For several years now, Google’s Universal Analytics has been the go-to platform for capturing critical website data such as: website traffic, traffic sources, user engagement, form submission tracking, conversions, and more. In fact, 99% of the websites we’ve launched here at Skyhook over the years have launched with Universal Analytics installed to ensure our clients have the ability to make data-informed marketing plans and website optimizations as they evolve and scale over time.
In March 2022, Google announced the official rollout of Google Analytics 4 – a new platform which will be replacing Universal Analytics completely in July 2023. *cue the sounds of panicked marketers everywhere*
Why, you ask? There are a few reasons for the new approach to analytics tracking:
- As we enter into a cookie-less and more privacy-conscious online world, the way data is tracked needs to change in accordance to account for a growing gap in the data collected as users opt out of sharing their data and privacy best practices change.
- The old data model has essentially become obsolete as we’ve transitioned into a world where goals (conversions) are completely event-based rather than session-based.
How will GA4 differ from Universal Analytics?
Google Analytics 4 comes loaded with new features, naming conventions, and interface….all with the promise to be the future of analytics that will enable marketers to dive deeper into data sans cookies and other tracking elements that will soon be obsolete. Three significant changes are:
- Data Modeling: GA4 introduced a new way to collect data. Rather than leveraging a session-based data model (UA), GA4 is user-based and collects data in the form of events with unique names and additional parameters to describe the event. What’s important to note here is that the default data captured and referenced in Universal Analytics may not be the same type of default data presented by GA4.
- Reporting Interface: With a new platform, comes a different approach to reporting. The upside here is that GA4 is geared toward taking more ownership of our website data and is accompanied by additional reporting flexibility and customization. The downside? There’s a learning curve and significant changes in the reporting mechanisms used in GA4 that your team will need time to adapt to.
- Tracking: Another difference to consider with the release of GA4 is that what GA4 automatically tracks upon basic install is much different than what marketers have been used to on UA. (see list below for reference)
More than just an “update” with GA4 comes an entirely new approach to data modeling and website analytics, including: the use of AI, changes in data retention, enhanced spam detection, et. al.
What do I need to do right now?
Some online business owners may be actively leveraging website analytics to drive critical marketing decisions and site optimizations, and some may not quite be there yet. In either case, being proactive about setting up GA4 now is mission-critical to the future performance of your website and your team’s ability to make data-informed decisions as all historical data will no longer be available come July 2023 (unless you make plans to export using a paid service such a BigQuery).
With that said, we recommend you get started with GA4 now to start building historical data for year-over-year analysis in 2023 (our basic installation). In addition, you will want to ensure your team has time to update business processes, configure new reports, and learn an entirely new platform that will empower you to continue to leverage your high-performing marketing website to the fullest.
Ready to get started with GA4? Here is an overview of the events automatically tracked and included in our basic installation of Google Analytics 4:
Basic Google Analytics 4 installation cost: $500
Give us a call at (480) 814-1900 or fill out the form below to move forward with a basic install of GA4 or to discuss custom GA4 options based on your unique requirements.