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Google Analytics 4 FAQs: how to use the new update to your advantage

By Adam Futer | SEO specialist

Vertical Leap

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May 6, 2022 | 6 min read

Google has confirmed it will phase out Universal Analytics from the middle of next year. It is really important to move to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) now so that you can start collecting data. Adam Futer, Google Analytics specialist at Vertical Leap, writes on why this isn’t a simple update, but a complete overhaul of the system and the data it works with.

Vertical Leap on how brands can utilize Google Analytics 4.

Vertical Leap on how brands can utilize Google Analytics 4

Migrating to Google Analytics 4 is a big task and it raises some important questions, which we address in this FAQ.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 replaces the previous version of Google Analytics, known as Universal Analytics (UA) or Google Analytics 3. GA4 was first released in 2019 (beta version) under the name App + Web, but it was renamed Google Analytics 4 in October 2020 and announced as the new default property and replacement for Universal Analytics.

How is GA4 different from Universal Analytics?

Google Analytics 4 isn’t an upgrade to Universal Analytics; it’s a replacement that changes how the system operates entirely. We can’t list all of the differences in one answer, but three key changes that illustrate how significant the move to GA4 is:

  1. GA4 uses an events-based measurement system, replacing the session-based system we’ve all come to know from previous versions of Google Analytics

  2. GA4 doesn’t use third-party cookies: It uses first-party cookies to track users across sessions and machine learning to fill in the gaps left by the absence of third-party cookies

  3. Reporting and interfaces: The new measurement model brings new metrics, interfaces and reports to GA4

Overall, GA4 is easier to pick up and use for beginners, and the platform helps you analyze funnels, conversion paths and customer journeys more easily.

What does the change to an events-based model mean?

The new events-based system replaces the old model that was designed for tracking individual sessions or groups of sessions. Now, sessions are simply one of many events (as are page views), and GA4 helps you determine how these contribute to customer journeys across devices and how such events help your website generate revenue.

Do I need to migrate over to Google Analytics 4?

Yes. Earlier this year, Google announced that all standard Universal Analytics accounts will stop processing data on July 1 2023, followed by Universal Analytics 360 properties on October 1 2023. After these dates, Universal accounts will no longer collect data, and soon after these dates you’ll no longer be able to access previous data either (Google estimates around six months).

Can’t I just wait until next year to migrate?

You can, but it’s a bad idea. Google Analytics 4 is a completely different system from Universal Analytics and most of your UA data isn’t compatible with the new property. You’re not exporting your existing data into GA4; you’re starting from scratch and collecting new data all over again – and the sooner you start doing this, the better.

So all of my UA data is now useless?

Not exactly. We recommend migrating over to GA4 as soon as possible and running both of your UA and GA4 accounts alongside each other. This way, you can start building up GA4 data and compare this to what you’re seeing in UA over the same period.

You also have the option of exporting as much of your Universal Analytics data as you can into a third-party platform for future reference, but this won’t help with the migration to GA4 in any way.

How can I migrate to Google Analytics 4?

Migrating to Google Analytics 4 involves five key steps:

  1. Basic setup: Create your new Google Analytics 4 account at the property level and run it concurrently with GA3 to collect data

  2. GA4 events: Add events in your new account to track key user actions on your website, eg CTA clicks, items added to shopping cart, form interactions, video views

  3. GA4 goals: Create goals using your GA events (where applicable) so that you can track key conversion goals and objectives as users interact with your website

  4. GA4 audience configuration: Add audience configurations to collect and view data for different audience types, eg organic traffic, new visitors, returning visitors, buyer personas

  5. Confirmation: After the initial set-up process, let your new GA4 property run and check it is collecting data as expected after the first month

Need help setting up Google Analytics 4?

Our Google Analytics team can manage all of this for you, or just offer consultancy to ensure you are correctly set up. To request a quote, contact us on 02392 830281 or info@vertical-leap.uk.

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Vertical Leap

Vertical Leap is the most effective search marketing agency in the UK. We use data science and intelligent automation to analyse millions of data points, allowing us to achieve more scale than is humanly possible and make evidence-driven decisions that get results.

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