended use for GA4.

Once this has been created, you’ll be asked which platform you want to create a Data Stream for – you’ll be given three options: Web; Android app; and iOS app. You can go back and create any number of these by the way, this is a key part of GA4’s cross-device tracking.

For web, you’ll be asked to give a web address, for Android apps you’ll be asked for a ‘Package name’ which is basically your “applicationId in your app-level build.gradle file” and the ‘App name’. For iOS apps, you’ll be asked for a little more including, ‘iOS Bundle ID’, ‘App name’ and ‘App Store ID’.

Once confirmed, you’ll be prompted to add the GA4 tagging to your site (exactly like you did for UA!). Using the ‘Global site tag’ (gtag.js) is probably the easiest way and can sit alongside your existing UA tracking code.

Once you are happy that the code is tracking, implementing the ‘Configure’ section which includes parameters for setting up new Events, Conversions, Audiences and any Custom Definitions. Setting up Google GA4 Insights is also a key first step which can be done within the ‘Home’ section of your account.

2. Let us help you!

How can Obergine help upgrade to GA4?

Have a think about what information and metrics are most important to you, what do you hope to gain from analytics and how you need to analyse and report.

We can use this information to get GA4 in place now, giving you a year of comparison data, and plenty of time to get up to speed with the new interfaces.

Sound good? Get in touch and set up a review.