Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the future of Google’s data measurement platform. Launched in October 2020, GA4 creates a more seamless analytical experience so businesses can better understand the customer journey. The platform also includes built-in, customer-focused privacy controls to align with Google’s new decoupling from third-party cookies.
Since its introduction, companies have slowly transitioned from Universal Analytics (GA3) at their leisure. But now there’s little time to lollygag—Google Analytics is switching to GA4, and you don’t want to get left behind.
When Will GA3 (Universal Analytics) Data No Longer Be Accessible?
Google will stop Universal Analytics from collecting data on July 1, 2023, though historical data will be available for the rest of 2023. No new analytical data will be available in GA3 after July.
It’s also important to note that GA3 data will not import over to GA4 when Google Analytics switches to GA4 because they’re distinct systems with different data collecting methods.
Google Universal Analytics 360 (UA 360) Closing in 2024
UA 360—the enterprise version of GA3—will be closing on July 1, 2024. Google decided to extend the sunset date for this version so large companies can have more time to transition.
Similar to the standard version, once July 2024 hits, UA 360 will no longer gather and analyze data. Instead, it will direct users to Google Analytics 4 360. All historical data will be available only as a readable document—no new information will be gathered.
Because both versions of this system greatly differ, Google encourages you and others to start the migration process ASAP.
What You Risk from Not Switching to GA4
You might be thinking, “Why should I switch to GA4?” To answer that, it may be most helpful to review what you risk by not switching.
You’ll Lose Your Data
Universal Analytics will stop tracking data in July 2023. What’s the point of using an analytics platform that produces no data? There isn’t any.
What data will you lose? All of it. That means:
- No conversion data
- No website traffic data
- No website engagement data
- No marketing attribution data
Not only will Universal Analytics stop tracking data in July 2023, but you may also lose access to your historical data in the following months. That means you can’t rely on checking back on old data while you set up GA4 for your websites. Migrating that data now will save you much stress in the future.
You Won’t Know Year-Over-Year Changes
Some nay-sayers may read the above point and think they can procrastinate until July 2023 to make the switch. But what happens when you want to make a comparative analysis of 2023 to your 2022 data? You can’t—those data sets will be split between GA3 and GA4. Switching now helps you capture as much data as possible for your GA4 platform.
Four Advantages of GA4
On the plus side, Google has added many new features and capabilities to its new analytics platform. Here are four of the new GA4 features that should get you excited.
1. Data-Driven Attribution
Every marketer has longed for a tool that gives accurate attribution for marketing efforts that affect their audience. While it’s impossible to perfectly identify what inspires a customer to convert, GA4’s new attribution approach is pretty spot-on.
Using machine learning algorithms, GA4 evaluates converting and non-converting paths in your marketing funnel. This evaluation enables Google Analytics to determine how different touchpoints impact conversion outcomes, taking factors such as time to conversion, device type, and the number of ad interactions into account. The result is an algorithm that more accurately attributes conversion credit to the correct touchpoints.
2. Event-Based Measurement Modeling
No longer are measurement models fragmented by platforms. Google Analytics can now better track single-user interactions with your brand without using third-party cookies. This tracking can help you better understand how your audience moves through the sales funnel.
3. Easy Integration with Applications
Every system you use has different data that’s essential for success. For instance, your CRM has critical data about your customer-loyalty metrics, while your eCommerce system provides insight into your audience’s product preferences.
GA4 makes tracking data across your business systems significantly easier thanks to its new Data Import feature. Instead of going to the analytics section of each of those systems, you can import all that data in GA4, giving you a single location to track everything.
4. Future-Proofed Analytics
Google Analytics is moving away from cookie-powered analytics and adhering closer to data privacy regulations. This move attempts to future-proof your analytics, standing firmly in secure tracking practices and away from the ethically-gray practices of the past.
Additionally, and this should go without saying, Google will apply all future updates for Google Analytics only to GA4. So if you want to reap the benefits of Google’s ongoing pursuit of better analytics, you’ll want to switch ASAP.
Essential Differences Between GA4 and Universal Analytics
Aside from the new capabilities of GA4, there are also several key departures from Universal Analytics’ model. They’ve made several changes, so we’re just highlighting the ones we’re most excited about (check out this GA4 info page for the complete comparison).
Commitment to User Privacy
While Universal Analytics has privacy controls for protecting user data, those were sort of added as an afterthought. Google created GA4 with privacy as a central concern. It gives your customers more control over what data they allow to be collected. It also no longer stores IP addresses, showing that Google is taking significant steps to respect its users’ privacy.
Better Mobile Tracking
When Google announced Universal Analytics back in 2012, a majority of web traffic still occurred on desktops. This is why most analytic reports look for metrics aligning with desktop web searching. Since nearly 59% of web traffic happens on mobile devices, GA4 has adjusted to accommodate mobile-specific web traffic. While Universal Analytics couldn’t track this, GA4 allows you to set up data collection for your company’s app.
No More Bounce Rates
Bounce rates used to be a primary indicator to determine if your website performed well. But Google has replaced it in GA4 with something that may be more useful: Engaged Sessions.
An “engaged session” exceeds 10 seconds, has a conversion event, or has two or more page views. This feature gives you a better idea of who actively engages with your website, not just those leaving without any interaction. It also broadens the definition of a “bounce” from sessions under 0 seconds to those under 10 seconds.
With this new focus on engagement, you can still infer how many people are bouncing from your web page—just subtract the number of engaged sessions from your total visits. This reframing aims to help you focus on data that matters.
Established Conversion Events
Instead of clarifying goals for conversions, GA4 allows you to specify conversion events for each action you count as a conversion. This specification allows GA4 to count every instance of the conversion event, even if that event occurs multiple times during the same session.
This change supplies you with much richer data than Universal Analytics, as it only counted one conversion per session. Now you can better understand which sessions are from your loyal or repeat customers.
How Do You Switch to GA4?
Now that you have all this information, you’re probably thinking, “How do I switch to GA4?”
Well, if you’re reading this after March 2023, you may already have a GA4 property set up. According to Google, it will create a GA4 account for you if you haven’t already opted out of this action.
If you’d rather do it all yourself to ensure the data is correct, we offer you Google’s resource for switching to Google Analytics 4.
Be sure to take your time when migrating. Rushing through the process may cause you to forget some essential steps, leading to broken data and useless information.
Intimidated by the Move? Get Expert Help
There’s no time to delay! Get started with GA4 today before you lose data.
If you want to make the migration even easier, especially if you aren’t super familiar with the platform, let an expert help you. At Big Leap, we’ve already helped all our clients seamlessly switch from Google Analytics to GA4, and we can help you too!
Contact us today for all your GA4 and marketing needs.
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