If you’re a marketer or website analyst who heavily relies on Google Analytics for insights and data, you have probably stumbled upon an article or two highlighting the panic associated with GA4 – Google’s 4th and newest iteration of Google Analytics. There has been a lot of industry chatter about this platform and the jury hasn’t come in yet with a judgement on whether or not it will be easier for the average website/app owner to navigate. Still, with a variety of new features and data assets to leverage, this is one platform you should dabble in sooner rather than later. Before making the switch to GA4, there are a few things you should do:

Save out any and all critical data

When you log into your Universal Analytics (UA) account, there’s a warning stating GA4 will be the standard account format as of July 2023. We know the new data will no longer funnel into UA as of this date; however, we don’t know for certain if past data will still be accessible. With that in mind, we recommend saving out all necessary data (1-3 years worth) by creating a report and downloading a PDF format.

Tip: Save your data now and again right before UA is sunsetted.

Unlike UA, Google is setting data storage time limits to clear out old information and to make way for new data. Once you launch your new account, we recommend ensuring your data is saved for 14 months (this is the max timeline currently) to take full advantage of the space and avoid losing any data preemptively.

Review what GA4 has to offer

Unlike UA, which is user acquisition-focused, GA4’s top insights will be for tracking and analyzing user events and engagement. So while website/app users are still counted and tracked, things like bounce rate no longer play a role in the standardized data – heck, we don’t even know where it went! The migration to event-based tracking implies that whatever a user does on your website or app far outweighs how they got there. It’s crucial to note that once you make the switch, you will likely see a drop in tracked user traffic to your website; however, engagement details such as clicks, downloads, scrolls, etc. will increase.

Note: While most events (generic clicks, downloads, scroll, etc.) are automatically tracked, creating custom events will remain looped in with Google Tag Manager (GTM), allowing you to get data results for a specific action outside of the default events.

Set your platform goals and strategy

One of the main perks of GA4 is the ability to track website and app data in a single account through individual data streams. This feature will allow data analysts to easily switch between the two platforms to review the segregated data and to set specific goals related to each platform.

Understand data privacy issues

One of the main reasons GA4 has been an ongoing project and focus for Google has been due to the ever-increasing heat surrounding user privacy and cookies. As the digital world slowly moves away from cookie tracking, GA4 leverages machine learning to analyze and understand users without infringing on their privacy. As machine learning is constantly (surprise surprise!) learning about your users, the information you receive will evolve and continue to grow in accuracy and depth throughout the course of your project.

Create your GA4 Stream in tandem with UA

Both accounts can work alongside each other during the transition phase. We recommend creating your GA4 account and adding the new tracking code to your website while UA is still live. Why, you ask? Because the sooner you do this, the more data you will have in GA4 to use as a year-over-year comparison once UA is sunsetted.

Tip: Make creating your GA4 account part of your July 2022 goals to have a full year’s worth of data to compare in July 2023.

GA4 hasn’t completely rolled out yet and we are still expecting to see some new features between now and July 2023. That said, this blog post could easily turn into a short novel based on the amount of important information that is yet to come. Our parting words of wisdom here is to get your GA4 account up and running now so you have ample time to play around with the new data and set up goals well ahead of launch day – because no one wants to feel the dread of missing data!

More on the blog: