Google has finally released the dreaded timeline for the shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), as it begins phasing out Universal Analytics (UA) in 2023.
For marcomms teams that rely on Google Analytics – which is most – the shift to GA4 is undoubtedly one of the key tasks of 2022.
For those that never truly got to grips with the popular business analytics tool, the move to GA4 will be especially painful since Google’s latest iteration, while being better in some respects, is somewhat less intuitive and more technical.
Universal Analytics will stop processing new data on 1 July 2023, while Universal Analytics 360 users will have until 1 October 2023.
A significant change
The shift to GA4 has been on the cards for some time since, in a mobile and privacy first world, the current form of Google Analytics UA is no longer fit for purpose.
“Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.
Meanwhile, Google Analytics 4 operates across platforms, does not rely exclusively on cookies and uses an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement.”
GA4 changes the game
GA4 relies less on cookies, can track users across websites and apps and offers more privacy to users. Google says GA4 doesn’t store IP addresses, which helps users have more control over their data and protects them a little bit more.
Thanks to its machine learning models, the new analytics can also go deeper into user data and make predictions and has Search Console integration. It’s much broader in scope than its predecessor and can be used to create smart insights and actionable data to help marketers make informed decisions.
According to Google, GA4 also has several other benefits:
- Better insights. As GA4 uses machine learning, the AI will generate predictive insights about user behaviour or conversions. It can also create new audiences of users who are likely to purchase or churn and show you critical insights.
- Data you can use. As the new Google Analytics integrates with Google Ads and works across web and app, it’s easy to use this new analytics platform to optimise your ad campaigns and win more conversions.
- More effective attribution. GA4 can help you to assign credit to more than the last thing a user clicked on, which will help marketers understand how different activities influence users.
- Understand different touchpoints. As mentioned before, businesses can use GA4 to monitor traffic across app and web. That means the data you collect won’t be fragmented and will be easier to analyse.
“For example, UK-based fitness apparel and accessories brand Gymshark used Google Analytics 4 to measure across its website and app, allowing the Gymshark team to better understand how users moved through the purchase funnel.
As a result, they reduced user drop off by 9%, increased product page clickthroughs by 5% and cut down their own time spent on user journey analysis by 30%.”
Get ahead of the change
Of course, a change like this will be annoying for some.
UA has been around for so long that it’s all some businesses have known, and now there’s something new. It’s important that marketers and brands make the switch to GA4 properties proactively; the sooner the better. Switching now will give marketers a years’ worth of historical data before UA is culled.
Head to the admin section of Universal Analytics, and you should have the option to upgrade a property to GA4. Ideally, you’d also set up your conversions anew within GA4, providing a useful opportunity to reassess what you are currently tracking and an opportunity for a reset.
“We strongly encourage you to make the switch to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible. Doing so will allow you to build the necessary historical data and usage in the new experience, preparing you for continuity once Universal Analytics is no longer available.”
As every new tool requires a learning curve, the earlier you start with GA4, the sooner you can get ahead.