What you need to know before adopting GA4
By Mike Sharp
GA4 is currently the talk of the digital marketing town – and for good reason! It’s the biggest shake-up to data and analytics in a very long time and signifies a shift in the way we need to think about and handle data.
But before you decide to dive in headfirst, there’s some important top-level things you need to understand and get to grips with.
What is GA4?
Don’t be fooled by the name, GA4 is far more than just a simple update to Google Analytics. In fact, you’re better off thinking of it as an entirely new platform, built from the ground up.
Much has changed. Bounce Rate has retired in favour of ‘Engaged Sessions’. IP addresses are anonymised already. Cross-platform tracking between website and app is a thing at last, and there are fewer reporting views – there’s actually only one out of the box.
GA4 is the future. At this point it is awkwardly different, but once you’ve navigated the learning curve, the flexibility and insights offered will more than make up for the time needed to master it.
But while all of that will come into play, it’s something we’ll get into a little later in our GA4 series. For now, you first need to understand why any of this matters.
Why should I care about GA4?
In case you’re not up to speed, Google announced its plans to sunset Universal Analytics (that’s GA as we know it today) in July 2023. That may seem like a long way away, but we’d advise against sitting back or resting on your laurels.
That’s because, as we’ve already touched on, a lot has changed. If you want to be able to make meaningful data comparisons in the near future, you need to start now.
GA4 symbolises a massive step-change in the way we handle, report on and request data. All businesses operating online need to understand that the numbers they’re reporting on now will change – not for the better, or the worse, they’ll just be different. It’s a different measurement model. It’ll only hold your data for 14 months – a massive change from Universal Analytics. By getting started sooner rather than later, you can set yourself up for better data retention.
GA4 is Google’s answer to the privacy meteorite that is already striking the internet, which is leading to more and more users demanding their privacy be respected. This obviously threatens our ability as marketers to identify users and ultimately Google’s ability to serve relevant, personalised ads to them.
Remember, Google will always find a way, especially when its core business is threatened.
In any case, GA4 presents a decision: to migrate now, later or use an alternative provider?
What you need to do now
So we’ve set the scene – but what now? Your first big priority should be answering our previous question: will you migrate now or not?
To decide that, we’d recommend taking a look around GA4 and getting a feel for the platform yourself. Have a look at Michael’s blog to get an indication of how to start investigating.
This process will be made a lot easier if you have a data strategy in mind. The types of questions you should be looking to answer include…:
How are you using the data from Google Analytics currently?
What insights do you really need?
Which metrics are vanity vs business critical?
What data can your business not do without?
How do you expect that might change or grow over the next 3 to 5 years?
Can GA4 help you do that, or do you need something else?
The fact is, GA4 isn’t going to be for everyone, and there will be alternatives available. That being said, try to keep an open mind and avoid overwhelm. It’s a lot to get your head around initially but equally GA4 does present some very exciting new insight opportunities.
At Launch we recognise this is a big change, and it is one that many businesses are already somewhat intimidated by given we’ve all been using GA in its current form (UA) for almost a decade.
Stay tuned for more on our GA4 series where we will unpack as much as we think you will need to help with the transition.