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Switching to Google Analytics 4, one Step at a Time

Google recently updated its popular Analytics service to Google Analytics 4. There’s a lot to like about the new version, particularly the way it unifies diverse data along the user journey. But before you dive into all that amazing new possibility, stick your toe in and see if it feels right. 

Google Analytics 4 or GA4 for short, is a work in progress. New features continue to be added. There’s some integration missing with Google products like Google Optimize, Search Ads 360, and Display and Video 360. Other analytics tools, such as Semrush, are still adding integration with GA4.  

The best approach – one advocated by Google – is to work with GA4 and Universal Analytics (UA) together. Google has said there won’t be future updates to UA, but there’s no indication of if or when it will be deprecated. If you have a current stable Universal Analytics implementation, don’t throw it out.   

Still, it’s a great-looking platform with tremendous potential. The sooner you can start collecting GA4 data, the sooner you can start building a robust data set for future activation. And what a future it appears to be. 

GA4 looks at data differently from UA. Google Analytics was originally built upon measuring website sessions. Your brand today is much more complex. It’s also social media platforms, mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, a YouTube channel, digital advertising.  

GA4 delivers a flexible, future-proof event-driven data model that now can also measure app events. This means GA4 can measure just about any digital interaction on your business website, as before, but also your apps, games, smart appliances or internet of things devices, then present all of that user data in one place. 

GA4 gives you customer-centric measurement, instead of measurement fragmented by device or by platform. Google Analytics previously used browser cookies to track users and sessions on devices. This raised privacy concerns that led to policies such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the expanded California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Digital industries responded with a move to “cookieless” browsers, including Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari.  

These changes left marketers with sometimes inaccurate or missing data. GA4 solves the issue by taking a “privacy-first” approach to measuring user behavior and website traffic, applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to focus on the user journey from first visit to final conversion. 

Machine-learning processing can fill in gaps where businesses aren’t able to understand their complete customer base because of users who opt out of cookie usage and data. Additionally, GA4 has new built-in user insights and interaction measurement features by default, giving you a better view of how users interact with your site. 

As a marketer, you can get a more complete view of the buyer’s journey from discovery to conversion. GA4 will help tie together data from all marketing channels, allowing you to see where to effectively focus your efforts.  

The main disadvantage of GA4 is that it’s still in beta. For those of you with current Universal Analytics implementations, adding a GA4 property is fairly simple. Go to the Admin settings of Analytics, select “Account Settings,” then click the “Upgrade to GA4” button. The popup will guide you through the process.  

If you are creating a new Google Analytics account, you will get GA4 by default. The best approach is to set up a GA4 and UA property at the same time. 

When you create a new account, after you give your account a name you will be asked to set up the Google Analytics property. At this point, click “Show advanced options.” 

Then turn on “Create a Universal Analytics Property” to create GA4 and UA properties at the same time. 

The rest of the process is self-explanatory. Visit our contact page or call 615-371-6112 if you have any questions, or want to learn more about the new Google Analytics 4 and how we can leverage this new data for your digital marketing strategy.