What to Know When Making the Transition to GA4
Last Updated on June 3, 2022
By now, if you have recently signed into your Universal Analytics account, you have seen and closed that notification about the transition to GA4 and the sunsetting of Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023. As your partner, we’ve prepared some actionable steps on how to make the switch and what to expect with the new analytics software.
What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and how does it differ from Universal Analytics?
Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of the Google Analytics website tracking tool. There are a number of differences between the two, but the biggest difference is the reporting model.
In Universal Analytics, measurement is based on sessions and pageviews. In GA4, measurement is based on events and specific parameters. In this new model, every pageview is considered an event. A user can now collect more information about site traffic than with Universal Analytics.
Other differences include:
- The overall interface
- Available reports: A number of common reports have been moved and given different names.
- Ex: The ‘All Pages’ report is now called Pages and Screens
- Simplified navigation
See more differences here.
What will happen to my old Universal Analytics Data?
The looming deadline of July 1, 2023, is when Universal Analytics will stop collecting data. By this date, anyone using Google Analytics should have made the transition to GA4 or at least have the new GA4 property installed on their site and collecting data.
Being able to compare old data to current results is an important function of understanding your site performance and digital marketing. It is important to note that GA4 will not be able to transfer data from Universal Analytics.
December 31, 2023, is the next important date. This is the last date in which Google guarantees your Universal Analytics data will be available, although a firm date for fully retiring the platform and removing the data has not been set. According to Google, users will have ‘at least 6 months’ to export historical data making this the last day you will be guaranteed to have access to Universal Analytics data before the platform goes offline. Between July 1 and December 31, 2023, it is important to decide what (if any) Universal Analytics data you would like to keep and what reports to download.
Install GA4 on your site ASAP while leaving Universal Analytics in place. This will allow time to work out any challenges in calibrating and analyzing your data.
What Data Should I Download and How?
Universal Analytics captures a mountain of data. Below is a list of reports that are universally helpful across organizations and should be kept for historical reference:
- All Pages: This will show data on pages visited and which parts of the site get the most attention from users.
- Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
- Landing Pages – Good for determining your most-trafficked pages for organic and referral traffic. This report only shows data on the page a user started on.
- Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages
- Top Events – Shows goal completions and events defined in Google Analytics
- Behavior > Events > Top Events
- Source / Medium – This shows the different ways a person came to the site.
- Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium
As with most things, every organization is different, so if there are important pages not listed in the list above, make sure to download those as well for future reference.
Looking Forward to the Transition to GA4
The switch from Universal Analytics to GA4 is not all doom and gloom, there are notable perks.
- Spam Prevention: In the past, there was a setting that could be enabled to exclude hits from known bots and spiders, but users often had to manually add more filters to exclude this spam traffic. One of the best new features is the more robust spam prevention, blocking those bots and spider visits automatically.
- Highly customizable reports: This new free connection allows users to run queries on their Analytics data, create customizable reports, and filter through large data sets more easily thanks to a free connection to BigQuery.
- Engaged users: This is a standard event – an event within GA4 that is tracked by default and doesn’t need to be set up by a user. With this new event, users can quickly filter out sessions that lasted less than 10 seconds, therefore delivering more actionable insights on how the site is being used by people who are staying on the site.
In summary, here are the key takeaways about the switch from Universal Analytics to GA4:
- Universal Analytics will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023, so you should have GA4 in place by this date.
- Universal Analytics data can go away at any point after December 31, 2023. Collect the data you want to keep before this date to be on the safe side.
- Universal Analytics data is collected and measured differently than in GA4, therefore it can’t be imported to the new platform.
- There will be a new dashboard layout in GA4, and this will take some getting used to. But, there are many great benefits to GA4 that should not be overlooked.
If you are looking for an expert team to help with the GA4 transition or any other digital needs, USDP is here to help!