August 02, 2022
Google Analytics 4 Is Here! What is it? How Can I Get Started?
Change is coming to Google Analytics, and it is sweeping change at that! Beginning on July 1, 2023, the Google Analytics version that we have all known for the last 10 years will stop processing hits. That is when the standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. And say hello to its new replacement – Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
What is GA4?
So, what is GA4 you may ask?
Launched in October 2020, GA4 is simply a redesign of Universal Analytics. It is Google’s “next generation” measurement and reporting tool. GA4 was created in response to changing consumer behavior and increased focus on privacy. It combines data from websites and apps into a single resource (previously you had to use a separate analytics tool to measure traffic from apps) while prioritizing user privacy and consent management.
- It collects both website and app data to better understand the customer journey.
- It uses events instead of session-based data.
- Includes privacy controls such as cookie less measurement, in addition to behavioral and conversion modeling.
- Predictive capabilities offer guidance without complex models.
- Direct integrations to media platforms help drive actions.
Like everything, Google Analytics continues to evolve, and with a combination of the high use of mobile apps, and privacy regulations, change is expected.
How different is GA4 compared to Universal Analytics?
Google Analytics has been completely redesigned, not only from how it looks but also in how it measures data. Whereas Universal Analytics (UA) is session-based, GA4 is event-based. In other words, the ability to track events like button clicks, video plays and more is built in with GA4, while this requires advanced setup in Universal Analytics.
Next is cross-device tracking. UA was built around desktop web traffic, while GA4 gives businesses visibility into the customer journeys across all their websites and apps. Plus, GA4 uses machine learning technology to share insights and make predictions. Finally, there is the privacy factor – UA relies heavily on cookies; GA4 does not.
It will take some time to get accustomed to how GA4 measures and processes data but there are a lot of benefits for homebuilders and developers with the new platform.
Benefits of GA4
Unified reporting. Prior versions of Google Analytics required a separate property to track app data. GA4 now allows web and app analytics to be combined with the same property. This gives consistent reporting metrics and a fuller view of the customer journey.
Customer journey insight. The new emphasis on users and events means GA4 users get a better understanding of how buyers flow through your website. The addition of User ID tracking makes it easier to track users across devices and platforms, offering more in-depth insights.
Future-proof reporting. With the shift towards consumer privacy, GA4 was created to last a long time. It gives website visitors more control over what personal data is collected, helping homebuilders and developers to comply with current (and future) privacy regulations. It also uses machine-learning and AI to fill the gaps in data that can occur when users opt-out of cookie usage and data collection.
How soon should I set up GA4?
The sooner you make the change to GA4, the better! And not a moment more! This is especially true to have the valuable historical data transferred from Universal Analytics. There is still almost a year until the magic date of July 1, 2023. But why start now?
- If you get set up now, you will have year-over-year data to compare next year. Universal Analytics data is not going away, but it will be difficult to compare.
- Quite bluntly, GA4 is different. Really different. It’s going to take time to understand how to set it up. There may be some Google fans reading this who disagree with this statement, but Google products are not the most intuitive. You will need time. We all will need the time. This is especially true for small homebuilders and developers who may not have an in-house person with expertise in this area.
Any new Google accounts are automatically set up for GA4, but for now, existing accounts can use both Universal Analytics and GA4 simultaneously so don’t worry, you can still access your data in Universal Analytics exactly how you are used to it while you’re learning GA4. If historical information is important, it is strongly encouraged to export historical reports while you can.
We can’t emphasize enough that GA4 is not an “out-of-the-box” solution. It’s going to require time to get it set up and even longer to get used to it. Even the top industry digital marketing experts are lamenting over the change. So, setting up right away better prepares your homebuilding or development company when the transition date finally arrives. This gives a long-enough adjustment period to run the two platforms parallel to each other and compare. Your go-to now is going to be Universal analytics (and that is fine) but use this as an opportunity to start shifting your thinking to how you want and need to set things up in GA4.
If your management team is accustomed to getting Universal Analytics reporting, you will need to start to focus on GA4 conversion events and reports. Start now and think about what reports should look like. Think about how and why you use Google Analytics today and then figure out how to get these same results in GA4. It is exciting that it is much easier to set up goals in GA4 than in Universal Analytics.
How to set up GA4
Now comes the fun part – setting up and creating your GA4 property. Fortunately, Google Support has provided detailed GA4 setup instructions that are included below. The instructions are the same regardless of whether your website pages have a Google Analytics tag (gtag.js or analytics.js) or a Google Tag Manager container. To use the GA4 Setup Assistant, you need an Editor role for the account.
Complete Google analytics set up:
- In Google Analytics, click Admin (lower left).
- In the Account column, make sure that your desired account is selected. (If you only have one Google Analytics account, it will already be selected).
- In the Property column, select the Universal Analytics that currently collects data for your website.
- In the Property column, click GA4 Setup Assistant. It’s the first option in the Property
- Click Get Started under I want to create a new Google analytics 4 property.
- If your site uses the js, tag, you have the option to Enable data collection using your exiting tags.
If you use the website builder/CMS that already supports the gtag.js, tag (e.g., WordPress, Shopify, Wix, etc.), you may have the option to Enable date collection using your existing tags.
If your website builder/CMS does not yet support the gtag.js, tag, if you use Google Tag Manager or your is tagged with analytics.js, the wizard cannot reuse your existing tagging and you’ll need to add the tag yourself (instructions).
Note for advanced users: Enable data collection using your existing tags implements standard data collection for your GA4 property. If you’ve implemented any custom tags for your UA property, review these considerations for additional steps.
- Click Create Property.
Once you’ve click Create Property, the setup wizard will do the following:
- Creates your new GA4 property.
- Copies the proper name, website URL, time zone and currency settings from your Universal Analytics property.
- Activates enhanced measurement in your GA4 property.
- Creates a connection between your Universal Analytics and GA4 properties. This connection makes it possible for you to use Setup Assistant in your GA4 property to migrate configurations from your Universal Analytics property to your GA4 property.
- (If your site is tagged with gtag.js and you elected to Enable data collection using your existing tags in Step 6 above) Creates a connected site tag between your Universal Analytics and GA4 properties.
Once the process is complete, you will see the following “You have successfully connected your properties” at the top of your GA4 Property Setup Assistant
Make a note of your GA4 property's name so you can find it later. If your Universal Analytics property name is "Example property (UA-nnnnnnn)", your GA4 property name will be "Example property (xxxxxxx)", without a "UA-" prefix, and where xxxxxxx is a new property number. Click See your GA4 property to open Setup Assistant in your new GA4 property.
So, What’s next?
Have you delved into GA4 yet? If you are feeling a little anxious or have doubts about this pending transition, you are not alone. Do not let the fear factor of this overtake you! Give yourself time to make the transition. GA4 is the next remarkable thing for good reason. It is worth setting up a GA4 property now to not only give you time to become familiar with it but to also start collecting historical data.
Do not hesitate or waste any more time! Make the leap now! You will be glad you did this time next year so you can effectively analyze your marketing efforts with year over year data.
If you are in the need of branding and marketing initiatives and strategy analysis, Milesbrand is here to help you transform your community or home building company From Land to Brand. Contact us today to for next steps!