Before we start our list, we need to mention a few important points:
1. The Google Analytics we've been working with and talking about for all of these years is what we call, Universal Analytics. We give it that name because the unique identifier we use for a website starts with UA-. Universal Analytics is also known as GA3 - but nobody ever calls it that.
2. The new Google Analytics is called, "Google Analytics 4" or GA4.
3. Google Analytics as we know it will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023 and as such a migration to GA4 is necessary if you want to continue using Google Analytics past that time.
Here are the 10 things small business owners need to know about GA4:
- You can't bring any data over from UA to GA4. On its face it seems ridiculous that Google can't manage (or won't manage) to bring over everyone's historical data to the new platform. But it's true - and it is ridiculous. All GA4 accounts will be brand-new accounts, and GA4 accounts will have no knowledge of any past data from UA accounts.
- Visits are calculated differently. With UA we track hits (or pageviews) each time a page is loaded. GA4 uses an event driven model and we use event parameters to make this data more meaningful.
- Introduction of Data Streams. We setup data streams in order to gather information from a website. And while there are multiple data stream types, most businesses will use the "web stream".
- GA4 isn't fully ready yet. Yes, you read that correctly! Google is encouraging us to migrate to GA4 now, even though their GA4 product doesn't have all of the capabilities that UA currently has.
- The most common (non-eCommerce) reporting features that we will need to setup in GA4 for a dental, medical, legal website are:
a. Campaign Tracking (for PPC campaigns, Email campaigns, etc.)
b. Channel Groupings (organic, paid, direct, referral)
c. Event tracking (clicks, purchases (e-commerce only))
d. Goals (website form submissions, contact requests)
- We are currently setting up GA4 in parallel with UA. UA will stop recording data on July 1, 2023, but we can install GA4 to run alongside your current UA setup. We call this parallel tracking.
- Once you've migrated from GA3 to GA4, wait for a while for data collection and then compare the data sets to make sure that all of your data matches up (GA4 data should be within a 1-2% variance of the GA3 data).
- To track conversions like we did in UA, we need to create custom pageview events. These events take around 24 hours to become active once they created.
- Make sure to link your Google Search Console (and Google Ads account if applicable) to your new GA4 account.
Need help migrating your business' GA3 account to GA4?
Learn more about our GA4 migration services.