Keeping Up With Google: Coming Changes to Google Analytics
Apr 20, 2022
Some of you may have heard about the upcoming changes to Google Analytics, and the company’s encouragement to upgrade to the latest version of their popular data platform. But, for those of you non-techies out there, what’s it all about? And what needs to be done to stay up-to-date?
If you’re not familiar with it, Google Analytics is one of the most popular web analytics tools in use today, and most companies have installed Google’s tracking code on their website, so they can use this ubiquitous, free platform to collect data about how users are visiting and interacting with their website (and so Google can have access to it as well!). Like most pieces of software, the platform has undergone updates and new releases and brought new features, but a key change in how the platform operates is forcing users to update how Google Analytics interacts with their website.
The version that most users are familiar with today uses Google’s Universal Analytics property to collect data about your website. This is how Google has done it since 2012, which allowed for cross-platform tracking, flexible tracking code to collect data from any device, and the introduction of custom dimensions and custom metrics. If you use Google Analytics and you see a property ID starting with “UA-” you’re using the Universal Analytics property, which Google plans to retire at the end of June 2023.
To replace the Universal Analytics property, Google has announced Google Analytics 4, also known as GA4, and confirmed that the standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits upon its retirement. This means that millions of websites around the world will need to upgrade to GA4.
While June 2023 may seem a long way off, there are a few key things to consider. First, year-over-year comparison data is incredibly useful in understanding the performance of your website, and Google has yet to announce that they will migrate any data from UA to GA4. This means if you want to have historical data after June 2023, you better start collecting that data now with a GA4 property.
Secondly, most third-party platforms that integrate with Google Analytics like the marketing automation platform Hubspot, or websites built on CMS platforms, such as Shopify ecommerce stores, aren’t compatible yet with GA4. This means you need to run both properties (UA and GA4) side-by-side, to keep collecting the data that’s valuable to you, while being ready to cut over to the new property when those third-party platforms become compliant.
Lastly, when you create the new GA4 property, you’ll need to reassess and possibly recreate new goal values, conversion events and reconfigure ecommerce settings to work properly. This can take a bit of time and planning, and so you don’t want to be left late in the game to ensure things are set according to your web and organizational goals and objectives.
Even though Google is setting a firm end date to Universal Analytics, there are several beneficial reasons you might want to switch to GA4 sooner. If you have a mobile app, GA4 unifies mobile app and website analytics instead of keeping info in two different places. And if you're the sort of person who loves detailed reports on your website performance, GA4 leverages the best features of another Google tool - Data Studio - to make generating custom reports easy (and maybe even a little fun!). You should also keep in mind that a key metric you've known for years - the Bounce Rate - is being re-defined to take advantage of all the new events GA4 will record by default.
Preparing now for the coming changes, and keeping your websites on the latest version of Google Platforms (and keeping all codebase and plug-ins updated) means your business stays competitive and your data stays fresh. 454 Creative’s heritage is website development, and if we can lend our expertise to help your business stay on the cutting edge, we’d love to talk!