On March 16, 2022, Google announced the long-expected retirement of Universal Analytics (UA), which most people know as Google Analytics. Don’t worry – there’s still time to make the switch! July 1, 2023 is the official last day UA will collect any new data. After that, existing UA data will only be available to view through January 1, 2024.
With that in mind, we recommend having the new Google Analytics 4 script in place by July 1, 2022. This way, businesses will have enough lookback data to do year-over-year comparisons.
What is Google Analytics 4 and How is it Different From UA?
GA4, or Google Analytics 4, is the fourth iteration of Google Analytics. The current UA was first introduced in 2012. In the decade since, the Internet has obviously changed a lot. One of the big calls for GA4 came from the prevalence of online privacy laws (e.g. GDPR/CCPA) and cross-device tracking concerns. Unlike UA which takes advantage of third-party cookies that track users across all of their Internet usage, GA4 only utilizes first-party cookies; this means, GA4 will only pull data that is collected from their own pixel on your website.
Do Businesses Have to Completely Switch Over to GA4 Now?
In short, no. It’s completely understandable for users to rely on the interface of UA to analyze data for the time being. However, businesses should prioritize getting GA4 completely set up on their websites, so they can start collecting invaluable historical data.
If you already have GA4 implemented, great! But, have you set up events, conversions and dashboards? These are all important steps in the set-up process that will make your life much easier when it comes time to make the official switch over to GA4. Check out our implementation guide below to ensure you have your website covered.
So, How Does Implementation Work?
This process is easy with GTM by using the GA4 Configuration tag type and having your GA4 Measurement ID on hand.
How to Set Up GA4 Configuration in Google Tag Manager
Once you link GA4 to your website, congratulations! You are now collecting data. The best way to analyze that data is to set up basic events and conversions.
Events are basically any action users take on your website outside of pageviews. This may include button clicks, outbound clicks, downloads, video plays, form submission, etc. Setting up events can help you answer specific questions you might have about how people use your site.
Conversions are events that you define as most valuable to your business. These could be proposal requests, contact us pages, application submissions or any KPIs you would consider the goal of your business.
Basic events and conversions are similarly easy to set up with a tag manager. You can use the built-in events through the GA4 Configure section and/or define your own custom events via GTM. Once you’ve created your events and started collecting data, you can simply flip a switch in GA4 Configure to turn any event into a conversion and track your most important KPIs across dashboards.
GA4 Configure Section
If your website has e-commerce, this is a much more demanding set up. While for many, tracking e-commerce in UA was a simple set up through Enhanced Ecommerce, GA4 will require some development knowledge and guidance from Google.
The e-commerce purchase funnel (product view, add to cart, check out, etc.) will request specific criteria such as product names and values to be met. You’ll need to refer to your site’s data layer for the appropriate nomenclature. The below guides can help facilitate these requirements.
Google Ecommerce Event Requirements: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/10119380?hl=en
Enhanced Ecommerce to GA4 Guide:
Navigating Interface Changes
After getting the GA4 Configuration tag placed, you can now begin to explore the new analytics interface and dashboard. It does take some time to get the hang of GA4, so we recommend trying to navigate to your most-used reports in both UA and GA4 in order to familiarize yourself. You’ll find that you can access some of the most common information within the pre-built reports. These include: Realtime, Monetization, Traffic acquisition, Events, and Pages and screens. These are great for a quick performance snapshot and may be all you need.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the pre-build reports or need more options for secondary dimensions, you’ll most likely need to use the Explore section to build a custom report.
GA4 Reports Section
The Free Form report is probably what many people are most familiar with, similar to the table format in UA. You can build this report out using drag-and-drop by adding in any number of segments, dimensions, metrics and filters.
GA4 Free Form Report Interface
The new G4 does take some time to get used to and there’s a good chance that there will be some frustration during the onboarding process. However, if you set yourself up for success ahead of time as we recommend, you have nothing to worry about.
Ultimately, now is the time to get your basics in place. Make sure to get the GA4 Configuration tag placed and identify your business’ most important conversions. Then, take your time over the next year to get up to speed on using GA4. The last thing we want is to hit the panic button in July 2023 when data collection stops in UA. Therefore, let’s start the planning now!