Marketing analytics is an extremely important activity that, when utilized to its fullest potential, can help businesses optimize their marketing performance. Marketing analytics systems can collect and store large amounts of data, identify more efficient and cost-effective methods of connecting with consumers, and ultimately provide incomparable insights that shape marketing strategies. In fall 2020, Google Analytics debuted a new iteration of its data analytics system. The new system, called Google Analytics 4 or GA4, is being lauded by marketing agency experts as a vast improvement to the previous Universal Analytics system because of its changes in data retention, engagement analytics, IP anonymization and conversions.
The Urgency of the GA4 Migration
Google has announced that all Universal Analytics users must migrate to GA4 within the next year, or they risk losing data. In fact, the grace period to continue using Universal Analytics is rapidly coming to an end: after July 1, 2023, all existing standard UA accounts will no longer receive or process incoming data, on October 1, 2023, all 360 Universal Analytics accounts will also stop working, and on January 1, 2024, users will no longer be able to access historical Google Analytics data. These changes all equate to two key facts: GA4 will become the only analytics option moving forward, and the sooner your business can familiarize itself with and convert to the new GA4 system, the more year-over-year comparison data you’ll be able to connect by this time next year.
Google Analytics vs Universal Analytics: How Are They Different?
Understanding how the UA to GA4 conversion will affect your workflow, marketing strategy and budget can be quite overwhelming, so (human)x is taking a deep dive into this newest migration to show you how a professional marketing agency can help make the transition more manageable.
While the primary focus of the Universal Analytics (UA) data model was to provide reports on page views and sessions, the foundational elements of GA4 revolve around more efficient data collection, which can then be exported to build digital marketing reports and path explorations. The most fundamental shifts within the GA4 system include:
- Data collected and tracked as events. UA events will no longer fire as configured, and GA4 data will now be tracked using parameters and collected as events, which includes automatically collected events and three new events: enhanced performance measurement events, recommended events and custom events. Enhanced measurement events allow for automatic event tracking without any additional coding or tagging, while recommended and custom events are categories you can easily set up yourself to track and measure specific data.
- The introduction of data streams. GA4 has removed the three “views” tabs that were standard in the UA system, and instead offers data streams. You can now create multiple data streams that each measure different combined data, such as website data and iOS app, which allows you to track individual users across your website and app. And because GA4 uses the same schema for both website and app data, you get more accurate and more robust cross-device, cross-platform and even cross-domain data tracking and insight.
- More accurate engagement and conversion metrics. Whereas UA measured behavior metrics, including bounce rate, page view per session or average session duration, GA4 measures engagement metrics like number of engaged sessions, engagement rates and engaged sessions per user. These measurements align more closely with modern consumer browsing behavior. Conversion tracking with GA4 is also much easier, and GA4 allows for the creation of complex conversions.
- More accurate reporting. Universal Analytics offered 30 different standard reports, including Google Ads reports and campaign reports. The new GA4 system offers three standard reports with more accurate and reliable built-in roll-up reporting than Universal Analytics. This means you can now aggregate all of your data and performance metrics in one reporting view and better understand your website and mobile app performance.
- Combined website and mobile management. Another great benefit of GA4 is that it provides a platform for both websites and mobile apps. With Universal Analytics, businesses needed to manage websites through UA and apps through Firebase, but GA4 allows you to manage everything in one place, regardless of your use of iOS or Android apps.
- New debugging capabilities. Through the DebugView report, you can easily monitor your website’s event data and validate your analytics configuration in real time within the reporting interface, an option that UA simply did not offer.
- New data retention capabilities. Perhaps the largest change of all within GA4 is the ability to retain data for a maximum of 14 months, whereas in UA, historical data was available from 2005 onward. To solve this data storage problem, (human)x recommends adopting Google BigQuery as your data storage solution, which comes as a free GA4 connection.
The GA4 simplified data model provides your business with superior tools to track and measure consumer journeys more accurately, and it’s capable of collecting and analyzing larger quantities of data. Google Analytics 4 can also help you build digital marketing funnels, allow you to focus more on consumer engagement than simple scroll and click behaviors, and even help you follow user data privacy regulations through IP anonymization.
(human)x’s Search and Analytics Expertise
While it may feel overwhelming to adjust to the new GA4 metrics and understand the different reporting style, Google Analytics 4 is a more flexible data analytics solution. Just like any system change, GA4 does come with its own set of challenges, and the upcoming deadlines can feel like a drastic time crunch. GA4 users will need to set up data analysis outside the platform, as well as manually export and secure legacy data out of UA before it shuts down. But there is no need to panic. You always have the option of contacting a marketing agency to support your business in this transition. (human)x is an expert in search and analytics, and our team is always here to provide assistance. (human)x’s professional and specialized approach to analytics allows us to help our clients make the transition from UA to GA4 through a fine-tuned, phased approach. If your business needs a partner to help make this marketing analytics transition more efficient and less stressful, contact the (human)x team today!