Are you wondering about the new Google Analytics update? Or… are you wondering what the new Google Analytics update is? You’ve made it to the right place!
For a few years, Google has been testing a new Google Analytics property (Google Analytics is a platform that helps marketers see where their website traffic is coming from, but, we’ll discuss that later on). Officially launched in 2020, Google Analytics 4 (“GA4”) will be replacing Universal Analytics (“UA”) in its entirety on July 1st, 2023. In other words, if you have been tracking your website data through the UA property, this will no longer be available after July 1st, 2023.
In this article, we are going to discuss what GA4 is, its key differences from its predecessor, as well as some higher-level tips for transitioning into GA4. To learn more about GA4 and key tips for transitioning into this new property, keep reading!
Overview of Google Analytics 4
As we begin preparing ourselves for the creation of the GA4 property as well as considerations during this transitional time, let’s start with a quick overview.
GA4 is the fourth generation of Google Analytics, a free tool launched in 2005 for the tracking and reporting of website and app traffic data. The great thing about Google Analytics is that its basic version is free and is quite simple for web developers to set up on your app or website. Marketers can use Google Analytics to track the customer’s digital journey whether this journey begins from a search on a search engine or by using a QR code from a postcard, for example. Marketers can also connect their Google Ads campaigns and Google Search Console, as Google Analytics (like most Google products) interacts with many of its other platforms.
GA4 is specifically designed as a new property within Google Analytics, and as its name suggests, is the fourth generation of Google Analytics property releases. First introduced in 2020 as “App + Web property”, GA4 will now be the only property available on the platform which will be sunsetting its Universal Analytics (aka GA3) property in July of 2023.
Why Does it Matter?
What makes this Analytics update so important is that the new property is inherently different from its predecessor, Universal Analytics. While UA only tracked website information, GA4 tracks both website and app data. To add, the new GA4 property’s main goal is to honor customer privacies and increased privacy laws (the General Data Protection Regulation, for example), which entails basing all of the data on “event-based” data rather than “session-based” data.
Google Analytics will continue to track and record UA data until July 1st, 2023. After this date, GA will provide a six month grace period for analysts to have access to their historical data within the UA property. It is important to note that the new GA4 property will NOT be able to accept your UA data, therefore, it is imperative to begin this transition sooner than later in order to have both data streams to compare when strategizing your GA4 plans into your marketing strategy.
Key Differences Between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4
1. Session v. Event-Based Data Model
As we transition out of tracking via cookies (in fact, Google Chrome will be ending the use of third-party cookies by the end of 2024), Google has prioritized using first-party data. It has also created “Google Signals” which collects data from users who have opted for ads personalization.
While UA used to specialize in tracking sessions, GA4’s focus will be event-based, meaning that the data will show information regarding actions that users are taking rather than interactions with the website (as in the UA property). For example, GA4 will replace the following UA interactions with events:
- Page View
- User Timing
- App/Screen View
As mentioned above, the new GA4 property has the ability to populate data from both websites and apps. To add, GA4 will be a full cross-device analytics platform, making it easier for marketers and analysts discover from which devices users are taking actions.
With the advance of machine learning, Google Analytics’s new GA4 property will implement much more machine learning throughout!
We are now in a very important transition stage where the priority is setting up new GA4 properties, and to begin tracking data. With these tools, we can set ourselves up for success by comparing both UA and GA4 to revise our data tracking and reporting strategies with an understanding of the new GA4 property’s inherently different implications.
Why Should You Begin Transitioning into GA4 Now?
As mentioned above, Google has given us until July 1st, 2023 to continue tracking data through our UA properties. After that date, Google Analytics will no longer be recording data for the UA property. This means that if you are not already recording data in the new GA4 property, you will not have any website data from Google Analytics after July 1st, 2023, and we all know that that is a dumpster fire waiting to happen…
In the next few months, we recommend that you begin this transition by creating the new GA4 property for your website and/or app. We also recommend NOT deleting or stopping the tracking of data of your UA property! Why? The longer that you have both properties (UA and GA4) running at the same time, the more time you have to compare and understand the difference between the two! Information is key, and the more keys you have, the better your chances of opening a locked door are!
Don’t Know How to Start? Hire an Expert!
If you are already feeling overwhelmed with transitioning over into the new GA4 property (and don’t worry – you’re not alone!), or if you simply do not have the time, hiring professionals to guide you and implement these changes may be your best option. Data analyst professionals and Google Analytics experts have been preparing for these updates for years and are truly well-equipped and eager to help all of us digital marketers navigate through Google’s biggest update in years.