How to Prep for Google Analytics 4: 6 Questions You Were Too Scared to Ask

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If there’s an irrefutable fact about tech, it’s that it’s always up for a makeover. So when the time for a makeover comes knocking, the best thing to do is pack your bags and follow it wherever it may lead. Google first mentioned Google Analytics 4 in mid-2019. Its latest announcement that it would be retiring Universal Analytics in favor of Google Analytics 4 on July 1, 2023, has a big chunk of marketers struggling with how to prepare for the move.

If it’s any consolation, Google analytics commands over 85% of the market share and surveys over 55% of websites. That’s a clear display of its usefulness, and It’s unlikely that Google will upgrade us to a less appealing version of Google Analytics. 

We answer your most pressing questions in this article on how to prep for Google Analytics 4 and make it as easy as possible. 

What Exactly Is Google Analytics 4? How Does GA4 Differ From Universal Analytics?

Tracking data about two decades ago was best done using hit counters and refreshing your computer to see new data. 

A lot has changed since then. For example, the digital landscape is much bigger and more sophisticated. People go online using multiple devices; they’re using the internet for many different reasons, and data laws have changed. Users can now block tracking tech as easily as telling the apps they’re using to block them.

Universal Analytics (GA3) can’t accommodate all these tracking needs. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a complete overhaul of Universal Analytics and is the most sophisticated Google Analytics program so far that enables marketers to track what they need regardless of user behavior complexities.  

GA4 is built with machine learning and presents the benefits of mobile-first functionality so you can easily see unified user journeys in all your sites and apps.

GA4 also comes with more privacy. It doesn’t store IP addresses but instead introduces different modeling methods to avoid solely relying on cookies.

There are some glaring differences, too, between Universal Analytics and GA4. While Universal Analytics’ tracking model works on acquisition, behavior, and conversion, GA4 bases its tracking model on events and parameters. Page views, transactions, clicks on some things, and scrolling is all called events on the new platform.

While Universal Analytics depends on tracking page views or hits, GA4 knows user activity doesn’t start and stops with page views. Instead, users engage in activities like scrolling, clicking on different buttons, watching videos, and viewing pop-ups.

GA4 also relieves businesses of the dreaded bounce rate by focusing on user activity and if their engagement was fulfilling. Universal Analytics on the other hand treats clicks on a campaign landing page without submission of a contact form as a bounce because it relies on a user’s behavior.

Will My Existing Accounts Automatically Update to GA4?

Remember when we said Google analytics 4 is a complete overhaul from Universal Analytics? This fact also makes it impossible for it to be an instant upgrade. 

With Universal Analytics, you only had to make a few code changes, and the upgrade fixed itself, much like moving from one windows application to the next. 

GA4 and Universal Analytics are different at the foundational level. How you retrieve data and view it is entirely different. You’ll require a set of configurations to make it useful for your marketing metrics.

If I Switch to Google Analytics 4, Does It Erase My Historical Data From Universal Analytics?

Since GA4 is a separate Property type, you won’t access historical data unless you get it using GA4 tags. After July 1, 2023, you will only see historical data until January 2024. 

Historical data makes it possible for you to create a standard for future developments, which helps with content optimization to boost your bottom line.

Will My Filters, Configurations, and Other Settings Transfer Over to GA4?

Only the property details are transferrable to GA4 when you move, eliminating the chance you’ll carry over any property configurations or customizations. 

How Will This Affect Google Analytics Integrations With Other Software?

You still get to integrate most of your favorite tech with GA4. In fact, it is already possible to integrate GA4 with Google Optimize and nine others:

  • Google Ads
  • BigQuery
  • Display & Video 360 (DV360)
  • Google Ad Manager (GAM)
  • Google Merchant Center
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC)
  • Search Console
  • Play integration
  • Search Ads 360 (SA360)

Since the platform has only landed, more improvements are on the way that could accommodate more software integrations.

I’m Still Scared of Google Analytics 4. What Should I Do?

There’s no need to fret if all of this sounds like a big ball of gibberish talk. Migrating to Google Analytics 4 is not about getting a new platform that sacrifices the older joys of Universal Analytics for a new complicated platform that forces you to learn to code. 

You still get to measure the vital metrics just a little differently than you’re used to. Essentials such as sources of your web visitors, their preferred channel, and activities on your site qualify for events under GA4. 

Plus, goals will be replaced by conversions, and they will appear differently. You’ll also have to set parameters to dictate what GA4 measures –for instance, you can set it to record visits to a particular page. Moving now means you can get your profile up and running to buy time to get used to how it works long before GA3 is phased out. 

If you’re still apprehensive, Digital Neighbor is a Google Analytics Agency that can help you prep for Google Analytics 4 and transit before your Universal Analytics tool stops collecting data after July 1, 2023. 

We get that even with Google’s almost flawless reputation, implementing Google Analytics 4 is a new thing for you, and it makes a big difference for you to be able to track the metrics that matter most to you. 

By working with Digital Neighbor, you sign up for proven skills in digital marketing, Google Analytics, other tracking tools, and everything in between that helps your campaigns thrive. Web analytics shouldn’t be so hard, and you shouldn’t have to do it alone. Contact us, and we’ll be happy to help.

Eric Ritter, CEO

Eric Ritter

Eric is the conductor of an orchestra here at Digital Neighbor. He knows how all the digital instruments should sound together. When he’s not solving marketing challenges for the neighborhood, Eric is also an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida, where he teaches Digital Media in the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications.

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