Transitioning to Google Analytics 4: How to Prepare

February 15, 2023
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You may have heard the rumors on Google Analytics 4. It's the next big update in Google Analytics and comes with a ton of new capabilities. Google declared that it would completely discontinue the present Universal Analytics (UA) in 2023 with the release of GA 4. Now is the ideal time to start preparing for Google Analytics 4 if you haven't already.

In this article, you’ll discover how Google Analytics is changing, what GA4 is, what to expect, how to prepare, etc. Keep reading to find out!

How is Google Analytics Changing?

Universal Analytics, the version before GA4, was developed for a completely different era. It was created during a time when websites had hit counts. If you're old enough, you might remember the excitement of refreshing your website merely to watch the hit counter increase by one.

Since then, there have been significant changes in both how individuals use the internet and the data that organizations need to track, making it impossible for Universal Analytics to continue to work as effectively. Today, people are using multiple applications and signing in on their phones, tablets, home computers, and work PCs, all of which are completely different ways to access the internet.

Not to mention the new data and privacy rules being introduced worldwide. People can choose to disable data tracking pixels and software by requesting applications not to monitor them or by using a third-party blocker.

Universal Analytics has finally reached the point where it can no longer keep up with all that businesses want it to accomplish due to all of these developments. And for this reason, Google launched GA4.

What is Google Analytics 4?

The most recent version of Google Analytics (GA), GA4, incorporates information from websites and applications. The beta reporting platform App & Web now goes by the term GA4, which was changed for clarity. All Universal Analytics (UA) properties may be "upgraded" to GA4, which means that your current GA account won't be impacted, and a new Analytics property will be established for collecting the new data. Your Firebase Analytics account (for applications) will have been updated to GA4 if you already had one.

What's New With Google Analytics 4?

GA4 was designed to deliver cross-platform insights to help companies achieve key business objectives like sales, lead generation, and app installs. Google emphasized these benefits:

Event-Based Analytics

A new event-based model tracks website visit conversions, user interactions, and custom events in real-time. These new events give you direct insight into how users are interacting with your site or app.

Since GA4 events are captured more quickly, they enable you to view more accurate information. This is also helpful in cases when transactions take place right at the point of conversion, rather than in a timeframe afterward.

Easier to Use

The user interface has been streamlined by focusing on the data that matters most, like how users interact with the website or app. The interface has also been simplified by consolidating the various tools into a single, integrated dashboard. 

Better Cross-Device Tracking

It used to be that devices were segmented into browser, app, mobile, or tablet types. With GA4, Google Analytics can capture data from all devices and platforms, such as a combination of a laptop, phone, and tablet.

With this update, you’re able to collect data from any device and view the data from all devices together in the same report. This will be incredibly helpful for cross-device conversion tracking for apps and websites.

Enhanced Privacy Protection

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) law has caused Google to re-evaluate its privacy policy for the first time since Google Analytics launched.

Google has added more tools to allow businesses to deactivate tracking for an entire segment of the audience if desired. This will benefit users who want to opt out of Google Analytics tracking. Data-Driven ROI Attribution

Under the new model, you’re able to attribute revenue and leads to channels, such as AdWords and display, or based on the media source and keywords. This will allow you to see how your marketing efforts are paying off.

Predictive Metrics

GA4 will provide you with key metrics and short-term performance predictions for your website or app, such as conversion rates and predicted visits.

With prediction metrics, you can enrich your database and predict user behavior by leveraging Google’s machine-learning expertise. This allows you to predict the impact of your overall marketing campaigns, such as holiday sales or a new product launch.

How to Prepare for the Transition to Google Analytics 4

To best prepare yourself for the shift to GA4, we suggest taking the following steps:

Create a GA 4 Property

If you haven’t already, create a new property in Google Analytics.

You can do this by clicking Admin in the upper-right corner of your account and clicking Property Settings in the middle section of the page.

Click the Create a new property button and follow the on-screen instructions.

Ensure Your Data Layer is Updated

Your eCommerce site's conversion funnel is tracked using a data layer. In addition to providing more data fields, GA4 also provides more possibilities for existing data fields. Therefore, if you wish to use these additional choices, you must change the structure of your data layer when switching from Universal Analytics to GA4.

Update Google Tag Manager (GTM)

With your newly improved conversion funnel, it's time to set up the GA4 tags. You must build new data layer variables to provide as arguments into your GA4 eCommerce event tags if you're using Google Tag Manager. With that said, we think server-side implemented tag management will be the way of the future for tag management. 

Google Tag Manager collects information from the client-side tracking codes on that server. The data is then processed and altered before being sent to the databases, analytics programs, and third-party providers you're using.

Export Historical Reports

Once all this is complete, export your historical reports. This will allow you to see your historical data before it is collected with Google Analytics 4. You may also want to export a CSV file and a data file. Exporting these reports will help you see your data as it currently is so that you can compare it with the data in GA4.

Once you’ve created your new property, exported your reports, and updated GTM, you’re ready to integrate your new property into your website or app. 

The Bottom Line

In the end, the biggest winners here are the businesses that are going to be able to take advantage of a more complete, user-friendly platform to find actionable insights that can help them improve the way they track and measure customer behavior.

While Google Analytics is changing, you shouldn’t be afraid of it. You should embrace it. The more you know about how Google Analytics works, the more you’ll be able to use it to your advantage, which translates to a better overall marketing strategy.

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