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What You Need to Know Before Migrating To Google Analytics 4 (GA4) | SLT Consulting

Updated: May 18, 2023

Data analytics is about to undergo a massive transformation and challenge brands to reevaluate how they collect and interpret consumer data. SLTC is here to prepare you for what's ahead.

On July 1st, 2023, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will replace Universal Analytics (UA) and will be the only option for Google Analytics users moving forward. After this date, Google will no longer track your website's visitors or introduce new features for UA.

Now is the time to transition to GA4 so your business can continue leveraging invaluable first-party data to learn how your audience is discovering and engaging with your brand.

Read on to learn the key differences between UA and GA4, what to consider before making the switch from one of SLTC's Google Analytics experts, and why having a solid first-party data strategy is more important than ever to connect with your audience.

Why Is Universal Analytics (UA) Going Away?

So what is GA4, and how does it differ from UA? Google announced GA4 two years ago to provide more accurate analytics data and give users more control over their personal information.

The most significant difference between GA4 and UA is how it tracks web data.

While UA relies on session-based tracking, using cookies to build a dataset of individual user sessions and their activity details, GA4 employs event-based tracking that relies on event signals to create a dataset of user actions.

This new method of collecting data leverages machine learning to fill in the gaps left by cookies and allows Google Analytics to move away from cookies altogether and comply with the latest web data privacy policies, like GDPR.

More importantly, event-based tracking provides greater visibility into entire user journeys through cross-device and cross-platform monitoring, improving the user experience while supplying deeper insights for businesses.

Check out our blog for more information on the key differences and benefits of migrating to GA4 for your business here.

Top Considerations When Making the Switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

According to Google, “Until July 1st, 2023, you can continue to use and collect new data in your Universal Analytics properties. After July 1st, 2023, you'll be able to access your previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property for at least six months.” So after July 1st, UA will no longer process new hits.

Because you cannot migrate your data from UA to GA4, we recommend exporting your historical data. You can do this in three ways: manually export your data, export via Google Analytics Reporting API, or Google Analytics 360 customers can export their data to BigQuery.

Remember that you won't be transitioning to an exact replica of UA. SLTC's GA4 Expert Rachel Denton explains some key considerations to keep in mind as you make the switch:

"GA4 uses a different data model than UA, where GA4's data model is event-based, rather than user-based. With an event-based data model, GA4 tracks specific actions (or events) visitors take on a website or app. This means goals are no longer available in GA4, and events are implemented solely through Google Tag Manager (GTM).

Additionally, with a new data model comes new terminology and the removal of some key metrics from UA, such as bounce rate. It'll be important to familiarize yourself with the new terms and metrics as you transition to GA4.

The tracking code for GA4 is also different than the one for UA. To ensure you're tracking events on your website correctly, you should update the tracking code on your website when you move from UA to GA4.

In contrast to UA, GA4's reporting interface offers less out-of-the-box functionality and more customization capabilities. Be patient because it may take a little more time to get things set up in GA4 to meet the needs of your business than it might have in UA!"

You can read the full extent of Google’s announcement along with resources to assist you with the transition here. But for now, you can breathe easy knowing your data and reports within UA are safe.

Why You Need a First-Party Data Strategy

First-party data refers to the information collected directly from customers through various sources such as website analytics, customer feedback forms, CRM systems, etc.

A well-executed first-party data strategy offers a number of advantages to a company. Rachel Denton notes, “Businesses collect first-party data directly from their customers and prospects, which can provide powerful insights into their prospects’ and customers’ behaviors, preferences, and purchases.

With a strong strategy in place for leveraging this first-party data, marketers can improve their online experiences, products, and support offerings to better meet the needs of their users while also providing more personalized user experiences. Marketing campaigns based on first-party data have shown to be more effective, yielding an increase in revenue and ROI.”

Just how much ROI can you expect from your first-party data strategy? According to a Google and Boston Consulting Group study, "Those using first-party data for key marketing functions achieved up to a 2.9X revenue uplift and a 1.5X increase in cost savings."

Make the Switch to GA4 Today to Stay Ahead in a Cookie-Less World

After 10 years of using Universal Analytics, moving to a new system can feel daunting. But don't let your fear of the unknown prevent you from capturing valuable first-party consumer data.

If you're eager to maximize your website's potential, switch to GA4 and establish a killer first-party data strategy to squeeze the most juice out of your efforts.

And if you need help figuring out where to start, click here to book a call with the GA4 experts at SLTC today!


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