10 Questions to Consider Before Switching to Google Analytics 4

In March 2022, Google announced the decision to sunset Universal Google Analytics and transition to Google Analytics 4, effective July 1, 2023. This transition has many implications and your marketing team should be acting now to preserve existing data and historical data from no longer being inaccessible. There is no time like the present and our team is equipped to help you every step of the way. In this FAQ, you will discover the next steps in effectively making the transition.

June 22, 2023

1. Why is Google getting rid of Universal Analytics?

User Privacy

Google has announced that it will sunset Universal Analytics primarily due to concerns regarding user privacy. Many web browsers no longer allow third-party cookies, and with iOS updates back to iOS 14.5, users have to give permission for their activity to be tracked for advertising purposes. In 2024, Google Chrome will also be removing third-party cookies.

Although Universal Analytics uses first-party cookies instead of third-party cookies, it still relies entirely on cookies to gather data. Moreover, it lacks the privacy settings required to comply with ever-evolving global privacy regulations.

According to Google’s Director of Product Management, Russell Ketchum, Google Analytics 4 was “designed with privacy at its core.” It has much more powerful privacy settings and supplements its use of first-party cookies with multiple user identifiers and machine learning to help prepare for a cookie-less world.  

Cross-Device Measuring

Back in October 2012, when Google’s Universal Analytics first launched, people accessed the web primarily on desktop computers. But times have changed!

According to GlobalStats, in 2012, only 11.42% of web traffic was from mobile devices. Fast-forward to 2022, and 60.28% of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices!

Google Analytics 4 uses multiple user identifiers to track users across different platforms. Marketers can analyze customer journeys across all devices, including apps, all in one place. This helps build better attribution models and provides businesses with a better understanding of which channels generate the best ROI.

2. When will Universal Analytics stop processing data?

For users of the free version of Universal Analytics, properties will stop processing data on July 1, 2023. For users of the paid version, Google Analytics 360, properties will stop processing data on July 1, 2024.

We highly recommend setting up Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible to ensure you don't miss out on any data. This will allow you to begin capturing data and smoothly transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.

3. How do I set up a Google Analytics 4 property?

There are several methods of setting up Google Analytics 4, depending on which CMS or website builder you’re using. According to Google Search Engine, “When you perform an action on a website or in the app, GA4 sends requests with detailed information about your activity, called events (formerly “hits” in Universal Analytics). After receiving those requests, GA4 processes the submitted data, aggregating and organizing it to generate meaningful reports and insights.”

Read how to set up Google Tag Manager using GA4.

4. Will we be able to keep our Universal Analytics data in the Google Analytics Account?

No, Google can only guarantee that you will be able to access your previously processed data in Universal Analytics for 6 months after July 1st.  

5. Will we be able to migrate our data from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?

No, Universal Analytics data can not be migrated to Google Analytics 4. It’s unlikely that Google will ever add that as a feature, as the two analytics platforms operate using two completely different models.

Universal Analytics uses a session-based model, while GA4 uses an event-based model.

 6. How can we save our historical data?

There are several ways to download your historical data from Universal Analytics, depending on your budget and the time you’re willing to invest. For example, you can choose from exporting it manually into spreadsheets, using Google Query Explorer, or exporting the data to BigQuery. 

If you’re interested in exporting the data yourself, Search Engine Journal has a helpful article providing details on how to export your Universal Analytics data.

Need help exporting your historical data? Contact us!

7. What’s the difference between Google Analytics 4 data and Universal Analytics data?

Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based model, whereas Universal Analytics uses a session-based model. What does that mean?

Session-Based Model (UA)

Under the session-based model in Universal Analytics, data starts being collected when a user views a screen and stops when the user leaves the site. The period between the user’s first screen view and their final screen view is called a “session.”  Any pageviews, events, and conversions you set up on the site are measured during this time. The session is the central form of measurement for Universal Analytics.

Event-Based Model (GA4)

Under the event-based model, every interaction with the site is classified as an event, including button clicks, pageviews, scrolling, and so much more. This also includes any custom events or conversions you set up manually. Sessions are still measured, but they start when a user opens the site and end when they move to another tab.

Here’s an example of how this impacts the way the data is measured:

In Google Analytics 4, if a user converts twice on the same conversion in the same session, it will be counted as 2 different conversions, whereas in Universal Analytics, it would only be counted as one.

8. Why can’t I create a view in a Google Analytics 4 property?

Google Analytics 4 simplifies data management by using data streams instead of views, which were used in Google Analytics. This means that all of your data streams are measured in one place, making it easier to account for users across your apps and websites.

This unified measurement approach provides you with better insights into how your audience interacts with your brand across different platforms. Moreover, Google Analytics 4 uses machine-learning tools to understand user behavior, create predictive audiences for ad targeting, and improve your insights into the customer journey.

9. How long does Google Analytics 4 retain data?

For free Google Analytics 4 properties, data is retained for up to 14 months for custom reports, such as funnel reports and exploration reports. You can change the data retention settings by navigating to the bottom left corner, clicking “Admin,” or the gear icon. 

Then under “Property,” select “Data Settings,” then “Data Retention.” From there, you can choose to retain data between 2 and 14 months using the dropdown menu. 

In standard reports, such as the acquisition report, the engagement report, and the monetization reports, GA4 will keep data for the lifetime of the account.

10. Where can we go to get help setting up and preparing for the transition to Google Analytics 4?

We’ve been preparing our clients for this transition since it was first announced in February of 2022 (a whole year of prep!). We’d be happy to show you how we can help you transition smoothly.

Need help navigating the transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4? Contact us now and schedule your consultation today!

Writer: Michael Kline
Editor: SK Vaughn

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