Google Analytics 4, the future of website tracking

Out with the old, in with the new (TL;DR)

Surprise, Google has a new version of Analytics! In short, the previous version of Analytics does still and will work for now, but you should be planning to move over to the new system within the next few months. It’s as simple as setting up a new property within your Google Analytics account, and for the time being since historical data does not yet transfer between the two, continue to use the old version of Analytics and the new Google Analytics 4 in parallel.

So, what’s new with Google Analytics 4?

Google recently announced the release of Google Analytics 4 (referred to here as GA4), in an effort to enable deeper machine learning and data retention in an increasingly privacy-focused world. The new analytics adds AI-powered insights, tracks users across devices, and provides more granular data controls.

As a new property type within the analytics platform, it includes expanded predictive insights, deeper integration with Google Ads, cross-device measurement capabilities, and more granular data controls. 

While some of these newer features have been a part of Universal GA (the currently used version) for a while, all future updates to the analytics platform will be rolled out to GA4 alone, however Universal GA will still be functional. Additionally, GA4 will have more advanced reporting and event tracking features, allowing you to track user journeys and conversions easier than with Universal GA.

Why is it changing?

Google is preparing for a future increasingly aware of data privacy and compliant with relevant regulations as they evolved in the U.S. and around the globe. As consumers, this is great news — but as a business dependent on as much data as possible, this future is at the very least worthy of a bit of caution.

In accordance with GDPR/CCPA and the potential of a cookie-less future of the web, Google is now relying on machine learning to fill in the gaps of data sparsity. This isn’t of immediate concern, as most of these regulations aren’t exactly the law of the land yet, but this is Google’s way of future-proofing its platform — meaning you’ll want to get ahead of it and start transitioning your account soon.

What you need to do:

Of course, with data science specialists and self-proclaimed analytics nerds on staff, we’d be more than happy to take over this transition for you. And, while we’re at it, we can take a deep dive into your site to ensure it’s properly optimized now and will continue to be in the future.

If you’d like to take this on yourself, however, it won’t be too difficult. Google’s not exactly calling this a beta, but it sort of is one, so there’s no hard date yet on when a full transition from one to the other will occur. GA4 will be the default option when you set up a new property for now. Universal GA will continue to remain available, but Google recommends site owners set up both property types and run them in parallel. New feature development will be focused on GA4.

In your Google Analytics account, click Admin. In the Account column, select the account in which you want to create the property. (If you only have one Google Analytics account, it will already be selected.) In the Property column, select the desired Universal Analytics property. Then, Click Upgrade to GA4 and follow the prompts to add the new property to your account.

The best analogy we could think of…

Flying cars are here. The new skyways aren’t fully built, but there is no doubt it’s how we’ll get from here to there in the near future. For the time being, your late-model Ford still runs, but you need to start looking to the skies.

Have we convinced you to start a conversation with us yet? If not, check out what we can do to help make your website purr like the well oiled machine it should be.

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