Embracing Change: Making the Switch to GA4
In a sea of data, Google Analytics is the compass that points businesses in the right direction. Over the years, it’s served the needs of countless businesses, offering valuable insights to help them artfully navigate through endless information.
But with the rise of cross-platform marketing, mobile usage, and privacy concerns, Google recognized the need for a more advanced and privacy-centric analytics platform, leading to the sunsetting of its original version, Google Universal Analytics (UA), and the development of a newer iteration, Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Google rolled out GA4 in October 2020. As an upgrade of its predecessor, it boasts superior analytics capabilities. Here are some exciting advancements it brings to the table:
A Nod to Privacy
As websites have become compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protecting user data and privacy, one of the best features of the GA4 is its strong focus on privacy and consent management. It has several features that help marketers comply with website data regulations, which span from user consent and data sharing to data retention and deletion. With GA4, businesses are expected to adopt data collection practices that ensure user data is ethically collected and used, which was nonexistent in UA.
With machine learning at its core, GA4 takes predictive analytics to the next level. Marketers can anticipate user actions based on historical data patterns, allowing them to uncover valuable trends, patterns, and predictions without extensive manual analysis. These insights can inform their marketing decisions, audience targeting, and campaign optimization strategies.
GA4 uses an event-driven data model, enabling marketers to capture specific user interactions, referred to as events. This shift from pageviews to events allows for precise tracking of specific actions like button clicks, video views, form submissions, and so on. With the Custom Events feature, they can also monitor events based on their goals and priorities.
GA4 boasts enhanced tracking capabilities that allow for deeper insights and understanding of customer behavior and engagement across the customer journey. It assigns a unique ID for each user, so marketers can closely track users across multiple devices. The exact sequence of touchpoints they encounter can also be measured with GA4. This feature enables marketers to identify the impact of different devices and touchpoints on the customer experience at a more granular scale.
Google will stop collecting data by July 2023, but users will still have viewer access to their historical data until July 2024, a year later. But with the discontinuation of data collection among UA properties, businesses should start exporting their data and migrating to GA4 before the deadline. Here are specific ways to transition to this latest iteration, according to Google Analytics 4:
Create a New GA4 Property
Start by creating a new GA4 property in your Google Analytics account. This will allow you to set up GA4 alongside your existing UA implementation. Then install the GA4 tracking code on your website. GA4 uses a different tracking code than UA, so you'll need to insert the new GA4 tag. You can find the tracking code in the Admin section of your GA4 property. Alternatively, Google Tag Manager (GTM) can ease the process of setting up GA4 on your site as well as allow for custom event tracking.
Configure Data Settings
The next step is to configure the parameters and data collection settings in your GA4 property. If you’re using custom dimensions and metrics in your UA property, review and migrate them to GA4. Custom dimensions and metrics in GA4 have slightly different configurations, so update your tracking code accordingly. Configure data filters and create reporting views in GA4 to organize and segment your data according to your reporting needs.
Manage User Access
Add people and configure Access Management under GA4’s Admin section. You can simply add users via email (and remove them) and edit their permissions at any level. You can also create user groups, as well as add group members. After managing users, you must also update your data retention settings in accordance with your data privacy policies and regulatory requirements.
Finalize and Review
After the configuration of settings and migration of data to your GA4 account is complete, you can now compare data reports from UA and GA4 to ensure data is consistent. This will help validate the accuracy of your GA4 implementation. Since they’re set in different parameters, pay attention to the differences in data collection. There are also third-party tools that can be used to cross-check.
Ultimately, the sunsetting of Universal Analytics represents the shift towards a more privacy-focused and granular approach to digital analytics. By embracing this change, businesses can unlock insights that were just not possible before. Pro tip: Remember to also verify your domain in Google Search Console (GSC) for even more web performance insights.
Expert GA4 Migration Assistance Is Available
In the ever-evolving realm of data analytics, making the transition to GA4 can be a significant step for businesses seeking to stay ahead. At Rhythm, our team of Analytics experts has been at the forefront of this transition, helping our clients navigate the complexities of GA4 over the past several months. Whether you need assistance with data migration, setting up advanced tracking, or understanding the new features and capabilities of GA4 and other Google products, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!