In March 2022, Google announced it would sunset its Universal Analytics and Universal 360 platforms. These will no longer collect data from 1 July 2023. This change is a significant development for unprepared technology businesses, specifically eCommerce retailers.

Companies have relied on Google Universal Analytics property data to optimise their websites and marketing strategies. The news that this platform will cease collecting data may come as a shock.

Bamboo’s digital marketing experts are here to help you switch to Google Analytics 4. In this piece, we review the coming changes and discuss the future of data-driven marketing.

What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

Google’s analytics software has changed several times over its lifetime. We had Urchin, Classic, Universal and 360 Analytics.

On the surface, these were nearly identical to one another. Often, to find out what version a website was running, you had to review its UTM tracking. UTM tracking is extra code added to a website URL to help companies know where website traffic originates.

Google Analytics 4 changes all that. For a better understanding of the core changes to Google’s analytics tracking we defer to Google’s announcement:

“To help you get better ROI from your marketing for the long term, we’re creating a new, more intelligent Google Analytics that builds on the foundation of the App + Web property we introduced in beta.

“It has machine learning at its core to automatically surface helpful insights and gives you a complete understanding of your customers across devices and platforms.”

GA4 provides website owners and marketers with the same information available in older versions but with one major difference.

Through GA4, you can now marry the data from your website and mobile app through GA4’s data streams. This new functionality enables businesses to better optimise omnichannel marketing strategies and experiences. Its cross-platform changes are revolutionary.

Google Analytics 4: What else has changed?

The real differences between GA4 and its ancestors can be seen when you first log into the new platform.

Tabs for ‘Audience’, ‘Acquisition’, ‘Behaviour’ or ‘Conversion’ are gone. In their place, Google has implemented ‘Lifestyle’, ‘Events’, ‘Explore’ and ‘Configure’ headings. What do these changes mean for users?

  • Google Analytics 4 operates on event-driven data
  • It prepares businesses for the removal of third-party cookies
  • It simplifies data such as page views and clicks and combines them into one heading ‘Events’
  • ‘Events’ no longer need to be configured and now provide better visibility into on-page behaviour

What are ‘Events’ and how are they different?

Google’s ‘Events’ track user behaviour across your website. This can be anything from clicking a button to scrolling down a page. These ‘Events’ provide engagement metrics you can use to track the customer journey and to keep your CMO informed on general trends.

In addition to the changes above, we see the following changes to ‘Events’ in Google Analytics 4:

  • Improved collection and measurement – data measurement, including user interactions, will now be automatically collected when enabled through your GA4 property. Previously, this required manual configuration.
  • – Custom ‘Events’ – Google Analytics 4 arrives with a collection of pre-set ‘Events’ to make set-up easy. You can rely on those or configure unique events manually.
  • – Recommended ‘Events’ – Once your GA4 account is running, Google will provide recommendations based on the collected data. This will further enhance visibility into visitor behaviour across your website and companion apps.

Google Analytics 4’s enhancements provide a clearer picture of customer behaviour without being bogged down by an overwhelming interface. Informed decision-making when optimising landing pages, improving user experience and identifying changes in customer behaviour – all are possible.

Google Analytics 4 benefits

Originally launched in its beta phase in 2019, plenty of businesses have had time to trial Google’s latest analytics platform. The feedback on early usage has been nothing but positive.

One of Google Analytics 4’s most significant benefits is the free connection to Big Query. Previously, this was only available as a paid service in Google Analytics 360.

With Big Query, large data sets are quickly (and easily) queried. The free addition of Big Query is excellent news for digital marketers who tend to create complex data segments in Google Analytics.

The connection to Big Query isn’t the only benefit. Other Google Analytics 4 benefits include:

  • Enhanced customer journey tracking
  • Improved user engagement analysis
  • In-depth audience creation for ad campaigns
  • Comprehensive privacy and tracking features
  • Simplified ‘Goals’
  • Easier ‘Event’ setup
  • Better reporting and visuals
  • Extensive parameters

How to switch to Google Analytics 4

The good news is that you still have plenty of time to switch. There are two ways to change from Google Analytics Universal or 360 to GA4.

You should see a button in your existing Analytics account that says, ‘Upgrade to Google Analytics 4’. Clicking this will instantly swap your existing account to the latest version of the platform. This is an immediate switch and, while easy, could leave your team confused about:

  • How the platform works
  • Where to find what you need
  • How to achieve and configure your goals

We suggest the second option if you’d rather have a more gradual change to Google Analytics 4. Instead of clicking the upgrade button, you’ll create a new property in your existing Google Analytics account.

This property will run alongside your Universal Analytics or Analytics 360 account. It allows you to continue to receive the reports you’re accustomed to while adapting to the latest version of Analytics.

One you feel your business is confident enough to switch, you can merge the two accounts to ensure there is no loss of historical data. This alleviates the stress of switching to a platform you’re unfamiliar with. Give yourself time to learn all the new Google Analytics 4 features and change when you’re ready!

There is a third option – contact our team and we’ll do it for you.

Why prepare for the switch to Google Analytics 4 now?

The end of Universal and 360 aren’t the only changes Google are making in the upcoming two years. Following Safari and Mozilla Firefox, Google will end its support of third-party cookies.

Google Analytics 4 has been the most exciting development since Classic Analytics was launched in 2005. While Google has extended its sunset date for the end of third-party cookies until 2024, businesses must still prepare for this change.

Google Analytics 4 lays the foundation by providing a more holistic view of a website’s visitors and their behaviour from primarily first-party cookies. Find out more about the new platform on Google’s website.

Struggling with digital strategy, search engine optimisation (SEO) and optimising content to align with your company’s growth goals? Have a pesky CMO badgering you about digital growth? Speak with our team to find out how we can help.