Contrary to some popular beliefs, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is an entirely new product in the Google Workspace Suite. GA4 will be replacing the outgoing Universal Analytics product—commonly referred to as 'UA'—or GA360. It’s important to note that both of those will be deprecated in 2023 (July for UA accounts and October for GA360 accounts). This means that after this time, any older tags implemented for those Google Analytics products will no longer function and collect any data.
Existing Google Analytics tags will need to be updated to the new GA4 tags to continue collecting and transmitting data after July and October of 2023. Currently, it is not necessary to update and replace the existing tags to the new tags. In fact, our recommended approach would be to add a GA4 tag to your existing Analytics tab, in addition to any existing UA or GA360 tags. This will enable overlap in data tracking, and, more importantly, will provide critical context by comparing the data being collected with the new GA4 tags vs. any legacy tag implmentation. This way, when the date enforced cut-over takes place, you will be in a better position to monitor and track a "before and after" consideration proactively. This enables an understanding of what the GA4 dashboard and metrics will be providing on a regular basis—while avoiding any blindspots for legacy tracking—as long as both products continue to be active and supported by Google.The Marketing Team
GA4 uses an entirely different data model from the previous Universal Analytics model. This means the way that you will digest this information needs to be thought of differently before translating the real-world performance indicators to your stakeholders. Given our recommended approach listed above, the overlap should allow your team adequate time to compare current metrics to the new metric categories in GA4. Check out ‘Top Tracking Metrics’ later in this blog for more information comparing legacy vs. new.
The biggest difference between existing analytics and GA4 is the data model. It is a philosophical shift in how data is being collected, stored and presented, evolving towards the future of data collection. Everything in GA4 is now ‘event’ driven versus the previously used ‘session’ based data. Previously, Analytics was divided between both web properties (traditional Google Analytics) and Analytics for Firebase (to specifically cater to App needs). GA4 seeks to set its owners up with flexible—yet more powerful—analytics capabilities within the parameters of cookie-less tracking and consent management, spanning across both Web-based and native Mobile applications.
Setting it up is easier than you think, especially if you are already using the current Universal Analytics (UA) tags. When you login to GA, you will see a notification that indicates GA4 is available. You can click on that link, or navigate to your Admin Settings. From there, go to Property Settings and look for the ‘Upgrade to GA4’ link. Simply click ‘Get Started’ to begin the setup process. At this point, the setup assistant will help walk you through the different variables and options to implement the new tracking. Some accounts will have additional variations or restrictions, all dependent upon the complexity and sophistication of prior configurations and analytics tracking. If you need help setting up or upgrading to a GA4 account, feel free to reach out to us for assistance.
If you feel like Google Analytics can be overwhelming or too complex to easily grasp, you are not alone. To help you better understand what you will be looking at, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the most foundational and worthwhile metrics to consider (in no particular order).
If you’re interested in learning more about GA4, specific metrics, dashboard layouts or specific GA4 reports for your website, we're always more than happy to help, just send us a a note and we'll be in touch!