Like it or not, Google Analytics as we know it is going away and GA4 will rule in 2023.
While it’s tempting to put that off as a problem for next year, you’ll be better off if you get ready for Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible. This post looks at what to expect and how to prepare for the update.
What is GA4 and Why Are Analytics Changing?
Google Analytics 4 is the new version of Google’s popular web analytics tool. The current version, Universal Analytics, will retire, and all users will have to switch.
The current version of Google Analytics wasn’t designed for today’s internet, especially where it concerned visitors’ privacy.
Web browsing looks a lot different today. People use multiple platforms and devices. Legal regulations and consumer preferences have changed expectations of privacy. Google claims GA4 is better suited to collect and analyze data for the modern internet.
When is Google Analytics Changing?
Universal Analytics, the current version your site probably uses, will stop processing new data on July 1, 2023. You must have Google Analytics 4 in place by then to continue tracking your web stats.
Large enterprises using Universal Analytics 360 have an additional three months of leeway to make the switch. The 360 version will stop processing new hits on Oct. 1, 2023. Most sites aren’t using this version and should prepare to switch by July.
What Does GA4 Offer?
Universal Analytics did a great job tracking what a visitor did in a single session on your website. But most customers have a more complex buyer’s journey than that. GA4 tries to fill in the gaps and clearly show how customers interact with your brand across multiple platforms and devices.
For example, it would analyze buyer journeys that include searching on the desktop but ultimately making a purchase inside your mobile app.
It also includes machine learning to include predictive analytics that show how likely other customers are to follow the same buying journey.
Benefits of GA 4 include:
- Data-Driven Attribution. It assigns attribution to more customer touchpoints instead of just attributing a conversion or pageview to the last click. You can use this data to better understand what marketing efforts are driving results and export and apply that analysis inside Google Ads.
- Event-Based Tracking. Its measurement model is not fragmented by platform or sessions. Track events across the entire lifecycle, no matter which device the customer uses.
- More Privacy Controls. It gives you greater control of protecting your user’s privacy and still getting the insights you need.
- Pattern Identification. It analyzes your data to note trends and patterns so you can respond in real time.
How to Prepare for the Switch
Switching to Google Analytics 4 is more complex than flipping a switch. Google’s official guide on switching to Google Analytics 4 highlights 12 steps you should take to transition. Some of the steps are optional, and in general, the guide is a bit intimidating if this is your first time reading about the changes.
Prepare for the Switch in 4 Steps
For a more beginner-friendly approach to making the switch, follow these steps.
- Set Up Your GA 4 Property. Things will make more sense once you get an idea of what the platform looks like. Start by creating a GA4 property in your Google Analytics Account. Follow the instructions in this help article for setting up GA4 tracking for a site that uses Universal Analytics.
- Use Both Simultaneously. You can use the current version of Google Analytics until July 2023. Run both so you can start to compare the differences between how the old and new versions work.
- Identify Reporting Differences and Gaps. Run both versions of analytics simultaneously for a few weeks and compare the different reports. Make a note of what’s missing. GA4 tracks some basic data by default, but some interactions require setting up a custom event to track and measure.
- Add Additional Tagging. Once you know what events are missing from the default tracking, follow the instructions in this guide for setting up custom events in GA4.
What Happens to My Historical Data in Google Analytics?
One of the most vital ways to prepare is to export all your historical data from the current version of Google Analytics. Google says Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023, but you will still be able to access your historical data for at least six months. The exact date has not been announced yet, but at that point, you’ll no longer be able to see your analytics reports or access your data via the analytics API.
Export and save your reports now, so you’re not caught by surprise when they go away.
Your Partner for Building a Better Internet
Change is difficult, but new tools and features often lead to better websites and more profitable businesses. At Pressable, we’ve got your back. In addition to offering easy-to-use and lightning-fast managed WordPress hosting, we regularly publish helpful posts like these to keep you in the know about how to build websites and grow your business.
It’s not just Google Analytics that’s changing. WordPress is changing too. With the latest releases and Gutenberg updates, creating content in WordPress looks a lot different than it used to. For help with that, download and read our e-book on Full-Site Editing.
Jessica serves as the Director of Operations for Pressable and spends her days focused on creating the best managed WordPress hosting experience possible. She's been using WordPress since 2008 and has been serving in WordPress-focused roles since 2010. When she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, serving in her community, watching hilarious dog videos online, or brewing a pitcher of iced tea.