13/06/2022 - Getting ready for the change from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 | Website Blog | Purple Creative Studio
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Getting ready for the change from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4

You may recently have received an email from Google explaining that Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is replacing Universal Analytics (UA.) Now what does this mean?  In a nutshell, Google is bringing out a whole new platform for monitoring your website traffic.

If you have had a website built by us, we would have added a Universal Analytics tracking code, this may have been a brand new one if it was your first website, or if you have had a website previously we would have used your existing tracking code to keep all of your historic data in the account. Universal Analytics uses cookies to track and remember information about your site visitors so you can find out information such as most visited pages, length of time spent on a page and geographical location of users.

Universal Analytics is 15 years old and if you think about all the technological advances that have been made over those years, such as smartphones, then an overhaul of analytics is overdue, which is why Google has brought out a whole new system.

One of the main reasons for this change is Privacy, we are all becoming much more conscious about how our data is being used and collected on websites. Cookie pop ups remind us on a daily basis that we are being tracked and that actually we have a choice about the data we want to share. On top of that, tighter regulatory restrictions (GDPR) and an ever changing landscape mean that Google will no longer be using third party cookies to collect data, they will only use first party cookies. 

Confused about cookies?  Basically, first party cookies are often used to enhance user experience such as remembering passwords and what you had in your basket.  Third party cookies look at what you are doing on the internet as a whole, so if you have ever wondered how once you have searched for a new hat on one website and then every website you go to after shows you hats, then that is the effect of third party cookies. 

Another point relating to privacy is that GA4 will no longer store IP addresses with Google saying

“Google Analytics 4 is designed with privacy at its core to provide a better experience for both our customers and their users.”

Another reason that Universal Analytics is being phased out is based around how we use the internet.  Universal Analytics looks at sessions which was fine when we all used Desktop Computers.  However GA4 is now going to look at Events, everything is an Event, so you can see in more detail the actions that users have taken.  So for the first time if you have a page with 2 videos on, you can see if a user watched both videos in one session and these can be set up to record as a conversion which is essentially a meaningful interaction on your website.

New Features

Now if you are feeling a bit blue when reading this as you are happy with Universal Analytics as it is, we have pulled out some new features that we think are worth getting excited about.

Google is trying to be more conscious of privacy and personal data, surely that can only be a good thing.
Because of more people opting out of sharing their data, there are often data gaps meaning that the data is not reflective of the users.  To combat this GA4 will use ‘Blended Data’ 

Spam detection will be better in GA4, if you have ever looked at Universal Analytics and thought ‘why is there a huge spike in traffic from Arizona?’ or ‘why are there so many hits from a certain website that I don’t recognise’ it is more than likely spam data is being included in your analytics, this should not be the case with GA4.

GA4 is by no way finished, with a road map of new features it will become more powerful and useful as time goes on.
The platform has been designed to be user friendly, meaning that with a bit of time you won’t even remember Universal Analytics.

Key Dates

There are some key dates to keep an eye on, and although they may seem far enough in the future for you not to worry about, we would recommend getting the transition done sooner rather than later.  The main reason for this is that your historic data in UA will disappear, and the sooner you can start gathering data in GA4 the easier it will be for you in the future to compare data. Universal Analytics will stop collecting data on the 1st July 2023 and they will delete any historic data stored in Universal Analytics 6 months later.

To Do List

So you have made it this far through and are needing some action points to get you started on your journey, we would recommend:

  1. Start building reports in your UA account of historical data that you would like to keep as this data will disappear eventually.
  2. Start using GA4 as soon as possible, you have time before UA no longer starts collecting data, but the sooner you start using GA4, the more comparable data you will have in there in the future. Your future self will thank you.
  3. Start thinking about what data is important to your organisation. UA used to give generic reports, however, GA4 gives you much more flexibility to create your own bespoke reports around data that is relevant to you and your organisation.
  4. Get comfortable with GA4, start clicking around, find where data now lives and if you are still wanting graphical reports start researching Data Studio which integrates seamlessly with GA4 to create visually appealing reports.

If all of this seems a bit daunting, don’t worry, we are all learning and starting from scratch with GA4 together. The main takeaway is to start using GA4 and get any old historical data out of Universal Analytics that you may want in the future. However, if you need some help, we can manage the migration for you, or even just be on the end of a phone to check you are going about it correctly, just call the office on 01748 821888 to request a quote. 

There is also the Google Help Centre which is packed full of resources.

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