Google Analytics 4: What changes and how to prepare?

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Google Analytics 4: What changes and how to prepare?

Google Analytics 4: What changes and how to prepare? 1920 1279 iWEBAPP - Ottawa Web Design Agency

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics (GA), Google’s free digital marketing monitoring and analysis tool.

GA is the most used platform in the world to collect access, behavior and browsing data on websites. No wonder the release of its new version, in October 2020, has been generating heated debates around the world.

Especially after Google announced that the current version of the platform, Universal Analytics – also called “Classic Analytics” or GA3 – will die at some point. And that the Universal GA data will not be migrated to GA4.

This means that, from July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer process new data. If you do not configure your site for GA4, you will no longer have access to your most up-to-date statistics.

And the longer it takes you to start collecting the data in GA4, the less data you will have to do historical analysis.

Here at iWEBAPP, we are following these changes closely. In this article, we will help you understand what changes, why it changes and how to prepare.

 

What is Google Analytics 4?

As the name says, GA4 is the fourth generation of Google’s monitoring tool. Today, GA4 is the standard version of Google Analytics. If you are going to create a new account in the tool, you will already automatically create it in GA4.

After practically 15 years with Google Analytics Universal running, Google needed to adapt to the new realities of the market, such as the end of third-party cookies and increasingly strict user privacy restrictions.

 

What is Google Analytics 4

What is Google Analytics 4

 

In addition, Google needed to release a new version of GA that would also serve the growing application market.

While Universal Analytics tracks only website data, GA4 is designed to analyze data from various devices and tools. GA4 allows you to measure data from websites, applications and web + applications.

In fact, “Web+App” was the first name given to GA4, in its beta version.

That is, it is good both for those who have a website, and for those who have apps, or even for those who have both.

GA4 is able to measure the customer journey through various devices in an integrated way. Its new reporting and exploration features offer smarter and more flexible ways to examine data.

In short, it offers a more complete view of the user across multiple channels, combining the insights we all know from Universal Analytics with the Firebase data model.

 

Universal Analytics versus Google Analytics 4

As we have seen, GA4 does not only change the tool interface. It changes the whole way to capture data and create reports.

While the Universal Analytics data model is session-based, the Google Analytics 4 data model is event-based.

What is Google Analytics 4What is Google Analytics 4

What is Google Analytics 4

 

What does that mean?

Most Universal Analytics data is sent in the form of pageview hits. That is, every time the site page loads, the Google Analytics code loads together.

GA4, on the other hand, collects your data through events. They are the interactions that the user performs on your website or app, such as clicking on a menu, scrolling down the page scroll bar or performing a search on the site.

All actions that the user performs within the website or app are events for the tool. In GA4, everything is based on this and no longer on pageviews. Each event is differentiated by means of a parameter and these events are the basis for reporting.

Another difference is in relation to sampling. In Universal Analytics, standard reports do not use sampling. However, sampling occurs if you apply secondary dimensions, segments or other queries to your data set.

In GA4, there is practically no sampling. They only happen if you exceed 10 million events when creating an advanced report in the Explore/Analysis section and the report created is not a pre-existing standard GA4 report.

To learn more, check out this detailed article that Google Support has prepared about differences in Universal Analytics data for GA4. 

 

Reports in Google Analytics 4

In practice, with Universal Analytics, we just need to install the pageview tag to have practically 70% of the reports ready.

GA4, at the time we wrote this post, comes with few events configured by default in the tool, as listed below.

What is Google Analytics 4

What is Google Analytics 4

 

This means that you need to have a measurement plan to know what is important to your business and leave everything configured in GA4. Otherwise you will miss information at the time of analysis.

In GA4, there is no more page or e-commerce tag. There is only the event tag. However, while in Universal Analytics each event had only 3 content parameters and one value, in GA4 it can have up to 25 parameters.

In practice, it is necessary to be much more attentive to the tage and choose well which fields and which parameters will be used for reporting. GA4 requires a greater knowledge of fields, metrics and dimensions. And a more strategic thinking.

At first, it will be difficult to get the same reports, since people are used to the numerous standard Universal Analytics reports and some engagement metrics.

 

How to migrate to Google Analytics 4

Because of these very important changes in the way of capturing data and generating reports, it is not possible to migrate data from Universal Analytics to GA4.

Therefore, if you currently use Google Analytics to track your site’s statistics, the recommendation is that you start collecting data as soon as possible in GA4.

IMPORTANT: The ideal is to configure the new property in GA4 and continue using the old property in Universal Analytics. Thus, you can use the data from the old version while exploring the features of the new version.

After configuring the ownership of GA4 in your account, make sure the two versions are working together. Log in and open the new property to verify that the data has been collected for reporting in this new environment.

The recommendations of the experts for this transition period are as follows:

  • Put the GA4 tracking code and monitor both properties (GA4 + Universal Analytics).
  • Make the tage of the events in both.
  • By default, the GA4 account shows only the 2-month history, but it is possible to configure it for a longer time interval.
  • The sooner you start using GA4, the better. It will already show your history and basic assignment model.
  • For new sites, one option is to create the properties in both Universal Analytics and GA4. GA4 is already fully operational, but there are still many features and innovations that need to be added.

 

Be sure to evaluate your current structure and study how to create a new structure within GA4. If necessary, count on the help of a digital agency or specialist.

Google support brings a step by step of GA4 configuration to those who:

  • is using Analytics for the first time;
  • already uses Universal Analytics;
  • uses a website builder or CMS like Duda.

 

What happens if your site does not migrate to Google Analytics 4?

In July 2023, the properties of Universal Analytics, “classic” Analytics, will stop processing data. After that, Google guarantees that you will still be able to access your data for a period of at least six months.

The recommendation is that you export your historical reports since, at some point not yet defined by Google, Universal Analytics will be totally disabled. On this expiration date, you will no longer be able to see your reports directly on the platform or access your Universal Analytics data through API.

That is, there is no option to continue using Universal Analytics. If you do not migrate to GA4, you will no longer have access to the tool at some point.

Therefore, create a new property in GA4 as soon as possible so that data collection and measurement starts from scratch. Due to the profound changes in data collection, your previously created reports will no longer be available and cannot be copied.

In return, Google promises new insights and personalized reports that will help you find out more about the persona of your site. It also promises a more democratic version of Analytics, which should serve both novice and more advanced users.

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