If you’re like me and have been trying to ignore the updates from Google because you don’t want to change to a new system, it’s time to take note and go ahead and make that change. Why do it now? Well, Google is going to sunset Universal Analytics on June 30, 2023, and moving forward, your only tracking option will be GA-4, whether you want to use it or not. Can you tell I didn’t want to make the switch after using UA for over a decade? Yeah, I put it off about as long as possible, but then I figured it was time to do it, figure it out, and then help you learn what you need to do to make the switch for your business.
Other than the fact that Google requires you to switch if you want to continue having analytics information for your website or blog, some pretty cool features in GA-4 can greatly help some business owners. As small business owners, the changes probably don’t directly impact us as much as they will larger businesses, but there are some cool features. I’m sure some of my old clients from my agency life are excited about the potential of GA-4.
The new GA-4 tracking system will try to track users across multiple platforms to help you better understand your consumer’s journey. We know searches often start on a phone or tablet, but the conversion may happen on a desktop. Previously you wouldn’t be able to track sessions that happened across channels, but with the new GA-4 system, you can (if you have customer ID numbers or data, you can share with Google – this isn’t a default option but something you need to set up). This can be very helpful so you can understand your user’s behavior and know how they interact with your website or blog across multiple platforms.
GA-4 tracking is based on events. You can set up events and conversions to understand user behavior on your website or blog. Your events can include any time they click away from your website, start a new session, or scroll to the bottom of the page. They can also include things like starting the purchase process, purchasing, requesting a download, or signing up for your opt-in. If you already have conversion tracking or goals set up in Universal Analytics, they will help set up the new events and conversions based on what your old account tracked.
If you have multiple online properties, including a website or blog, and app, you have had to use multiple analytics platforms to track your user data, but GA-4 allows you to bring all data streams into your reporting account. If you have a website and blog, you’ll set up one data stream like in UA. If you have an Apple or Android app, you’ll set up data streams for your apps (one for Apple and another for Android) in your new GA-4 account, so all your data will be in one place. This change won’t impact most small business owners, but large businesses will like having more data in one place. The typical small business owner will only have one data stream for the website and blog as they had in UA.
It’s actually pretty easy to set up your GA-4 account if you currently have a UA account. I was personally thankful for this. It only took me a few minutes to make the first changes and start tracking data in GA-4. Understanding what that data means took a little longer, but at least making the initial switch was easy and quick.
Go into your current Google Analytics account and click on the banner that tells you it’s time to make the switch and follow the directions from Google. It will walk you through the process. You may need to add the code to your website. GA is able to connect to some website builders and add the code automatically, but others will need to paste the code. Don’t worry, the directions are easy to follow, and GA will help you with what to do for your website.
If you don’t already have a UA account, you’ll need to set up a new Google Analytics account, and by default, it will be GA-4 since they’re not opening UA accounts anymore. You must follow the directions to install the tracking code on your website or blog. It will verify that the code is tracking and that data is coming through.
I tell my students that the answers to their questions are in GA if they know where to look, and it’s still true. The difference now is that if you knew where to look in UA, you need to look somewhere else in GA-4, and it can take a while to figure out which report you want to use. Spend some time and play around in the system.
Google has some reports in the Reporting tab; you can create more customized ones in the Explore tab.
I like to look at where the traffic is coming from, what content they consume, and how it converts.
I can find that information in the following reports:
If you have e-commerce tracking set up for your products, you can also find out how much you’re making in the Lifecycle Monetization – E-commerce purchases report.
If you make the switch now, you’ll have the chance to get used to GA-4 while UA is still tracking your data, too, so you can verify the data is tracking the same. I’ve used both side by side for a few months now, and I like going back and forth while adjusting to the new reporting system.
If you haven’t made the switch yet, now is the time. Go ahead and do it this week and get started.