Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the new version of Google Analytics.
Google now considers GA4 to be the default version of its Analytics toolset, replacing Universal Analytics (aka GA3), the previous version of its famous data collection and web traffic analysis software.
The new Google Analytics 4 comes with a bunch of key features that make it very different from the old version. GA4 is all about “events.” These events are the main way that data is presented in the new Google Analytics.
The machine-learning processing in this new Analytics means that it can fill in gaps where businesses aren’t able to understand their complete customer base when users opt-out of cookie usage and data collection.
Additionally the user-interface for the new default Google Analytics is very different. At first glance,GA4 can appear much more complicated to use than the previous version.
The biggest difference between traditional Universal Analytics and the new Google Analytics 4 is the user-interface. There are also many differences in data collection between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 properties – particularly in how data is defined and what data elements are called.
The short answer is “Yes, and the sooner the better”. That said, it’s not urgent that you switch to GA4, but we recommend your website starts using GA4.
This is because GA4 provides extra features and improved techniques for gathering data. Better info will help you better understand what is happening on your website. For marketers, GA4 will offer many benefits to better know and serve your website visitors and your customers.
Google has not done away with the current Universal Analytics system, and may not kill it off for a very long time, so you can stay with Universal Analytics only if you wish.
The approach Concise Digital recommends is to add an additional Google Tag to your website(s) that will then allow data to be captured and recorded in both the old Universal Analytics AND in Google Analytics 4.
This will result in you continuing to have Google Analytics as you currently know it running as normal, while also capturing new data in the new version of Google Analytics.Existing data from the current Universal Analytics does not transfer over to Google Analytics 4.
We recommend you run both versions simultaneously for at least one year until you gather at least a year’s worth of data on the new Google Analytics 4 whilst also having data from Universal Analytics (aka GA3). After that, you may choose to primarily or solely use GA4.
Your old Universal Analytics data will continue to be accessible and you will not lose the ability to check and report on previously gathered data.
Google may discontinue GA3 in years to come, but it is worth noting that the earlier version of Google Analytics (known as GA2 or Classic Analytics) was introduced in 2005, discontinued in 2012 and is still being used on some websites around the word with data and reports still being available.
Old ‘historic data’ cannot be migrated to GA4, so if you need data from several years ago, then you will need to view it outside of Google Analytics 4.
This is why we recommend that the sooner you start using GA4, the better.
Some websites only require the basic set up of analytics, whereas other websites need good conversion tracking set up as well. This is why the time involved to set Google Analytics up properly typically ranges from 2 hours to 6 hours. Here is a summary table. Please scroll down for full details.
|Set Up Option||Set Up and Add to Website||Set up Tracking for Website Conversion Goals & Events||Estimated Time|
|GA3 Basic||Yes, GA3 only||No||2 hours|
|GA4 Basic||Yes, GA4 only||No||2 hours|
|GA3 + GA4 Basic||Yes, both GA3 and GA4||No||2 – 3 hours|
|GA3 Advanced||Yes, GA3 only||Yes, track with GA3||3 – 4 hours|
|GA4 Advanced||Yes, GA4 only||Yes, track with GA4||3 – 4 hours|
|GA3 + GA4 Advanced||Yes, both GA3 and GA4||Yes, track with both GA3 and GA4||5 – 6 hours|
|Additional Options||Estimated Time||Frequency|
|Concise Report||30 mins per report||Monthly, Quarterly or Ad Hoc|
|Q&A Session||Allow 15 mins to 1 hour||Monthly, Quarterly or Ad Hoc|
GA3 Basic: Set Up Of Universal Analytics (GA3) Typically this takes about 2 hours, including setting up Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, adding the code to a website and basic configurations to set up views, properties and users. This time estimate does not include any allowance for conversion tracking.
GA4 Basic: Set Up Of GA4 This also typically takes about 2 hours, and includes Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics 4, adding the GA4 code to a website, and setting up the basic configurations. Again, this time estimate does not include any allowance for conversion tracking.
