Chances are, you’re a business owner or marketer who relies on Google Analytics to track your website’s traffic and conversions. In that case, it’s time to pay attention. The Google Universal Analytics (UA) we’ve known and loved for years is being replaced with the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4), a more robust platform that provides a clearer picture of customer behavior across web and app platforms.
In this guide, we’ll review the key differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics, common challenges businesses might face during the transition, and best practices for using Universal Analytics and GA4 to track website and digital marketing performance.
Key Differences between Google Universal Analytics and GA4
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the GA4 migration, let’s talk about the key differences between the two platforms. GA4 introduces an event-based data model that includes user-opted first-party data and cookies, making tracking user interactions across web and app platforms easier. With GA4, goals are now named “conversions.” There are also “events” you can track rather than just goals.
Goals are set individually and tracked with custom events, so you’ll need to think carefully about which events you want to track and how to define them. Performance impacts SEO rankings, and when set up correctly, these goals are important indicators of success or improvements needed. The more information we have on what works, the better we can guide a client’s strategy.
Another key difference is that GA4 now tracks data streams of both App and Web visits under a single property rather than duplicate data across different GA properties, making it easier to understand how your customers interact with your brand across other platforms. The events available in GA4 are collected under four categories: automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, recommended events, and custom events.
Transitioning from Google Universal Analytics to GA4
Transitioning from UA to GA4 is more complex than flipping a switch. There are some common challenges businesses might face during the process, such as confusion regarding internal KPI differentials. This is why it’s essential to take a step back and carefully audit your current goals and strategy before making the switch.
Google has provided a migration guide for businesses on their website. However, if your goals need to be set up, or you need to be made aware of what is set up currently, we advise you not to use this. From a reliability standpoint, we ask that you don’t migrate yourself; only try to migrate your goals yourself if you have experience.
Review Your Current GA Goals
Before migrating to GA4, you must review your current goals and align your Marketing & Sales departments on the same goals. Then, consult a marketing strategistto ensure you choose the right goals and focus on the right metrics.
If custom goals were previously created in UA, users would need to transfer these events to GA4. However, the event structure differs, so users must ensure that proper parameters are set to track these events.
Again, you can refer to Google’s migration guide for step-by-step instructions on how to do this.
Data Privacy and Compliance with GA4
One of the most significant changes in GA4 is its focus on data privacy and ethical data collection. This is why it’s essential to research your industry, primarily if you operate in a regulated industry such as Law, International Business, Medical, Health Care, Insurance, or Finance.
Regarding data collection, GA4 does not log or store IP addresses from EU users. Instead, all EU data is collected through domains and servers based in the EU before being sent to Analytics servers for processing. Google signals can also be automatically enabled or disabled on a per-region basis. While cookies are still used in tracking, they become less prevalent over time as more emphasis is placed on privacy and data collection.
Users Have More Control of Their Data
In addition to the changes in data collection, GA4 also provides users with more control over their data privacy. For example, you can utilize the Data Deletion tool within GA4 to delete specific data, including user or event data. Users can also send a data request to delete their data, which will be automatically deleted after a certain period.
Start Collecting Data Now
It’s essential to keep up with any changes to data privacy laws and regulations that may affect your organization. Familiarize yourself with new property regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). These laws can impact how your organization collects and handles user data.
Overall, it’s crucial to prioritize data privacy and compliance when migrating to GA4. By staying current on industry regulations and utilizing the tools and features available within GA4, you can ensure your organization collects and handles data ethically and complies with current regulations.
For more information, refer to Google’s support page on disabling web and app activity tracking.
Best Practices for Using GA4 to Track Website and Digital Marketing Performance
Tracking all platforms and efforts separately is important to define audiences better and improve targeting. Be aware of all the platforms you use to market, and make sure you have a plan for individual platforms and efforts. One way to achieve this is to create custom events and use Google Tag Manager to organize better and create custom event triggers.
Connect to other Google Properties
Connecting to other Google properties, such as Google Search Console and Google Ads, can provide additional insights into your site or app data, search, and marketing performance. It’s also important to create internal traffic filters to disable data collection from office and employee IPs.
Continuously Monitor Accuracy
In addition to tracking all platforms and efforts separately, reviewing and optimizing your GA4 setup to ensure accuracy regularly is important. This can involve auditing your goals against other reports or tracking KPIs against your future GA4 setup. By taking control of the measurement process, you can evaluate your organization’s experience in KPI and marketing benchmarks to see if further education or training is needed.
Aligning Digital Marketing Efforts with GA4
It’s important to note that while GA4 offers many new features and benefits, it’s not a replacement for your existing digital marketing efforts. Instead, it should be used with other tools and platforms to provide a comprehensive view of your marketing performance. By aligning your digital marketing efforts with GA4, you can collect accurate data and make informed decisions about your marketing strategy.
At Timmermann Group, we have experience helping businesses navigate the changes to GA4 and ensure their digital marketing efforts are aligned with GA4. Our team can help you track all platforms and efforts separately, better define audiences, and optimize your GA4 setup for accuracy. We can also help you connect to other top Google Analytics properties, create custom events, and use Google Tag Manager to organize and trigger events.
Let us be your marketing partner in your GA4 migration and beyond.
Measuring Performance with GA4
The following are some tips on how to get the most out of GA4:
- Set it up correctly: The first step in measuring performance with GA4 is to ensure it’s set up correctly. Doing so lets you track the right metrics and get accurate results.
- Regular audits: Regular audits are important to ensure your GA4 setup is accurate. Comparing data sets and identifying discrepancies is critical to identifying areas for improvement.
- Audit UA goals: If you’re transitioning from Universal Analytics to GA4, it’s essential to audit your goals against other reports or tracking KPIs against your future GA4 setup. Doing so will help ensure that you’re measuring the right metrics and that your data is accurate.
- PPC Ads: If you’ve run PPC ads before, consider running them through your previous data to see if they were helpful or need goal updates. This can help you refine your PPC strategy and improve your overall performance.
- Take control of the measurement process: By evaluating your organization’s experience in KPI and marketing benchmarks, you can identify areas where further education may be needed. This will help you better understand how to measure and improve your online performance.
By following these best practices, you can collect enough historical data to accurately measure your website and mobile apps’ digital marketing performance to make data-driven decisions that will improve your online presence.
Timmermann Group: Your Partner for GA4 Migration and Beyond
At Timmermann Group, we understand the importance of accurate and actionable data for effective digital marketing. As businesses navigate the changes to Google Analytics with the new version of GA4, we are here to help you make a smooth transition and ensure that your data is tracked and reported accurately.
Our experienced marketers and analytics data experts can work with you to define and implement best practices for GA4, including privacy controls and ethical data collection. We can also help you accurately track your website, mobile data and digital marketing performance and align your digital marketing efforts with GA4.
As your marketing partner, we provide ongoing support and guidance to ensure you get the most out of GA4 and make data-driven business decisions. Whether you need assistance with data analysis, custom event tracking, or setting up integrations with other Google properties, we are here to help.
Contact us today to learn more about our GA4 migration services and how we can help you take your digital marketing to the next level.