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Everything You Need to Know About the Switch to GA4

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If you have Google Analytics set up on your small business website, you may have noticed some changes over the last few months. For example, a new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property may have shown up on your Analytics account in March, and more recently, you’ve been receiving emails warning you that Google Analytics 3 (AKA Universal Analytics) will stop collecting data on July 1st


If you’re confused about the switch from UA to GA4, don’t worry. We’re going to break it down for you. Keep reading to learn about the differences between the two types of analytics properties and how you can migrate your account. Now, this may get a bit technical, so if you have questions, reach out to our team or explore the extra resources linked throughout.

What is GA4?

So, what even is GA4? 

Well, GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics, first released in 2020. If you created your Google Analytics account after October 2020, you probably have GA4 by default, which means you don’t need to worry about the switch. 

Like the previous versions of Google Analytics, GA4 allows you to measure traffic and engagement on your website to better understand the journey site visitors take to become paying customers. For example, you can see how long people spend on your site, which links they click, purchases they make, and more.

Why is Google Switching From UA to GA4?

So far, this sounds pretty similar to previous versions of Google Analytics, so why even bother switching? Couldn’t Google just keep updating Universal Analytics to add new features?

Well, maybe.

One of the big reasons for the switch, however, is to allow greater online privacy for your site visitors. UA relies heavily on third-party cookies to track user behavior. These cookies allow other domains and servers to automatically track what sites users visit, what they purchase, and what topics interest them. 

As you can imagine, a lot of people find this type of tracking VERY problematic, so Google is trying to limit the use of third-party cookies on Analytics and the Chrome web browser. Instead, GA4 relies on first-party cookies and signals to understand what people are doing on your site. 

First-party cookies only track actions visitors take on YOUR site and store that information to provide a better user experience. These cookies belong to your domain and aren’t sending information to other vendors or businesses. 

Signals are a bit different since they track users with Google accounts who have Ads Personalization enabled. Signals are great if you’re running Google Ads or want to know how people interact with your business on mobile devices and apps.

What Other Differences Are There Between GA4 and UA?

key differences between UA and the new version. Here are a few of the highlights:

New Metrics

GA4 switches out some of the UA metrics for new ones that provide better information on user behavior. For example, UA measured something called bounce rate, which just means that someone landed on your site and left without taking another action. GA4 replaces this with something called engagement rate. In the new metric, engaged users include people who spend more than 10 seconds on your site even if they don’t take another action. You can explore a full list of new metrics here

Cross-Platform Tracking

Because of signals, GA4 can provide information about the actions users take on your mobile site and app, offering a more complete picture of the buyer’s journey. UA had only limited options for cross-platform tracking.

Sessions vs. Events

UA primarily analyzed user sessions, which is just the length of time when a visitor is active on your site. If you wanted to track specific events, such as link clicks or page views, you would have to configure UA manually. GA4 defaults to event tracking, which provides a much more detailed view of what is actually happening on your site.

Customized Reporting Options

The interface of GA4 has a different layout and structure, which offers more flexible reporting options. GA4 allows users to create custom metrics directly in the interface, whereas UA took a more traditional approach with predefined reports.

How to Migrate to GA4

Now that you understand the differences between UA and GA4 let’s talk about how to handle the switch to GA4. 

Unfortunately, because GA4 and UA collect data differently, you can’t transfer your old data to your new GA4 property. This means you’ll want to set up your GA4 account as soon as possible so you still have data to pull from after UA stops working. 

After July 1st, you’ll have about 6 months to download any UA reports that you want long-term access to before they disappear.  

Follow the steps below to begin configuring your GA4 account:

  1. If you don’t already have one, create a GA4 property using the GA4 Setup Assistant.
  2. Turn on Google Signals in the Setup Assistant’s action menu. This will enable cross-platform reporting.
  3. Still, in the Setup Assistant, select website events that you want to mark as conversions. A conversion can be any desired action that a visitor takes on your website, such as signing up for your newsletter or submitting a contact form. 
  4. If you had goals set up in UA, you may be able to migrate them to your GA4 property using the Goals Migration Tool.
  5. Additional steps that you may need to take include defining audiences and adding additional users to your account. You can find more information on these steps here.

There’s a lot more you can do with your GA4 account once basic setup is complete, including creating custom reports and linking your Ads account, but we’ll stop here for now.

Have Us Handle Your GA4 Migration

If migrating to GA4 feels overwhelming for you, we’d love to help. We migrated our SEO and website hosting clients to GA4 months ago, so we can answer any questions you have about the process or handle the switch for you. Our Analytics experts at Succeeding Small will ensure your property is configured to provide the most valuable data and insights for your business. Schedule a strategy call today to get started. Don’t wait until July 1st to migrate and miss out on valuable data for your business!

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Succeeding Small is an expert in growing small businesses through our amazing digital marketing, SEO, branding, web design and social media services.  Learn about our services today!

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