This article is primarily aimed at those who have used or are using Google Analytics measurements. For those who may not yet be immersed in the mysteries of Analytics, we give some insight into how every association can benefit from actively monitoring and interpreting the results measured by Analytics and GA4. Analytics will still be available after the migration, so the data measured here will not be completely lost - the biggest question is for how long. However, it will not collect data after the migration.
Almost everything will be different
Last year, Google announced that from 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics (better known as simply Analytics or Google Analytics) will be replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This date is worth keeping in mind because if we don't create the new account by then, Google will do it for us automatically.
For those of you who have not yet started, you will be surprised to see that the GA4 interface is completely different from Universal Analytics. The metrics are different, and familiar and widely tracked data such as bounce rate or unique page views are not in this system. Likewise, conversion rate will not be a base metric, but there is an option to add this to the metrics.
Besides the look and feel, the biggest change will be the logic and measurement technique of the new system. While Universal Analytics measures on a session basis, Google Analytics 4 does it on an event basis. This means that previously, if someone opened a page from Google Chrome browser, and then later from Safari browser for example, in Universal Analytics it was recorded as 2 sessions. This will now only be measured once by the GA4 system.
For sites with a login, it will be measured by logging in, if this is not available then by Tracking ID, and in between, it will be measured by Google Signals, which can track users by Google account. It is important to note that the latter needs to be set up separately, it is not automatic for it to work in the new system.
It's definitely worth getting the new account up to at least a basic level as soon as possible. Any individual metrics, different goals that are measured as conversions, events also need to be set up again in GA4, these will not be automatically transferred. Likewise, if someone has advertised and used custom audiences, these will also need to be set up.
Apparently there will be less data, but that's not a problem
For those who are actively using Analytics and start using GA4 in parallel, you will see that there is less data available. There might be a significant difference in the number of users in the first place, but this is actually good in the long run. GA4's new measurement methodology mentioned above eliminates the possibility of too much erroneous data or too many duplicate users. This will make the measurements much more accurate, which also means that you have to look at the data with a completely different perspective. Also, much better and safer protection mechanisms are built in, better filtering of bots, spam.
GA4 is also improved in that it can predict user behaviour even if someone rejects cookies. No personal data is entered during any activity, but if a user came to the site and a conversion happened later, it tries to use the data to determine the path between two events.
It's time to make friends with Google Tag Manager
There are some built-in metrics available in the new system, which are turned on by default when a new GA4 account is created. Examples of these automatically measured data include page views, a subset of video views, scroll depth. If you have already been using Analytics at a basic level and have made changes and decisions about your website primarily in a non-data-driven way, these basic measurements may be sufficient to continue to work.
However, if you want a more accurate picture, it is worth setting up additional metrics for each website - this is particularly true in the NGO sector, where the website is one of the most important elements of engagement.
While Tag Manager can be daunting at first and requires a lot of technical knowledge, there are also a lot of help materials and videos available online to learn how to use it. This is also important in the new system because it allows you to collect much more accurate data about how users behave and what path they take through the website.
For example, if it is possible to donate within the site, we can not only track the percentage of donors coming from the site, but we can also very easily measure whether visitors to the site hit the button to donate or donate 1%, if not where they take it, or even measure as an event whether they see that button.
Interoperable and transparent systems
It will also be easier for anyone working with multiple domains or applications.
In the previous system, the behaviour of users moving between the main domain and subdomains could only be accurately measured if the measurement was very precisely drawn up. In the new system, as long as the GA4 tracking code is also set for subdomains, it is possible to cross-domain measure, so it is possible to track exactly how the movement between the main domain and the subdomains is done, without the need to create different views or properties for the subdomains.
Similarly, measuring app-related data has so far been handled by Universal Analytics and Firebase - GA4 can now do this on its own, allowing users to be tracked on the app and on the website.
Those who were fast were better off
As mentioned above, perhaps the most difficult thing about switching between the two systems is that they don't work with the same logic, so not all data will be consistent in the new system. This also means that the later we switch to the new system, the less historical data we will have and the harder it will be to track the performance of the websites (we will see our data accurately later).
Since Google gave us the option to switch relatively early, those who switched early can now have data going back roughly a year, which is now purely based on the new GA4 measurement. Of course, all is not lost if you are just getting started, but it is worth making the change as soon as possible.
The system will guide you through the account creation process, you don't need any extra knowledge or anything else. Developers and website operators will be needed to set up the measurements and GA4 tracking codes.
Unfortunately, there is no information available at the moment on how Google will be able to offer a solution for extracting and possibly transferring the data measured in General Analytics.