As of July 1, you’re no longer able to access Google Analytics.
It’s the first day of the new-ish Google Analytics 4 (GA4). New-ish meaning that this platform has been out for some time, though many have held onto their old Google Analytics platform, called Universal Analytics.
Overall, GA4 is built best for today and how we interact with websites, apps, and more, providing marketers greater insight and in the end, helping them make better marketing decisions.
The time has come to bid adieu, and if you’re an Analytics user (and if not, it’s completely free), but haven’t made the switch, there are a few important things to understand, and do, as you migrate over.
1. Download Your Historic Data Now—And Note What You’re Tracking
First and foremost, the number one thing is to download all historical data. This means all data you previously tracked on Universal Analytics, as data will not be transferred over to GA4.
“Getting online this week and downloading all of your information to show month-to-month numbers in terms of your online presence, as well as year-over-year numbers will be very important for having as part of historical data,” says Stephanie Troilo, marketing director for Baltimore-based Smithouse Design + Build.
Downloading historical data allows you to note the metrics tracked in Universal Analytics, allowing you to migrate to GA4 more smoothly. In addition, Troilo notes that metrics have become slightly skewed with the intense demand since 2020, so historical data provides glimpses into pre-pandemic numbers.
But understand that data may be presented differently in GA4, so it’s important to ensure you compare apples to apples.
“If you're comparing something, you have to make sure that if you're doing a type of reporting, one month and the next month and doing that same comparison,” says Caitlin Copley, marketing manager at San Diego-based Jackson Design and Remodeling.
2. Changed Verbiage and Bounce Rate
While the same data may be tracked on both platforms, the way it’s displayed will be different and may take some getting used to. If you still have access to both platforms, understand exactly what you’ve been tracking in Universal Analytics, and ensure you understand how it’s tracked in GA4.
“If you're reading this and you can still get into Universal Analytics, try to get a good understanding, not necessarily of the numbers themselves, but more so what are these things that are happening that you're measuring and that have worked and help you make business decisions,” says Ted Kozel, VP of business development for digital marketing group Socius Marketing.
One important example is the tracking of bounce rate. In GA4, this will no longer be tracked the same. Bounce rate is the rate in which users would leave your site without interacting with content. Instead, it will focus on engagement, which expands the understanding of why a user may leave a site in a short period of time. And Kozel notes that many times, users may visit a remodeler's page to grab a phone number or other contact information, then leave, which previously marked a high bounce rate.
Now, marketers can see how many actually engage, opposed to did not, providing greater insights into those who actually interact with your site.
3. New Emphasis on Visitor’s Journey
This focus on engagement is a key improvement and change from Universal Analytics. Though the same data could be tracked in Universal Analytics, GA4 takes a new dive into the journey as a whole and makes it easier.
“It's really going to focus on what pages are they viewing on your website, and how long they're spending on each of those pages. What is their scrolling data? Are they scrolling a whole page? Are they only going halfway? How quickly? Are they scrolling through things? Are they clicking on any outbound links that you have on your website? Or what are the other pages they're viewing within your website?” says Troilo.
This will affect conversion rates due to multiple conversion opportunities, and skewing data, notes Kozel.
Part of the journey is also understanding users’ journey across their mobile devices and desktop more so than Universal Analytics, which focused more on desktop.
4. It’s a Great Time to Begin Using Google Analytics—And Lean on Resources
If you never used Universal Analytics, GA4 is a good fresh start to begin understanding how users interact with your site.
Google has published manuals and offers walkthroughs for understanding GA4. It’s also important to lean on your digital partners for insights for migrating over.
“We plan to ask our agency, ‘Hey, what are your big takeaways from reporting? Or, ‘What have you noticed?’ Because they may be able to cut through some of the white noise because sometimes when there is so much information, it’s overwhelming,” says Copley.