May 13, 2022 4 min read

What you need to know about transitioning to Google Analytics 4

Unless you’ve been actively avoiding the branded emails, banner ads and tech community blogosphere chatter, you’re likely aware that Google Analytics 4 is here. And soon, it will be the only option as Google’s Universal Analytics is sunsetting in July of 2023. At that time Universal will still be available, but data will no longer flow into it, which will soon render it obsolete. Standing still isn’t an option, so what does the transition to GA4 mean for you and your web properties?

This is not an upgrade, it’s a transformation

First things first, the change to Google Analytics 4 is not an upgrade from Google’s Universal Analytics. It’s a complete transformation and introduces a brand new way of tracking users across websites and applications.

Why is this happening?

Google Analytics 4 is a big deal because it is the full realization of Google’s slow, but gradual transition from session-based tracking to user-and event-based tracking. The rationale behind this drastic overhaul largely stems from a shift in user behavior as it pertains to privacy–a topic of importance to all. In the past, users automatically (and often unknowingly) granted access to third-party cookies meaning that Google and marketers alike had a rich harvest of insights into website activity. Now, as more web users opt out of sharing data via third-party cookies, Google has instead evolved to collecting “first-party user data” via Chrome browsers and in-app and on-site tracking.

Ok. How is it different?

No longer reliant on tracking different hit types like page hits, event hits, ecommerce hits, and social hits, GA4’s event-based principle captures any and all interaction as an event across all web and app visits. Using machine learning as the primary form of measuring data, modeling extrapolates insights from existing data to make inferences about how users interact with the website. This translates into AI powered insights for your marketing team.

New and improved reports

Though the general dashboard layout will remain largely unchanged, setting up and generating reports will be unfamiliar territory at first. While it may take some adjusting, Google Analytics 4 offers plenty of new and improved user-centric reports to provide you with the insights to help inform decisions about your website. New Customer Lifecycle reports focus on Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retention and Google’s enhanced funnel analysis reports, segment overlap reports, user lifetime reports, and more.

Better cross-device and cross-platform tracking

With GA4, Google leverages its cross-device signal tracking, volumes of Chrome / Google first-party data, along with a single event-tracking schema across websites and applications. This provides businesses with a comprehensive view of user activity across any tracked web properties. It has also been reported that GA4 is much better at deduping users across devices than Universal Analytics and gives a much more accurate user count.

Why should I pay attention now?

The move to Google Analytics 4 is inevitable and, let’s be honest, July of 2023 is not that far away. So yank off the Band-Aid. Remember, Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 can even be run concurrently so you won’t experience an abrupt transition. You can set up Google Analytics 4 now and allow it to begin collecting data immediately, even if you’re not yet ready to use it for your reporting. You will be able to view past UA reports for a while, but new data will only flow into Google Analytics 4 properties. Then when July comes and UA stops being able to process data, that won’t be a problem for you! Why? Because you were smart and set up Google Analytics 4 in the summer of 2022 and already have a year’s worth of data insights ready to be mined.

Easy configuration

Luckily, adding GA4 to your website or application is straightforward. Not to make it sound like a Pinterest one-pot recipe, but there are essentially 6 steps for configuring Google Analytics 4 and Kayle Larkin’s Search Engine Journal post, (specifically the How To Set Up GA4 section) outlines the process out simply and succinctly. But first, if you’re unsure of what version of Google Analytics you have running currently, Google Support has you covered in this helpful article.

So embrace the change! (Or let us embrace it for you!) Bust Out will ensure our clients’ apps and other web properties are correctly set up to capture data withGoogle Analytics 4. And, as always, we’re also here to answer your questions.

Shanita John Director of Operations