Making the Switch from Universal Analytics to GA4: Everything You Need to Know

Making the Switch from Universal Analytics to GA4: Everything You Need to Know

After months of hints, press, and warnings from Google in your inbox to switch over before it’s too late, GA4 – Google’s new long-awaited data and analytics software – has finally arrived! 

Google has touted GA4 as “the future of analytics.” A pretty bold declaration! We’ve spent the last several months switching our clients’ analytics over to the new software and have been getting to know the ins and outs of this promising new tracking technology. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about GA4: What is it, its new features and functions, pros and cons, and whether it lives up to the hype of being the future of analytics. 

What is GA4?

Google Analytics 4, or GA4, is Google’s newest analytics property. It allows website owners to measure both traffic and engagement on their website as well as any other applications organizations may rely on. 

Tracking these analytics is vital, as knowing how your site performs can (and should!) influence your marketing and business development strategies. When we construct strategic audience growth plans for our partners, we use analytics to ensure the digital strategies we come up with aren’t a guessing game – they’re uniquely optimized to deliver the best possible results. 

What features does GA4 offer? 

GA4 is replacing the previous version of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics, which will soon no longer be supported. Don’t be sad about it though – the new features of GA4 have brought major changes to analytics tracking that will better serve you and your understanding of your site users’ behaviors. 

What’s changed from Universal Analytics? A lot. Let’s break down the new features GA4 brings to the table that makes Universal Analytics obsolete: 

Event-based tracking

The most significant change from Universal Analytics to GA4 is the way GA4 structures and collects data. Where Universal Analytics tracked data through sessions, GA4 uses an events-based model that tracks each user interaction as a standalone event. So, rather than grouping a series of actions and interactions within a given time-frame of a user being on your site, you’re now able to vastly enhance your understanding of the user journey. 

While learning this new analytics language (goodbye relying on pageviews and sessions, hello events and parameters) makes data tracking more intricate and complicated, it’s ultimately an excellent thing. Marketers have a greater level of freedom and customization to break down data into bite-sized pieces for analysis, analyze cross-platform interactions, and track clearer paths from action to action, which results in better predictions of user behavior than ever before. 

Easier event creation and tracking

Tracking something new on your website used to be a bit of a complicated process that meant coding and often required getting developers involved. With the new GA4, most basic events are tracked by default, and they’ve made it much easier to create new events directly in the platform. You can create up to 300 events per property, which most organizations won’t even come close to needing to track. This means tracking is easier than ever and puts more control in your hands. 

But don’t worry – Speak’s still got your back. If you’re unsure how to track events or elements like downloads in Google Analytics, we’re happy to help or take care of it for you. 

Predictive reporting

GA4 employs machine learning algorithms and new AI technology so you can more quickly gather data and forecast vital business developments like revenue growth, conversion probability and average churn rates. GA4’s predictive analysis feature also changes the game for ads and targeting. Now you can export custom audiences to Google Ads and the Google Marketing Platform, which allows you to target the right audience – high-value users, or clients at risk of being lost, for example. 

However, all of this data collection was built within a framework of privacy. As we usher in a new era focused on digital privacy and security, GA4 touts improved privacy controls from Universal Analytics. In fact, it was built from the ground up with privacy in mind, so you can be sure you won’t run into any privacy laws or regulations as you track every metric GA4 has to offer. 

Combined web and app view

GA4 is simplifying the game for those who report on both website and app performance. In the past, you would have to pull website and app analytics from different places, but GA4 consolidates them, meaning creating reports is faster and easier than ever. 

Anomaly detection

GA4 continues the use of machine learning and AI technology into anomaly detection that automatically identifies unusual patterns or occurrences on your website or app. For example, if your website historically generates 100 leads from a campaign per day and one day it delivers 1000, or none, GA4 would note these findings and deliver a report so you can stay on top of what’s happening on your site right when it matters most. 

Increased benefits of GA4

Having a strong understanding of everything you can do with Google’s analytics tracking system can better help you get the most ROI from your online presence. Get to know a few of the benefits of GA4:

Use Data-Driven Attribution to improve your ROI

With Google’s data-driven attribution, you know exactly where leads are coming from… and I mean exactly. See what Google has to say about the benefits of data-driven attribution: 

“Before making a purchase or completing another valuable action on your website, people may click or interact with several of your ads. Typically, all credit for the conversion is given to the last ad that customers interacted with. But was it really that ad that made them decide to choose your business? Data-driven attribution gives credit for conversions based on how people engage with your various ads and decide to become your customers. It uses data from your account to determine which keywords, ads and campaigns have the greatest impact on your business goals.” 

Data-driven attribution is a major improvement with GA4 and provides unique insights into the consumer decision-making process that you may not have been able to access in the past so you can optimize ad campaigns and other marketing efforts. 

GA4 makes it easier than ever to partner with external digital marketing experts to grow your business. 

GA4 is designed to meet any business’s growing needs, including making it easier to outsource GA management or to give an external agency team access to your GA4 data. As your business grows, GA4 has been designed to grow with you. 

We highly recommend allowing an external agency to do the heavy data lifting for you. Speak specializes in analyzing website data and translating it into a clear understanding of your organization’s web traffic and consumers, so you can continue focusing on the marketing efforts that drive your day-to-day operations instead of getting bogged down in data analysis. 

What are the downsides to Google Analytics 4? 

As with any major change, there are bound to be some growing pains and challenges as your organization adjusts to GA4.

You’ll start with Day Zero data.

The unfortunate news is that historical data will not transfer to the GA4 view, and because GA4 and Universal Analytics are two completely different products, they can’t be merged to combine data. This means you won’t be able to compare new data with previous years until you’ve been using GA4 for over a year. 

Fortunately, Universal Analytics will continue to be supported through July 2023, so we highly recommend transitioning now, so you can run GA4 and UA simultaneously for the next year. 

There’s a learning curve… and a lot to learn. 

Clearly there are some major changes to get used to with GA4. No matter your familiarity with Universal Analytics, expect the move to Google Analytics 4 to be time consuming – a frustrating prospect when you don’t want to delay any vital analysis that could impact key business and marketing decisions. 

An agency like Speak that already knows GA4 well can help you adjust to the new system, analyze data to make sure you don’t miss a beat, and advise you as you learn GA4. This way, you’ll be able to reap advice from marketing experts while learning the platform at your own leisure. 

Get the most out of GA4. 

Learning GA4 may feel intimidating. If you’d like advice on how to make the most out of Google Analytics 4 or getting the most ROI from the data you gather using GA4, the audience growth experts at Speak can help. Get in touch today to get started.

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Posted by Claire Grace at 07:36