Google announced that it is phasing out Universal Analytics and replacing it with Google Analytics 4, or GA4, on July 1, 2023.
While that date may seem like it’s a long time away, there are a lot of changes coming with the switch. And by starting your transition now, you can make sure you don’t lose any of your annualized data – and that your marketing campaigns keep running business as usual.
Here are a few of our suggestions for preparing your website analytics and tracking for GA4.
What this means for your Google Campaigns
Google Analytics 4 will soon be the new standard for tracking and reporting your analytics for your Google Campaigns. Currently, Universal Analytics, or UA, is the standard. You have the option to switch over to GA4 right now, but after July 2023 UA will stop processing any new hits as GA4 becomes Google’s permanent (and only) solution..
As long as a site follows SEO best practices and is indexed properly, the switch from UA should not affect a site’s ranking.
But, in planning for GA4 for our own personal accounts, we’ve discovered that there will be three big differences between UA and GA4.
How users are tracked
Right now in Universal Analytics, users are tracked through hits. Hits are tied to user behavior and can include page views, events, transactions, and more. In UA, user sessions are seen as a group of interactions.
This isn’t the case in GA4, where user sessions have a specific starting event that begins measuring that session.
Users instead are tracked by every action they take on your website across their active lifespan – not just by actions taken each time they are on your website. Under this new change, sessions that cross midnight will not automatically start a new session and new campaign interactions will not create a new session. This leads to more accurate reporting, as Google will be able to tell you what exact actions are being taken by specific users each time they visit your website as one, complete visitor profile.
Universal Analytics currently offers a number of different reporting templates and custom options you can take advantage of to plan out how you can display web data in reports.
With GA4, users only have access to a select number of top-level reports built into the system. For more customized reporting, you’ll have to create your own templates. To aid in this, Google is promoting its own Data Studio tool that will allow you to drill down into the data that’s most important to your organization’s results.
Account set up
Reporting set up is shifting under GA4. Instead of a property and view set up, GA4 allows you to mix data from both apps and websites. The same tracking code can be placed on several different properties, and can be consolidated to track users in between streams for more accurate reporting on user behaviors.
Here’s what you can do
It sounds like a lot, but again, there’s no need to panic! The best thing you can do right now is begin planning. Start by taking these tangible steps to get ready for GA4.
Make the switch
We highly recommend getting switched over to GA4 and set up before July 2022. This way, by July of next year, you’ll have Year Over Year data to look at and compare. GA4 will start collecting data as soon as you make the switch and add the relevant tracking code to your website.
However, even after you’ve made the switch, don’t delete your UA tags just yet! Keep them both in place. This way, you can use your new GA4 and test it against your existing UA to measure performance and see if any changes are needed in how you’re measuring and reporting on data collected.
Back up your data
When you do switch, data will NOT be shared between GA4 and UA. To get ahead of this, start collecting and saving your data from Google Analytics as soon as possible.
Starting July 2023, Universal Analytics will stop collecting data. Users will be able to access their historical data for at least six months after, with an official date coming soon. So, even if you can’t set up your GA4 right now for whatever reason, start backing up your data! You don’t want to lose it after GA4 becomes permanent.
Plus, you can use your old data to inform your new GA4 campaigns.
Start learning the ropes
Once you get GA4 up and working on your website, it’s time to start learning how it works. Starting early gives you an advantage — you’ll already know how everything works before the change becomes permanent and you have no choice.
Here are some things to keep in mind about switching over to GA4 and learning how it works:
- Event Tracking
- Enhanced measurement will track scrolls, outbound clicks, site searches, video engagements, and file downloads.
- Reporting Metric Changes
- Bye bye bounce rate! Instead, GA4 will report an engagement rate to give users a rate of engaged sessions over total sessions. The goal is to give users a better idea of how often people are interacting with their site.
- An engaged session is a session that lasted longer than 10 seconds, had a conversion event, or included two or more screen/page views.
- Custom vs. Standard Reporting Template Options
- For customized reporting, you’ll need to create your own report templates to use. Google is also promoting their own Data Studio, a free software that allows users to create custom reporting templates.
Let’s figure out your paid media game plan
Even though a big change is coming, it doesn’t mean you have to worry about your campaigns. With one year to get ready for the update, Walk West is here for you every step of the way.
One of the best ways to prepare for the change is by observing, reporting, and planning out consumer paths for your business. This is going to become invaluable information as you update your campaigns and set new goals within the new structure of GA4.
We can help you with that. Let’s work together to measure your consumer paths—full-funnel and full journey. This isn’t just a data handoff, we want to be your trusted partner and advisor in paid media.