Google Analytics Shift from Universal Analytics to GA4
By: Media Matters Worldwide Analytics Department
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest release of Google Analytics. It is designed to replace previous versions: Universal Analytics (UA) and GA360. UA accounts will stop collecting data effective July 1, 2023, while GA360 accounts will stop collecting data effective July 1, 2024. At that time, GA4 will become Google’s sole analytics platform for web tracking. To ensure there are no gaps in data capture, GA4 should be implemented as soon as possible to run alongside your existing Google Analytics implementation. Google plans to store the old Universal Analytics data for 6 months after the transition date, so it is important to implement GA4 to begin data accrual as soon as possible before old data storage is deprecated. A plan should be developed to export and save any old data that you wish to keep.
Difference Between Universal Analytics and GA4
With GA4, Google is looking to the future with a bigger focus on app tracking as well as privacy and cookieless tracking. The major differences are highlighted in the following table:
There are major upgrades with GA4 and one of the biggest changes to user experience is a new interface and areas to explore within the tool. Additional information can be found here.
Benefits and Recommendation for Migrating Now
To ensure maximum data capture and a seamless transition, we recommend implementing GA4 as soon as possible. This will enable sufficient data accrual in GA4 before Universal Analytics and GA360 are deprecated.
Benefits of making the shift now:
- Enable historical data to build up and avoid having little to no data when UA and GA360 stop accruing data in July 2023 and September 2023 respectively. UA and GA360 will be accessible for 6 months post-sunset but data will not migrate to GA 4.
- Allow users ample time to get familiar with the new GA4 interface and functionality.
- Ensure sufficient time to configure and fine tune tracking in GA4.
Steps to Implement GA4
The overall setup process is straightforward, with varying levels of effort depending on the needs and nuances of the account. For example, extra effort may be required around tagging and code depending on how those are installed on your website. We recommend installing Google Tag Manager (GTM) if you do not already have a tag management system which will make tagging for GA4 and all other platforms easier to set up.
High level process to implement GA4:
- Create a new property – detailed instructions on how to do that can be found here.
- Name your property and select your reporting time zone and currency.
- Create a “data stream,” which refers to the app type (iOS or Android) or whether it is a website. For a website, you’ll want to hit the “Web” option and fill out the necessary fields.
- Enable data collection by placing the GA4 tracking code on your website or app, which can be done directly on the site or through Google Tag Manager.
- Add “recommended events” to your data stream.
For Adobe Analytics users who also utilize Google Analytics, the recommendation is the same for implementing GA4 as soon as possible as this will affect all current users of UA/GA360.
To help with navigating the implementation of GA4, feel free to reach out to your MMWW analytics team. The Media Matters Analytics team is GA4 certified and available to help with questions and guidance.