You may have heard a rumor that Google is killing off their free analytics tool – Google Analytics. Well, rumors of its demise are false – kind of. It is letting the version of Google Analytics that has been reporting stats for almost 17 years, fade into the sunset. It’s doing this in favor of the new version of the Analytics system, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – which it began rolling out in 2020.
GA4 is still free. It’s still a pretty easy to install script on your site. Just like its predecessor. But it more cleanly integrates with other business tools like Tag Manager, Google AdSense, and more.
So, what does this mean?
Starting July 1, 2023 (yes, 23, with a 3, no not in 2 months, 2023… next year, slow down your breathing…) the old Universal Analytics scripts will stop recording data.
The real strength behind Google Analytics is its history. The ability to compare past and present. Time provides context to the results. You know what was going on in your business, in your marketing, in the world, at certain points in time. Unfortunately, Starting a new Google Analytics 4 property is basically starting your analytics from scratch. The data model is just so different, that it really is impossible to transfer data.
So if you want to be able to compare July 1, 2023 to July 1, 2022, that means July 1, 2022 has to be in the new system. Which means you need to have the new Analytics property set up prior to July 1 to get consistent year over year data without having to manually compare the results in each system.
What’s New in GA4
- Different Data Model – as I said earlier the data model is different and records information completely differently. The new model is based on a stream of data and events, instead of sessions.
- Some New Metrics – With the switch to events and data streams, naturally there comes some changes to the metrics that are reported. Bounce rate is now being replaced with multiple stats that report on engagement such as engagement time and engaged sessions.
- Goals are now Conversion Events – You can now track 30 types of conversion events per property.
- A New Reporting Interface – The changes above necessitated a number of changes to the interface. Some reports and metrics are renamed, some are moved, some are just gone. But there is a increased ability to create and share custom reports.
What’s to Come
I fully expect to see AI based modeling of Google Ads data as well as a continued focus on performance based stats. User experience is important to Google and I expect the connection between Search Console and Google Analytics to lead to new metrics.
What to Do Next
I think it’s important to get your business website set up on the new Google Analytics 4 platform as soon as possible. If your current analytics script was configured with a newer gtag.js script you might be able to enable data collection using your existing tags. There is a GA4 Setup Assistant. You can use it to connect an old property to your new property, but as I mentioned earlier, this won’t transfer history.
If you run through the setup and the setup wizard was able to use your existing tagging, then you should be done. If not, and either your website CMS, or your script was old and everything still used the old analytics.js, you will need to add the new script to your site. Luckily these two can run side by side pretty cleanly and you can capture the next year of data in two places if that is the case.
We can Help
There’s no need for you to go through this alone. MS Digital Solutions can help. If you are a support client and have questions on what to do or how to do it, just ask us, we will be happy to answer all of your questions. We can even do the work for you at your contracted support rate. Some of our support packages include full support for third party systems such as Google Analytics (more than just connecting the site to Google Analytics). In these cases, we will be more than happy to do the heavy lifting for you.
Not a support client? Now you can see some of what you are missing out on. We are always happy to take on the work to support your needs. It just may be at a different payment rate for businesses not on a support plan.