As the deadline for migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4 approaches, business and website owners face many concerns and questions. Nervousness about the transition is understandable, given the importance of analytics data in making informed business decisions.
This article aims to alleviate your worries and provide the answers you need. We will address common concerns surrounding the migration process, explore the key differences between Universal Analytics and GA4, discuss GA4’s compliance with data privacy regulations, guide you through the installation process, and highlight available training options. By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge and confidence to seamlessly transition to GA4, harness its advanced features, and unlock the full potential of your analytics data.
Wait — what’s going on?
A significant shift is taking place in the world of Google Analytics. The longstanding Universal Analytics (GA-UA) product is being phased out, and website owners are being compelled to migrate to the newer GA4. This move entails a crucial deadline: As of July 1, 2023, Google Analytics will cease collecting data through the regular Universal Analytics platform. Installing GA4 before this date is imperative to ensure the continuity of your website data. Make sure to make the transition promptly to avoid a noticeable gap in the information gathered from your website.
What is GA4?
GA4 represents the most recent iteration of Google Analytics, offering enhanced features and capabilities to help businesses gain valuable insights into their online presence. As the successor to Universal Analytics, GA4 introduces innovative functionalities designed to align with the evolving data analytics landscape.
GA4 is conveniently accessible within the familiar Google Analytics environment. You can find GA4 by visiting the website https://analytics.google.com/, the same location where you typically access your regular Google Analytics account. This integration ensures a seamless transition for users familiar with the traditional Google Analytics interface.
Why is Google forcing the switch to GA4?
Google announced its intentions to shift from Universal Analytics (UA) to GA4 back in 2020. The platform has long been under scrutiny for its data privacy and storage practices, and they have been sued multiple times for violation of GDPR privacy laws.
Google is proactively adapting to the evolving data analytics landscape, progressively moving towards a cookieless paradigm. With increasing concerns about user privacy and the phasing out of third-party cookies, GA4 embraces this cookieless future, offering a more sustainable and privacy-centric approach to data analysis.
In addition, GA4 harnesses the power of machine learning to bridge any potential gaps in data collection. By leveraging sophisticated algorithms and predictive models, GA4 aims to provide valuable insights even when specific data points may be missing. This integration of machine learning capabilities enhances the overall accuracy and depth of the analytics data, empowering businesses with comprehensive and actionable intelligence.
Is GA4 GDPR compliant?
While GA4 represents a significant improvement in data control and anonymization compared to its predecessors, experts caution that it is not yet fully compliant with the requirements outlined in the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
GA4 offers enhanced control and improved data anonymization, addressing some of the previous shortcomings of Google Analytics. However, certain considerations need to be considered to ensure GDPR compliance. One notable aspect is that GA4 does not provide the option to choose the specific location where user data will be stored. This poses a challenge for businesses with website traffic originating from the European Union (EU), as additional measures must be implemented to meet GDPR obligations related to data storage and transfer.
Moreover, organizations using GA4 should exercise caution when sharing data with other tools, such as Google Ads. Under the GDPR, explicit consent from users is required to share their data, even within the Google ecosystem. Failure to properly manage data sharing permissions may lead to non-compliance with GDPR regulations. Therefore, it is essential for businesses to diligently review and adhere to the necessary consent mechanisms and data handling practices when utilizing GA4 in conjunction with other Google products.
While GA4 represents a step in the right direction toward GDPR compliance, it is crucial to remain vigilant and implement additional measures as necessary to ensure the lawful and responsible handling of user data within the GA4 framework.
How do I know what version of Google Analytics I’m using?
To identify which version of Google Analytics you are currently utilizing, there are a few key indicators to observe. One way is to examine the property name displayed within the Google Analytics interface. When logged into your Google Analytics account, locate the top left-hand side near the search bar. If the property name includes the suffix “- GA4” alongside the designated name, it indicates that you are using GA4. This distinct labeling confirms the usage of the newer version.
Another distinguishing feature is the format of the account number. In the case of GA4, the account number is represented as a string of nine digits. It will appear as (XXXXXXXXX), differing from the format of the previous Universal Analytics (UA) version, which follows the pattern (UA-XXXXXXXX-X).
Will my Google Analytics data disappear?
On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will cease processing new data. However, rest assured that your historical data will remain accessible for reference and analysis. Google has committed to ensuring the availability of Universal Analytics data for viewing until at least July 2024.
It is worth noting that the data captured by GA4, the newer version of Google Analytics, will be stored separately from Universal Analytics. To access the data collected by GA4, you must view it within the dedicated GA4 property. Unfortunately, within the Google Analytics interface, there is currently no seamless integration to view both Universal Analytics and GA4 data in the same location.
How is GA4 different than Universal Analytics?
There are a few critical differences between GA4 and the regular Google Analytics data you’ve probably relied on for years.
One notable difference between GA4 and regular Google Analytics is the shift from pageview-based to events-based tracking. GA4 focuses on capturing and analyzing user interactions and events throughout their journey on your website or app. This transition allows for a more granular understanding of user behavior and engagement.
