Director, Content Marketing
Back in October 2020, Google unwrapped a new version of their analytics software called Google Analytics 4. Google describes this new-and-improved tool as “a next-generation approach to ‘privacy-first’ tracking, x-channel measurement and predictive data-based AI.”
Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of the web-traffic tracking tool you know — with some notable changes. But it isn’t just an upgrade from Universal Analytics. It’s actually an entirely different version.
If you’re like most people, change isn’t something that brings you joy. The last thing you want is to make the switch without all the details. Going into this change half-heartedly might even make you want to back-step and change back from Google Analytics 4 to Universal Analytics.
With a little planning, the switch to Google Analytics 4 can go smoothly. We’re sharing all the tips to help you prepare and navigate the change with as little stress as possible.
Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4: What’s the difference?
Both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 help measure your website traffic and enable you to capture important information about the customer journey.
One of the main differences between the two is the measurement model they use:
- Universal Analytics uses a measurement model based on page views and sessions.
- Google Analytics 4 uses a measurement model based on parameters and events.
Google Analytics 4 creates a single-user journey from all your data, providing you with lots of incredibly valuable information. Alternatively, Universal Analytics is focused on the outdated belief that page views are the most critical metric to track.
GA4 was created with the concept that page views by themselves don’t really give you enough data. As a result, GA4 already has events like video plays and button clicks built-in — no extra customization required — making it more beginner-friendly than its predecessor.
It’s easy to view metrics like YouTube engagement conversions in GA4
Plus, GA4 merges app and web data into one place, making it much easier to get a look at your data across all platforms. It also simplifies reports, and labels all events that contribute to your business goals as conversions.
In keeping true to Google’s latest privacy-centric changes, GA4 no longer stores IP addresses and doesn’t rely exclusively on cookies. This shouldn’t be a surprise since the prioritization of first-party data has been something we’ve all known about for a while.
Why you should move away from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4
These differences may not seem too significant, but they’re bigger than you think. There are several reasons to make the switch sooner rather than later.
- Google will stop supporting UA in July 2023. One of the biggest reasons to make the switch is that Google will stop supporting Universal Analytics in July 2023. Don’t wait until the last minute to swap over. Navigating any version of analytics without updates and support isn’t advisable.
- It’s a substantial change. While they might seem like just minor changes, the change from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is major. It will take a bit of learning to understand the new tool. The sooner you start learning, the better off you’ll be.
- It’s more beginner-friendly. Thankfully, many of the most important metrics are available out-of-the-box, so you won’t have to spend a lot of time setting them up. A more beginner-friendly interface is a terrific reason to make the switch.
- Comprehensive customer journey. Universal Analytics left a lot of holes in the customer journey. You could see page views and clicks and a couple of different conversions, but a lot of the customer journey was missing. Google Analytics 4 aims to eliminate those gaps and provide a more complete picture of the entire customer journey.
- It prioritizes privacy. Third-party data is dead and consumers value their privacy. Companies need to start using tools that honor this desire. As Copper CMO Carrie Shaw has noted, GA4 does this well. It was built with today’s privacy-conscious consumer in mind.
- No more data silos. One of the big takeaways with this new tool is that you get all your data in one place. Whether it’s information about website visitors or application users, you get a birds-eye-view of all your data with Google Analytics 4.
- AI Predictions. GA4 also uses artificial intelligence to predict outcomes, so you’re better able to anticipate actions your customers might take.
The new churn probability report in GA4 provides valuable insights
How to switch to Google Analytics 4: 7 steps to take before making the switch
Before you make the switch over to GA4, there are a few things you need to do:
- Make a migration plan. This won’t be a one-day ordeal, so it’s essential to have a plan in place to get the migration done. When planning, make sure to create a team that will be responsible for the switch.
- Spend some time learning. Google has a lot of resources available to help you learn how to use the new tool. Don’t jump in blind. Take some time to educate yourself on how GA4 works.
- Create a GA4 property while keeping your UA active. Once you have a plan and have done some learning, go ahead and create a new GA4 account. This will allow you to access the new platform and see it in action.
- Compare metrics. Once your GA4 has been running for about a month, compare the GA4 metrics with your UA metrics to better understand what has changed.
- Choose new KPIs. After you understand the metrics, it’s important to develop KPIs around the new metrics or find ways to set up the data points that matter in GA4.
- Set up must-have data points and reports. Take some time to identify your most important data points in UA and learn how to create those same data points in GA4. Then, take some time creating your most important reports in GA4.
- Establish a “move by” date. Most likely, your migration will take a few months to complete. Try to do it in stages — but be sure to set a hard date when you want the full migration to be finished. Then, do everything you need to do to be completely switched over by that date. You don’t want to be partially moved over and still wondering how to change from Google Analytics 4 to Universal Analytics.
It’s time to switch… Stop looking for ways to change Google Analytics 4 to Universal Analytics
Like it or not, there’s a new analytics platform, and it’s bringing a lot of new features and changes to the Universal Analytics tool. Thankfully, if you take the time to prepare, this change will give you a more complete picture of the customer journey while keeping consumer privacy in mind.
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