The time to move to Google Analytics 4 was yesterday

You’re probably using Google Analytics to measure the performance of your content and collect data for various things, right? If so, you have probably heard that Google is making the switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). But you, like many other website owners, might be asking, why the change? Also, what has changed? And most importantly – why should you change? 

GA4 is the new version of Google’s analytics platform. Like the previous version, the purpose of GA4 is to provide website owners with detailed insights into how visitors interact with their websites. This new version comes with a lot of new reporting features, including the ability to track data from an app and a website in the same account. 

This platform is Google’s next-generation approach to “privacy-first” tracking. Google’s advanced machine learning models enable this new version of Google Analytics to fill out user behaviour and web traffic data without having to rely on hits from every page.

The main goal of GA4 is to change the way data is shown and focus on the user journey from when one first visits a website to when they convert to a customer. Unlike the previous version of Analytics, GA4 is all about events. In this new version, events are the primary way Google presents data to users.

GA4 and Machine Learning

Machine learning is a huge part of GA4. This new version will be able to fill in gaps where users aren’t able to fully understand their customer base. 

Many internet users are becoming stingy when it comes to tracking their sessions. This also extends to the browsers. Nowadays, customers tend to disable cookies and data collection, and this makes it difficult for businesses to get a clear picture of the customer journey. To offer more privacy, browsers like Firefox have even blocked Analytics. Unfortunately, this means that without visitor consent, it can be difficult to fully understand what customers are doing.

GA4 seeks to solve the complications brought about by new privacy protection laws like GDPR and CCPA. With increased privacy, traditional analytics were no longer giving full insights. Because of this, it has become common for businesses using the Google’s  Universal Analytics (UA) to run into issues caused by inaccurate data due to diminishing cookie consent. GA4 relies less on consent and more on artificial intelligence (AI) to fill in gaps.

Reasons to migrate to GA4 now

There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to migrate to GA4 right now. 

First, like most software, introducing a newer version means the older one will most likely be made obsolete. This is true for UA, and here are other reasons why you should migrate now.

Sunsetting UA

If you love Google Analytics and you want to keep using the platform, then changing to GA4 now is a no-brainer. Google will discontinue the older version, so you don’t want to be stuck without anything to use. According to Google, Universal Analytics properties will be available as usual until the July 1, 2023. This means you can continue using the old UA to collect and analyse data.

However, after July 1, you will only be able to access your previously collected UA data. These historical reports will be available for six months, after which you won’t be able to access them. This indicates that Google is slowly phasing out older UA properties to pave the way for GA4.

Get one year’s worth of data to get a year-on-year comparison

Switching to GA4 now will give you a headstart. You will be able to collect data for an entire year using GA4’s new collection and reporting tools. This data will be readily accessible from GA4 dashboards, meaning you will have at least a year’s worth of data in GA4 before switching away from the old UA at the end of July next year.

Learn how to read data in GA4 while you still have your UA data to fall back on

UA going away is a big deal for all business owners and marketers. Because the data model in GA4 is totally different, the switchover will not be easy. So, you need to give yourself some time to familiarise yourself with GA4. The good thing is, as mentioned before, that you can run both properties independently of each other. This means you can continue reading data and learning more about GA4 and, at the same time, have UA data to fall back on.

For instance, if you are used to session-based data like what happens in UA, it will take time for you to understand the events in GA4. Instead of session-based data, analytics in GA4 are based on events and parameters to the extent that even page views count as an event. As a result, it can take you weeks or even months to implement and fully understand GA4. Apart from that, you also need time to verify that you are collecting data properly in GA4; otherwise, you won’t be able to build accurate reports. So, if you haven’t already started running GA4, there’s no better time than now to set the new version up.

Marketing Association is offering Online Training in GA 4, Thursdays in July. For more details, click here.

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About Quentin Weber

Quentin Weber lives and breathes online advertising, analytics and SEO as Founder of specialist PPC agency, Unbound.

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