Google Analytics has been a key insights tool for website owners and marketers for over 17 years. It provides answers to critical questions like ‘how many people are looking at your site, what they do, how they get there, and what they buy’. While over 37 million website owners globally rely on Google Analytics for insights relevant to their businesses, on June 30th this year, Google will kill the tool and force everyone to upgrade to Google Analytics Version 4 (GA4).
So just a minor upgrade that the techies will sort, right? Well, no. The new GA4 reporting dashboard is unlike anything you’ve seen before, and many web developers are struggling to implement the new tracking system because it's not their technical specialty. Google recommends allowing eight weeks to fully migrate and test GA4 with your website data to allow time to ensure data accuracy.
If you fail to upgrade to GA4, that means that no more website data will be tracked for you from 1st July, 2023, which could have significant implications for your business. Google will automatically upgrade existing GA properties starting in March, but that's unlikely to be enough for most websites as it's easy to overlook critical website interactions and not capture historical web stats data for future commercial analysis.
The cost and time it takes to migrate to GA4 depend on the size and complexity of your website(s). From a few hours for a simple site to several days for a larger / ecommerce site. If you use Shopify, there’s an easy integration tool scheduled to be released by Google for March 2023. Google will provide historical data for only six months after it stops collecting data at the end of June, meaning you'll need to figure out a way to retain your data if you want to do year-on-year performance comparisons. Tools like Google Cloud and BigQuery help with this.
On a positive note, GA4 provides deeper insights into user behaviour and allows you to access powerful machine learning models. The data streams and event-based tracking now available give you a more comprehensive view of your users' activity as well as different ways to measure user engagement, which is more accurate and reliable. For those spending on Google Ads, this change will also affect your campaigns if your old Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts are linked but there’s also more advanced ways to now use Google Ads based on what some of your target audience groups do on your site.
This GA4 transition should be viewed as an opportunity for website owners to think comprehensively about their website analytics. While making the GA4 change, it's worth considering implementing Facebook CAPI to improve the efficiency of any Meta ad buying and also Server Side Tracking (SST) to future-proof your business for an increasingly cookie-less and privacy-focussed world.
In summary, the GA4 transition may seem a bit daunting, but it's essential for Irish business owners to implement properly to track their website performance. It's not a simple ‘one-click upgrade’ but one that requires considerable planning and specialist expertise. To ensure a smooth transition, reach out to a GA4 expert or agency that can guide you through the process. Making the switch will help you stay competitive in an evolving digital world.