10/05/23 // Written by Laura Jones

Taking A Look At Google Analytics 4

If your business is online, you will already be familiar with Google Analytics in some way or another. Whether your marketing team handles the platform, or you work with an external agency, analytics is vital in understanding your online success.  

As we approach the deadline for the sunsetting on Universal Analytics we’re taking a look at what the move to Google Analytics 4 means for SEO, why it’s happening and what you should be doing… 

The history of analytics  

Analytics has been on the scene for nearly 20 years, with Google’s first iteration of the software launching in 2005. As the internet and how we use it has changed over the years, so has Google Analytics. From the implementation of AdWords and goal tracking in 2006 to the inception of Universal Analytics in 2011, Google is constantly looking for ways to improve the software.  

Continuing in this spirit, Google Analytics 4 was born. First announced back in 2019, GA4 has been in the works for some time and come 1st July 2023 will replace UA across the board.  

What does this latest update mean? 

Unlike the new features and functionality that have previously been released, the move from UA to GA4 is not a simple upgrade. The very essence of the two platforms and how they work with data has changed.  

As our lives become intricately linked with the online world, our data has become more widely accessible and this, in turn, has led to fears over our privacy on the web. From this growing concern, how data is collected online has come under serious scrutiny, seeing GDPR brought to the forefront of the discussion. Alongside this, the transition from using third-party data to first-party data means that Universal Analytics will soon no longer be fit for purpose. 

Google Analytics 4 uses first-party data, machine learning, and integrates with a myriad of other Google Marketing products. Yes, GA4 will fill the much-needed gap left by the sunsetting on Universal Analytics. But the platform and the data it uses is far from what you may be used to, meaning if you’ve not got to know the platform yet, now is the time.  

What features are we paying attention to? 

With a whole host of new features and functionalities, Google Analytics 4 delivers a more complex platform that aims to deliver better insights than ever before. To truly see the scope of change on the platform, set some time aside to login to your account and take a deep dive into everything GA4 has to offer. In the meantime, here are some notable features or changes… 

  1. Custom reports: Kicking reporting up a gear, GA4’s custom reporting functionality leaves UA’s capabilities in the dust. GA4 provides detailed and custom reporting in a flash. 
  1. Multi-channel: Unlike UA, GA4 can be used across multiple channels and platforms. Recognising that a singular approach to analytics in the modern digital world only provides half the story, GA4 provides a much wider approach to analytics. Using their new feature data driven attribution, GA4 helps pinpoint which parts of your campaigns deliver the most so you can further capitalise on this.  
  1. User experience: If users don’t like what you’re offering, all your efforts online are wasted. GA4 offers in-depth insight into what users are engaging with the most, content that keeps people reading and other areas of your campaigns that resonate with users. This data can then be used to drive forward future campaigns.  

Challenges that come from migrating to Google Analytics 4 

Migration is never 100 percent smooth sailing, no matter how prepared you are. And making the move to GA4 is no different. Although the new platform is designed to help you understand online behaviour more than ever before to create meaningful campaigns, the change from UA to GA4 does have some sticking points.  

An area of difficulty is adapting to the change in complexity of the platforms. UA has always been an out-of-the-box platform, with easy-to-use and ready-to-go features. As the online world has become more complex, so has Google Analytics, with GA4 requiring more time and effort to set up and track campaigns. Similarly, many of the new features are not as intuitive to use with stricter data requirements. If you’re not familiar with the new platform, leaving it until UA retires to figure things out will leave you at a disadvantage from July.  

Alongside a fussier platform, GA4 is also slower to update than you may have become used to with UA. While changes on the UA platform are almost instant, GA4 can take up to 24 hours for changes to show, meaning it can take a few days to see the impact of your amends.  

If you’ve not migrated to GA4, now is the time and we can help… 

The deadline for the sunsetting on Universal Analytics is fast approaching, with the 1st of July just around the corner. For those of you who are yet to migrate, it’s time to take a step back and reassess your priorities. Leaving your fate in the hands of Google’s automatic migration only sets yourself up for a headache, with potentially detrimental effects on your campaigns and business.  

As a Google Premier Partner, we’re well-versed on all things Google and are taking steps to ensure we can support our clients through this transition. From changing our internal reporting systems to be compatible with GA4 to training our SEO team on the new platform, we’re ensuring we’re ahead of the curve with GA4.  

In a bid to support our clients every step of the way, we’ll be offering GA4 training sessions to make sure you can maximise the platform, so keep your eyes peeled for this coming soon. No matter what stage you’re at with migrating to GA4, whether you’re yet to start or have already made the move, we can help.