February 20, 2023
If managing your company’s website or website metrics falls under your purview, then you’re likely aware of Google’s move from Universal Analytics (UA) to GA4, their new web metrics platform.
If you aren’t, then read on to learn the four big challenges we think will impact how your organization will use Google Analytics products in the future.
Back in October 2020, Google released GA4 as the new “Google Analytics,” meant to accommodate the changes we’re seeing in online user behavior and to address data privacy concerns. Put another way, marketers need to see the interplay between mobile web/app behavior and desktop browsing behavior and Google needs to make sure that user data is better protected.
The news broke and no one seemed to care since UA has been the standard for years. In addition, no one was forced to use GA4 (much less understand the platform or why anyone would use it).
All of that is changing come July 1st, 2023. On that day, UA will cease collecting data and anyone that wants to use Google Analytics will need to use GA4. UA data will be held for six months before being completely deleted, and none of that data will carry over to GA4. Everyone will be operating with a blank slate.
Moving to GA4 is simple, and we’ll cover how to do that and what else you should do in our next post on this topic. But while migrating is simple, everyone will have to take time to understand what these changes mean for their website and business.
Here are four recommendations to consider as we embark on 2023:
1. Be patient.
- Everyone will have to make their own meaning of GA4 data via trial and error, and benchmarking across industries and the internet at large will get even harder.
- You will not be able to rely on tried-and-true metrics in the same ways as before, and figuring out what is “good” or “bad” performance will be subjective for every organization.
2. Find flexible and experimental team members to help.
- Understanding on-site user behavior will become a complex latticework that each organization will need to build and understand for themselves — it will look different for everyone, with organizations deciding what they care about most.
3. Prepare for the cookie-less future – it could strike at any time.
- Outside advertising and e-commerce trackers that collect data for targeting and segmenting will be blocked/useless – good for the public; bad for AdLand.
- The best GA4 setups will involve some sort of merger between first-party data and what GA4 can tell you about site traffic.
- The days of buying commoditized data or using a programmatic partner with “proprietary software” may be coming to an end…maybe.
4. Assign someone on your team(s) to become familiar with how the new metrics are defined.
- One new primary metric in GA4 is called an Event, and some come pre-programmed while others can be customized even if you don’t know how to code.
- This sounds great, but spend any time on GA4-themed Subreddits or Substacks (or other popular discussion boards) and you’ll see how what Google is billing as freedom and fluidity is leading to a lot of headaches.
The next blog in this series will be a step-by-step look at how we’re dealing with the transition and what you can do to get started on it if you’re behind.
If you have specific questions or just want to pick our brains about this new reality, drop me a line.