There have been some big changes to how data is collected and processed in recent months. Privacy concerns have led to websites needing to require user cookie consent in order to collect data and there has been a need for cross-platform tracking due to changes in browsing habits.
This is why Google has introduced Google Analytics 4. In this post, we’re going to talk you through Google Analytics 4 and how and why you should get it set up as soon as possible!
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4, or GA4, is the most recent version of Google Analytics (GA). For those of you who are unfamiliar with Google Analytics, this is a platform that can be used to understand how users get to your website and what they do whilst there. It is well worth having if you have a website!
Anyway, back to GA4. Google introduced this version of GA to ‘future-proof’ data analytics. Unlike previous versions of GA, GA4 operates across platforms, so data can be tracked from websites to apps and vice versa. This is vital for the future of analytics as users’ browsing habits have changed so much in recent years.
Another reason GA4 has been introduced is due to GDPR. Nowadays, websites require users to consent to cookies to track what happens on those websites. With more and more people rejecting the cookie consent message, session-based analytics doesn’t really work. GA4 reduces the reliance on cookies and uses an event-based model to track users’ behaviour.
In Lehman’s terms, GA4 is necessary to track data with all of the updates happening around user privacy and changing browsing habits. Whilst previous versions of GA, such as Universal Analytics (UA), do everything we need them to now, this won’t be the case in years to come.
GA4 is becoming the default
GA4 was released in October 2020, but recently Google announced that GA4 would be taking over from all other GA profiles from July 2023. Although this is a year away, it is really important to get a GA4 account up and running so it starts tracking data. By setting up your GA4 account now, you’ll be able to see year-on-year data from when it becomes the compulsory analytics version.
Both GA4 and your existing UA accounts can run side by side, so there’s no harm in setting up GA4 as soon as you can. Both GA versions will continue to track data, so it can provide a good comparison. Plus, it gives you time to learn the new interface and work out which features are beneficial for you and your business to look at.
Say goodbye to UA
From 1st July 2023, Universal Analytics properties will stop tracking data, and GA4 will be our only option. This is why it is good to set up now to start the data collection and to familiarise yourself with the interface.
You’ll have 6 months after UA stops to export your data. We highly recommend you download any data that is important to you into an excel sheet. For example, you may want to look back at daily sales from 2018. We will no longer be able to access this once our UA profile has been removed, so exporting this data is super important.
How to set up GA4
If you already have a Google Analytics account, you should see an option at the top of the page alerting you to the changes we’ve mentioned in this post. You can easily set up a GA4 property by clicking ‘Let’s Go’. This will take you through a few simple steps in order to get your account up and running.
If you can’t see this option, you can go to the ‘GA4 Setup Assistant’ on the admin page. This will take you through the same steps above.
If you don’t currently have a Google Analytics account, we recommend that you get one set up. This process is a bit more manual and requires some code to be added to your website. The easiest way to do this is by setting up Google Tag Manager. There are a lot of helpful videos talking you through this process, but if you need any further support, 505 Digital can help!
To summarise, we need to start thinking about GA4 now! We strongly recommend setting up your GA4 profile as soon as you can and running it alongside any current analytics profiles you have set up.
Take some time over the next 12 months to familiarise yourself with the interface. It is quite different from previous GA accounts, so it’s going to take some getting used to. But, it’s here to stay, so get set up early and take your time learning it!