Check out Google Analytics 4.0 now, before it’s too late

Jason SandersonAs we all probably know by now, Google Analytics 3 (GA3) is being phased out on July 1, 2023 but what does that really mean for your data, and what will change with reporting?

Essentially, it means that no new data will be processed but existing data will remain accessible – for now. We know that GA3 will be accessible for at least six months after July 1, but we still don’t know when the actual termination date of the historic data will happen.

Many marketers we’ve spoken to are concerned that the tool they’ve become accustomed to and are familiar with, is changing. The deadline has caused a little bit of panic to now learn the new interface and the new skills that will come with it, but you shouldn’t be worried. Yes, there are new skills to learn, but this isn’t a bad thing.

GA3 is a dated solution that really isn’t fit for purpose anymore, so take a look at Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as the strong advancement that it really is – it’s certainly more in line with modern tracking solutions.

There are a multitude of benefits to GA4, firstly, it has clearer dimensions and metrics – such as the wonderfully simple “first_visit”. This clearly defines the very first interaction of a user on-site, which was just not possible with GA3 given the out of the box configuration.

Better user identification across devices is another benefit. Some of this is black box but we know Google Signals is one factor and results in better handling of new browser initiatives that affect tracking.

The platform also offers an improvement on controlling certain data points from audience building, governing analyst access to sensitive metrics and predictive modelling for retargeting, like those likely to purchase in ‘X’ days.

New visualisations are built-in for reporting, such as the funnel reporting, with custom reports gaining more options and granularity in the drag and drop builder. There will be more flexibility when it comes to unsampled reporting with no data collection hit limits, 10 million hits per report and no sampling on pre-processed reports at all (even with secondary dimensions). Additionally, Big Query integration is now free for two months rolling, with a small storage and usage fee to go beyond this limit.

Finally, GA4 will focus more on users than on sessions since sessions are not what they used to be. Modern devices mean tabs are left open in the background and auto-refreshing – artificially inflated sessions help no one and count against a campaign.

So, make the switch sooner rather than later. Allow yourself the time to understand the new web UI, learn about the differences from GA3, and prepare internal teams with any changes to reporting you will have.

This is also a great time to think about the data you’re collecting; do you really need certain data points, are you being fully compliant with data protection laws, are you missing any data points, have you audited your GA configuration recently?

And if after all of this you’re still unsure about where to start with GA4, take a look at Google’s demo property, free Big Query demo data set.

Jason Sanderson is head of data and analytics at Wolfenden 

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