November 2, 2020

A Change is Coming: Why Google Analytics 4 Changes Digital Marketing

After much anticipation, Google announced the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). On the first read, the release of GA4 doesn’t sound all that different: new event tracking, new dimensions, and focused on “App + Web” properties. As a strict website owner or manager, you’re probably thinking, “What do app and web analytics combined have to do with me?” Well… everything.

Why Change?

For the past decade-plus, Google Analytics, now often referred to as Universal Analytics, has been at the forefront of website analytics. The user-friendly interface today offers over 150 reports. Even the savviest of users were likely using a mere fraction of that number, and Google knew this too.

GA4, while maintaining insight, consolidates the reports into more digestible and actionable reporting that is all about the customer lifecycle. With this type of reporting and customizability, you can:

For more information about the uses of these features in GA4, check out their product experts taking a deep dive into these features.

After reading all of this, it sounds great, right? If only it were that easy.

No Time Like Today

As digital marketers, we love data. We look at year-over-year or quarter-by-quarter data to back changes, campaign strategies, and more. Data-driven decisions are vital to helping businesses grow the right way. Frankly, as digital marketers, our biggest nightmare would be waking up and having our data gone or no longer actively collecting. That’s the risk we could face down the road with GA4.

GA4 breaks the Universal Analytics tracking code molds (likely UA-XXXXXXX-X) and rolls out a brand new tracking code systemization. By rolling out this new tracking code, your Google Ads conversions, social media integrations, tag settings, and even reporting metrics in tools like Google Data Studio will need to be modified.

Most importantly, with this new tracking code, there is no importation of past data. However, it is unknown if Google will add future accommodation to import previous data. Moving forward, Google will be strictly investing in GA4 features but will make no further advancements on Universal Analytics. If you’ve never had Analytics before on your website or have a new website, you’re in luck! GA4 is now the standard for Analytics implementation, setting you up for success in the future.

By phasing out Google’s Universal Analytics, there is no time like today to implement this new tracking method and begin collecting data for the future. Every Google Analytics account now has the option to “Upgrade to Google Analytics 4.” You can run your past Universal Analytics code in tandem with the new GA4 code with two routes:

  1. Global Site Tag (Gtag) – Mentioned previously, the Gtag is a prominent code snippet that runs your Analytics today. To add GA4, you will need to work with your webmaster to update and expand your Gtag. 
  2. Google Tag Manager – One of Google’s most important tools to empower marketers and website managers is Google Tag Manager. The Tag Manager provides with one code snippet installation the ability to create and change far more. Using the one code snippet for Tag Manager, you can implement GA4 to run simultaneously. 

Historically, running two different Google Analytics code snippets in the same account on the same website has been catastrophic by double-counting your visitors and skewing your metrics as a whole. Google wants users to run these two versions of analytics hand in hand to help set up websites and businesses for future success. While there is no expected Google announcement to phase out Universal Analytics measurement methods, it’s important to start preparing now.

If your business and website need help to look to the future and start making data-driven decisions, PHOS is ready to help. Get in touch with our team of digital marketers.

Caleb Knight

Caleb Knight

Caleb focuses on providing clients with exceptional results through strategy, content, and data.