Transitioning to GA4: Is that this the Proper Analytics Transfer for Your Workforce?


The creator’s views are solely his or her personal (excluding the unlikely occasion of hypnosis) and should not at all times replicate the views of Moz.

Again in March, Google introduced that the present model of Google Analytics Common (generally often called Common Analytics) might be deprecated as of July 1, 2023, in favor of the brand new model, GA4.

As part of this transition, Google might be dropping help and monitoring for Common Analytics (UA), which has been the usual reporting instrument for tens of millions of internet sites since 2012. In keeping with Google, historic knowledge from Common Analytics might be accessible for “a minimum of six months” after the July 2023 retirement date. Holding it ambiguous, Google provides:

“Within the coming months, we’ll present a future date for when current Common Analytics properties will now not be obtainable. After this future date, you will now not have the ability to see your Common Analytics experiences within the Analytics interface or entry your Common Analytics knowledge through the API.”

Whereas 2023 might look like ample time to organize for this transition, the reality is you might want to verify just a few packing containers sooner slightly than later, particularly if there are necessary year-over-year (YoY) metrics that have to be tracked with out disruption. Briefly order, capturing knowledge for subsequent yr’s YoY metrics implies that what you are promoting might want to take motion earlier than the top of summer season 2022 to make sure:

  • Seamless monitoring

  • YoY reporting (together with entry to historic knowledge) – the complete performance you need/want out of your knowledge and evaluation toolset

  • Your group is ready to make use of the brand new instruments (no matter what new answer you select)

Although Google “strongly encourages” customers to make the transition to GA4 “as quickly as doable”, we’d argue that – given the size of the change and the work/sources it’s going to require to correctly transition to GA4 (as outlined in additional element under), now could be the correct time to tug up and consider your knowledge monitoring stack.

It’s too simple to make assumptions about wants and necessities being met primarily based on “what we’ve at all times used,” and find yourself backed right into a nook.

As an alternative, let’s discover this intimately and consciously choose the correct platform to your wants.

How is that this totally different from the final GA platform change?

The transition from GA Traditional to Common Analytics was easy. All you wanted to do was replace the monitoring code in your web site. Your knowledge was the identical. The interface, metrics, and so forth. – all largely the identical. That is not the case this time round.

How are GA Common and GA4 totally different?

Google made some massive modifications in GA4 that will take time to regulate to. This has many implications, together with massive variations in:

  • the interface for navigating and organising the experiences

  • the bottom expertise/data set wanted for folks utilizing the brand new platform

  • the info set itself (GA Common knowledge shouldn’t be suitable with GA4 knowledge)

  • your capability to entry and use YoY knowledge

  • entry to sure (well-loved) performance, and even some metrics. Some will now not be obtainable OR require an intensive setup to entry.

Briefly, GA4 is sort of actually a re-imagining of how one can observe and measure web site interplay. Very similar to the transition from USB to USB-C, this implies modifications to methods/processes, instruments, expertise/coaching, and doubtlessly your annual price range, to make sure a clean transition.

1. Reimagined reporting interface

Probably the most evident distinction between Common Analytics and GA4 is the reporting interface.

In comparison with Common Analytics, GA4’s interface is extra simplified and streamlined. It’s because among the metrics, views, and experiences you see in Common have both been eliminated or changed.

The up to date interface seems to be very like Google Knowledge Studio in the way in which analytics are introduced. So in case you’re aware of Knowledge Studio, then navigating GA4’s interface could also be extra intuitive for you.

Universal Analytics dashboard.
The Common Analytics reporting dashboard.
The new GA4 dashboard.
The brand new GA4 reporting dashboard.

Nonetheless, altering from what’s identified and regular at all times comes with some stage of ache and processing. Even for many who are well-trained on the earth of Common Analytics, adjusting to a brand new reporting interface will include some confusion – and maybe some roadblocks and resistance.

2. Evolving terminology

When you begin perusing the brand new interface, you will discover that Google has modified among the terminology. “Conduct” is now “Engagement”, “Segments” have change into “Comparisons”, and “Channels” is now “Person Acquisition”. The “All Pages” experiences have been renamed as “Pages and Screens”.

Google has additionally reorganized the “Viewers” experiences, and the knowledge that was within the “Viewers” experiences are actually in different sections, together with “Person” and “Acquisition” sections.

Navigating GA4 will not essentially be a frictionless expertise, particularly for many who are commonly immersed in Common Analytics.

Sidebar menu reorganization.
Entry to experiences have been reorganized and renamed. Examine UA on the left, and GA4 on the correct.
New GA4 exploration feature.
The brand new GA4 exploration function.

3. Up to date measurement fashions

Common Analytics and GA4 use totally different measurement fashions. Whereas UA depends on a session- and pageview-based knowledge mannequin, GA4 stands on an event-based mannequin. With GA4, any interplay could be recorded as an occasion.

The considerably complicated factor about this variation is that, in UA (and all earlier variations of Google Analytics), an occasion has an motion, class, label, and its personal hit sort. However in GA4, there is no such thing as a motion, class, or label.

