The Future of Analytics: What Does Next Year’s GA4 Migration Mean?

Close-up of a tablet showing Google Analytics dashboard

Jun 24, 2022 | Marketing & Branding

Moving Forward with New Updates

Whether customer needs, viewing habits or website journeys change – or a better reporting tool emerges – one thing is for certain: Technology is always changing, and the field must adapt as a whole. Among the most recent updates include Google’s announcement  they’re going to shift from Universal Analytics to Google’s fourth version of Google Analytics.

In October 2020, Google released GA4 intending to provide users with deeper insights, predictive modeling, and improved integration with Google Ads. However, at that time, Universal Analytics was still considered the primary tool for data measurement, and users were allowed to use both tools for their data and analytics needs.

Beginning July 1, 2023, Google will no longer send data to Universal Analytics, the analytics tool marketers have been using since 2013. In its place, all websites will need to create a new property by migrating to Google Analytics 4 (GA4.) If this does not get integrated, valuable user-id data will be missed.

Before this change takes place, it’s important to know the basics of why Google is making this switch, what may look different after migrating to GA4, and how GA4 may enhance accuracy while improving data models and providing other key benefits.

Why Is Google Making the Change to GA4 vs. Universal Analytics?

This change comes about for several reasons, and while it may seem like a daunting and unwelcome adjustment to some, in reality, many of the old metrics, like bounce rate, average time on site and even session data, are imperfect forms of measurement and can be misleading.

This will allow us to focus more deeply on how the present-day user base engages with websites while placing new emphasis on engagement, user interaction and event-based data – thereby furthering the accuracy of evaluating user behavior on websites.

GA4 also does not rely on cookies or collect IP addresses – which, as privacy regulations evolve, will be an important distinction.

What Are the Differences Between Universal Analytics and GA4?

There are many differences between universal analytics and GA4. Let us break them down so you can better understand and be prepared for what’s ahead.

Differences in Reporting

GA4 uses different data modeling than Universal Analytics. In fact, some industry standards for determining the success of a website have been replaced. These include bounce rate, views, time on page/site, and page views.

In place of reporting the hit types, GA4 data will be shown as events, with new metrics focused on user engagement, engagement time and engagement rates.

Along with these brand-new events in GA4 will be new industry event benchmarks and what they mean against your site data.

GA vs. GA4: Event Tracking

GA, by default, only tracks page views of a website, leaving out key data and insights. Yes, you can customize metrics to track other goals, but often this requires expert-level knowledge of Google’s tag management system (TMS), Google Tag Manager.

In contrast, GA4 comes out of the box with automatically collected events – allowing you to track a range of events without the need to build out your own or create custom dimensions. Current events provided include scrolling, outbound clicks, video engagement, site searches and file downloads.

Cross-Device Tracking

With GA4, whether you are using an Android/iPhone app or the web, you’re able to compare and analyze data on a single platform.

With this new feature, we can better understand whether your marketing campaigns across devices/platforms are effective while improving your understanding of the customer journey and managing cross-device issues.

Enhanced Action Measurement

GA only allowed tracking of time on page views, sessions and users. With GA4, we can see how long it takes users to complete a set of steps, like filling out a form, reading a blog, or watching a video. We’re also able to temporarily or permanently exclude users based on behaviors and conditions.

Additional Benefits of GA4

  • It is easier to get to the bottom of issues with an improved debugging experience.
  • There is enhanced analysis with a toolset for advanced analysis and funnels based on what is most important to you.
  • GA4 uses event-driven data modeling to make it more intuitive to analyze reports while being more reliable.
  • You can group users into audiences based on conversion probability and whether or not they are likely to convert in the next seven days, enhancing fund allocation in integrated campaigns while being useful for remarketing efforts.
  • GA4 utilizes machine learning to improve reports and performance.

What Else Is New About GA4?

Segments

In GA4, you can create three different types of segments, whereas in Universal Analytics, you could only create two: user segments and session segments. GA4’s segments include user, session, and event segments.

Metrics

There are new metrics that GA4 notes in website traffic reports. Noted below, these are designed to provide you with a deeper look into who is visiting your site and how often, how engaged they are, and more.

  • Engaged Sessions: Google shares that the engaged session metric is the count of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, had a conversion event, or had two or more screen or page views.
  • Engagement Time: This measures the amount of time a user is engaging with the page and having the page as the primary window being viewed on the screen.
  • Engaged Sessions per User: This measures the total number of engaged sessions divided by the user count.
  • Engagement Rate: Replacing the bounce rate as it does not work well on landing pages or blogs where they won’t navigate around a site, this measures where a user has actively interacted with your site for 10 seconds at least. This is the ratio of engaged sessions relative to total sessions.

Getting Started Sooner Rather than Later

Why Make the Switch Now?

As we all know, it takes time to get used to changes while working out any bugs. Creating a GA4 Google Analytics Property now will provide a year’s worth of learning that enhances future analysis, make information more meaningful, and allow you to develop more informed marketing strategies. It also gives you time to get used to the single view that GA4 currently offers – though experts expect this to change.

Perhaps most importantly, making the switch now also ensures that when Google Analytics becomes unsupported next year, client-partners will still have a year’s worth of historical data in GA4 to use, compare with and build from.

We’re Here to Help

We know these changes can be a source of stress, but we’re here to help guide you through the changing technological landscape.

From education and providing insights to rebuilding dashboards and goals and ensuring proper setup, we’re happy to be part of your team, taking on these changes together while supporting your success for years to come.

SageAge: Here for You, Always

If you need assistance in any areas of marketing and integrated growth strategy to improve your business results, we invite you to contact us today to learn more about our proven strategies that have transformed other senior living communities like yours.

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