Google has always tried to keep older versions of its analytics platform around to give users ample time to upgrade. While that’s still the case as Google Analytics 4 rolls out, there are a few good reasons why someone would want to upgrade sooner rather than later. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of how to prepare for Google Analytics 4 and ease the transition once it’s started.
What Is Google Analytics 4?
Google has recently released the fourth iteration of its Google Analytics product. You may be more familiar with its third iteration by its alternative name, Universal Analytics. GA4 is back to being named simply by version number and brings some new functionality to the aging Universal Analytics that it’s designed to replace.
Why Upgrade To Google Analytics 4?
Over the years, privacy concerns have grown stronger. Most major browsers have phased out the ability to use third-party trackers. GA4 relies exclusively on first-party cookies supplemented by powerful machine-learning algorithms that fill in the gaps. This means that, while Universal Analytics will become less accurate over time, GA4 will still provide useful information.
In order to feed these machine-learning algorithms with the best data, GA4 no longer works by tracking page views. Instead, it works by tracking events. This gives greater control over what’s tracked and allows for enhanced precision in the analytics data.
The new tracking system allows GA4 to integrate directly into media platforms. Users can now avoid data silos by tracking data across a variety of sources, such as websites and apps, in a unified way.
Step By Step On How To Prepare For Google Analytics 4
There have been quite a few changes in the way things are done between the third and fourth versions of the product. In order to properly prepare for Google Analytics 4, website owners need to be aware of these changes and how they’ll impact the process. A rough outline is presented below.
Sign Up for GA4
For those that don’t already have a Google Analytics account, the first step is to sign up for the service. For those that already have a Universal Analytics account tracking data, it must be upgraded to GA4. To do this, log in to the account’s dashboard and select the Universal Analytics property that is to be upgraded. In the property column, select GA4 Upgrade Assistant and follow the prompts.
Update Your Tagging Structure
The first thing that needs to be done when upgrading a website to GA4 is to install a new tracking code. Significant changes to the underlying system mean that entirely new code must be added to the website.
Next, events need to be set up. Because Universal Analytics didn’t have automated event tracking, users will need to take some time to understand what events are and what sort of things they can track. Hits on the tracker can now be organized into various groups, providing much greater flexibility.
The new software also allows for tracking user properties. This includes additional demographic information that can be helpful in segmenting customers and the analytics associated with them.
Update Your Reporting
The next step in preparing for Google Analytics 4 is to update the reporting. The many new changes in GA4 mean that there are new views and dashboards that can be set up and new data that can be tracked. It also means that some of the metrics from the older version are no longer available. Users will need to go in and recreate their reporting dashboard to conform to the new way of doing things.
Understand the Differences in Functionality from Earlier Google Analytics
In Universal Analytics, user controls were used to change how the data is displayed in the dashboard. In order to provide more accurate and consistent results, these changes must now be made using set filters. Instead of controlling how the data looks at display time, set filters impact what happens to the data before it ever reaches the reporting phase.
Some features of Universal Analytics didn’t make it into the new version. Below is a list of some of the key features that were left out, and how they can be replaced within GA4.
- User ID Tracking: In Universal Analytics, the User ID feature allows for tracking a user’s interactions across multiple devices. In GA4, this functionality is replaced by Cross-Device ID.
- Custom Variables: Universal Analytics allowed for the use of custom variables to track specific information about users. In GA4, custom variables are replaced by Custom Dimensions and Metrics.
- Remarketing Audiences: Universal Analytics had a feature for creating remarketing audiences based on specific actions taken by users on a website. In GA4, this functionality is replaced by Audiences.
- Social Interactions: Universal Analytics tracked social interactions as events, which could be used for analysis and reporting. In GA4, this functionality is replaced by Engagement Tracking and Report.
- Session Duration: Universal Analytics tracked session duration as a metric, which could be used to understand how long users spent on a website. In GA4, this metric is replaced by Engagement Time.
More Tools for Your Website
Google Analytics can help you track data across your website and mobile apps. But what if you don’t have a website yet? Washahost offers affordable hosting as well as options to register a domain or purchase one on our marketplace. In addition, you’ll find great information on our blog about marketing topics just like this one that will keep you in the know.