ALL hits are occasions, and occasions can comprise parameters.

…They don’t need to, although.

For instance, in GA4, you’ll be able to have an occasion known as page_view, and this occasion can comprise parameters: page_title, page_referrer (earlier web page URL), and page_location (present web page URL).

Occasions in GA4 are grouped into 4 classes:

  1. Routinely-collected occasions: You don’t need to manually activate these occasions. GA4 mechanically tracks them while you set up the GA4 base code. Examples embrace first_visit, session_start, and user_engagement.

  2. Enhanced measurement occasions: GA4 additionally collects these occasions mechanically, however you’ll must allow (or disable) enhanced measurement settings in your Knowledge Stream relying in your web site performance. These occasions embrace outbound clicks, scrolls, file downloads, and website searches.

  3. Advisable occasions: These occasions are usually not carried out in GA4, however Google recommends that you simply set them up. If you happen to want an occasion that’s not collected mechanically or shouldn’t be part of the improved measurement occasions, you’ll be able to verify for it in advisable occasions. Examples of advisable occasions embrace sign_up, login, and buy.

  4. Customized occasions: These are occasions which you can create and implement by your self. You need to solely use customized occasions when you might want to observe an occasion which you can’t discover within the first three classes. You’ll want to write down and design customized code to implement the customized occasion you wish to observe. Happily for the much less code-savvy, Google has rolled out a instrument to help in importing customized occasions from Common Analytics to GA4.

Total, this method truly permits extra flexibility and configurability to WHAT is measured in your website.

Nevertheless, with extra flexibility comes extra arrange and forethought, so having a documented measurement plan is HIGHLY advisable for GA4.

4. New BigQuery performance

If you happen to use BigQuery, you then’ll be glad to know that GA4 connects natively to it. With Common Analytics, the one manner customers can export knowledge from GA is thru the enterprise model (GA360). However with GA4, customers can export knowledge at no extra price.

Remember the way in which knowledge is structured in GA4 is totally different from the way it’s structured in Common Analytics. So that you may must remap your GA4 knowledge earlier than you’ll transfer it into BigQuery (we discover this GA3 to GA4 instrument useful in formatting historic knowledge to align with GA4.) As soon as you’ve got finished that, you’ll run SQL queries extra simply.

The BigQuery integration is on the market, so we positively advocate setting it up ASAP. Why? Properly, GA4 solely shops knowledge for a most of 14 months (and default settings are solely two months), so for correct YoY comparisons, you will must depend on this yr’s BigQuery datasets you collect now or endure the losses.

Screenshot with blue arrow pointing to new BigQuery integration.

5. Eliminated performance

Some current options like views, customized metrics, and content material teams will now not be supported. In case your group depends on these current options, adapting to GA4 will possible contain determining how one can fill sure measurement gaps. And if the transition turns into too compromising and painful, remember the fact that there are options.

As you’ve got possible gathered, shifting from GA Common to GA4 shouldn’t be a lightweight endeavor. Between adapting to GA4’s new reporting and measurement fashions and studying its revised labeling and terminology, it is going to be a heavy transition it doesn’t matter what your scenario entails. Consequently, now could be the time to confirm that the result of all this work will in actual fact meet your wants.

What does this imply for you and your organization?

All customers of Common Analytics (that is near… nicely, everybody, actually), might want to begin planning for the way and the place to proceed measuring your web site efficiency.

You may additionally must take motion to save lots of your knowledge for 1) posterity and a couple of) YoY reporting, on condition that the info set is NOT suitable, nor might be obtainable to you (in case you do not take steps to protect it). AKA: we additionally must plan for when this must occur.

When it comes to the how and the place, finally, there are three major choices (4 in case your group takes a hybrid method of mixing choices 2 and three), every of which is printed under.

1. Undertake GA4 and replace any present measurement packages

The primary choice is the massive one on most individuals’s minds. That’s, opting to make use of GA4 and taking the correct steps to protect knowledge integrity and seamless measurement.

If you happen to decide that GA4 is the correct match, the most important packing containers to verify contain figuring out measurement gaps and revising KPIs (or measurement protocols) to fill these gaps. You may additionally want to begin amassing knowledge (now) for later YoY reporting wants, in addition to guaranteeing your group is up-to-speed on the brand new GA4 interface.

Provided that the interface in GA4 is significantly totally different from the interface in Common, any groups at present utilizing the latter will possible require extra time and coaching to adapt to the brand new construction.

2. Transfer to a special hosted analytics platform

Resulting from among the recognized gaps, we’re exploring choices for each free and paid options to GA4 for our personal group. Among the many free analytics instruments price contemplating are Readability, Clicky, and Mixpanel. Whereas the free variations of those instruments are nice, some provide upgradeable paid choices for extra strong capability/capabilities.

Some companies might discover that their necessities are higher met by shifting to paid instruments or premium variations of sure analytics merchandise. Of these price exploring are Matomo, Adobe Analytics, Heap, Kissmetrics, Heap, and Woopra. The latter two provide free plans however, in our expertise, they’re extremely restricted.

