Most marketers are aware of the famous Google Analytics update that was launched in October of 2020, Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This will be replacing Universal Analytics in July 2023. But what is this update? And how will it affect you?
What is GA4?
GA4 is the new rewrite of Google Analytics with a new interface, functionalities, and analytics features. This rewrite has been a long time coming and is complete with new analytical findings that will help marketers. Instead of the prime focus being sessions like in Universal Analytics (GA3), GA4 focuses on users and events.
Google Analytics started out as Urchin, a web analytics software developed in 1995 (before Google even existed!). In 2005, it was acquired by Google and rebranded to Urchin by Google. From there Google Analytics moved to Universal Analytics (UA or also known as GA3) in 2012, and now GA4.
Why the Change?
In the GA4 announcement, Russel Ketchum, director of product management at Google, said “Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies.” GA4 doesn’t rely on cookies and uses an event-based data model for measurement. It also does not store IP addresses, which can help brands with security.
Since both technology and the way consumers use the web have changed, GA4 now focuses on other features that are more useful.
What’s New in GA4?
There are many updates, but some of the key metrics include:
- Events: Events are a more complex version of measuring the user interaction on a page, such as clicking on a link, completing a transaction, or loading a page. Once GA4 is installed, you can add custom events but make sure you review the events automatically captured first.
- Automatic tracking with enhanced measurements that include:
- Scrolling data
- Outbound clicks
- Video engagement
- File downloads
- Site search
- Cross-device tracking using Google Signals to see when someone is using different devices.
- More robust sessions that no longer break up a session when it goes past midnight. This will give more accurate information on the number of visitors.
Should I Move Over to GA4?
Yes, but …
Unfortunately, you can’t upload previous data into GA4, so once you create a GA4 account, it starts populating on that day. So, the sooner you install GA4, the better. That way, by the time July 2023 comes around, you will already have a solid amount of data to review. You can also use the accounts simultaneously — in fact, it is recommended to keep both properties on-site before cutting ties with UA. You don’t have to give up your Universal Analytics account just yet, or even actively use GA4, but creating the account will allow information to build. Click here for more information on how to get started. Once your GA4 account is set up, here are some other actions to take today:
- Connect GA4 with your Google Ads properties.
- Check your data-retention settings (the default date range is not ideal).
- Add your internal filter exclusions to the property.
That’s a quick overview of the key updates and actions to take now, but there is plenty more to learn. It is challenging to cover everything on GA4 because there is so much that is new, but for additional details and a comprehensive guide, check out our Hot Topic article.
About Rachel Pompeani
Rachel Pompeani is currently the Growth Marketing Manager at ClearyRated, a satisfaction survey program designed for B2B service firms, and has been in this role since July 2021. She has an array of responsibilities at ClearlyRated, including digital marketing, content management, email communication, graphic creation, and more.