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. It 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 is little time to lollygag. Google announced that it is phasing out Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023, meaning all current Universal Analytics users will need to migrate ASAP if they still want access to their data.

The best time to switch to GA4 was yesterday, but today is a close second. Let’s go over every reason why you need to switch to GA4 as soon as you can.

What You Risk from Not Switching to GA4

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Yes, you need to switch to GA4. But why? Before we get into the benefits of switching, it may be most helpful to go over 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 doesn’t produce any 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 a lot of 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 ready for your GA4 platform.

Four Advantages of GA4

Google has of course added a myriad of 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 had an actual effect on their audience. While it’s impossible to perfectly identify what inspired 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 allows Google Analytics to evaluate how different touchpoints impact conversion outcomes, taking factors such as time of 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 interactions a single user has with your brand without using third-party cookies. This can help you better understand how your audience moves through the sales funnel.

3. Easy Integration with Applications

GA4 makes tracking data across your business systems significantly easier thanks to its new Data Import feature. Every system you use has different data that is essential for your greater success. Your CRM has critical data about your customer-loyalty metrics while your eCommerce system gives you insight into your audience’s product preferences.

Instead of going to the analytics section of each of those systems, you can import all of 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 is in an attempt 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, all future updates for Google Analytics will only be applied to GA4. So if you want to reap the benefits of Google’s ongoing pursuit of better analytics, you’ll want to switch ASAP.

Important 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 quite a few changes, so we’ve just highlighted the ones we’re most excited about (check out this GA4 info page for the full comparison).

Commitment to User Privacy

While Universal Analytics has privacy controls you can use to protect user data, those were sort of added as an afterthought. GA4 was created 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 major steps to respect its users’ privacy.

Better Mobile Tracking

When Universal Analytics was announced back in 2012, a majority of web traffic still occurred on desktops. This is why most analytic reports look for metrics that align with desktop web searching. Now that nearly 59% of web traffic happens on mobile devices, GA4 has adjusted to accommodate mobile-specific web traffic.

Namely, many people use applications to do their web browsing. While this couldn’t be tracked with Universal Analytics, 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 a little more useful: Engaged Sessions.

An “engaged session” is one that exceeds 10 seconds, had a conversion event, or had two or more page views. This gives you a better idea of who is actively engaging with your website, not just who is leaving without interacting with anything. It also broadens the definition of a “bounce” from sessions under 0 seconds to sessions 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 is simply meant 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 allows GA4 to count every instance of the conversion event, even if that event occurs multiple times during the same session.

This supplies you with much richer data than Universal Analytics, as it only counted one conversion per session. Now you can get a better idea of which sessions are from your loyal or repeat customers.

How Do You Switch to GA4?

We could spend the next 2000+ words giving you a full rundown of how you can successfully migrate your data and switch to GA4. Or we could just give you Google’s resource on how to switch to Google Analytics 4 and save all of our time.

Be sure to take your time when migrating. Rushing through the process may lead you to forget some essential steps, which can lead to broken data and useless information.

Intimidated by the Move? Get Expert Help

If you want to make the migration even easier, especially if you aren’t super familiar with the platform, let an expert help you out. At Big Leap, we’ve already helped all of our clients migrate to GA4 with ease. You should expect the same experience from your agency or in-house marketing team.

So don’t delay, get started with GA4 today before you lose more data.

Jack Greaves