Google Analytics 4 is coming. Here's how to get ready

Google Analytics 4 is coming. Here's how to get ready

On 1 July 2023, websites running Google’s Universal Analytics (UA), or Google Analytics 3 (GA3 for short) will need to update to GA4. Sounds like fun – but what are the advantages for businesses, brands, websites and apps? And how exactly do you switch from an older version to GA4?

We’ve you covered on all fronts. Here’s what you need to know and do to get yourself in line with GA4.

Why GA4?

Previous versions of Google Analytics are tailored to what you could consider a previous version of the internet. As time goes by, things change – and there’s only so many bells and/or whistles Google can add to GA before it becomes unfit for its purpose. Enter GA4 - the brand spanking new version of everyone’s favourite web tracking system.

So, what’s getting an upgrade?

  • Measuring hits. UA considered all website visits equal. If someone landed on your site, that was a hit. With GA4, more in-depth information gives a holistic view of site visits based on interactivity, time, frequency and other factors.

  • Privacy. Previous versions of GA were dependent on cookies – which are becoming increasingly limited in modern internet use. GA4 strips back that reliance and has the option for more privacy controls. 

  • Data collection. When UA collects data, it’s collecting through a centralised server. Any downtime on that server means no data. GA4 is curing this by giving tracking codes an individual connection to the server. It sounds like technical mumbo-jumbo – and it is. So, in layman's terms, GA4 reduces data loss.

  • Machine learning. No tech launch would be complete without the prerequisite mention of something related to AI. For GA4, AI is used to fill in the gaps in user data caused by their browser or phone’s privacy settings. Very dystopian. 

Audit your current system

If you use GA3 or Universal Analytics (find out if you do here), work out how you use it. What information is most important to your business success? Which reports tell the most complete story? Which tools and systems do you rely on? Once you’ve got an idea about where you’ve been with previous versions of GA, it’ll be easier to work out where you need to get to with GA4.

Set up GA4 for your website(s)

There’s a super useful, ultra-in-depth guide to connecting your websites to GA4 found here. Fortunately, it includes a Setup Assistant that can guide you through the process. Your new GA4 property will collect data alongside UA until 1 July. While you’re setting up, you’ll start inputting new goals, tools, systems and other tracking elements. You’ll notice a few changes to naming conventions, but it’ll just be a case of working out which new-sounding tools reflect which tools in old-speak.

Migrate your data (if you want)

You’ve potentially amassed years' worth of data through UA. Maybe you don’t want to lose it? It’s a pretty simple process which you can follow by logging in to GA and going to Admin > Property > Data Migration. It’s not crucial to migrate, and you can’t migrate every single piece of data (some, like Segments or Currencies, can’t be migrated). So, consider whether a clean slate works or if you need the data you’ve collected from previous years. 

Migration can take a while, so ensure you migrate early to keep more data, insights and reports from your UA property.

Prep your team

GA4 is different to previous versions of Google Analytics. There’s no getting around it. Your team will be used to the current version which will impact how they read data, which insights create which outcomes, so on and so forth. A great plan would be to set up your GA-using team with some training – the official version of which you can find on the Google Support site here.

So, that’s the low down on GA4. It’s a step towards better, more complete marketing data – and a step away from some old friends (like UA). But it’s safe to say GA4 will be an improvement on tracking capabilities. If this still sounds way too tough, get in touch with the team at the tree and we’ll be happy to help you get GA4 ready.