• Datitude

GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4: TIME TO MOTOR. IT'S HERE TO STAY!

You may have heard a few grumbles about Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Maybe it didn’t get off to a good start when it launched back in 2020, but it’s been developed since then and, like it or not, it’s here to stay. For sure, it’s different and it's more than an upgrade, but there's lots to love with some great new features.

We've written this blog to address some of these issues, starting with a summary of GA4, why there's an urgency for businesses still using Univeral Analytics (UA) to migrate to GA4, or at least get tracking in place, and the main differences to Universal Analytics.


Google Analytics 4 icon and logo

GA4 is different to UA in many ways and you'll need time to set up and configure it to your requirements. But do bite the bullet and configure GA4 alongside your existing UA account. You can then review your data collection and analytics, assess the differences, and adapt accordingly.


What is Google Analytics 4?

GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics, Google’s web analytics platform for measuring traffic performance and engagement across websites and apps.


It’s been designed in response to major shifts in consumer behaviour and data privacy and is intended to optimise campaign performance and drive greater marketing by:

  • focusing on privacy and future durability, whether that's with or without cookies and identifiers

  • using machine learning to unearth greater intelligence about the customer journey across platforms and devices

  • enhancing and providing seamless integrations with Google's advertising platforms.


What’s the Urgency?

Alarm Clock Image

Yes, there's some urgency! Google is sunsetting Universal Analytics on 1st July 2023 (1st October 2023 for UA 360 customers).


It means tracking will be switched off and no new hits processed from this date. New data will only flow into GA4 properties providing you’ve deployed the new version onto your website(s) and/or app(s). In addition, access to historic data in UA will be finite – currently slated as “for at least six months”.


If you're one of the many still to make the switch, now's the time to get GA4 tracking in place to retain access to historical data and comparisons of year-on-year performance when UA is sunsetted.


Even if you don’t need the data history, GA4 is a big change to UA, particularly for a generation of marketers who've been brought up on UA. Make sure you allocate the time and resources to truly understand the implications and establish your specific setup, configuration, and training requirements.


Our advice for a smooth transition is to start taking the necessary steps now - as a minimum, add GA4 to your site(s) alongside your existing UA property, and assess what you need to track and measure. It’s a brilliant opportunity to validate the data you need and ensure you have the skills and resources needed to get the most value from your data.


There are a ton of resources to help businesses get set up with GA4. This link will take you to "How to get started with GA4" in Google's Help Centre.



How is Google Analytics 4 different to Univeral Analytics?

There are several differences, the main being the way it processes data and the kinds of information it tracks. Fundamentally it doesn't rely exclusively on cookies and moves from a “hit” based, session-orientated model to an event-based data model to deliver enhanced user-centric measurement. It also has a new look, layout, and behaviours, including different metrics.


The events-based model is a different data model

Universal Analytics hit types include page hits, event hits, eCommerce hits, and social interaction hits. In contrast, Google Analytics 4 data is event-based, with the principle that any interaction can be captured as an event. As such, UA property hit types translate to events in a GA4 property.


Table - overview of Universal Analytics hit types vs Google Analytics 4 events

A Universal Analytics event has a Category, Action, and Label and is its own hit type.


In Google Analytics 4 properties, every "hit" is an event and there is no distinction between hit types. Events have no notion of Category, Action, and Label and reports do not display this.


Read more about the differences in the data models here.


Other notable differences and enhancements

  • Goals are now called Conversions, based on Events, and enable a wider set of data analytics

  • funnels and path analysis are improved, including the ability to apply historically to tracked data

  • a single view of web and mobile app engagement

  • audiences can be created on user actions and attributes, and linked to Google's advertising tools

  • custom reporting is more powerful, whilst out-of-the-box reports are limited

  • BigQuery export capability (not in itself a free product) with GA4’s free version (360 customers already have this functionality so can continue to access their historical data in raw form after the switch-off date)

  • IP addresses are no longer stored

  • 14-month data retention limit.

It's important to rethink your data collection in terms of the GA4 model rather than port your existing event structure to GA4. For sure, you'll need to sense check your data collection and analytics and understand where you’ll no longer have access to the same information.



What does it mean for Datitude's clients transitioning from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?

We've loads of experience with the transition from UA to GA4 which means we're able to make it easy for clients.


For a start, our clients don't need to worry about retaining their historical data from UA as it's automatically integrated into Datitude’s Lakehouse. They can continue to access their historical data in raw form, even after UA is sunsetted.


Clients can also be confident that their reports and analytics will automatically integrate data from both the old (UA) and the new (GA4), for all-important trend analyses without any additional effort. That's because our connectors seamlessly manage and integrate core data from both versions, using the same format and data source, for access through Datitude's Integration Hub and Data Lakehouse.


If you have any concerns about the impact of Google Analytics 4 on your data integrations and reporting, give us a call. We'd be happy to help!


 

About Datitude

We do data! Datitude's managed data platforms enable businesses to connect, integrate, unify and make sense of their data. With an Integration Hub connecting systems together and a Data Lakehouse supporting best-in-class analytics, we provide managed solutions for Ecommerce and Retail and a range of custom services for systems integration, analytics and machine learning.


Managed solutions for Ecommerce and Retail include retail and digital systems integration, a retail and customer data platform, and direct mail campaign execution and analysis.


If you need to make sense of your data, give us a call today on 020 3003 5000 or email: hello@datitude.co.uk.