Google issued their latest version of the world’s most popular analytics software in Oct. 2020. With it comes a new interface and way of tracking your website and app interactions. Along with all the headaches that come with learning and getting comfortable with a new platform. This does not mean the standard Universal Analytics is going anywhere soon. If past analytic updates are any indication, it may take years before the last remnants of Universal Analytics tracks its last page view. So, do you need to switch from Universal Analytics today, and what happens when you do?

Digital Excellence Awards - Should I Use GA4 Now?

The Difference Between Universal Analytics – UA and Google Analytics 4 – GA4 

You notice that I asked “when” you should make the switch, not “if”. There is no doubt that GA4 is the future, and no matter how much you resist, it will become the default interface soon. There are a couple of reasons for this.

1. Your UA Data Will Not Transfer to GA4

That’s right. All those years of data you have collected on your website or app will not integrate with GA4. As frustrating as that is, it is for a very important reason. GA4 does not track traffic the same way UA does. Gone are the days of hits, event categories, bounces, and many of the other labels you have become accustomed to. GA4 is focused on events. 

In Universal Analytics, events are user interactions measured independently. Downloads, link clicks, form submissions, and video plays are examples of events. Events in UA have a Category, Action, Label and Value. In GA4, events are user interactions with a website or app that can be measured. Examples of events include page views, button clicks, and user actions.

Because this is a completely different data model, anything imported from UA will not be compatible with GA4, and having the ability to merge in the future is not likely. For these reasons, we recommend setting up Google Analytics 4 to start collecting data. This will give you historical data when you are ready to make the change. 

2. Learn the GA4 Dashboard 

As I said before, this is happening. You may get a year or 2, or maybe 3, before you are forced to use GA4, but why wait until then to get familiar with it. Many reports that analysts and marketers have come to depend on have been removed, or replaced with something else. Spare yourself, learn them before you have to, work out any bugs, and maybe you will find that GA4 offers more than just a headache. 

Benefits of GA4

It’s not all doom and gloom. The new features in GA4 are very promising, and in many cases more intuitive than UA. For instance, much of the event tracking that you once needed to manually set up is done out of the box with GA4. With GA4’s “Enhanced Measurement” data on scrolling, outbound clicks, video engagement, and file downloads are automatically set up. In fact there are many “Events” preset-up that just need to be turned on to start tracking. It also combines app and web data on one platform. 

Time-Based Actions

With GA4, you can exclude users based on certain behaviors. This is great for remarketing efforts, especially ecommerce. If someone makes a purchase we want to stop showing them an ad. You can stop ads for a set amount of time for a segmented group and then make them eligible for a new set of ads later on.

Also, using the “Elapsed Time” feature in GA4, you can see how long it takes a user to complete a specific set of steps. Would you like to know how long it takes for a user to complete a survey, fill out a form, or how long they read a blog before they go to a service page? With Google Analytics 4, you can.

Should I Remove Universal Analytics from  My Website?

GA4 is new, and yes it will eventually take over as the default platform. However, it is not yet time to do away with your trusty Universal Analytics property. Most of Google’s analytics development is going to be focused on GA4. That is a good thing, but it also means there will be a higher chance of it breaking, and bugs are sure to pop up. 

Embrace the fact that this will be the new way analytics are reported and start to familiarize yourself with it now. Set it up to run concurrently with your current UA. Compare the results, see how event tracking has changed, learn the new terms and reports, you won’t regret it.

Need Help Understanding Your New GA4 Reports?

Are you looking for an award-winning internet marketing agency with proven track records? TheeDigital is an award-winning agency based in Raleigh, North Carolina. They can work with you to help you sort out your analytics and find the most valuable data to use for your next business decision.

About the Author: Nick Henning

Nick has worked to help businesses convert more customers since graduating from the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2005. He began his career journey marketing for banks before moving on to help manufacturers get their products into retail and construction and renovation companies improve their market share. From there, he focussed on digital marketing with an agency in Bemidji, MN. His passion for SEO and digital marketing led him to join the TheeDigital team as a Digital Marketing Strategist.

Nick enjoys helping his clients come up with creative solutions to help grow their businesses. Each new client and business is a unique opportunity, with no two being exactly the same. Nick has worked with clients across the country and would like an opportunity to learn more about your business needs.

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