GA3 + GA4 Basic: Set Up Of Both GA4 & GA3 Universal Analytics At Same Time For most websites, doing both at the same time typically takes 2 to 3 hours. We set up Google Tag Manager, and then set up both GA3 and GA4, and add the tracking tags for both systems to the same website. This time estimate also does not include time to set up conversion tracking on the site.
Tracking of conversions is one of the most important and most useful parts of Google Analytics and where all the time and effort of understanding your analytics can start to pay massive dividends. In Universal Analytics (GA3), tracking is done for Goals and Events. In GA4, everything is an ‘Event’, but conceptually it’s much the same.
As an example, the tracking of Goals and/or Events can include configuring the system so that clicks on your phone number and email addresses can be tracked in Google Analytics. Likewise, the submissions of forms can tracked, as can access to certain pages on the website or specific actions site visitors take on specific pages of the website.
This type of conversion tracking is very helpful, such as if you want to see which different traffic sources (SEO vs Ads vs Social vs Email) deliver which different types, quantities and qualities of conversions (phone/email/forms).
GA3 Advanced: Set Up Of Universal Analytics (GA3) with Conversions Goals & Events Typically, this takes 3 to 4 hours, and includes of all of the set up outlined in GA3 Basic above, plus configuring the tracking of conversion events in Google Analytics.
GA4 Advanced: Set Up Of GA4 With Conversion Goals & Events As a ball park estimate, this also typically takes 3 to 4 hours to set up, including all of the set up explained in GA4 Basic above, plus the set up and configuring of conversion events in Google Analytics 4.
GA3 + GA4 Advanced: Set Up Of Both GA4 & GA3 with Conversion Goals & Events We typically find it takes 5 to 6 hours to set up both GA4 & GA3 at the same time, and then to configure both platforms to track your important conversion goals and events.
With both the old and the new Google Analytics platforms, you can access the information with on-screen reports directly from the system anytime online 24/7. That said, a lot of our clients also like to get our regular reports either monthly or quarterly that outline key trends, highlights, insights and often important actions to take.
The reports are customised to show you what is important for your website and are produced from your Google Analytics data. (Please scroll down to see below examples of what we can include in these customised reports.)
Reports can be prepared either monthly, quarterly or ad-hoc on request, and each report typically takes about 30 minutes to prepare. For ecommerce websites, monthly is often a suitable frequency, whilst for other websites quarterly is often satisfactory. As a baseline, a quarterly report is often a good starting point.
Even though we recommend you set up GA4 now to start collecting website data in GA4 as soon as possible, it is probably not necessary for you to get regular reports from this GA4 data. The preparation of the GA4 reports in addition to the GA3 reports would be an extra cost to you and this may not have significant extra benefits. At some point in the future, we will recommend to you that the source of the report data switches from GA3 to GA4 so the reports we prepare start drawing on the GA4 data.
Many clients also enjoy a quick Q&A session with us to go through questions that arise for them after they have digested their analytics report. These Q&A Sessions can be quick ad-hoc phone calls or may be regularly scheduled meetings either in-person or online.
Q&A sessions help to clarify issues or opportunities with the website as well as marketing, advertising and other business processes that could be improved. Often a short (and concise) focused discussion can quickly help to identify, plan and prioritise next action steps.
Just having Analytics on your website is never the answer. Business improvements do not come from simply having access to lots of historic data. It’s also possible to have too much information. No one wants confusing information or to suffer from the ‘paralysis of analysis’.
As with any other business information that helps you manage your business, your website’s Google Analytics data needs to be interpreted well with concise and meaningful reports with clear and insightful analysis.
Action steps arising from analytics reports do not need to be expensive or time-consuming to be valuable. Good Analytics reports can often help identify small ‘tweaks’ that can quickly bring big improvements.
The challenge is always to use the information wisely to find the key areas areas to focus on to cost-effectively improve and optimise future results.
Here are some examples of the valuable infographics we can prepare to include in custom analytics reports.
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