It’s probably the biggest Google change in recent memory.
In just a couple of months, GA4 is set to replace Universal Analytics. Are you ready for the transition? If you haven’t already made the switch to GA4 or if you don’t act ASAP, you’re going to lose some valuable data.
That’s because the extremely customizable GA4 represents “the future of measurement,” according to Google. A major step forward for Google Analytics, GA4 has the potential to significantly impact your digital marketing strategy, allow you to stay ahead of the curve and gain an edge over your competitors.
By taking advantage of GA4’s enhanced features, you will:
- Improve the Performance of Your Ad Campaigns
- Gain a Better Understanding of Your Customers
- Save Your Business Time and Resources
There are some great benefits for sure. The important takeaway though is that if you don’t transition to the new platform, you’ll be left with nothing.
And this is different from past Google transitions. In 2018 when Google launched the last giant overhaul of the Google Ads interface, they kept both the old interface and the new one running for some time and they did it in a way that you were never at risk of losing data.
This is different. Google Analytics will stop collecting data on July 1, according to current statements so if you don’t start recording your data now in the new platform, you’ll have no historical data to reference.
What is GA4?
A must-have (and free!) digital marketing tool that tracks and reports website traffic, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the successor to Universal Analytics, which Google plans to shut down on July 1, 2023.
Note that although you will be able to see your UA reports for at least six months after this date, new data will only flow into GA4 properties. That’s why waiting until July 1 to start the GA4 migration process is way too late. You really need to make the switch now!
What are the Key Differences Between GA4 and Universal Analytics?
While Universal Analytics allowed for some customization, most users were looking at the same data the same way. GA4 provides a significant upgrade by enabling you to conduct much deeper analysis through highly customizable reports.
GA4’s enhanced features and completely redesigned, simpler user interface give you the ability to create and customize your own reports to analyze the data that is most meaningful to your business.
Some of the main differences between GA4 and UA include:
- GA4 Offers More Flexibility to Create Highly Customized Reports
- GA4 Tracks Both Website and Mobile App Data
- GA4 Uses an Event-Based Data Model, While UA Uses a Session-Based Model
- GA4 Utilizes Machine Learning to Enhance Data on Your Website Users
- GA4 Offers New Metrics (such as measuring engagement rate instead of bounce rate)
One of the first things you will notice when logging into GA4 is a completely new interface for reporting. In addition, in GA4 most of the reports from UA have been replaced or renamed, so it can be a little overwhelming at first. However, GA4 does allow users to create customizable reports for deeper data analysis, so it is important to start thinking about what you need.
“One of the biggest disadvantages of UA was the lack of customizability, which at times could make it difficult to see the full picture, and you often had to rely on the use of segments. With GA4 there is no shortage of customizable reports. You now have the power to see the data you want to see and do so rather easily, whether you decide to create your own through GA4’s Explorations or simply edit an existing report to your liking.”
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In addition, one of the most anticipated features of GA4 is the ability to track website and mobile app data in one single property. Previously, to track mobile app data you would need to use Google Analytics Firebase, which was separate from the website property. This new feature will make it easier for users to analyze and combine the two data sets.
Another difference between GA4 and UA is the importance of Google Tag Manager. With UA, setting up basic destination goals was the easiest way to track form submissions. With GA4 that option is no longer available since all goals are event-based. That means knowing your way around Google Tag Manager is more important than ever to getting reliable data collections.
Will Your Data in GA4 Match What You See Now?
Since GA4 offers such a fundamentally different way of measuring data, you should expect big differences in some of the high-level common metrics. For example, in this comparison between GA4 and UA analyzing bounce rate and sessions among three of ROAR’s clients, you can see how GA4 offers much greater precision in your reporting:
|Metric: Bounce Rate|
|Roof Cleaning Company||48.13%||44.95%|
|Residential Elevator Manufacturer||62.64%||42.52%|
|Landscape Supply Company||54.22%||33.37%|
The big difference here lies in the fact that Bounce Rate in UA is calculated as the percentage of single page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. For example, if a user visits your website and reviews content on your homepage for several minutes, but leaves without clicking on any links or triggering any events being recorded as interaction events, then the session will count as a bounce.
However, in GA4 bounce rate is defined as the percentage of sessions that were not engaged sessions. In other words, Bounce Rate is the inverse of a new metric found in GA4 called Engagement Rate. Engaged sessions are defined in GA4 as the number of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, or had a conversion event, or had 2 or more screen or page views.
Even a look at the simplest of all website visitor metrics shows how you can expect slightly different data:
|Roof Cleaning Company||1,232||1,306|
|Residential Elevator Manufacturer||2,015||2,258|
|Landscape Supply Company||14,320||14,811|
According to Google, the difference in session count between UA and GA4 can vary from business to business depending on various factors such as geography and filters that exclude data, among others.
How Will GA4 Benefit My Business?
As you can see, GA4 offers smarter insights to drastically improve your marketing decisions. That makes it one of the most powerful digital data tools in your arsenal. Other benefits of GA4 for your business include:
- Improved Accuracy and Efficiency of Tracking and Analysis
- More Detailed Measurement of User Behavior
- Enhanced Features Such as Audience Tracking and Bid Optimization
- Better Compliance with Data Privacy Regulations such as the GDPR
- Understand Your Customers Across Their Entire Lifecycle
“The biggest benefit of GA4 really boils down to better tracking and deeper insights into data. Whether it is the ability to track website and mobile app data in one platform, the enhanced measurement of certain metrics and events, or simply the ability to create customized reports, there is no shortage of better ways to capture and understand user behavior.”
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What are the Biggest Challenges of Migrating to GA4?
There are several factors that create challenges in migration to GA4. This is mainly due to the fact that conversions/goals from the UA model do not always equal the same method used in GA4.
“That’s why it’s so important to have someone who knows how to transpose these goals so there is no interruption of your data collection between the two products. The change is mainly because GA4 is a fully event-based tracking product that creates a new way of tracking data via those events as opposed to relying upon the user’s data journey through the site, and is better for cross device and cross platform tracking.”
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GA4 also disrupts eCommerce tracking by having no real automated method for collecting that data. So it has to be set up individually based on the third party eCommerce platform, since there is no simple checkbox to turn on an Enhanced eCommerce data collection as there was before.
Finally, the definition and filtering of internal traffic or other filter options has radically changed in GA4. So in order to have no skew in your data, the filters and setup that is done within UA has to be transposed correctly again into the GA4 system and correctly output.
How Can I Get Help Migrating to GA4?
Since GA4 is extremely customizable, you may feel overwhelmed at the outset. Out of the box GA4 isn’t as robust as UA in terms of reporting or data refinement. However, this is mostly because of unfamiliarity of the user of the product and not the product itself.
The GA4 system for defining audiences and reporting on data is actually better than the system in UA but does require the appropriate setup and configuration of those data points in order to use it correctly and more robustly.
To get help migrating to GA4 and making the most of your GA4 data, simply schedule a zero-obligation GA4 migration consultation with ROAR! Internet Marketing today. We’ll ensure a smooth, stress-free GA4 transition for your business.
“ROAR! has been using GA4 for much longer than most end users, so we are most familiar with the ins and outs of the tool and how it works for reporting and data analysis. We have created a quicker migration plan for anyone working only within UA to get them to GA4 as quickly as we can and get their data reporting correctly. So we have processes and plans in place for anyone who needs assistance in getting their business and their product over to the new platform with the least interruption possible.”
ROAR! Internet Marketing