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Anyone who works in the digital advertising space knows Google is an ever-changing entity, but have you heard about its biggest change to date: the switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). If not, you should know this monumental change will impact how Google Analytics will present and report your company data.

Google recognizes its current Universal Analytics (UA) platform is quickly becoming obsolete. Its original intent was for desktop traffic, independent sessions and data from website cookies.

As privacy requirements continue to ramp up across multiple platforms, relying on third-party cookie data is no longer viable. This is what makes GA4 a necessary and needed transition. GA4 will not rely on third-party cookie data and will instead use event-based data to provide user data across multiple websites and apps. GA4 will also no longer store IP addresses to keep up with consumer privacy rights.

If you haven’t started making the transition from UA, you’re risking your company’s historical data and the ability to analyze YoY (year over year) performance. It’s important to start making this transition now – we’re recommending our clients make the shift before the end of 2022. The urgency behind this isn’t to cause panic, but rather to encourage prioritizing this switch for a seamless transition into the new year.

There will be a multitude of changes when switching from UA to GA4. There will be a change in some metrics that are tracked, terminology changes, first- and third-party cookies, report enhancements, event and conversion tracking capabilities and an updated interface.

Here’s an overview of what to expect from the updated platform.

Updated Interface

One of the first things you will notice when switching to GA4 is the updated user interface. The UA interface is rather easy to navigate – even for those who aren’t familiar with the platform. For some users, the updated GA4 interface may be a little more difficult to learn in comparison; however, don’t get discouraged. The most important thing about the updated platform is the data and how it’s collected.

Metrics Updates

When switching to GA4, you’ll notice the change in metrics tracked and the terminology. One of the biggest updates is bounce rate will no longer be tracked. Instead, GA4 will track engagement rate, which differs slightly from bounce rate.

Engagement rate is defined as a percentage of sessions that last longer than 10 seconds and has a conversion and at least two pageviews. This is opposed to bounce rate, which is defined as a percentage of users who visit a site and navigate away from the site after only viewing one page.

You will also notice GA4 will no longer track “sessions.” Instead, it will focus on specific “events,” including:

  • Pageviews
  • Scrolls
  • Outbound clicks
  • In-site searches
  • Video engagement metrics
  • File downloads

First- and Third-Party Data

As consumer privacy becomes more of a priority, third party cookies are becoming obsolete, forcing companies to rely on first-party cookie data. For this reason alone, it makes transitioning to GA4 an absolute necessity. If you continue to rely on third-party cookie data, you will be severely limited in what data you can analyze. Making the switch to GA4 will allow you to compare YoY data, which is imperative for proper analysis to guide future optimizations.

Reporting & Analysis Enhancements

Once you officially transition to GA4, you’ll unlock the available reporting enhancements. Reports will be totally customizable with the report builder feature. You can create visual reports that are easy to interpret with any combination of metrics and data and input filters on each report to highlight aspects of the data that’s most relevant to your business goals and objectives.

Why Make the Change?

The transition from UA to GA4 is a massive change and is imperative to any business that takes their data seriously. If you are not a developer this can seem like an impossible undertaking. However, there are several resources available to help you through the process.

Our team at Franco is also here to help navigate the switch to GA4. If you have any questions regarding the new platform or need assistance making the transition, connect with us.

Ryan Solecki is a Paid Search & Digital Marketing Specialist at Franco. Connect with him on LinkedIn.