All you need to know about Google Analytics 4 and how you can prepare for the switch.
Google Analytics is one of the most crucial tools you can use to measure traffic and engagement across your websites and apps.
You might have heard that Google has recently announced the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), a new and improved version of its web analytics platform that will be replacing Universal Analytics (UA) on July 1, 2023. This means that after this date, if you don’t migrate over to GA4, your analytics will stop processing any new website data.
In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics, what you need to consider when migrating to GA4, and why Google doesn’t recommend an automatic migration.
So, what are the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4?
The most significant difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics is the approach to data tracking. While Universal Analytics focusses on a session based model, whereby all user activity within a session is recorded as one hit, GA4 is a completely new measurement model. Instead of page views and sessions to represent site usage, GA4 moves towards an ‘event based’ model, collecting data on specific user interactions with the website. This move towards an event based model is designed to give businesses a more detailed understanding of their user’s behaviour.
Another significant difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics is the increased focus on user privacy and security within GA4. GA4 puts privacy and data security at the forefront by offering various data controls that enable users to better manage data collection.
Furthermore, GA4 features improved tracking capabilities, greater flexibility and more customisation options as well as better integration with other Google products such as Google Ads, Google Cloud and Firebase. Taking these factors into account, GA4 presents businesses with a more friendly, modern, and customisable tool that offers more detailed insights into your websites performance.
The new GA4 dashboard
Migrating to GA4
The good news is you don’t have to do anything to migrate over to GA4. Google will automatically take care of the migration from Universal Analytics to GA4 for you, and set up your new property along with all of your existing events and goals! Sounds good, right?
Actually, it’s not quite that simple.
Google don’t recommend an automatic migration
It’s important to note that Google aren’t recommending an automatic migration from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, as set out in their own help documentation. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the data model and tracking for GA4 are significantly different to that of Universal Analytics. This means that a straightforward transfer of data might not accurately capture all user behaviour in the way that GA4 intends. As a result, a manual migration that takes this into account is more likely to be successful.
Given that tracking of user behaviour in GA4 is far more advanced and granular than what is possible in Universal Analytics, an automatic migration can’t account for fundamental technical differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics. This means that attempting an automatic migration may result in incomplete or incorrect data, which can complicate analysis.
Our team are on-hand to help you with your GA4 migration
How we can help with a manual migration
While a manual migration can be a bit more complex than an automatic one, it’s worth the effort. However, we understand that you may not have the technical resources or in-house expertise to carry out a successful manual migration. Our expert team can help you set up a new GA4 property alongside your existing Universal Analytics property, allowing both versions to collect data simultaneously. While Universal Analytics and GA4 have different tracking mechanisms, keeping both running will ensure a smooth transition come July 1st, without any data loss.
We’ve already helped a number of our clients migrate their websites to Google Analytics 4 and have the experience and knowhow to set up event tracking, configure data layers, and ensuring that your Google Tag Manager (GTM) is thoroughly integrated with GA4.