Google is discontinuing its existing Universal Analytics (UA) on 1st July 2023. UA has been with us since 2005 and the majority of the world’s websites use it. There have been many iterations of Google Analytics over the last 17 years, but they have always allowed us to retain the historical data. Not this time however. This time it’s a standing start from the point you have the new system in place.
So why the change?
As data privacy has become central to the future of the internet, then UA’s reliance on cookies means that the current measurement methodology is becoming obsolete. In addition, today’s user journey is more complex and multi-platform compared to the desktop single sessions that UA was set up to measure.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been built to deal with this new world. Crucially though, it’s not a like for like replacement. Don’t expect to leave UA and pick-up from where you left off. Expect a new way of doing things where a fair bit of the old way is no longer a possibility.
What are the benefits of GA4?
Google believe that there are a number of key benefits to GA4:
- Understand your customers across touchpoints
This will deliver a view of the customer lifecycle with event-based measurement across multiple sessions and platforms.
Our view: don’t expect perfection but do expect new insights and a tool that is at least attempting to answer the questions modern marketers have.
- Improve ROI with data-driven attribution
This will allow the measurement of marketing activities and help understand how they influence conversions.
Our view: ROI data itself will, in many ways, be less accurate and comprehensive than what we are used to. However that doesn’t mean there won’t be good new insights in this new way of working.
- Measure engagement and conversions with business and compliance in mind
This will allow businesses to manage and minimise the collection of user-level data while still preserving measurement functionality.
Our view: GDPR regulators may not be fully onboard here. It is undoubtedly “better” from a compliance point of view but consent issues don’t just disappear overnight.
- Get greater value from your data
The use of machine learning will generate sophisticated predictive insights about user behaviour and conversions.
Our view: this is life now, so let’s enjoy it! (Even if much of it is about providing educated guesses about insights we used to get anyway)
- Easily activate your insights
GA4 will easily integrate with other Google products like Google Ads to allow for better measure and understand campaign performance.
Our view: no surprises here. GA is ultimately just a very nice piece of content marketing for Google Ads but never the less is one I’m very grateful for!
So what’s the rush?
There are three main reasons why this should be a priority for organisations.
Firstly, if you want to be able to have a year on year comparison, then you need to start using GA4 from the 1st July in 2022. Otherwise, it will not be possible to compare like with like after 2023.
Secondly, GA4 is very different from UA and so will require a lot of re-training on how to get the best out of it. There will not be a 1-to-1 report replacement. Having UA and GA4 running alongside each other for a year will give time to assess what you rely on currently. You can then find the closest alternative, or in the case of no alternative, come to terms with the new mindset. UA has been around for so long and become so familiar to so many, that it would be unwise to underestimate the resistance and effort to make the change.
Thirdly, starting now will re-risk the transition and allow for any unforeseen problems that can be dealt with well ahead of the changeover date. For most, this will not just be the flicking of a switch.
At Attacat, we believe that a transition process will be required to successfully move from UA to GA4. It will vary from client to client but here’s an outline of what needs to be done.
- Requirements discovery
- Analysis of current analytics and tag management configurations
- Identify any desired changes to your current analytics strategy
- Formulate a configuration plan covering:
- Events and goals
- Cross domain tracking
- Product links e.g. Google Ads
- Default attribution model
- Filters/IP blocking/Referral Exclusions
- Data retention window
- Users and access levels
- Configuration build and testing
- Execute configuration plan
- Confirm all data flows are working as expected
- Start sending data to production GA4 property
- Data validation
- Data accuracy tests
As you can see, we believe that there is a lot to be done, especially if you want to be able to have a year’s comparative data. The above needs to be done by 1st July this year. So if you would like to know more then please click on the link to arrange a meeting to discuss.