On July 1st, 2023, Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) will stop gathering data. You’ll still have access to past data in UA for the following six months. The information will then be lost as well. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will then be the standard platform. The statistics and metrics you’re used to will change significantly with the new version. What are your options for this significant shift? These kinds of changes can be quite stressful for marketers and agencies, but they can also be very beneficial. You can seize fresh chances as a result of this change with the proper transition strategy. So let’s approach the change incrementally and concentrate on what you should do next.
Should you make the change now? Is it wise to hold off till GA4 has additional features and integrations? It’s critical to comprehend what is altering between GA4 and UA and why before making that choice.
What Is GA4?
The new version of Google Analytics is known as GA4, or “Google Analytics 4.” Most people currently utilize Universal Analytics, which was its predecessor. Google initially made GA4 available in October 2020, and in the post announcing it, Google listed changing user habits and privacy laws as the main drivers behind the decision. After July 1, 2023, if you still wish to use Google Analytics to gather data, you must switch to GA4.
What’s The Difference Between GA4 & UA?
Let’s explore their differences to better assist you in understanding how to make the switch to GA4.
Universal Analytics & Its History
The UA you’ve probably been using up to this point gathers information based on web sessions and hits, which can be either pageviews or events, that you can produce using a limited number of descriptors. Cookies from both the first and third parties power it. You must manually configure event tracking because it is not set up by default. You would need to set up platform-specific tracking and use Google’s Firebase SDK if you wanted to track data from users of mobile apps. Google Analytics added a web + app property type in 2019, and GA4 is the result of this merged methodology.
Google Analytics 4 & Its Features:
A new data gathering model in GA4 tries to address the following problem:
- The necessity for tracking without device bias.
- Third-party cookies raise privacy problems.
GA4 enables cross-device data collection and reporting through the use of first-party cookies and signals. GA4 uses a different kind of event as its main data point. These GA4 events are by default far more detailed and descriptive of the particular activity that causes them. You don’t need to manually configure them either. With GA4, you may follow a visitor’s journey without using Google Tag Manager. Therefore, GA4 makes cross-device tracking simple and the data points are more accurate even while the data model is changing.
What’s Changing In GA4?
What does this entail for you and your current analytics plan, then?
GA4 Will Be A Blank Slate – So Back Up Your Data
You’ll have to set up new properties in GA4 right away. The format of the data is different, and many of the metrics are changing, thus you can’t transfer your UA data due to this. You must export your UA data and use another program to visualize it if you wish to maintain historical data for your site or the sites of your clients.
GA4 Will Combine Web & Mobile Data
The data model in GA4 is an improvement over Google’s Firebase SDK. It enables GA4 to track and report on users across various devices without any hiccups.
Third-Party Cookies Are Going Away
You may have observed that GA4 will only track first-party cookies and will not track third-party cookies. One of the key motives for the phase-out of third-party cookies is privacy. How do first-party cookies and third-party cookies differ from one another? Why is it important? First-party cookies are those that a website’s owner has placed on a website to track your online behavior. The ability for third parties to automatically follow your online behavior is made possible through third-party cookies, which are cookies that have been placed on a website by someone other than the site’s owner.
Google is getting rid of third-party cookies from Chrome and Analytics. Removing third-party cookies alters the information that Google and other marketers can track and the methods they use to gather data.
GA4 Will Change Key Metrics, Such As Bounce Rate & More
Many of the metrics you are familiar with cannot remain the same due to a changed data collection strategy. Bounce rate is one instance of a measure that is altering. The percentage of sessions that finish without any interaction with a website is known as the bounce rate. Engagement rate is used in place of bounce rate in GA4. How Does Engagement Rate Work? A percentage of “engaged sessions” is called an engagement rate.
Either of these sessions
- Lasts more than 10 seconds.
- Hold a conversion occasion.
- Have a minimum of two screen or page views.
In their GA4 guide, Call Rail demonstrates that engagement rate is not exactly the opposite of bounce rate. If you work for an agency, you will need to spend some time changing the way you report on these new data to your clients.
How GA4’s Engagement Rate Vs. UA’s Bounce Rate Provides Better Opportunities
Opportunity comes with change, especially if you have time to plan. You can see that by comparing bounce rate to engagement rate, you are receiving more insightful data. Because it places more emphasis on actions than time, SEJ contributor and analytics specialist Kayle Larkin contends that bounce rate is not always a useful indicator of an engagement or the efficacy of pages.
In the former approach, a person is regarded to have bounced if they read a 2,000-word blog article in its entirety before leaving. They did, however, appear interested in the information. The engagement rate now includes readers and is a more accurate measure of a page’s performance thanks to the addition of a time component.
Changes to your reporting procedures and customer education could take some time, but you might see a lot of gains.
Should New Site Owners Use GA4 Or UA?
Your new account will automatically default to GA4 if your site or your client’s website is brand-new. It’s probably not a good idea to make special efforts to set up UA. It makes no sense to establish two new properties given that UA is closing. Don’t be concerned if there is a learning curve when using the new technology; just get started right away. Everybody else is learning at the same time as you.