- Oct 13, 2022
It’s hard to believe it has been roughly three years since Google introduced Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the replacement for Universal Analytics (UA), which will sunset in June 2023. It’s time for marketers to make, or at least begin to make, the transition from UA to GA4.
So why did Google make the switch? It’s all about better analytics and more data from which to draw insights. UA (also known as Universal Analytics 360), quite simply, relies on cookies – and, as we know, (third-party) cookies will someday go away.
UA has/had its purpose, providing measurement tools for desktop web, independent sessions and all that data from cookies. The methodology, to Google’s own admission, is out of date.
GA4, on the other hand, is able to operate and measure across platforms, is not reliant on cookies exclusively, and measures user movement across those platforms with an event-based model. Being able to measure app and web integrations together provides real value.
Privacy also receives an upgrade under GA4, which will no longer store IP addresses, one of the increased set of data collection controls under the new analytics platform. As consumers request, and regulators require, more data privacy protection and control over their data, these new solutions meet consumers where they are.
What About the Metrics?
Under UA, page views were the metric. With GA4, events are measured. How did a user interact with a company’s website or app? This leads to more in-depth reports with more granular data.
The goal of GA4? The ability to more easily track customer journeys. That old “page views are where it’s at” mentality under UA is gone.
Not surprisingly, Google freely admits that the old UA was subpar when it came to tracking the customer journey. At LeadsRx, it’s what we do.
That fragmented customer journey that entails multiple devices and multiple platforms is what LeadsRx Attribution™ – specifically multi-touch attribution – does and will continue to do. GA4 data will help with that endeavor, but it can never meet the truly transparent, unbiased view that our third-party solution provides. Google is still looking out for Google, pushing its ad performance.
GA4 is also improving its reporting capabilities. Its new Life Cycle section calls out reports for acquisition, engagement, monetization, and retention. Think of the LeadsRx dashboard, for those who are customers already.
Next Steps to Move to GA4
For an enterprise currently using UA, it’s time to begin the transition. New businesses will automatically start setting up GA4 accounts. One thing to note is that GA4 is a brand new tool, so it is not just a transition, it’s an overhaul to the new platform.
The legacy UA system will not allow the import of all data to GA4, so setting it up ASAP is the wise move. The accounts will be linked, but it is not clear just how tightly. Get that data collecting started now. Get used to the new tool. Google provides this resource for marketers making the transition from new to old.
Cons of GA4
Like most things, there is good and bad with GA4.
Some highlights of the cons:
- There’s a learning curve
- No easy way to migrate data from UA
- Interface is not intuitive
- The “Views” function is gone
- Limitations on properties users
- As with most applications, the free version has its limits
- One of the “free” version limits is lack of support
- Cannot create custom channel groupings
- Reporting can be convoluted
- Still governed by a cookie consent policy
Let’s focus some more on that last bullet. Enterprises still need consent to capture user data. Those pesky cookie consent banners will not be going away and are necessary for websites to trigger GA4 tags and capture user data.
Pros of GA4
Some pro highlights:
- Easy implementation (with that learning curve)
- Better tracking with event-based data
- Enhanced measurement of pageviews for SPAs
- Some free enhancements
- Better integration with other connectors
- More advanced reporting features
There certainly are skeptics of GA4. As one blogger put it, citing Jill Quick from The Colouring Department based in London, “Universal Analytics was like driving an automatic car, GA4 is like piloting a helicopter in manual mode.”
LeadsRx looks at GA4 as one more wrench in the data-gathering toolbox. It’s important to use them all – Facebook (even with its growing limitations, thanks to Apple), other social media properties, Bing, other web browsers – to look holistically at marketing to see what is and is not working. Each tool has its own bias, but LeadsRx is impartial, reviewing all channels and delivering real-time data and insights.