Don’t let the thus-far low adoption rates of Google Analytics 4 fool you: the updated platform is now officially here to stay, and it’s going to be crucial for every website to get on board as soon as possible.
Otherwise, you could be losing a whole heap of crucial data about your site and your users.
Table of Contents
- Why Businesses Should Make the Change to GA4 ASAP
- Understanding Google’s Reasons for Change
- How GA4 Will Impact Reporting
- Our POV on the Switch to GA4
- How To Get Started
- It’s time to get your website onboarded with GA4. Otherwise, you could lose lots of valuable historical data when Universal Analytics is gone.
- GA4 will significantly change the way website performance is measured. Website owners need to be prepared for the change.
- Get your site onto GA4 and start collecting data as soon as possible, and make the most of the opportunity to assess your current reporting needs and processes.
Why Should Businesses Switch to GA4 Now?
Simply put: if you wait until Google forces your hand to make the switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) next July, it’ll already be too late.
Google is only promising we’ll have access to historical data in Universal Analytics (UA) for just six months after the sunset date. If you want to really make the most of your historical data and year-over-year analysis, the time to get your site onto GA4 is already here.
On the plus side, there’s no reason a site can’t have both GA4 and UA running at the same time. That way, you’ll be able to collect and capture data in both platforms, even if you’re not using both.
When the official sunset hits in July 2023, you’ll be positioned to switch over seamlessly—while your competition is still struggling to figure out what they need to do to get started.
Here’s The Background Behind the Switch to GA4
In March of 2022, Google officially announced they’ll be sunsetting Universal Analytics (the analytics platform of choice for a huge portion of the digital landscape) by July 1, 2023.
Even Analytics 360, which was just introduced near the end of 2021, will stop all hits by October 1, 2023.
That means that every website not currently using Google Analytics 4 will need to start doing so within the year… and for the most part, the best time to get started is actually right now.
Why is Google Making the Switch to GA4 Mandatory?
We can only really guess at Google’s intentions for the full rollout of GA4, but so far they’ve laid out two key arguments for why it’s finally time for everyone to make the switch:
- Universal Analytics isn’t able to deliver cross-platform insights. UA mostly measures desktop web performance, and there’s a lot of manual effort that has to go into connecting these desktop insights with user app data. GA4 consolidates both of these into one platform.
- User Data Privacy regulations are accelerating. Whereas UA primary relies on cookies for data measurement, GA4 does not. This is part of Google’s (and basically everyone’s) broader shift away from third-party data tracking and is already a crucial consideration for just about everyone collecting user data. We’re moving closer and closer to a future where the kinds of third-party data collection that’s been happening for a long time simply can’t happen anymore—and there’s plenty of new user privacy regulations out there, both here in the US and abroad, to prove it. The move to GA4 is Google’s answer to this problem.
How Will the Switch to GA4 Impact Reporting?
Overall, the switch to GA4 will be required for businesses currently using Universal Analytics. But the ramifications of the changes in GA4 will almost certainly impact the data businesses collect, analyze, and build strategy from moving forward.
There are a few major updates in GA4 that every business needs to take into consideration when making the switch:
- Universal Analytics is a tool built for the web; GA4 is not. GA4 is a true multi-touchpoint platform, consolidating event measurement across all your digital touchpoints, including desktop sites, mobile sites, apps, and beyond. The result: a more unified picture of engagement across your digital offerings, less focused on website metrics and more broadly focused on the overall user experience.
- GA4 does not rely exclusively on cookies. In fact, basically all 3rd party cookies will be blocked from measurement in GA4 (but first-party cookies will still be fine).This is a major change and fits neatly in line with the broader industry push toward protecting user data privacy, putting privacy controls into the hands of each person on the web. This also means GA4 will no longer store IP addresses, which will drastically change the way individual user sessions are measured.
- GA4 operates on an event-based data model & user-centric measurement. If you count on metrics like bounce rates, session duration, conversion rates, and audience segments, this is going to be a massive change. This shift away from measurement of standard interactions like clicks, page views, etc. in favor of more custom, flexible, and unique interactions across your digital experience will have a major impact on a site’s existing KPIs.
- UA has a ton of preconfigured reports; GA4 does not. Reporting through GA4 will almost certainly change for everyone currently using UA, and not just because the data collected itself is different. Whereas UA had a whole library of preconfigured reporting templates for businesses to use to track progress and KPIs, GA4 reporting will be a lot more manual… at least for the time being. It’s critical to have a plan in place so you can keep tracking that crucial data when UA is permanently shut down.
Our POV on the Switch to GA4
Overall, the changeover to GA4 is the result of a long push by Google toward protecting user privacy—and for businesses, the changes to website reporting have always been on the horizon. Now, they’ve finally arrived, and it’s time to adapt your reporting and data collection strategies.
Here’s our advice for making the switch to GA4 for your site:
- Start having the conversation about your reporting needs and what needs to change about your website infrastructure. Implementing a new GA4 connection can be tricky, and the changes to the kind of data measured will almost certainly impact how you’ll analyze critical data about your users.
- Take time to look closely at the holes in your current Google Analytics setup now. Too often we see problems related to huge data sets causing high levels of data sampling, duplicate events being tracked, etc. This forced switch to GA4 is the ideal time to find and fix those holes in your reporting.
- Start capturing data in GA4 now, even if you’re not using it yet. According to Google, website owners will only have six months from UA’s sunset to access historical data. That means if you want to protect your historical data and seamlessly adjust your year-over-year reporting, it’s critical to start collecting data through GA4 as soon as possible. Then, when the switch does happen for everyone, you’ll be able to keep moving forward without missing a beat.
Need Help Making the Switch to GA4? We’ve Got Your Back.
We’ve been working in Google Analytics for a long, long time—meaning we’re all too familiar with Google’s tendency to make big changes all at once.
Fortunately, we know exactly what it takes to get a site onboarded to GA4 with plenty of time to adjust before the official end of UA in 2023.
If you’re still not totally sure what it will take to get your site up to speed on GA4—or if you just need an experienced set of eyes on your existing setup to identify areas of opportunity—we’re happy to help. Get in touch with our team and we’ll make sure your website is good to go GA4 as soon as possible.