Take into account that not all of those analytics instruments provide the identical stage of utility and options, and don’t neglect about privateness and safety to help GDPR and CCPA rules, a rising concern for a lot of manufacturers.

Whereas any new instrument would require onboarding, lots of them provide coaching as a part of the shopper onboarding course of. Most of those analytics choices additionally provide a free trial, so you’ll be able to vet a platform hands-on earlier than committing to it.

3. Implement an on-premise/first-party knowledge monitoring answer (enterprise answer)

On-premise/first-party enterprise options can ship higher utility, privateness, and compliance, relying on how they’re leveraged. Platforms like Matomo and Countly do provide on-premise implementation, which means that your organization would personal ALL of the consumer knowledge, as a substitute of being handed via to Google Analytics (or another third celebration).

If in case you have different owned digital platforms, coupling an on-premise analytics suite with options like Looker (owned by Google!) or PowerBI can help you entry knowledge throughout totally different groups and properties simply.

Please word that the implementation of this method requires pretty heavy dev/engineering collaboration.

How must you consider different analytics instrument units?

When exploring different analytics choices, there are various necessary issues you’ll wish to consider. Listed here are a number of key elements to assist get you began:

  • Knowledge possession: Who truly owns the info? This generally is a a lot bigger dialog for corporations in regulated industries the place extra than simply advertising and marketing stakeholders are concerned.

  • Privateness considerations: Greater than knowledge possession, the place is the analytics knowledge being hosted? This implies the bodily location of the servers the place this knowledge is saved. If you happen to require GDPR-compliance, that is important to know—and get proper.

  • Accessibility: Will you’ve entry to uncooked knowledge? How lengthy is knowledge retained? Some analytics platforms will differ.

  • Native reporting: What kind of native reporting capabilities are there, and does the platform combine into your organization’s most well-liked reporting instruments (e.g. Google Knowledge Studio, Tableau, PowerBI, and so forth.)?

  • Attribution modeling: How are sure occasions like conversions decided and assigned throughout consumer touchpoints and channels? Does their mannequin align together with your attribution definitions? Take into consideration final contact, first contact, and so forth., throughout the complete consumer journey.

  • Occasion & transactions monitoring: What out-of-the-box occasion monitoring is on the market? How do you add consumer ID monitoring, and is it nonetheless safe and compliant? E-commerce shops and affiliate entrepreneurs might have distinctive challenges right here, particularly in relation to speaking together with your net platform, e.g. Shopify.

  • Marketing campaign monitoring: How does the system report on customized marketing campaign metrics? These embrace issues like UTMs and monitoring URLs you get from the assorted advert platforms you might use.

  • Customized monitoring: Is customized monitoring an choice? Does the platform present their very own tag supervisor, or can you employ the tried-and-true Google Tag Supervisor (that’s in all probability already put in in your web site)? Are there server-side monitoring choices?

  • Cross-domain monitoring: Is the analytics platform able to monitoring consumer exercise throughout a couple of area that you simply personal?

  • Knowledge importing: Are you able to import your outdated Google Analytics knowledge, seamlessly or in any other case?

  • Price: Extra than simply ongoing month-to-month/annual charges to make use of the platform, what set-up charges, implementation prices, and ongoing upkeep efforts are required of you and your group?

There’s clearly so much to contemplate when weighing varied analytics options. The thought-starters above provide among the most necessary issues to bear in mind. However deciding which knowledge options will verify essentially the most pertinent packing containers for what you are promoting generally is a time-consuming endeavor in and of itself. To assist make this vetting course of a bit simpler, you’ll be able to make a replica of this Google Sheet template: Knowledge Resolution Possibility Vetting, which already lists a number of options.

When must you make the transition from Common Analytics to GA4?

Within the case that you simply and your group determine to make the transition to GA4, you will must get your geese in a row ahead of later. The summer season of 2023 might look like ample time to organize, however your group ought to begin to take immediate motion in:

  • deciding on a measurement answer,

  • preserving historic knowledge, and

  • doubtlessly implementing this answer previous to the top of summer season 2022, and definitely previous to yr’s finish.

“Probably” as a result of some options – #3 from above – will merely require extra time to implement.

Your knowledge is secure for now: Google won’t be eradicating/deleting your Common knowledge till the top of 2023. Nevertheless, to reiterate, if you wish to protect your capability to do YoY reporting, it is best to take motion sooner versus later.

There are some paid options to help this course of, however nobody is actually main the pack on this one but. This instrument talked about above could be useful, nonetheless, an entire knowledge export remains to be a vital heavy raise.

For now, you’ll be able to definitely export any of your favourite Google Analytics experiences to Excel or Google Sheets utilizing the Export operate inside the Google Analytics interface. At present, solely GA 360 customers have seamless choices for exporting their Google Analytics Common knowledge.

Shifting ahead

Whereas many present Common Analytics customers will naturally default to GA4, hopefully by now, you are nicely attuned to your choices. It is one factor to observe the herd, but it surely’s one other factor to know the options and limitations of GA4, in addition to different analytics platforms, and the way these issues align together with your wants and doubtlessly these of your purchasers.


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