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A Checklist for Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

As we make the transition, exodus, or whatever term fits best for exiting Google’s longstanding Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), there are obstacles and questions in adapting. What follows then is a checklist of what to expect in the move from UA to GA4.

As explained in Search Engine Journal, having an understanding of what to anticipate in transitioning from UA to GA4 might make the process easier.

Setting Up

The setup for GA4 will be more involved than UA was and therefore take more time. This involves setting up goal conversions, events, and enhanced ecommerce tracking, among other features.

Events

Virtually every aspect in GA4—pageviews, session starts, scroll, and contact submissions, among others—is classified as an event. (In contrast to UA, where a website would have a comparatively few actions set as an event, this will be a major adjustment.)

Differences in data results

Marketers who are already using GA4 and are running it alongside UA will find a mismatch in year-over-year (YOY) data results. That’s due to the rush of getting onboarded to GA4 by last July. As a result, when July 2023 rolls around, there would be a full year of data measurement (with different outcomes).

Complex capabilities

More can be accomplished with GA4—but there will be more complications for setting up and validating tracking, creating basic reports, managing, and overall useability.

No more annotations

Annotations—which were very helpful on UA for documenting any irregularities—will be discontinued on GA4. Marketers and analysts will therefore need to keep these records on a separate list.

Thresholding

In GA4, studies and reports for small amounts of data withing a narrow time range will result in “thresholding”—which prevents being able to identify individual visitors to a particular website, particularly for small businesses. Custom exploration may better reveal data, and even then, data will be available at a time limit of 14 months.

Fewer free resources

There will not be as many free resources on GA4, namely storage space. Tying in with the 14-month time limit regarding data space, GA4 will provide the option to upgrade and purchase more storage space. (Note the italics on “purchase.”)

New metrics are geared towards engagement

Bounce rate measurability will be available on GA4 but, as expected, the metrics are very different from UA. In GA4, bounce rate is 100 percent minus the new “Engagement Rate” metric. A session is considered to be engaged if one of the following conditions is met:

  1. It has lasted longer than 10 seconds;
  2. It resulted in 1 or more conversion events;
  3. It resulted in 2 or more page/screen views.

(According to experts, however, when bounce rate is taken out of context, it is not helpful in gauging marketing performance.)

BigQuery and SQL

BigQuery (a fully managed, serverless data warehouse that scales data analysis) and SQL (a domain-specific language for programming and data management) will benefit reporting efforts on GA4, particularly in regard to instances of data sampling.

Need to know more about analytics

Using GA4 will require an increased skillset in data analytics. Google is emulating the model set by Adobe Analytics, which is very difficult to master. Marketing professionals who are new to analytics must either undergo intensive training or consider hiring an outside specialist.

Data modeling

With the addition of data modeling capabilities in GA4, gaps in data loss for sites that had users opt out of cookies may be filled in. Additionally, data modeling has the potential to recognize and account for traffic drops.

Keep clients in the loop

Since adapting to GA4 requires tremendous effort and ability to understand the changes, one can only imagine how difficult the new model will be for clients who are not technologically-savvy. Clients must be fully briefed on the reasons for this change, how to read new metrics, and, ultimately, how they will benefit in the long run.

Instructions from Google

For those who are about to make the switch from UA to GA4, check out this resource from Google: “Make the switch to Google Analytics 4.” It breaks down—in table of contents format—information and links about getting started and finishing the migration. Account structure, data streams, and linking to Google Ads are among the topics covered. And, each topic includes an “effort meter” (e.g., “Low effort,” “Medium effort”).


The EGC Group is keeping track of the changes to GA4 and can answer any questions you may have. Contact us to find out how we can help manage and strengthen your online performance in these (literally) changing times.

Check out this video about GA4 featuring Jim Pasqualone, EGC’s Senior Director of Digital Growth.