In this joint guest post, Shaunn Anderson (pictured below), strategy director, and Giorgio Liapakis (lead image), technical project executive at The Pistol, says with Google Analytic’s pending death now less than a year away, it’s time to get your head around Google Analytics 4…
In March this year, Google announced that it is sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA) from 1 July, 2023, in favour of its new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) product. With more than a year to go before the expiry date, few marketers are viewing the transition as an urgent priority. But there are important reasons why they should not delay.
Most importantly, executives expect accountability and consistent reporting from marketing leaders, especially as part of end of financial year reporting. Failing to get set up on GA4 before the new 2023 financial year begins – in a few weeks’ time – means marketers may not be able to produce continuous year-over-year comparisons at year-end. UA and GA4 have fundamentally different approaches to reporting that will make comparing one’s data to the other challenging.
Since launching as a free-to-use product in 2012, Universal Analytics has become one of the most widely used web analytics products on the market. It has served marketers well, but a lot has changed in the digital world since it launched.
GA4 is a completely new product built from the ground up to suit the modern day digital environment. There are fundamental differences between the two. Universal Analytics uses the Client ID method, whereas GA4 is built around first party data, or the User ID method. GA4 can be set up to capture data and produce reports consistent with those available through Universal Analytics, but it cannot do so retroactively, without having captured the necessary data over the applicable period.
But if the risk of being caught out at the end of FY23 reporting season is not reason enough, there are other good reasons why marketers should prioritise the switch to GA4.
GA4 has powerful new features, including machine learning, a much richer view of users’ activity and smarter attribution and reporting. It also offers better, easier integration with CRM systems, enabling the tracking of offline leads and conversions and a clearer view of the traffic sources that are having the greatest impacts. Google’s analysis, based on internal Google Search studies, shows that the combination of these features can deliver a five per cent increase in conversions right off the bat.
Another reason is that the transition forces a strategic review of data strategy. This can uncover weaknesses and deficiencies that could otherwise go unnoticed, such as issues with data capture and analysis, or suboptimal workflows. Addressing these issues can dramatically improve efficiencies and outcomes.
At The Pistol, we have long advocated for brands to take ownership of their first party data, and to use data strategically to enrich their customers’ experiences. The demise of third party cookies means this is not only sensible, but necessary in the future. With GA4, all website traffic data can be captured and owned by the brand.
With the end of the current financial year around the corner and the usual reporting and planning obligations this season brings, it is understandable that new data projects are not at the top of marketers’ priority lists. But the transition to GA4 shouldn’t be too onerous. Following an audit of data systems to understand requirements and what the transition looks like, the implementation can be completed in as little as a few days, setting teams up for the year ahead.
As Universal Analytics fades into the sunset, a new dawn begins. With a speedy migration to GA4, there is truth in the old saying that the early bird catches the worm.