Chris Schutte

May 24, 2023

GA4: Everything You Need To Know (Well, sort of)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

google analytics 4

If you own a Google Analytics account, you would have received an auspicious email from Google in recent weeks.

“We’ll soon configure Google Analytics 4 for you” – Okay, thanks Google… I guess?

You aren’t alone, millions of website owners have received the same email. And they are all scratching their heads and asking what Google Analytics 4 is and more importantly why they should care.

Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the new GA4. From what it is to how it works, and even how you can set it up.

And if tech isn’t your thing, don’t worry, I will try my darndest to simplify it for you.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Very simply, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics also known as Universal Analytics (UA). If you are already scratching your head, then you should probably head on over to the Google Analytics Academy.

Google calls GA4 the “next generation of Analytics” which is both exciting and mysterious. So, without further adieu let’s dive into the mystery that is Google Analytics 4.

Tell us, Google, why GA4?

Google Analytics 4 was introduced 2.5 years ago, and according to this article it was created for two reasons:

  • To better track users across multiple platforms
  • And to improve user privacy in the process

Both reasons make sense.

When Universal Analytics was launched in 2005 the world wide web was a very different place than it is today. The iPhone was only released in 2007, so website traffic came predominantly from desktops.

Today, more than 58% of internet traffic is on mobile. And people are using on average 3.6 devices to access the internet. I am guessing the 0.6 would be smartwatches? *pause for applause*

The need for better multi-device tracking is definitely important, but so is privacy. Major nations like India, USA and Switzerland are all implementing strict data privacy legislation.

As The Voice of a Generation once sang “times they are a-changing”, and Google doesn’t really have a choice but to change too.

GA4 vs Universal Analytics: What is the difference?

Let’s be honest for a second; do you really care that “user acquisition” and “traffic acquisition” have been split into two different reports within GA4?

If you nodded your head like some crazy person (also known as a digital marketer), then hop on over to this article for a side-by-side comparison of all the metrics.

As a website owner, all you really want to know is whether anything changes from a tracking perspective. The answer is not really.

Google Analytics 4 tracks and reports on all the same data as it’s veteran predecessor, but just in a slightly different way.

The UI (user interface) has been updated and there a bunch of new nifty reports you can pull. For a full side-by-side comparison between the two platforms read this in-depth article from WordStream.

GA4 incorporates machine learning, or ‘AI’ as the cool kids call it these days, which helps with more accurate predictions about user behaviour and engagement. It also offers enhanced e-commerce tracking, and in some respects make it easier.

Sure, the new UI and reporting will take some time to get used to but overall GA4 feels like your friend’s more good looking, fun and ambitious younger sibling who you want to get to know.

Do you have to migrate to GA4?

Unfortunately, not migrating isn’t an option. Google announced that Universal Analytics will stop collecting data as of July 2023.

Without stating the obvious, this is bad for two reasons:

  • You won’t get any insights on who is visiting your website
  • Your marketing campaigns, that relied on Analtyics data, will be compromised

Google is really not giving us much of a choice here – either we move our website onto the new platform, or we lose all our tracking capabilities.

At this point you are probably asking why Google can’t just do the migration for you. I mean, afterall, their email said that they will “configure Google Analytics 4 for you”.

As much as this may seem inconvenient, Google is trying to do it’s part by auto-creating your GA4 profile. But it is still up to you to set it up and link your website.

Migrating from UA to GA4

ga4 migration

According to Google “it takes most people 15 minutes” to migrate to GA4. Having done multiple GA4 migrations I can confidently tell you that it does not take 15 minutes.

To give you an idea, a small account tracking 3 conversion actions would take us between 2 – 3 hours to migrate.

Migrating to GA4 involves the following: setting up a data stream, creating events, migrating conversions, mapping them with Tag Manager and finally linking to Google Ads and Search Console.

If you are a marketer, or webmaster wanting to learn how to migrate your Universal Analytics account to GA4 then I would suggest these step-by-step resources:

If you are a business owner, then I am about to save you hours of time:

  • Pay someone to do the migration for you

Don’t even try it yourself. The last thing you need is to botch the set up and be stuck with a website that is not collecting any data.

More silly questions, and shady answers

Why should I migrate to GA4?

Migrating to GA4 is essential because Google is phasing out Universal Analytics (UA) as of 01 July 2023.

Will I lose my existing data if I migrate to GA4?

No, migrating to GA4 does not mean losing your existing data. The process involves transferring your data and configurations from UA to GA4, ensuring a seamless transition and preserving your historical data.

Can I have both universal analytics and Google Analytics 4 tracking the same website?

For now, yes but after 01 July 2023 you will only need the GA4 code.

Are there any additional costs associated with setting up Google Analytics 4?

GA4 is free to use. However, if you have a large website with complex tracking requirements, then you may have to pay a professional to migrate you to GA4 properly.

How long does the migration process take?

It depends entirely on your current

How will GA4 affect my current marketing campaigns?

Once you have migrated to GA4 you will need to relink your Google Ads account in order to take advantage of the GA4 data. Other than that, GA4 provides more comprehensive data and insights, allowing you to better understand user behavior, track conversions, and optimize your marketing campaigns accordingly. By migrating to GA4, you can enhance the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and achieve better results.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the shiny new version of Google Analytics that offers better insights and tracking capabilities. Universal Analytics (UA) is being phased out, so it’s time to migrate or risk losing valuable data.

GA4 is designed to track users across multiple platforms and prioritize user privacy, which is important in today’s changing digital landscape.

The difference between GA4 and UA may not matter to you, but rest assured that GA4 tracks all the same data, just in a slightly different way. It has a new UI, cool reports, and incorporates machine learning for more accurate predictions.

Unfortunately, not migrating isn’t an option, as UA will stop collecting data in July 2023. Migrating involves creating the GA4 property, setting up events, migrating conversions, and linking to Google Ads and Search Console.

While Google may claim it takes 15 minutes to migrate, it’s more realistic to expect a few hours of work. If you’re a marketer or webmaster, there are step-by-step resources available. But if you want to save time and ensure a smooth transition, it’s best to hire professionals like us at Launch Digital.

So, buckle up and migrate to GA4 before it’s too late. It’s free, preserves your existing data, and empowers your marketing campaigns with comprehensive insights. Don’t miss out on the future of analytics!

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