GA4 Is Coming — Are You Prepared?
Mar 28 2023
The marketing world is used to its fair share of disruptions. However, the pending Universal Analytics phase-out can be considered among the more radical shifts impacting how advertisers go about constructing, measuring, and optimizing digital campaigns.
In its place, Google Analytics 4 serves as the new foundation of data and ad management on the world’s largest search platform. Here’s what we know about the leap from UA to GA4 in the coming months, and which features marketers can look forward to deploying under this renewed platform.
When Is UA Leaving Us?
Google will stop tracking new hits on Universal Analytics in favor of the new-generation GA4 measurement platform beginning July 1, 2023. GA4 is presently available to all ad partners, and the mandatory conversion date set for next summer aims to give brands ample time to begin collecting data and tailoring their GA4 settings for a seamless transition.
What’s Different About GA4?
Google’s next offering for its advertising partners includes a host of tweaks and improvements to its existing features, plus some valuable new additions. Here are some of the changes marketing professionals should be aware of before they make the switch:
Data acquisition and management – GA4’s refreshed data collection model is better equipped to safely gather, track, and apply data. Every user’s journey will now be trackable down to the finest details — and without the need to implement Google Tag Manager on your branded website. The new model aims to make cross-device tracking more accessible, and with more accurate customer profiles.
New data storage practices – GA4 will not collect or store IP addresses, making individual data erasure a simpler task for users who wish to avoid having their private data stored. Giving users additional control over the extent of their personal data usage is key to GA4’s processes moving forward.
Data privacy and access – One of the biggest challenges facing search engines (and to a larger extent any ad-supported platform) is the need to perform optimally while remaining compliant with data privacy regulations. While these regulations can change rapidly or vary widely by location, Google’s new system is designed to keep up: GA4 is designed to make the most of first-party cookies in order to better facilitate reliable cross-device data collection and reporting.
Updated data categorization – Many of the labels and categories under GA4 will appear new at first glance, but in fact house familiar functions under new tabs or labels. As covered previously, user info has been relocated to the ”Audience” tab, while “Engagement” expands to include customer behavior and conversions data (previously “goals”). Previous engagement types like page views, transactions, and social interactions are all now captured and labeled as “events,” which delivers insight into user behavior at the unfortunate cost of clashing with UA’s tracking model — meaning a blank slate for gathering user data upon transitioning.
While the default GA4 dashboard is flush with useful features, virtually every aspect of the page can be customized to better suit advertisers’ detailed preferences.
Introduction of “parameters” – A new selection termed “parameters” now contains what was previously labeled actions, categories, and labels now live within a new label termed “parameters,” which track relevant contextual information surrounding users’ online activity.
New data visualization tools – Always eager to provide marketers with new ways of making data-driven decisions, Google has opted to provide several all-new graphs and visualizations for marketers to track campaign performance, including a very handy “trended funnels” graph, which plots detailed changes to sales funnel activity over time.
Expect Google to continue rolling out new features for GA4 as more advertisers make the switch, including smarter machine learning capabilities built to project potential demand trends before they occur, the now-default “data-driven attribution” tracking model, and updates to GA4’s setup assistant to ease the switch from UA.
Ready to update your digital marketing strategy and build your business?
Our experts are here to help.