Google Analytics 4 - Not So Fast!
If you haven’t already heard the big news, Google has finally unveiled a new and improved version of Google Analytics called GA4. This update came last month and has completely changed the game for analytics users, in a great way! GA4 is an App + Web property that is the future of Google Analytics. It has awesome new tools that simplify and enhance the analysis experience which explains why many companies have already started to migrate. A lot has changed, but here’s a general summary of the differences:
When you create a GA4 property, the first difference you’ll notice is the User Interface (UI). There are brand new tabs/features like Engagement, Monetization, and Retention. There’s also changes within existing tabs. For example, the core metrics in Home now highlight Average Engagement Time instead of Session Duration and Total Revenue instead of Bounce Rate. Additionally, there are some old tabs that no longer exist such as Audience, Behavior, and Attribution.
Old Universal Analytics (UA):
New Google Analytics 4 (GA4):
When you begin to poke around the new UI, you’ll start to realize this new version relies and reports heavily on Events whereas Universal Analytics has been more Pageview centric. This new event-based model is particularly great for eCommerce websites and apps which place a higher value on specific user interaction. For example, GA4 presents simpler event-based conversion reporting. Also, audiences can now be formed around events while they used to only be based around users or sessions.
The BIGGEST and BEST difference that is making analysts dance around the world is the ability for BigQuery Linking! This is so huge because it’s a feature that up until now has only been available to Google 360 users. It means all Google Analytics users can now export GA data to BigQuery where it can be dumped into other systems like CRM platforms, for example. You can find more detailed information regarding the BigQuery export.
Other GA4 features worth highlighting:
Cross-platform tracking & reporting
Comprehensive funnel reports & elapsed time reporting
Use of Google Signals to power reports
So, what does all this mean for the current Universal Analytics? Considering what happened to the OG Google Analytics, we expect UA to completely sunset within the next few years. That means, everyone will have to migrate eventually and many companies have already started.
Why you should NOT abandon your current Universal Analytics property...yet
While there are many great new benefits with GA4, it’s still very new. There are still some key features unavailable that we can look forward to coming soon. Some of these limitations involve tagging, specialized reports, and integrations.
Additionally, GA4 implementation via Google Tag Manager (GTM) is still in Beta. This means you can currently set up a GA4 property with GTM, but the integration is still being heavily tested.
Go here to learn more about the new Tag Assistant preview mode in Google Tag Manager.
Another risk so far is that there’s no indication of retroactivity, unless you are using Firebase. If you’re a Firebase user, you can link Google Analytics to Firebase to view app data in GA. Otherwise, your reports will not be transferred over when creating a GA4 property and it will only show data moving forward. We’re not saying you shouldn’t make the upgrade, we’re just saying you should hang on to your current UA property and run them side-by-side for now.
Reach out here for tips on how to run these properties in parallel and configure a bullet proof data structure using the industry’s best practices!