Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has caused some fuss in the digital marketing space, with agencies and businesses working hard to transition from Universal Analytics (UA) before May 31st. This ensures YoY data will be captured in GA4 before UA is phased out in June 2023.
So, now the imminent May 31 deadline has passed, what do you need to do with your freshly set up GA4?
This blog post takes a brief look at exactly what GA4 is, how it differs from UA, and what you need to do now that you or your digital marketing agency have it beautifully set up.
What is Google Analytics 4?
GA4 is the newest version of Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a tool that collects data and insights related to your website, and that every business needs to help inform important business and marketing decisions. The best part is, it’s free!
GA4 was created to help push towards a privacy-centric future by being designed to work with or without third-party cookies. Although third-party cookies hold immense value for remarketing campaigns, it can definitely be creepy when you’re tracked across multiple domains. Instead, GA4 is more event and action-oriented than UA, and relies on first-party data.
First-party data is information a business owns by collecting it directly from its customer base, subscribers, or website visitors usually on an opt-in basis, which makes it far more accurate and far less invasive. By switching to a more privacy-centric analytics model, Google is aligning itself with the recent push towards privacy in the technology industry and a cookieless future. For example, Apple blocked all third-party cookies and switched to an opt-in data collection model with iOS14 in 2021.
How is GA4 different from Universal Analytics?
GA4 has some significant changes from Universal Analytics. As well as relying more heavily on events, actions and first-party data, it can track users across multiple domains, uses data streams, has new metrics, uses different attribution models, and more.
Let’s take a closer look:
Cross Domain Tracking
GA4 tracks across multiple domains. This means rather than just tracking users on your website, it can also track them across apps and different domains linked to your GA. Cross-domain tracking helps give you a more accurate and complete view of how users interact with your business.
GA4 uses data streams. Where UA displayed data from multiple properties broken down into filtered views, GA4 displays it at the property level and then breaks it down into data streams (sources of data from an app or a website). According to Google, the best practice is to use a maximum of 3 data streams per property: 1 single web data stream to measure the web user journey and 1 app data stream each for iOS and Android. If you’re missing your regular filtered views, no stress, you can still create these – just in the reports section of your GA4 property.
GA4 has new metrics. It has replaced Bounce Rate with Engagement Rate, which provides similar insights into user behaviour on your page but places more emphasis on engaged sessions that last longer than 10 seconds. See a comparison of UA and GA4 metrics here.
Default Channel Grouping
GA4 has less customisation over how you define your channels. Don’t worry – GA4 still separates paid and organic social channels, and paid and organic shopping (free listings on Merchant Center). See GA’s default channel definitions here.
GA4 has different attribution models. Where UA showed you attribution models but didn’t let you change them, GA4 provides access to a range of models, including data-driven, cross-channel, ads-preferred, and more. By default, GA4 currently uses the cross-channel last-click attribution model.
Will GA4 Replace Universal Analytics?
Yes, GA4 will replace Universal Analytics on the 1st of July 2023.
Universal Analytics is due to sunset on that date, which means it won’t process any more data. Google will let you see UA reports for some time after the sunset, but will only process data through GA4. Until July 2023, you can track and pull reports from both UA and GA4 by switching between tabs on the Google Analytics interface.
Have I Swapped to GA4 in time?
Universal Analytics is only due to sunset on the 1st of July 2023, which means you technically have until that time to set up your GA4.
We highly recommend setting GA4 up now if you haven’t already. This is because the earlier you start collecting data through GA4, the earlier you’ll have Year-on-Year GA4 data when Universal Analytics sunsets. YoY data is important to set benchmarks and goals for your digital performance.
At Springboard Digital, we prioritised transitioning all of our clients to GA4 before May 30th 2022 to ensure they have YoY data from the get go.
What Do I Do Once I’ve Set up GA4?
Once you’ve linked your other Google Products (Merchant Center, Tag Manager, Google Ads) to your GA4 and checked data is successfully flowing through and populating, you’re good to go!
Google Analytics 4 works the same way as Universal Analytics – you can sit back and let it collect data in the background while you run your business.
If you’re a Springboard client, we’ve got you! We successfully transitioned each and every one of our clients to GA4 before the end of May, which means you’ll have YoY data in 2023. No more action is required for now!
Need Help with GA4?
If you’re interested in learning more about Google Analytics 4 or need help switching over from UA, reach out to the Springboard Digital team.