17th June 2022
After nearly 11 years, Google will be sunsetting our trusty Universal Analytics (UA) to be replaced by GA4 in July 2023. This will be one of the biggest interface changes the company has made in a long time. Many will likely say it is a long time coming. So, what is GA4 and ‘why do we need to care’ we hear you say? Well, let us tell you why anyone with a website should be planning now, ahead of this retirement.
What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4)?
GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics. If the name didn’t give it away, it’s the 4th version of the data tracking and analysis tool.
Why is Google Analytics rolling this out?
There are two main reasons for this upgrade:
- The new version of Google Analytics combines mobile app and website usage, enabling Google’s machine learning to forecast online audiences and evolutions to improve user journey and conversion rate.
- As Founder of SEO Sprints, Mary Owusu, described it, this new version of Analytics is ‘built for a cookieless world’ that uses an event-based data model. First and foremost, it’s key for Google to advance their tools to keep up with users expectations for privacy protections, one of these examples includes no longer collecting IP addresses. Secondly, to fill the gaps in data that cookies couldn’t.
What do we need to do now?
If you haven’t already, you need to set up a GA4 property for your website in Google Analytics. You won’t need to create a whole new account, just a new property for your existing account.
It’s important to be mindful that your conversion tracking won’t automatically be passed over to your GA4 property from your UA property, therefore you will need to set this up now as well.
Bearing in mind, the looming July 2023, no new data will be collected in your UA property from this date onwards. On top of this, Google has stated that 6 months after the aforementioned date, users will no longer have access to the historical data in their UA property.
Whilst initially this may not appear to be an issue if you’ve got GA4 setup and tracking correctly, if you regularly run reports compared to previous years – particularly if your business is seasonal – you won’t be able to compare your GA4 data to a period in time before GA4 was set up.
However, if you set GA4 up now, you will have a full year’s worth of data by the time Google sunset UA. At least this way, you’ll be able to compare your data to a year ago.
What will the next steps following this be?
For now, if you can get the set up and conversion tracking sorted, you’re one step ahead. Moving forward, it’s key to familiarise yourself with GA4 standard reports as the navigation is slightly different to UA, as well as setting up custom reports for what you want to focus on as a business.
We’re excited for this next step to understand our users more and furthering our abilities to answer their questions. Google describes this development to have ‘the flexibility to measure many different kinds of data, delivering a strong analytics experience that’s designed for the future’. But, we understand a considerable change such as this can be overwhelming and difficult to steer, this is where we come in!
If you need help with setting up a GA4 property or would like answers to all your digital marketing questions, we’re always happy to help. Call us on 01603 859007 or send us your query via our forms below.