Automatic IP address anonymization:
Regarding data privacy, GA4 offers an automatic IP address anonymization feature, eliminating the need for manual activation as required in previous versions of Google Analytics. This ensures that user IP addresses are automatically masked, enhancing privacy protection.
Another distinction lies in the data retention period. While Universal Analytics allows the storage of personal data for up to 64 months, GA4 has a maximum duration of 14 months. This shorter retention period aligns with privacy regulations and encourages businesses to focus on timely and relevant data analysis.
Enhanced cross-device tracking:
GA4 aims to provide improved cross-device tracking capabilities, enabling businesses to track and understand customer journeys across multiple devices. This advancement allows for a more comprehensive view of user interactions, providing insights into their behavior across different touchpoints.
GA4 strives to deliver enhanced accuracy and completeness in data reporting. Leveraging advanced analytics techniques, GA4 employs machine learning algorithms to fill in data gaps and provide more reliable and comprehensive insights, enabling businesses to make informed decisions based on accurate data.
Enhanced data privacy and security:
Recognizing the growing importance of data privacy, GA4 incorporates better data privacy and security measures compared to previous versions of Google Analytics. By adopting privacy-centric practices and features like automatic IP address anonymization, GA4 helps businesses comply with privacy regulations and instills confidence in users regarding their data protection.
Due to differences in data collection and reporting methods, it is essential to note that discrepancies may exist between data obtained from Universal Analytics and GA4. These variations arise from each version’s distinct approaches to capturing and analyzing data. Therefore, it is essential to consider these disparities when comparing data between the two platforms.
By understanding these key distinctions, businesses can appreciate the unique features and benefits that GA4 brings to the table.
How do I install GA4?
To install GA4, the first step is to create a new GA4 property within your existing Google Analytics account. This can be done by navigating to your Google Analytics dashboard and accessing the Admin section. From there, you can select “Create Property” and follow the prompts to set up your new GA4 property.
Once you have created the GA4 property, several methods are available to install it on your website. You can choose the approach that best suits your technical capabilities and website infrastructure:
- Manual installation: This method involves manually adding the GA4 tracking code to your website’s header. You can obtain the tracking code from your GA4 property settings and insert it directly into the HTML code of your website. If you work with a web developer, they can help you install your new GA4 code.
- CMS integration: Using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, you can install GA4 using a plugin or extension specifically designed for Google Analytics integration. These plugins typically provide an easy-to-follow setup process, allowing you to connect your GA4 property to your website without manual coding.
- Google Tag Manager: If you prefer a centralized approach to managing your website tags, you can use Google Tag Manager (GTM) to install GA4. GTM provides a user-friendly interface to create and manage tags, including the GA4 tracking code, without directly modifying your website’s code. You will need to set up a GTM container and follow the instructions to add the GA4 tag within GTM.
Need help installing GA4?
For those who prefer a hassle-free and expert-led installation process, I offer a quick and easy GA4 installation service for only $300 for WordPress and Shopify sites, with guaranteed installation within 72 hours of receiving access to all accounts.
This service particularly benefits non-technical individuals relying heavily on analytics to drive their business decisions. By taking advantage of this offer, you can ensure a smooth and efficient installation of GA4, allowing you to seamlessly transition to the latest generation of Google Analytics.
Is there training available for GA4?
I offer several types of GA4 training to make the transition easier.
1-on-1 training for GA4
You can book 1-on-1 virtual training with me at a rate of $250 per hour. During these sessions, you will receive dedicated attention and guidance to delve into the intricacies of GA4. The training is tailored to your unique needs, covering various topics: A basic walkthrough of the data and reports, locating specific data you are accustomed to seeing in Universal Analytics, or building custom reports tailored to your requirements.
Virtual team training for GA4
This training is designed for marketing teams and business decision-makers alike. Virtual team training sessions can be arranged to provide a comprehensive understanding of GA4 for multiple participants. These sessions offer an opportunity for collaborative learning and can be customized to focus on specific areas of interest or challenges your team faces. A comprehensive 1-hour virtual team training costs $650, including a 30-minute presentation and 30 minutes of question-and-answer.
In-person GA4 training and workshops
If you and your team learn better in a hands-on, face-to-face environment, I offer in-person GA4 training sessions and workshops. These sessions allow for more interactive discussions and demonstrations. Pricing for in-person GA4 workshops at your business location ranges from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the training duration, number of participants, and destination.
If you are interested in booking an on-site GA4 training, please reach out with the details of your request, including the number of participants and the location of your business. Click here to get in touch.
While it may seem intimidating, migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4 is a necessary step for businesses to adapt to the evolving landscape of data analytics. With its events-based tracking, enhanced data privacy features, and improved cross-device tracking capabilities, GA4 offers a more comprehensive and advanced approach to understanding user behavior and engagement.
By staying informed about the migration process and taking advantage of available resources and training, businesses can seamlessly embrace GA4 and unlock the full potential of their analytics data to make informed decisions and drive business growth.