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As the sun sets on Universal Analytics (UA), many businesses and digital analysts are preparing to make the inevitable switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). With the deadline of July 1, 2024, fast approaching, it’s crucial to understand what this transition entails and how it can affect your data analytics strategy. This blog post delves into the essential details and offers guidance on navigating this significant change.

Understanding the Shift from UA to GA4

What’s Happening?

Google has announced that all Universal Analytics services will be discontinued on July 1, 2024. From this date, UA properties will no longer be accessible via the Google Analytics interface or its APIs. This move is part of Google’s broader effort to streamline analytics through the more versatile and privacy-focused GA4.

Why the Change?

GA4 represents a shift towards a more user-centric way of tracking, combining data from both websites and apps to provide a comprehensive view of the customer journey. This is a departure from UA’s session-based data model, focusing more on event-based data, which allows for better integration of machine learning and predictive analytics.

This does not mean that you will be able to see who is visiting your website without them filling out a form. I discussed this in a recent article called “Unlock the Secrets of Your Website Traffic.” Google and a handful of others still control the data supply. This is one of the reasons why you should consider this an ideal time to switch to a different analytics reporting platform like Independent Analytics. If you do want to continue using Google Analytics, then this article is a must read.

Key Differences Between UA and GA4

  1. Data Model:
    • UA: Session-based, which can be limiting in terms of understanding user interactions in-depth.
    • GA4: Event-based with no limits on data volume, offering a more nuanced view of user behavior.
  2. Privacy and Compliance:
    • GA4 is designed to be more adaptable to privacy regulations like GDPR, making it a safer choice for businesses concerned about compliance.
  3. Reporting and Metrics:
    • GA4 offers more customizable and predictive reporting features compared to UA, which can enhance data-driven decision-making.

Preparing for the Transition

Step-by-Step Guide to Switching to GA4
  1. Set Up Your GA4 Property: Begin by creating a new GA4 property alongside your existing UA property. This will ensure that you don’t lose historical data and can compare functionality.
  2. Data Import and Integration:
    • Utilize Google’s setup assistant to help integrate existing UA data into your GA4 property.
    • Consider manual adjustments to ensure all relevant events and parameters are tracked.
  3. Understand the New Features:
    • Spend time familiarizing yourself with GA4’s interface and features. The new analytics model focuses more on user engagement, which might require a shift in how you interpret data.
  4. Update Your Tags:
    • Update any tracking tags on your site or app to the GA4 configuration to start collecting new data.
  5. Training and Resources:
    • Google offers various resources and training modules to help users get accustomed to GA4. Make use of these to ease your transition.

What this means to you

The move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is more than just a technical upgrade—it is a significant shift towards understanding and leveraging customer data more effectively in the age of privacy. By preparing adequately for this change, businesses can ensure that they continue to gain insightful and actionable analytics to drive their operations forward.

FAQs

Q: Can I still use Universal Analytics after July 1, 2024?
A: No, Universal Analytics properties will not be accessible after this date. It’s important to transition to GA4 to continue tracking data.

Q: Is GA4 compliant with GDPR?
A: Yes, GA4 has been designed with privacy and compliance in mind, offering more robust options to handle data in accordance with GDPR.

Q: What are the main benefits of switching to GA4?
A: GA4 offers a more detailed view of your users’ activities across platforms, better privacy controls, and predictive insights that can improve your marketing strategies.

Q: How does Google Analytics compare to Independent Analytics solutions? A: Independent Analytics platforms often provide more flexibility and data ownership than Google’s solutions. They can be particularly attractive for businesses looking for specific customization options or those concerned about data privacy beyond GDPR compliance. These platforms might offer enhanced security features and avoid potential data sharing with advertisers, which is a common concern with major analytics providers like Google. Choosing Independent Analytics could be a better option for those prioritizing stringent privacy controls and bespoke functionality.