If Universal Analytics (UA) has been your go-to source of data collection for web-based analytics, you’re in for some major changes. Google has shared that this mainstay will be shuttered on July 1, 2023, replaced by “next-generation measurement solution” Google Analytics 4 (GA4), meaning your Google-based marketing analytics will be disrupted if you fail to transition over. So, how can you avoid such an outcome, and prepare to seamlessly migrate from UA to GA4 instead? Keep reading to find out.
Benefits of Google Analytics 4
While UA (GA3) is still a great solution, GA4 is far superior. It gives end-users a better understanding of the bigger picture, is built for the long haul and will have all of Google’s newest features and tools. Even more specifically, GA4 is:
- Privacy-focused – With recent and ongoing data changes being made to protect consumer privacy, GA4 was built to help users achieve compliance and to be more durable into the future.
- Intelligent – Uses machine learning to unearth insights about customers.
- User-Centric – GA4 is structured to handle reporting based on sections like “acquisition,” “engagement,” “monetization” and “retention” in order to create more user-centric reports that are aligned with marketer’s goals.
- Optimized – Enhanced, seamless integrations with Google’s advertising platforms to maximize campaign performance and drive greater marketing ROI.
Making the Switch
Still hesitating about transitioning from UA to GA4? Consider what could happen if you don’t switch over in time, including the following two situations:
- Website event data collection via Google tag manager must connect to a GA4 event. So, if you fail to migrate, things like clicks, page scrolls and other activity/intent data will stop collecting – which means your associated reporting and marketing processes will also fail.
- Your CDP collects website activity data. When a certain button is clicked on the webpage, the user is entered into an audience that retargets them with a different ad or communication. This process, too, will cease to function if you don’t update to GA4 before UA is discontinued.
As such, we recommend you transition over as soon as possible. Even so, we know that changing solutions is never easy – and this is no exception. Since GA4 is totally separate from UA, Google does not currently offer an automated migration capability. This means that migrating over will require a new manual setup on all web properties, analytics data transfers, reporting, analytics systems and any MarTech integrations. This means it’s likely to break your current reporting structure.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have strong expertise in this area, and can make your migration far less painful than it might be otherwise – and even incredibly rewarding. Much of the nuances will vary based on how you’re using the tool. For example, are you using it to develop attribution models? To inform marketing campaigns based on anonymous users? Feeding it into a CDP so users can be retargeted? All of this matters, and will factor into how you set yourself up with GA4.
Despite these differences, though, there are a few universal changes that every organization can make to prepare for this migration.
- Since GA4 stores data in a completely different format than UA, we recommend running both versions alongside each other for a while to start building up as much historical data in GA4 as you can. This can be done by dual-tagging all pages of your website with both UA and GA4.
- If you haven’t yet mastered Google Tag Manager, now is the perfect opportunity to spend time doing so.
- Begin to adopt an event-based mindset, rather than session-based. GA4 captures the former, while UA captured the latter.
- Partner with an expert (us) to start planning for the switch now.
If you’d like help preparing to transition from UA to GA4, the time is now. We’d love to get you on the right track. We’ve created a six-step implementation process to guide you through this, starting with an exploratory call and analytics audit, to defining a measurement plan, implementing GA4, testing & validating and finally monitoring your system moving forward to ensure data quality. Give us a call to learn more!