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Time to set up Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Time to set up Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been around since 2020 – the year the world changed! And GA4 is a significant change in the analytics space. Google has been hard at work improving its GA4 platform. So, as of 1 July 2023, Google will no longer be tracking ANY data to their old version of analytics – Universal Analytics (UA). This means that the move to GA4 is no longer optional. 

Why is Google Analytics 4 such a drastic change?

1. GA4 and privacy

As South Africans, we all remember the big push to POPIA compliance in 2020. Businesses need to change internal processes, ensure their data storage is secure and add a cookie policy opt-in on their website. Although each country or region is different, South Africa is not the only country with privacy laws. Google realised that UA was gathering too much personal data on internet users. For South Africans, privacy policy pop-ups, when the user opts out, means that data is not all tracked. When opted in, all data is tracked. GA4 ensures that all user data is protected and that international privacy laws are adhered to. 

2. GA4 and data

GA4 tracks data in a very different way from UA. GA4 looks at users and their engagement on your site. UA looked at visits and sessions. This slight terminology change gives us the biggest clue into what GA4 aims to achieve. Google wants to give you information (well, not too much information) on your actual engaged users on their site, whether they are on their phone or desktop, and what they do on your site. They are gathering data on one defined user who they know accessed your site on multiple devices (e.g. on desktop, phone and tablet, and again on desktop) rather than counting four sessions. While “four sessions” is accurate, it is not helpful. GA4 aims to give you insights into the user journey your customers have with your website or app, as well as the actions they take on the way.

3. GA4 and conversions

UA required you to set up goals to track what users did on your site. If you didn’t set these up, they would not be tracked. Simple as that. GA4 has become slightly easier because it automatically tracks what it sees as an “event” on your website – a page view, a download, a video view, etc. You can also add specific events yourself. You can then mark which events would count as a conversion over and above an ecommerce purchase. For example, a client filling in a form to request a quote would count as a conversion because a lead was gained. GA4 makes events and conversions much easier to keep track of because a lot of it is automatically tracked.

What will happen to my current Google Universal Analytics account on 1 July 2023?

UA will still have all your historical data. New data will, however, no longer be added. So you can look back at previous years and months to see what was happening, but you will not see any activity on your site after 1 July 2023. Google will be deleting all historical data and Universal Analytics accounts in 2024.

Should I set up my GA4 account or let Google do it for me?

Google will do an auto-setup if you do not follow the manual process. However, this is not advised. Setting up your own GA4 account allows you to ensure that tracking is working, your account is linked to your Google Ads account, and conversions are tracking as you want them to. It also allows you to do an overall cleanup of your account. Relying on the auto-update may not be accurate or work correctly. 

Manually creating and setting up your new GA4 account

New GA4 accounts are so different that you cannot move historical data across. Your new GA4 account will be a blank slate. If your website was built before October 2020 (or if UA was used in the setup) then you will need to create a new GA4 account as soon as possible. This can be done via the admin settings in your current Google Analytics account. Some conversion settings can be duplicated to your new GA4 account in this process. Should you require assistance with the creation of a new GA4 account, please contact us.

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Hayley is Flicker Leap's Creative Director and heads up the Creative team.

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