In 2020 Google announced that the much-loved Universal Analytics will be replaced by the much-criticised GA4. After the announcement, the digital community collectively shuddered.
Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023, with Universal Analytics 360 properties stopping processing new hits on October 1, 2023. GA4 will become the default when setting up a new property and the prompts from Google to upgrade current UA properties to GA4 are becoming more and more prominent.
So, what is GA4? Why is Google changing everything? And should your business be concerned? In this blog, we will cover everything you need to know about GA4 and why you should be converting your current properties as soon as possible.
What is GA4?
One of the main benefits of GA4 is the use of AI over cookies. AI is defined as Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning, and within GA4 this means that certain pieces of machine code will be put in place to learn users’ habits and interests. With current GDPR rules in place, users must give consent to cookies to track everything they do. The problem that comes with this is when a user does not consent, we cannot track their journey. GA4 will begin to stop leaning so much on cookies and rather use machine learning to fill in the gaps where cookie tracking cannot. This will prevent further data gaps, and hopefully, with further optimisation and campaign efficiency.
GA4 will combine data from both apps and websites, meaning you will no longer need to have a separate Firebase Analytics account for any apps, as everything will be integrated into one. If you already have a Firebase Analytics account, this should have automatically been upgraded to GA4.
Any accounts or properties that you make from now on, will be GA4 instead of UA, with UA eventually becoming deprecated. It is recommended that you run GA4 properties alongside UA ones, to give GA4 enough time to build up data so that you don’t lose everything when you upgrade.
At Green Ginger, we’re recommending that all our clients set up GA4 by June 2022 at the latest to ensure that they have one year of clean tracked data.
When you do upgrade current UA accounts to GA4, a new property will be created for collecting data, with the current UA property not being affected. However, from December 2023 Google have said that old Universal Analytics properties will become unavailable.
The main difference between UA and GA4 is the interface. With the new update comes a whole new look for Google Analytics, with a new interface to navigate. Besides the way it looks, there are some other key differences between them that should be known.
A difference to note is that GA4 will no longer have the ‘bounce rate’ metric. This metric will now be replaced with ‘engaged sessions’. This new metric will measure the percentage of people who have viewed two or more pages on your site, with a session that is longer than ten seconds. This is the opposite of ‘bounce rate’ which is the metric of people who leave your site without interacting. So, you will be seeing the opposite.
Another difference between GA4 and UA is that GA4 will only track events and conversions and no longer track goals, as UA does. You can also choose which events will be counted as a conversion by toggling a switch, through the ‘Configure’ tab. It’ll also track events for you without having to modify or add extra code to your website. Obviously, this sounds like a great new feature to have. However, if you do turn on these events and look at the information gathered in the reporting feature, you will find that it does not look user friendly and has a particularly high learning curve.
Universal Analytics accounts that have a large number of goals are going to need to invest development time in making sure they have the same visibility in GA4.
One more great difference between both UA and GA4 is that GA4 does not start with your historical data. As I’ve already stated, it is recommended that you run GA4 and UA together so that GA4 can gather data, this is because GA4 will start with no data. It will not carry over data from UA when you upgrade current UA properties. But don’t worry, the data will stay safe in your current UA property and will not be affected when you do upgrade, you will just have a new property instead.
Should You Move Over to GA4?
You certainly should start to move over your UA properties to GA4, as UA will eventually become deprecated next year. But you should run the GA4 property alongside any UA property and views you already have, to ensure GA4 has enough data in the long run. This will also allow you or your team to learn and get to grips with the new interface, and navigation and learn how to gather the data you need from this new update.
If you want to know more about how Green Ginger can help you migrate to GA4 then get in touch. We have a comprehensive plan that ensures tracking and visibility are maintained.