It’s Happening, Say Goodbye to Google’s Universal Analytics
If you are one of the many companies who has been kicking the proverbial can down the road or sticking your head in the sand about the change to GA4, the time has come to take action. As of July 1st 2023, Google’s long-standing and beloved Universal Analytics will stop processing data. That means, if you want to continue collecting analytical web data, you must have Google Analytics 4 installed on your site and fully functioning.
If you have not done so already, make the switch. Do not wait until your hand is forced and you realize Ga4 is not firing properly. Talk to your developer, speak with your marketing agency or head of marketing to ensure this has been taken addressed.
GA4 is a Different System
How many times can one person use the phrase, “a brave new world” in digital marketing? Apparently, a lot. Folks, GA4 is a brave new world of data, a world without cookies, a world where channels are at best murky and at worst completely convoluted, a world where views are replaced with events. What does this mean for you? Reporting will look different because the system is different. I cannot stress this enough: GA4 is not an updated version of Universal Analytics, it is something completely NEW. Yes, there will be some of the same functionality, but when looking at your YoY data it is no longer an apples-to-apples comparison. The very foundation of session-based tracking is being replaced. Read that again. The foundation of everything that UA was built on is being replaced.
Should You Freak Out?
Well, no. And you definitely shouldn’t freak out on the person in charge of data reporting or monitoring your Google Analytics account. Digital marketing is constantly changing and evolving. That means the way we think about and approach digital marketing needs to change too. If you view GA4 as an opportunity to reexamine your data instead of a disruption to your current process, there is a lot to be gained.
Personally, I believe there will be some fairly major hangups around attribution and channels, especially when trying to compare current results to historical data. For one, Google will no longer be using any semblance of last-click (or last non-direct click). When looking at reports in GA4 certain channels are going to drop drastically, inevitably leading to panic over questions such as, “where did all of the Organic conversions go”. They didn’t go anywhere; they are no longer receiving the entirety of credit they once did. Instead that channel is being viewed as part of the path to conversion and receiving partial credit for each conversion.
Take a closer look at your channel report and you’ll notice some new channels that didn’t previously exist. Channels didn’t simply pop into existence through a Google created pan-dimensional wormhole, instead Google has shifted both the definition of channels and the attribution method the system uses. GA4 will force us to look at the entire pie instead of the slices. Consider using MER (Marketing Efficiency Ratio) as one of your standard KPIs.
This is happening and it’s happening soon! Understand that this shift takes away some of the detailed reporting we currently enjoy with Universal Analytics. If you are prepared for the change and approach GA4 as a completely new system to learn and explore, I believe you’ll soon enjoy the many benefits of this robust approach to data collection and analysis.