Google 4A — What your brand should be doing now

By Greg Boyd

If your brand has a website, you’re probably using Google Analytics to review performance and user data. Also, you’re likely aware that as of July 1, 2023, Google Universal Analytics (UA) will become past tense, and your website data will no longer be collected in that property. With the fall of UA comes the rise of  Google Analytics 4 (GA4). GA4 was launched in 2020, and will soon become Google’s default tool for measuring web traffic and user engagement. 

Why is Google moving away from Universal Analytics?

As technology changes, so changes the ways users engage with technology. Universal Analytics was built with a focus on tracking desktop web activity and relied on data compiled through the use of cookies. Amid privacy concerns with regard to third-party cookies and the emergence of mobile devices as a primary source of web traffic, — UA’s methodology has been quickly losing relevance. 

How is GA4 different from Universal Analytics?

On the surface, GA4 seemingly de-prioritizes much of the data businesses have grown accustomed to measuring. However, in reality, GA4 is shifting the focus, capturing data to a granular level by accessing data that can reasonably be attained without third-party cookies. 

In short — GA4 is more focused on collecting data related to user behavior than it is on user demographics. Or rather — it’s about what you do rather than who you are. 

With GA4, gone is the concept of “sessions” — in its place, a new focus on “events.” Shifting away from a session-based model eliminates the device bias and prioritizes cross-platform tracking. 

Think of a consumer who clicks on an ad for a product on her phone, and then later uses her laptop to purchase that product. In UA, that would be recorded as two users, two sessions, and one event. In GA4, that would be one user, one event. 

GA4 is also making it less complicated to track events. In UA, tracking events is a manual process executed through Google Tag Manager and requires a lot of configuration. In GA4, many events are captured automatically, and the process to set up custom events is much less arduous when compared to its predecessor. 

When should I switch to GA4?

It’s important to note that after December 31, 2023, you will no longer have access to your historic Google Analytics data. Your UA data cannot be imported into GA4 as they are completely different structures, they measure different metrics, and the data is collected through completely different methods. 

That means that the sooner you make the switch to GA4, the sooner you can begin collecting valuable data to use for year-over-year or month-over-month analysis. This does not mean you have to turn off UA just yet. You can continue collecting the data through UA until the July 1, 2023 cut-off, and simply run GA4 in tandem.

Once the sun has set on Universal Analytics, you may want to download and import the historic data into a service such as Big Query, another Google product that can warehouse your data for future use.

Greg Boyd is the Director of Digital Marketing Services at Miranda Creative

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