On the 15th of October 2019, Google announced that Google Analytics will be replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Back in 2019, this didn’t seem so worrying but now time is of the essence. What we know today as Google Analytics will officially stop collecting data on the 1st of July 2023. There’s no need to panic but there are changes that need to happen if you still want to see your web analytics. Anything not transferred before the change over will no longer be accessible.
Google has decided to implement this change for two main reasons;
1. There are stricter privacy laws on what and how data is collected.
2. Making it easier for the consumer to get meaningful information.
While this significant change has been pushed as an update, there are some very important differences that you need to understand.
6 ways in which Google Universal Analytics and GA4 are different
- Data collection – User data is now collected using fewer cookies and instead shifting reliance to data collected on your site/app/platform (data streams). For the first time, these data streams will track your users across devices to give you a wider view of how they interact with your brand.
- Machine learning -Due to privacy laws and the ability for some users to opt out of cookies, there is a lot of ambiguity around tracked user behaviour. GA4 uses machine learning to fill in the gaps by splitting users into groups and applying predictive analytics to understand their behaviour.
- Metrics are changing. Bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration are all out. Instead, we have
- Engaged sessions: the number of sessions which lasted longer than 10 seconds, viewed 2 or more pages or clicked a button (event).
- Engagement rate: the number of engaged sessions as a percentage of the total number of sessions. This could be thought of as the new bounce rate
- Engaged session per user: Number of engaged sessions per user. Remember, because we are monitoring across multiple devices, if a user is on your website and then switches to your app, that only counts as one session. Sessions automatically time out after 30 mins.
4. Fewer standard reports: GA4 has removed a lot of what some might term “clutter”, with simplified reports showing key metrics only. This is a great change for the casual user but does mean that those who are looking for more insight will need to spend some time setting up detailed dashboards.
5. Events – In Google Universal Analytics recording an event, such as a form submission or button click, required a tag manager and a bit of set-up time. GA4 events are split into four categories:
- Auto-collected events: these events are automatically collected by GA4 no tag manager is needed e.g. session start or button clicks.
- Enhanced measurement events: this describes slightly more advanced metrics you might want to monitor e.g. scroll depth tracking. Metrics like this previously needed tag manager, now they work out of the box but you will need to turn them on.
- Recommend events : these are events Google thinks you might want to use but will require you to set them up on your website or app. These events are prenamed by Google, e.g. form submission GA4 suggests the name lead_generation.
- Custom events – As you can guess, these are super custom metrics that most users will never need. These will require a fair amount of set-up.
6. Data expiration: In GA4, your data expires after 14 months (sort of). There are over five billion people using the internet, producing a huge amount of data and it’s costing Google a lot of money to store it. Data older than 14 months will be aggregated, so you will lose the ability to take a deep dive into it but you will be able to make generalised comparisons for year-on-year analytics.
So what now?
GA4 is a big step change but the great news is that it is live right now! We HIGHLY recommend getting your GA4 set up soon and running it alongside your existing analytics. This way you can get used to the new set-up and ensure that come the 1st of July 2023, you are well prepared to say goodbye to Google Universal Analytics.
To help you transition, we are offering new clients a once-off service, at cost, to set up GA4 on your profile. If you want to find out more about this get in touch.