Google announced a new version of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). All standard Universal Analytics properties will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023, and 360 Universal Analytics will stop collecting data on October 1, 2023. As a result of this, developers, designers and marketers need to transition to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as soon as possible, and don’t wait till the last minute in order to have some historical data once July 1, 2023 comes. You will be able to download Universal Analytics historical data for at least six months, and after that time, it will be cut off
Questions on GA4 vs Universal Analytics
The first question is: How can I check which version of Google Analytics I am using? The easy way to do this is log into your Google Analytics and check on your properties. If your property ID is all numbers then you’re using GA4; otherwise if your property ID begins with “UA” then you’re currently using Universal Analytics.
The second question is: Can I upgrade Universal Analytics to GA4? The answer is no, but you will need to set up a new GA4 property in parallel to your existing Universal Analytics. You will need to set up GA 4 as if it was a new site or property. Any customizations in Universal Analytics will need to be replicated in GA4.
Three Main Themes on GA4
The three main themes on GA4 documentation focusing on and preparing for the future are Data Model, Cookieless World, and Privacy and Security.
First, let’s focus on Data Model collection which is the underlying of Google Analytics since the beginning. In order to analyze and understand web traffics, visitors, and ect. a data model is needed, and information is collected. With Universal Analytics, data is based on page views and sessions; where GA4 everything is an event. Within this Data Model collection, visitors to both the website and the app, there is a holistic measurement of users.
Second, GA4 is no longer dependent on cookies. Cookies allow websites to remember information and to track visitors. However, this can lead to privacy risk, and a lot of users opt-out of sharing their data. With GA4, it is designed to use machine learning, AI and other technological ways to collect data. As a result, GA4 is preparing for the future of cookieless.
Third, there is such a GDPR law in the European Union (EU). Privacy and Security are enforced within GA4. Traditional Universal Analytics can often have issues with cookie consent options. As a result, data may be missing or inaccurate. One example, GA4 does not store IP addresses.
What Do Changes from Google Analytics Universal to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Mean For My Business and My Website?
Most of us have Google Analytics set up for the first time on our websites and other properties. With GA4, everything is different from the layout to the way it collects data and reporting. Machine learning (ML) is the key driver for data measurement that can make assumptions about visitors and site traffic from existing data. Furthermore, GA4’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) powered offers more insights and should be able to provide more useful information to marketers. The result is better analysis of information to make business decisions.
GA4 provides more of a “visitor journey” across different devices – from traditional desktop to mobile devices. Marketers should be able to understand better from end-to-end. For instance, maybe customers browsing products on a desktop but using mobile devices to check out. Information about “visitor journey” in a sense, can help and understand customers better.
Lastly, GA4 is future-proof and technology-proof. It enables many new ways of learning and understanding visitors – not just numbers and metrics but the comprehensive visitors and customers. Cross-domain tracking, Life Cycle Reports and others will aid marketers to better serve visitors and customers.
With GA4, you are not just upgrading from an existing one but it is a new way of thinking and analytics. It is different, and there is a learning curve. You still have until July 2023 to switch, configure and understand. However, GA4 needs to be put on your to-do list and make it a priority. The learning curve is high because it is not like the traditional Universal Analytics, and it takes time for everyone to get involved, set up and configure. Likewise, it’s time to take a look at your current analytics setup and review it. Take what you have and start to configure them with GA4. A year from now, you will have some historical data to look back at. Lastly, make some plans to back your historical data from Universal Analytics before July 2023.