by. Bryan Spring

On July 1st, Google’s Universal Analytics will officially sunset and Google Analytics 4 will be the new platform available for all advertisers.  It is important that you prepare for this transition sooner rather than later in order for all data to properly flow.

First, it is important to understand the major shifts from UA to GA4.  Google is following the industry trends of focusing on user privacy and being GDPR compliant.  As a result, the introduction of GA4 means that Google will no longer store IP addresses or rely on third-party cookies.  Instead, Google will utilize a combination of demographics, geography, and behavior to create a unique ID for a user and layer in machine learning to truly understand site behavior.  This means that the collection and measurement methodology between the two platforms will be vastly different but will prepare advertisers for a cookie-less world.

Once the transition to GA4 is done, companies will have a number of benefits but also some major changes to the reporting.  Automated event tracking is available as opposed to setting up hard coded tags or using GTM.  These automated events include but are not limited to click tracking on site, content engagement, and file downloads.  Along with the events that are being tracked, GA4 will have more accurate cross-device and cross-platform tracking.  While these reports are not fully available at this time, it is expected to be a key focus for the platform.  The final major benefit is the full integration of Google Ads into GA4.  Previously, it was not uncommon to see mismatched information when looking at the two platforms side by side.  With the new integration, the two platforms will now exist in one data set which will provide a more accurate picture of Google’s impact on business.

There are a few additional changes that advertisers must be aware of as well.  When first switching to GA4 from UA, companies will likely see a drop in reported performance while the new platform gets up to speed with its tracking and machine learning.  This is particularly the case with Ecommerce related metrics.  Also, there are a few metrics that will no longer be measured in the new platform, particularly Bounce Rate.  However, Google is adding in a number of metrics such as engaged sessions, engagement time, and engagement rate to help advertisers understand the quality of its site traffic.  Finally, with GA4 data retention is only up to 14 months so a cohesive and sustainable approach to historical data is important.

MayoSeitz Media is taking a number of steps to help our clients through this transition.  In order to ensure that data from UA and GA4 can be combined together as much as possible, MSM is utilizing API connections with GA to combine both old and new data together despite the disparate naming conventions being utilized across platforms.  In addition, this API connection allows us to house all historical data securely so clients do not lose access to old UA data or GA4 data after the 14 month window.  Finally, the multi-touch attribution models will allow MSM to better analyze backend data and combine it with all media platforms and tactics.