Google Analytics 4: Journey to the Future
Now that July has arrived, Google Analytics, a popular and free website analytics tool that obtains information on website visitors and traffic, has begun to take its consumers on a transitional journey. The previous version of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics or Google Analytics 3, has ceased tracking and processing website data. All data that has been collected up until that point will be available for download for up to six months. It is time to begin our journey from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.
This Must be the Place
When planning a journey, it is often vital to learn a bit about the destination. Google Analytics 4 is the destination of our journey, as it is the next generation of Google Analytics and will be replacing Universal Analytics, causing every Google Analytics user to migrate toward this new version. Google Analytics 4, more commonly referred to as GA4, focuses on privacy, machine learning, customer-centric measurement, and application measurement.
Unlike Universal Analytics, which broke up user activity into broad categories, GA4 condenses user-centric data and provides a clear and complete view of each consumer’s activity. Another new development is that GA4 is cookie-less, instead relying on added granularity and distinguishability on collecting and using data. While Universal Analytics utilized machine learning, GA4 puts it at its core, gaining more insight from its audience, consequently filling data gaps from larger populations. In the past, event tracking meant manually applying tracking updates to tags, but a global site tag in GA4 allows for additional expanded tracking features that are automatically embedded into your site without needing to manually install new tags.
New in Town
Every destination holds uniqueness, special features that are specific to that place. GA4 holds several unique and exciting features. For instance, the analytics tool is completely event-driven, which means data will no longer be session-based. GA4 also has automatic tracking that comes with enhanced measurement. Specific user interactions, such as scrolling on a webpage, will be tracked. Cross-device tracking, which functions by matching activity across multiple devices to the same user through identifiers such as sign-in information, will be available in GA4. A few other new features of GA4 include recalculated sessions (sessions will not be broken if it carries on past midnight), improved pathing and funnels, time-based analysis, and flexibility of conversion goals.
Of course, when journeying to a new place, the unique features of the previous destination are no longer available. Universal Analytics allowed users to keep user-level and event-level data forever. GA4 requires the selection of user-level retention deadlines for all exploration reports, meaning data that is collected must be given an expiration date. Sessions will remain on GA4, but they will be counted differently than they were in Universal Analytics and may be delayed up to seventy-two hours after the session took place. The metrics of the tool will also look a bit different. For instance, GA4 will measure ‘unique pageviews,’ and what was known as the ‘bounce rate’ in Universal Analytics will be replaced with ‘engagement rate’ in GA4.
Take the Highway
Everyone understands that moving can be a pain, but there are steps you can take to mitigate it and make the transition as smooth as possible. Eli of Eli’s Electrical Solutions is taking the highway to GA4 instead of the back roads. He knows that current data in Universal Analytics will not be moved to GA4 when it is implemented. Considering this, he prioritized his transition by downloading a year’s worth of data in advance. This will allow Eli’s Electrical Solutions to conduct year-over-year comparisons after Universal Analytics depreciates.
Since Eli’s Electrical Solutions already had Universal Analytics installed, they were able to use Google’s GA4 Setup Wizard to create a new GA4 property next to their already existing Universal Analytics property. However, if you do not have Universal Analytics, you can follow Google’s guide to create a GA4 property from scratch. Choose the path that is right for your business and take the highway to the future, to Google Analytics 4.
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