We apologise that this article is a little bit ‘techy’, but we have found that many of our clients didn’t realise that Google Analytics 4 migration was not going to be automatically switched over by Google.
After helping several clients migrate and set up new tags, so they can get the reports and data they need, we thought that we would explain a little more about Google Analytics 4.
‘What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and why should I use it?’, we hear you ask.
GA4 is the latest (and only), version of Google Analytics.
It has replaced what was known as Universal Analytics and from 1st July 2023, Universal Analytics stopped processing data from websites, Apps and Google Ads. According to Google:
“You will be able to see your Universal Analytics reports for a period of time after July 1, 2023. However, new data will only flow into your GA4 properties.”
Basically, if you haven’t migrated to GA4, you will not be able to see any data for your online properties after July 1.
Unlike most updates, you will not be automatically transferred to the new system, so if you want to continue using website data from Google as part of your digital marketing metrics, you need to make sure you migrate to GA4 as soon as possible.
Google Analytics – a brief history
The first version of Google Analytics was launched back in 2005, followed by Universal Analytics in 2012 (the one we are all familiar with).
Google Analytics 360 was launched in 2016, and according to Google, if you are using this particular version and have an ongoing contract, there is an extension until July 1, 2024, so you need to export your historical data to GA4 before this date.
GA4 was launched in October 2020 and after July 1, 2024, will be the only Google service processing online data.
What is a property?
Although you may think of a property as being a physical building, for data purposes, Google defines a property is a ‘resource associated with your tracking code.”
This could be an App source code or web page code used as an ID for data collection and analytics.
You can choose whether to send multiple resource data to just one property or to separate properties (as they appeared in Universal Analytics.)
From there you can use views and filter to organise the data into the reports you need.
Google Analytics 4 migration – What are the main differences between Universal Analytics and GA4?
The customer journey
It is worth noting that how we use our devices to access the internet today has changed enormously since Google first launched Universal Analytics.
Back in 2012, there were around half a million Apps in the Google App store, but now there are three and a half million!
The iPad 2 had only been launched the year before, so tablets were still a fairly new concept in computer terms. The iPad 2 saw Apple virtually corner tablet sales, commanding a 90% market share.
They way we use our smartphones to interact and process transactions on the internet has changed, with many millennials conducting their whole lives on their smartphones!
With anything between 20 and 500 different touchpoints, one of the benefits of GA4 migration is that it offers a better overview of the customer journey across a number of channels and different devices – something that was not possible in Universal Analytics.
It collects all your data from every channel into one location.
We have also seen big changes in data and privacy protection since 2012.
2018 saw the passing of a security law Europe-wide, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to protect an individual’s personal data by updating the rules for collecting, processing, and accessing it.
This law protected the citizens of Europe regardless of where the website was hosted.
It also led to a major headache for Google, as their Google Analytics platform was declared illegal in France.
As more countries created their own privacy laws, Google had to make fundamental changes to how Universal Analytics collected, processed, and stored an individual’s data.
Migrating to the GA4 platform provides better security and privacy protection for users:
- IP addresses are not collected or stored, and the data collected is less dependent on cookies.
- There are more data retention options for user-specific data. The default setting is two months, but you can opt to extend it up to a maximum of 14 months.
- You can turn off location-specific data.
- Data deletion is easier, for example, if a customer requests that you delete their data and automatic deletion of user data after two months (or fourteen, if you choose this option.)
Technical changes and improvements
GA 4 isn’t just the next instalment of Universal Analytics.
If this was the case, Google could have transferred data automatically to the new version.
The platform has been developed to align with current business needs for reporting and collecting data with built-in future proofing.
We have highlighted some of the main differences below, but Google have provided a handy comparison for what you can expect from GA4 migration.
- GA4 is event based, not session based. This means that it can track all the touchpoints of a user with your company across all channels, to give a more informed view of how customers became aware of your products/service or company, right from the beginning to the point of a transaction. Unlike Universal Analytics, page views are not the most important metric, so GA4 can track individual events on a page such as video views or button clicks.
- Because GA4 uses machine learning, it can offer insights and predictions about customer behaviour to help companies streamline digital campaigns.
- As we have mentioned above, the devices we use to access the internet and the way we use them have changed since 2012. Universal Analytics was mainly designed and built for web traffic from desktops but GA4 shows web, App, and Google Ads data from all devices in one property.
To sum up the advantages to your business of GA4 migration, the platform:
- Is built around how a customer interacts with a business via all channels.
- Give companies the opportunity to tailor analytics to their individual business requirements.
- Enables companies to characterise subsets of customers.
- Gives a better overview of purchasing behaviour to analyse where conversion or a prompt to buy is taking place.
All of these insights inform marketing decisions. The more you learn about customer behaviour, the better you can target digital campaigns.
If you need more information about how you can migrate to GA4, check out this guidance from Google.
At Rebus Creative, we have helped many of our clients with Google Analytics 4 migration, showing them the benefits of the new platform for reporting across their digital channels. If you want to make more of your website and digital marketing campaigns, call the team today for a chat about taking your online presence a step further. We are happy to meet you for a coffee to talk about your ideas. Alternatively, call us on 0114 553 2977, send an email, use the contact form on our website.