Google Analytics 4 (GA4) became known to marketers everywhere when Google announced they're turning off their existing platform in July 2023. Since then, GA4 migration lurks as a to-do item, but remains shrouded in mystery.
The July 2023 date is when the Universal Analytics (UA) platform will stop collecting new data. So why worry about it this summer? Migrating your analytics to GA4 soon will ensure you'll have year-over-year comparison data when GA4 becomes your primary analytics platform.
If you've procrastinated, you're not alone. Keep reading for motivation to migrate to GA4 now, even if it won’t be your main analytics tool for months to come.
1) GA4 is a complete makeover
Google has renamed and re-engineered its analytics software several times to keep up with the modern web. UA was released in 2012. The technology behind GA4 has been on the platform in beta since 2019, but the move takes the platform in a very different direction.
…this upgrade is so different, this vehicle is not even on the road anymore. It is a helicopter, and we all need to learn how to fly one!Jill Quick, The Coloring In Department
Two major shifts in the web ecosystem drove the decision to move GA4 to the forefront. The first is the move away from static websites toward single-page and mobile applications. The second is the increasing demand for user privacy. GA4 uses event-driven data and data modeling to overcome these challenges.
The concept of collecting data based on events like clicking, scrolling, and filling out forms isn't new. App analysts have been using this method for years since their products don't count pageviews as the primary metric. GA4 applies the concept to both websites and apps.
Ad blockers and device settings make analytics data based on browser cookies imperfect. GA4 separates high-quality first-party data collected with user consent from all other data. Then it uses it to identify trends and repair problems with the lower-quality data.
2) Serious tools to better understand and reach site visitors
Real data nerds will love the level of detail available for analysis after GA4 migration. Exploration reports (before now only for GA360 subscribers) are now available to everyone. These make it easier to dig into data, analyze users, create custom conversion funnels, and segment audiences.
GA4 replaces "bounces" with "engaged sessions". Analysts know bounce rate has never been very helpful, especially for blog posts. Readers arrive and then bounce, a common activity for a blog post. We've always known that doesn't mean the content wasn't useful or didn't fulfill its purpose.
GA4's "Engaged Session" measures events on the page (scrolling and having a page active for a specified time) as well as clicks to more pages. The new method should paint a better picture for marketers of how people engage with their content on the web.
3) To compare data, you need data
Of course, you don't have to switch to GA4. If you don't, you'll have to ask yourself what tool you'll be using to measure your digital marketing efforts.
Any year-over-year analysis with the platform's new tools and methods requires a year's worth of data. The sooner your team sets up its GA4 property, the sooner you'll have comparison data waiting on the other side of your GA4 migration.
Since the base data is different in UA and GA4, any comparison of activity between them won't be of much value. Installing GA4 on your site and setting up engagement events and conversion events now is critical to track your efforts going forward.
Switching from Classic to Universal Analytics was pretty painless since the underlying measurements were similar. Migrating to GA4, on the other hand, will take some effort to configure, install, and understand. Starting now gives you time to make the change, get familiar, integrate GA4 into your reporting and analysis, and not lose momentum.