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Google Analytics 4: What You Need to Know

April 4, 2022
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Google just announced that they will be shutting down Google Universal Analytics (the GA we all know and love) on July 1, 2023.

GA4 will be the only Google Analytics system available in about a year..

What is GA4? And how are we supposed to handle this?

What is Google Analytics 4?

GA4 is the new version of Google Analytics that’s already been released. It’s Google’s way to handle the cookieless future in digital marketing. We all know how much of an impact iOS14 had on Facebook’s tracking ability (click here if you don’t) – this is Google trying to avoid their own tracking fiasco.

This new version of GA is currently used for tracking apps and app-based websites, aka webapps, and is based entirely on event tracking. No cookies involved.

What will change with GA4?

The main differences can be summed up with two phrases: event tracking & machine learning.

Event tracking – GA4 will no longer track sessions, bounces, goal completions, and many other metrics that we’re all used to. Everything will be based on events. Pageview events, conversion click events, etc.

That also means that your conversion funnel tracking needs to be entirely rebuilt by an event-tracking expert.

Machine Learning – This is what I’m personally most excited about with the new platform. ML is one of Google’s main tools to combat the increasing privacy expectations of consumers. They will use ML to “fill the gaps” in tracking to ensure that businesses still have a good feel for the trends of their business, while also protecting specific users’ privacy.

It will also unlock a host of new analyses for marketers to use – looking at a more detailed purchase funnel, customer cohorts, lifetime value of users, etc.

What will happen to our current GA data? Will it carry over?

The short answer is.. we don’t know yet.

If Google made the GA4 swap today, the answer would be no. None of the historical data would carry over due to GA4 structuring data differently than UA.

They have also not announced any official plans to try and migrate the data from the old GA to GA4 – so our best is to plan like all historical data will be wiped, and start tracking in GA4 asap.

My personal opinion – I have a hard time believing that Google will just throw all of that valuable data away. It just wouldn’t make sense. Not for the users, not for Google. Time will tell.

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So.. should we implement GA4 as soon as possible.

YES. Mentioned it in the section above, but if UA data won’t carry over, it’s your responsibility to get GA4 tracking as soon as possible, for a few reasons:

  • You will be armed with at least 12mo of data by the time UA is obsolete
  • The more data the GA4 Machine Learning model has, the more value it will drive for you
  • Your competition is most likely doing this right now, so if you aren’t, you’re behind

Official quote from Google on the subject..

Make the move over to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible to build the necessary historical data before Universal Analytics stops processing new hits.

Doesn’t get much more clear than that.

Why is Google doing this? I don’t like change!

I get it. We’re all human, we like to be comfortable with our tools and routines.

The truth is, a new era in digital marketing and online business has begun. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are the new trailblazers and the best way to improve these models are to hand it out to the public to gather as much data as possible.

UA had many flawed metrics, and obsolete data collection methods that no longer apply to the new age of multi-device users. It fell behind user privacy laws. Although there will be a learning curve, GA4 seems to be future proof (for now).

As you implement GA4, I would caution you to compare the metrics between UA and GA4 to familiarize yourself with what the changes will mean to your day-to-day work. 

If you have any questions, please reach out to our experts at Power Digital. We’ll make sure you’re set for the next tech wave in digital.

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