Google first announced a brand-new version of Google Analytics (the 4th version, to be exact) back at the beginning of 2021. Because this was such a big shift from the current version of Analytics (commonly referred to as Universal Analytics), it was common to have both versions gathering data from your website simultaneously.
Most of us assumed that Universal Analytics would continue to be supported for the foreseeable future. Then in early 2022, Google made another major announcement—Universal Analytics would be phased out midway through 2023.
Thus the great transition between versions has officially begun in earnest.
What This Means For Your Business
For most businesses, Google Analytics is the default for tracking how people interact with your website. It’s free, robust, and works with the rest of Google’s suite of digital tools. Google Analytics 4 is the next-generation in this technology. However, failing to act means losing this valuable tool.
Without any data for your website, you won’t have insights on what pages people visit, how long they spend, the site load time, where users are coming from and much more.
You still have time to pivot, but it’s something to begin immediately. Don’t wait a year before thinking about it, only to lose all of your website data and have to start again from scratch.
Especially because you can’t migrate historical data from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. You begin with a blank slate. So when Universal Analytics fades away in June 2023, so does all of your years of archived data.
Start collecting website information now. Unfortunately, that’s not quite as simple as pressing an update button. There’s an entirely new process to follow, but it’s still achievable.
Installing Google Analytics 4
Here’s a step-by-step guide to installing the new Google Analytics 4 tracking code on your website.
- Login to your existing Google Analytics account.
- Click on the Admin button in the buttom right of your settings.
- Click Create Property in the Admin settings page.
- Name the Property—usually just your website name and “G4.” Check to make sure the Time Zone and Currency are correct. Hit Next.
- Select the appropriate information for your business industry, size, and site usage. This helps Google Analytics customize your experience to be helpful. Click Create.
- Select which type of channel this is for—either a website, Android app, or iOS app. That’s one of the major differences in Google Analytics 4; it’s meant to pull all of the data from these sources into one place.
- Add your website URL (be sure to remove the “https://www.” part) and name the Stream. Similar to the Property name, this can just be the name of your site. This is just for internal organizational purposes.
- You can either connect this Property to an existing Universial Analytics account (via “Use existing on-page tag”) or install a new on-page tag. We recommend the later.
- To add a new on-page tag, copy the global site tag that Google provides. You’ll need to drop this into the header HTML of your website.
- For WordPress, this can be easily done using the Insert Headers and Footers plugin. There are plenty of other ways to do this using a WordPress site.
- Be sure to check to ensure that data is coming from the site. This may take a day or two to start functioning properly.
- Google also has a setup assistant if you need additional resources or guidance.
If you’re still having issues getting everything set up properly, email us at GreenMellen and we’ll be happy to help with your Google Analytics transition.
Create Custom Data Reports
Once data is flowing into your new Analytics property, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the updated platform. The new look and organization is one of the biggest advantages of Analytics 4. This will take time to learn (especially because we’ve had the current version for 15 years), but it’s worth the education in the long run.
Google Analytics 4 is primarily built around Reports. And these are more customizable compared to Universal Analytics.
Your property comes with several default reports on the audience Life Cycle and Users. But these can be changed based on your business needs.
To customize, click on the Library option at the bottom of the Reports tab. This gives you access to the Reports as well as the Collections these are organized into.
Spend some time reviewing each of these reports to see which are helpful and which are missing. Each one follows a basic template that can be modified. You’re able to update the existing reports, duplicate them, or create a new report from scratch.
Configuring Events & Conversions
The customization continues into how events and conversions are set up. Google Analytics 4 allows you to see small events like every user click or scroll. You can also identify bigger conversion events like completing a contact form, downloading a file, or making a purchase.
Take time to identify what conversion events are helpful for your business to track. Analytics comes with a few built-in, but they’re only the beginning. Thankfully, it’s easy to toggle events on and off or to mark an event as a website conversion.
This is a new paradigm to think about from Universal Analytics, but it’s what most of this new version is built on. This makes sense because it’s similar to how Google Tag Manager is built, with event triggers and tags.
Saying Goodbye to Universal Analytics
Google will stop importing new data into Universal Analytics in 2023. They’ll likely allow you to access that data for a couple of years, but we shouldn’t count on it.
If you want to hold on much longer, you’ll want to export the raw data from Analytics. This won’t be the most helpful in creating new reports, but it never hurts to have saved.
In the meantime, start making the transition to using Google Analytics 4 more intentionally. Rely on the new reporting and conversion tools and get familiar with the new configuration. This will make it once easier once you’re not longer able to use Universal Analytics actively.
Like it or not, it’s time to say goodbye to one version of Analytics and embrace the future.
Overwhelmed? Need Help?
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably noticed that this has been a long and complicated blog post. There are lots of technical moving parts involved and plenty of mentions of data. Maybe it’s a little overwhelming. That’s OK, where here to help.
GreenMellen has been helping transition our clients over to the new version of Google Analytics since it was announced in 2021. If you’re not prepared to do this yourself, we’d be happy to help.
Beyond that, our ongoing clients also enjoy our help understanding what all of that data actually means for their business. We have regular meetings to discuss digital performance and potential ideas for improvement. Reach out to us if that’s something you’re interested in.
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