Switching from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
Answers to the 6 most important questions about switching to GA4
- Data Analytics
- Technical Web Analytics
On 14 October 2020, Google launched the new version of Analytics: Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Soon after the launch, it became clear that a number of important functionalities from Universal Analytics (GA3) were missing, and therefore the time to switch seemed far away. Fortunately, we see that the development team on the side of Google has not been idle. Some nice features have since been introduced within GA4 that have narrowed the gap between GA3 and GA4. This article answers the questions that are increasingly being asked about GA4.
Why switch to GA4?
The main difference between GA3 and GA4 is the data model. Where the data model of GA3 is based on sessions and page views, in GA4 this is based on events. We call this an event-based data model. Every interaction of the user is measured in the form of an event. The new data model responds to a changing world, in which apps and single-page applications (SPAs) are increasingly taking on a greater role.
A major advantage of this new data model is that web and app data can be collected in one property. This allows you to get an even completer picture of the different touchpoints within the customer journey.
I am now using the free version of Google Analytics. Is it worth switching?
For organisations currently using the free version of Google Analytics, there are already a number of features available that make it interesting to start moving to GA4:
- There is no longer data sampling in reports, something many Data Analysts consider to be the major limiting factor of the free version of Google Analytics.
- More automatic measurements are available, meaning it's easier to measure page views, scrolling behaviour, searches, outbound clicks, interactions with videos and downloads.
- With GA4 you have access to the Analysis Hub functionality: an environment within Google Analytics that offers analysts more possibilities to do analysis within the tool.
- All users now have access to the integration with Google's BigQuery, enabling access to raw data. Among other things, this offers more opportunities in data visualisation and advanced data analysis.
I am now using GA360. What should I take into account?
For organisations currently using GA360, someimportant functionalities are still missing. This includes integrations with other products, such as Google Ads, Display & Video 360 and Salesforce. In addition, it is currently not possible to set up Views for different user groups. This will mean that a complete transition to GA4 for these organisations will be further in the future.
One thing is certain: GA4 is the future of web analytics for Google and the support for GA3 will eventually be discontinued.
How should we as an organisation deal with the transition from GA3 to GA4?
We deliberately call it a transition and not a migration, because a migration implies that not much needs to change on the implementation side. Because GA4 is based on a completely different data model, you don't have access to historical data and you have to build the new property from scratch. This means you need to set aside time to create and implement a new measurement plan that aligns with the new event-based data model.
It is of course possible to collect similar measurements and dimensions in the new implementation as before. Our advice is to take a critical look at the current implementation and implement improvements right away. You can improve your implementation by adding measures, but also by omitting measures that are no longer relevant.
When is the right time to switch to GA4?
Google will support Universal Analytics until July 2023 (free users) and July 2024 for paid users.
Our advice for GA360 users is not to make a full transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 at this point, but to start the transition process. It is possible to use both versions side by side. By starting now, you can already collect historical data and get acquainted with the new data model, the new interface and other new features.
Can I get help with switching from GA3 to GA4?
As a data partner, Digital Power advises and supports organisations in the process of making the transition from GA3 to GA4. We know from experience that every organisation and implementation is unique.
We are happy to see what we can do for your organisation. Contact us.
René Westerdijk, Lead Consultant Data Analytics at Digital Power
René is a results-driven consultant with a passion for everything related to data and strategy. He joined Digital Power in 2014 as a web analyst, but over the years he has worked in many different roles for different clients. In addition to working for clients, he gets a lot of energy from coaching and guiding colleagues at Digital Power.
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