The end is nigh! For Universal Analytics (UA), that is… On July 1st Google will be forcibly switching us all over to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). It wouldn’t be surprising if they welched on the date, but we should still take the time to recap on what this change means for the good marketers of Australia.
The story so far…
A little while ago Google brought out the “next gen” version of Google Analytics: GA4. In the wake of “privacy first” changes to the digital environment UA had supposedly lost its edge. We were promised GA4 would make up for that, but at this point with Google it’s a “fool me once” kind of situation.
I always try to remind myself (and everyone around me) that “hope is the first step on the road to disappointment”. Despite that, I did allow myself a glimmer of hope too much and was ultimately left disappointed. Google fooled me once more.
With GA4’s release the first faint sounds of a bell tolling in the distance could be heard for UA. So, although we didn’t have to shift over right away, the time was always on the horizon.
And that time has now come.
What does this mean for me?
You need to change your website tracking system from UA to GA4.
This is a pretty simple process of updating your Tag Manager code from one to the other. Google even introduced a handy “wizard” to help you do it!
But is that easier said than done? Not really. So… Get it done ASAP.
But it can’t be that easy?
Well, it is. So, stop questioning me!… But, there is one major downside I should probably mention – you won’t be able to draw comparisons with your historical data in UA.
It’s almost like you’ll be starting from scratch!
Historical data isn’t imported into GA4 and, because it’ll be stored in two systems, you won’t be able to compare them directly. You can still get a vibe for historical trends, but nothing concrete. Additionally, they track data differently so it’s like apples and pears in some areas.
Pro tip: speaking of historical data, GA4 is set to only save data for 14 months by default. This can be bumped up to 50 months which allows a greater length of comparison, so make sure you do that.
Well, once you’ve got it setup (and some data captured) you’ll want to jump in. Then you’ll soon see what I’m unhappy about – wow, is that interface bad! It’s so hard to find or do anything in there! It’s like they somehow dumbed down the interface whilst simultaneously making it more complicated.
Luckily, we were early adopters and have gotten the hang of it all now, but it’s a really steep learning curve. If you rely on UA and have been putting off jumping over to GA4 then I promise you won’t regret getting started a couple of months before the final deadline. Get in there while you’ve still got your UA safety net!
Here’s a step by step list of what you need to do:
- Create your GA4 property & stream
- Make sure it’s plugged into your site properly
- Turn on Google signals for your remarketing and reporting
- Make sure your conversions are still firing and being picked up properly as events
- Toggle the important events to count as conversions
- Link it to your Google Ads
- Import your new conversions to Google Ads (and your audiences too probably)
- Cry into your pillow about having to do all this
Mira, did I actually learn anything here? That’s a question to ask yourself! But, really this whole article is just a reminder to get your house in order with Analytics before you get left in the dust and lose your ability to measure marketing performance.