If your site is recording through Google Analytics, you may have noticed emails popping up in your inbox from Google announcing they are ‘sunsetting’ the current version of Google Analytics for a more informative and user-friendly analytics reporting they are creatively calling Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Sunsetting means the lights are slowly going out on Google analytics as we’ve known it to date – this current version is called ‘Universal Analytics’. Once the changeover happens mid ’23, Universal Analytics will stop tracking data. historical data from Universal analytics will only be available until the end of that year. To have relevant ongoing historical data when the sun finally sets on good old UA, you should change over to GA4 now, so you have a year of tracking dated events and trends.
WHY THE CHANGE?
The current / Universal analytics has been delivering traffic, geographic, demographic, dwell time data to users as they roam your site, picking up cookies that return information about their habits, roaming, associations. GA4 has been designed as a response to people opting out of ‘cookies’ tracking. It’s a workaround in response to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): privacy laws. It has been configured to continue to read site ‘events’, rather than just people visiting sites where cookies are enabled.
Cookies are code that tells search engines and other entities such as Facebook, or remarketing software, information about your visit, your behaviour and some of your personal information.
SOME BACKGROUND ON GOOGLE ANALYTICS AND THE CHANGE TO GA4
GA4 was launched in October 2020 and has been in use since then, readying for the change from current analytics. Testing in real time with real users is making it safe, working well, and helps developers continue to change and update according to user experience.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE WITH GA4?
Because there is a requirement to tell users their actions are tracked, and to give them a way to opt out of this, GA4 will not be tracking via cookies, but via ‘events’ that take place either through actions you’ve set up on your site (form fills, document downloads, videos watched) or actions taken through its suite of products: google ads, ad clicks and impressions, google apps purchases and refunds. This will transition information you can gather freely about your site away from just traffic, to interaction. (For this reason, things like ‘Bounce Rate’ [when a user clicks onto your site then clicks straight back out] will no longer be tracked.)
Google writes: “Universal Analytics [reports] hit types: page hits, event hits, ecommerce hits, and social interaction hits. In contrast, Google Analytics 4 data is event-based, with the principle that any interaction can be captured as an event.”
Because of this foundational difference between what the current Google analytics is tracking, and the way GA4 will work, the 2 versions are incompatible.
Google recommends users take the next year to run both versions simultaneously, a full year before they turn the lights off on Universal analytics. This will allow you to get used to the new reporting, so your GA4 will have a year of historical data and so business owners can gauge what is working, what will continue to work, and what content and user experience Google will reward, as you go forward.
GA4 promises deeper information about the intent and pathways of your traffic and users, beyond just visits. It’s set up to deliver information on what events are driving engagement on what is working, where are the clicks and wins, what is not hitting the mark. This gives a stronger framework to use when you do go to google software to grow sales.
GA4 PROMISES TO DELIVER:
- Customised reporting and segmenting so comparisons are easier for AB testing (what events are working on your site, and can it be tweaked to work even better?)
- Improved Visual Reporting there are lot number of improvements in terms of visual reporting in the latest Google Analytics update. ‘Analysis Hub’ is from ‘Use Case’ and ‘Industries’ which you can generates templated reports according to the metrics users that you can see in these sections.
- Stronger insights into your users’ journey via reports on all ‘Events’: any interaction, including user scrolling, click throughs, downloads and video views, so you can understand what is working for your users and where best to put your content efforts
- More proof that Google is the ‘Answer Engine‘ with AI assisted search within the platform. This will improve with time, as it learns from questions being input, and is designed to allow easy access to your most useful information, such as, “Videos watched yesterday” “Click throughs this week” “Conversions from landing page this month”.
- Real Time Reporting, to help you check response to that blog post or sales page as soon as its live
- Combined reporting for apps and sites – especially useful for business relying on app sales, and relying on the Google Apps suites
Do I need to change over to GA4?
If you want to continue to get analytics about your site beyond mid ’23, you will need to change to GA4. The reason why the changeover is being flagged now is so you can transition fully to GA4 at that date, with a full year of reporting. Universal reporting will cease from mid 2023. If you transition to GA4 then, you will lose the historical data that can explain those peaks and troughs in future years.
Changing over is straightforward. We’re here to help, so contact us below.
Need some help changing over to GA4 and setting up events and tags for tracking?