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Google Analytics 4 Is Almost Here. Are You Ready?

Google Analytics 4 logo on a laptop screen

Analytics and the online world go hand in hand. Whether you’re looking to keep track of your paid media campaigns or monitor the traffic to your site, Google Analytics has played a vital role in measuring digital success for years.  

First bursting onto the scene in 2005, Google Analytics has come a long way in 18 years and has learnt the art of adapting to an industry that never sleeps. The announcement of the sunsetting on Universal Analytics in 2019 and the move to Google Analytics 4 should have come as no shock. But, four years down the line, and with the move to GA4 now imminent, are you prepared for what this actually means?  

If you’re still unsure about whether this move impacts you and whether you should be doing anything before the deadline of 1st July 2023, keep reading. We’ll give you the lowdown on all things GA4 and the impact it may have on your SEO… 

Understanding the change

Google Analytics has updated many times over the years, so what’s so special about this latest update?  

Unlike some of the changes before, this isn’t simply an upgrade or a new feature or two. Google Analytics 4 is a complete overhaul of the analytics platform, with new features, reporting and capabilities. Alongside this, the very core of the platform and how data is used has changed in line with how our online use has evolved. As our lives become inherently online and our data becomes more widely accessible and the need for more privacy online is greater than ever before.  

Unlike UA, GA4 will not rely on third-party data at all and uses first-party data instead. As well as this new bid for protecting privacy, the platform can also be used across other Google products and provides a more cross-channel approach to your marketing strategy.  

What are some of the core benefits of Google Analytics 4? 

With a new platform comes new, improved features. GA4 has a myriad of functions and features that build on the now old-school Universal Analytics. While the list is extensive, we’ve compiled some of the most notable ones for SEO… 

  • Data driven attribution: When Universal Analytics first burst onto the scene, the online world was unrecognisable from where it is today. While 10 years ago UA may have been up to the task, it no longer represents the multi-channel acquisition world we live in now. Data driven attribution is a new feature of GA4 that allows for weighting at per-channel level during conversion.  
  • Powerful custom reports: The custom report functionality in GA4 is much more powerful and intuitive than it has been in UA, enabling you to set up advanced and detailed custom reports in no time at all.  
  • Putting user experience in the driver’s seat: GA4 offers a multitude of features that put your user experience at the forefront of your site. With the ability to track positive engagement on pages, which content is performing best, and which of your keywords pack the most punch; GA4 shows you what works and how to capitalise on this.  
  • A multi-channel approach: GA4 has been designed to be cross-platform, cross-device. Using data driven attribution, GA4 aims to provide users with an overarching and all-encompassing view of what drives conversions. This is a world apart from UA, which has a very singular approach to conversions, attributing X to Y without any further consideration for other factors. 

It’s not all roses: common challenges with migration 

The move to GA4 is undoubtedly the right one. As the digital landscape evolves, the need for user privacy and a more cross-channel approach becomes more apparent than ever. But, as with all change, there may be some road bumps along the way. So, what are some common issues with migration we’re noticing… 

  • General complexity of GA4 vs UA: With more capabilities comes more complexity. GA4 requires a lot more time and effort to get events and conversions set up and tracking correctly. UA has always been a ‘plug and play’ platform, making it much more intuitive for users.   
  • Fussy features: Some of the new and enhanced features are more finicky than in UA. When comparing the enhanced eCommerce feature, GA4’s version is far fussier than UA with extremely rigid data formats. While the new features aim to provide more insight and better results, the initial setup is far from simple. 
  • Data delays: UA processes data almost instantly, while GA4 can take around 24 hours. This delay means it can take one to two working days to see whether your changes have had the positive impact you aimed for. 

Have you migrated to Google Analytics 4? 

Despite years of warnings, many people are yet to understand the importance of the switch from UA to GA4. If you are yet to start migrating, it’s time to face the facts and prioritise getting to grips with the new platform. Far from a simple upgrade, GA4 and UA are two completely different platforms and the very core of what they do and how you use them differs. 

For those who fail to make the move prior to the deadline, Google will automatically migrate you to GA4. Although this may sound like it has the potential to make your life easier, it means that come 1st July you’re starting from a completely blank canvas.  

If you’ve not started to migrate or have migrated but are yet to get to know the platform, it’s time to take things up a notch.  

How we’re tackling the move to Google Analytics 4 

Informing our clients of the pending switch in March 2022 we have been working in the background to ensure our SEO clients are set up correctly in GA4. Encouraging an early move has meant anyone who switched to GA4 prior to July 2022 has a bank of year-on-year data available when UA sunsets.  

Alongside helping our clients make the move, we’ve taken a look at how we interact with analytics and we are evolving how we report our data in line with GA4. Our reporting systems and software have undergone a refresh to ensure we’re accommodating GA4. What’s next in the works? As the deadline approaches, our SEO team is in the depth of GA4 training, ensuring our team can provide top-level support to you.  

As a Google Premier Partner, we understand the ins and outs of Google’s latest update, and benefit from additional support and information surrounding the move to GA4 as a top three percent agency in the UK. We understand that this imminent change can feel overwhelming if you’re not prepared. That’s why we’re working on providing our clients with specialised GA4 training with our team of experts, coming soon. 

If you’re concerned about GA4 and how best to use the software, get in touch