If you clicked on this blog post, you probably already know about the transition from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which officially happened on July 1, 2023.
In fact, you’ve probably already made the switch. That’s great news! If that’s the case, you’ve seen that things are much more customizable in GA4. There’s a real opportunity to gain visibility into the entire customer journey and tailor reporting to suit your needs.
But, as with any new technology, there’s a learning curve. We’ve made the switch for ourselves and on behalf of clients and discovered some things along the way. Here are four insights we hope will make your path to GA4 implementation a little smoother.
Rethink your data collection
As part of the transition, Google has switched up how it handles some of its basic data capture.
In GA4, everything–including metrics like pageviews–is considered an event. It has also done away with Category, Action, and Label parameters within events. Instead, there are recommended events with recommended parameters, all of which require some setup. You can also establish custom events and parameters, which enable even greater specificity in your measurements.
This level of customizability allows you to truly make GA4 your own, but it comes with some caveats.
The first is that if you zipped through the migration process and allowed Google to do most of your GA4 setup automatically, the disparities in how events are handled have likely introduced some gaps in your data collection.
The second is that bespoke data won’t be captured in standard reports. If you customize your data collection, you’ll want to create custom reporting to go along with it.
The overall theme here? Greater flexibility means a greater time investment to make sure you’re thinking through the logic of your setup and implementing everything properly.
Remember, you’re laying the groundwork for your analytics going forward–investing in this process is worth it.
Make your data consumable
If you’ve spent any time in your GA4 dashboard, you know it’s a busy place. There are a lot of numbers, graphs, and charts vying for your attention. For novice GA4 users, it can feel pretty overwhelming.
That’s why we recommend building a custom dashboard to house your data (we like using Looker Studio, another Google tool). A dashboard tunes out the noise and highlights only the data that’s relevant to you. Plus, a clean, concise dashboard is also the kind of thing you can easily share with leadership to show progress and justify strategy and spend.
Grab that UA data while you still can
Google still provides access to old Universal Analytics accounts–and the data stored within them–but that will change on July 1, 2024. That’s when Google will shutter UA completely. If you haven’t gathered and stored your data elsewhere, it will disappear.
I know, July 2024 sounds like a lifetime away. But who among us hasn’t pushed a “no rush” project to the bottom of the to-do list month after month until it’s suddenly very much a rush?
Now is the time to download all that old data–even if you’re not ready to use it yet. It can hang out in a spreadsheet until you need it, but it’s better off safely stored with you than in UA limbo.
Have a plan for your GA4 data
The one noteworthy downside to GA4? Unlike Universal Analytics, which stored your data forever, GA4 is capping data storage at 14 months.
This won’t be a big deal for every business–some organizations don’t have much use for data from years ago. But others will want to keep old data for year-over-year comparisons.
If you’re one of those who needs the older data, now’s the time to make a plan. How will you collect it, where will you store it, and what will you do with it once you’ve pulled it off GA4?
When it comes to storage, Google offers a paid solution, BigQuery, that allows you to house all the data you need.
As for what to do with the data once you’ve gathered it somewhere? Again, we recommend a custom dashboard. You won’t necessarily be able to get an apples-to-apples comparison between UA and GA4 data, but a dashboard can help you spot similar patterns across disparate data.
I’d be lying if I said the transition to GA4 is swift and easy. But remember, you’re laying the groundwork for your analytics going forward–investing in this process is worth it. And in six months, when you look at your beautiful dashboard filled with insights to guide your future business decisions, you’ll be so glad you did.
Are you overwhelmed by the new world of GA4? We have the firsthand experience to get you set up and feeling confident.