Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics. This will fully replace Universal Analytics in July 2023 and will become the new standard for tracking website usage and engagement metrics. GA4 is not simply an interface update – it’s a completely new and different data model. Because of this, marketers will need to form a new approach for collecting data, applying segmentation and filters, managing tracking, and following downstream conversion activity.
If this sounds urgent to tackle, that’s because it is! It is critical that all businesses that have a website or app start forming GA4 strategies now so that historical data can be collected before Universal Analytics is deprecated next summer.
There will be countless changes within GA4 that will impact our day-to-day processes, strategies, and measurement plans as marketers – most of this stemming from ongoing privacy changes across platforms, browsers, and apps.
Infinity’s list of key changes you need to be aware of:
Pros: Event actions will be tied to the individual user as opposed to sessions, which will allow for marketers to have deeper insight into the user experience. Talk about optimization opportunities!
Sessions and engaged sessions will still be available metrics in certain reports in GA4, but will be paired with action completions for deeper visibility.
Cons: Shifting away from an emphasis on sessions will be a big change for marketers, especially those running brand awareness campaigns. Incremental lift in traffic may be more difficult to isolate from a specific campaign or project for tactics that are not digital in nature.
Pros: Google will tap into first party data from signed-in experiences in Chrome in order to ensure that the consumer experience online is still tailored and personalized despite shifting away from and phasing out third party cookies. Essentially, if you’re signed into Google, Google can follow you across all Google properties – think YouTube, Gmail, Google Search – and serve ads based on recent online behaviors.
This will also give us a more detailed look at valuable touchpoints along the entire customer journey.
Cons: What if someone doesn’t use Chrome as a primary browser, doesn’t have a YouTube account, and still has their awkward Hotmail email address they created in 2001 as a teenager – i.e. not a Gmail account? These users may receive a very different ad experience in the Google ecosystem. We’ll be monitoring Google’s thoughts on this to see if they will explicitly mention SSO (single sign-on) capabilities extending beyond Google’s owned platforms and browsers.
Pros: None that we’re passionate about. ‘Source’ will still be available in certain reports as another point of reference thankfully!
Cons: Channel Groupings will vanish along with any pre-established customizations that were made to extend beyond the defaults in Universal Analytics. This can be scary to hear because custom channel groupings are something we’ve relied heavily on to measure and optimize channel and campaign performance.
This will require a more disciplined and consistent approach to UTM parameters in order to ensure you are properly attributing success to the right campaigns and creatives.
It comes with a pretty steep learning curve, but lots of opportunity to positively impact strategic decision-making. We’ve done the research and can help you get ready for the future of web and app analytics tracking and measurement.
Recommended action by the end of June 2022: Set up a new property in GA4 and run simultaneously with Universal Analytics. This will allow you to get familiar with GA4 and collect critical historical data before the full migration over to GA4 happens next year.
Contact us to discuss what the migration to GA4 means for your business and learn how we can help set you up for success in the cookieless future.
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