Published by Richard Pierce on 03rd November 2022 | Digital Marketing, Marketing Agency, Marketing Strategy, News

Moving from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4: the why, the what and the how

Marketing departments in every organisation need to produce regular performance and analysis reports to satisfy managers that their marketing budget is generating a return.

Data on website visitors, their source and behaviour is often a key component of marketing reports, and for this many marketers rely on Google Analytics.

So you will probably have heard, or seen, that Google is updating its famed Google Analytics platform in 2023, replacing Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4 (or GA4).

But what does this mean? How will we report on website performance in a post-Universal Analytics world?

Like many marketers or business owners, you probably have some questions. So, we’ve done all the hard work for you. In the article below, we explain the why, what and how of migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4.

What is Google Analytics?

According to some sources, approximately 28.1 million websites use the current version of Google Analytics, or Universal Analytics (UA), to make informed decisions on customer acquisition, behaviour, engagement, and journeys through collected data. Who doesn’t love data?

Put another way, some 80% of the world’s top 10,000 websites use Google Analytics.

Google Analytics allows marketers and business owners to record and analyse website visitor traffic, gather engagement insights into the source of traffic and its profile and to understand how visitors interact with website content, for example by seeing which pages they visit or what blogs they read.

It also allows you to monitor key conversion actions such as clicks on call-to-action buttons.

And of course, analytics are key in building profiles and segments for other activities such as Google Ads campaigns.

But from July 1st, 2023, Google is ending support for UA and has already begun rolling out its replacement: Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Why is Google switching from UA to GA4?

Firstly, GA4 has been developed to bring a more holistic view to customer journeys. That means it is much more focused on gathering and reporting to data to show what visitors are doing on your website.

Your goal as a marketer is to refine and improve your website so that more visitors find what they need easily and quickly, and then take some form of action or next step towards converting, such as making a purchase or submitting an enquiry. GA4 is geared towards helping you to do this.

Secondly, GA4 brings data collection in line with new changes to GDPR, updates to 3rd party cookie tracking and how businesses collect data.

GA4 therefore combines new and evolving technology with changes in the online privacy environment, some of which are legislated.

What is GA4?

As a starting point, there are two main differences:

  1. Visual change: The first thing you’ll notice is the layout and interface has changed. Although this may seem daunting, we promise it isn’t as bad as it looks. The standard reports that you’ll be used to with UA have gone, in favour of a more interrogative interface that requires you to know what analytics you want to report on.
  • Measurement change: GA4 focuses on engagement and tracks existing dimensions you will be used to seeing differently. Session-based data such as page views and transactions are now captured as ‘Events’. The ‘Bounce Rate’ – whereby a lower number indicates better performance – has been replaced by a new ‘Engagement rate’ – whereby a higher number is now what you need to aim for.

In essence, the new model tracks everything the user does as events, enabling you to track engagement and gain insights about your site and/or app.

Google itself describes GA4 as “a new property designed for the future of measurement……. which collects event-based data from both websites and apps.”

The company goes on to say that GA will help website owners to “better understand the customer journey” and includes privacy controls such as cookieless measurement, behavioural and conversion modelling and predictive capabilities.

What does this mean for your organisation?

The change to GA4 will affect every website that currently uses UA.

If you’re a marketer or business owner, you now need to deploy GA4 sooner rather than later and start running both UA and GA4 in parallel on your website, so you build up plenty of benchmark data.

That way you’ll avoid losing historical data when Universal Analytics shuts down.

Once set up, GA4 will begin to collect data for you alongside your UA property, giving you time to become familiar with the new navigation and reporting system.

*Disclaimer: Your current data is currently safe and will not be deleted, however, you will lose this data on July 1st 2023 if you have not set up on GA4.

How can you deploy and start using GA4?

As you’d expect, Google have provided a very useful Guide to switching to GA4 to help you with your move.

Yet sometimes a little help can go a long way, particularly when it comes to your website data. As Digital Marketing experts, C4B Media can help make your transition to GA4 as smooth and efficient as possible without the loss of data.

Contact our team today to keep your business on the path to success.

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