Knowledge

Google Analytics 4: What is it & How to Prepare

September 12, 2022 • Ardalan Salam, VP, Data & Technology

As technology and data regulations evolve, so must analytical tools adapt to a future which almost certainly won’t include cookies or other cross-platform identifiers. One of these tools, Google Analytics, has been the industry standard for over a decade. It too is now evolving, adopting flexible approaches to measurement and modeling to fill in the gaps where the data may be incomplete.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics (GA). It combines data from both apps and websites. GA4 is the new name for the beta reporting platform App & Web, which has been renamed for clarity.

Do I need to migrate to GA4?

In short: if you want to keep using Google Analytics, the answer is yes, you must migrate to GA4. Google Analytics as we now know it (Universal Analytics) will shut down on July 1, 2023. Any website that wants to continue using Google Analytics needs to migrate to GA4 before that date.

What’s the difference between Universal Analytics & GA4?

GA4 doesn’t only offer more of what Universal Analytics offers. It’s built differently to align with current and future needs for reporting and privacy. Here are some of the differences and benefits:

  • Event-based: Universal analytics is session-based, while GA4 is event–based. In other words, the ability to track events like button clicks, video plays, and more is built into GA4 (it can be done in UA, but requires advanced setups). This comes from the premise that page views aren’t the sole important metric.
  • Cross-device tracking: Universal analytics was built around desktop web traffic, while GA4 provides visibility into customer journeys across all of their websites and apps.
  • Machine learning: GA4 uses machine learning technology to share insights and make predictions.
  • Privacy-friendly: Universal Analytics data relies heavily on cookies; GA4 does not.

GA4-Migration

GA4 for Mobile Apps

Google Analytics 4 leverages Firebase technology to offer a unified platform for mobile app and website tracking within a single Analytics property view. Custom audiences, events, content groups are automatically synced between both web and mobile app properties. This allows for more advanced, segmented targeting as well as comprehensive cross-device analytics.

How do I migrate/upgrade to GA4?

Transitioning your accounts to GA4 involves more than just a copy-paste. Due to differences between these analytics platforms, you need a custom strategy to maintain your data.

  • Set up basic and advanced tracking (including Google Tag Manager, eCommerce tracking, event tracking, and more)
  • Maintain your historical data with BigQuery streaming
  • Configure your user interface and custom reports
  • Integrate your GA4 accounts with Google Ads
  • Export all historical data from Universal Analytics

The Allied Approach

To minimize data tracking disruptions, we recommend a phased approach to GA4 adoption. Depending on client needs, this includes planning and implementation; data architecture and integrations; and QA and optimizations. We’ve helped clients needing basic migration; those with more complex needs (multi-domain sites, third-party platforms, etc.); and we’ve audited GA4 for clients which already migrated but wanted to ensure their setup is correctly configured and optimized.

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