In October 2020, Google introduced Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as the new default experience for users when they want to create new analytics properties. The previous Universal Analytics is still available on existing properties, but there are many reasons to get GA4 installed now. This updated version is built on the previous “App + Web Property” beta from the prior year.
As that beta name implied, one of the goals of GA4 was to integrate your website and mobile app data more easily. This new version also addresses changes in website functionality and user behavior, and, perhaps most importantly, the update has been built to help Google Analytics adapt to a cookie-less environment.
It has machine learning at its core to automatically surface helpful insights and gives you a complete understanding of your customers across devices and platforms. It’s privacy-centric by design, so you can rely on Analytics even as industry changes like restrictions on cookies and identifiers create gaps in your data. The new Google Analytics will give you the essential insights you need to be ready for what’s next.Google
Google has not yet announced when Universal Analytics will sunset, but it is recommended to install a GA4 instance alongside the current Universal Analytics to begin collecting data. GA4 will not impact your existing data when installed, but data collection in this new format begins at installation. Running the two formats parallel to each other will allow marketers to compare results, KPIs, and tracking abilities between old and new.
So, what do you do?
Create a new property and install on your website. If you use Google Tag Manager, the installation is pretty simple, as there is no need to manually create events for many of the standard events, such as page scroll or video play, that previously required additional steps in UA. After installing, confirm data is being collected.
Now that data is being collected, you are able to begin an optimization process. Although many events are tracked at the outset, you may want to create goal tracking (which has no limit in GA4!) or make events into goals. Additionally, spend time understanding the difference between the two versions, including user interface and metrics. It’s likely that your team will need to establish a new measurement strategy and reset according to what information is reported from analytics.
After allowing the new setup to collect data, compare reports with Universal Analytics and begin analyzing how you report on website activity. Do you see the data as you expected? Are there elements of reporting that are no longer relevant or even available (i.e., bounce rate)? The new GA4 reporting outline is very focused on the customer journey. Determine how this can help you showcase how customers move through your site to complete desired actions.
Google Analytics 4 is most certainly an upgrade from the previous Universal Analytics because it is based in machine learning and customer journey. While the new setup may take some time to adjust to the changing views and metrics, it also allows marketers to better understand the data and activity happening on your website.