Posted: Wednesday 16th February 2022 in Industry News.

*Since writing this article, Google have announced that they will be sunsetting Universal Analytics from July 1st 2023.

Are you still sitting on the fence about whether to use GA4 or not? Google introduced their latest version of Google Analytics, GA4, in the autumn of 2020, but there is still a reluctance and slow uptake in the industry when it comes to implementing GA4. Brands don’t feel ready for the change. But if not now, when will they be ready? And how should they prepare?

Here we have listed the 7 most common concerns around GA4 and why they shouldn’t be reasons to hold you back.

Why should we rush to move away from Universal Analytics, a well-established mature tool, to a brand new one still in its infancy?

Google have announced that they will be sunsetting Universal Analytics from 1st July 2023, so it is now important to prepare for this and start running GA4 alongside Universal Analytics to ensure you build up your data in parallel.

We’re used to the current UI and our reports, we don’t have the resource to retrain everyone and rebuild our reports.

Switching tracking and measurement systems and rebuilding entire reporting suites usually come with a steep learning curve and lots of effort and resources which are typically scarce. We would therefore recommend that you continue using your current set up and reporting. You should however invest a little time upfront to set up GA4 which can easily be done via your existing Global site tag or Google Tag Manager. Your analysts can then get familiar with the new interface, metrics and reports at a pace that suits your business and be prepared for when you are ready to switch.

GA4 is for web and app, but we don’t have an app, so why do we need it?

GA4 is ideal for brands with several data streams such as web and app, but even if you only operate a website your users will be active across several devices and cross device tracking is a feature that has well and truly been improved for GA4.

Where UA used device ID as a primary way to identify users across devices GA4 first looks to user ID, based on signed in users, then Google signals, based on users signed into their Google accounts, and only uses device ID as a last resort. This gives a far more accurate view of unique users and their behaviours across devices.

GA4 isn’t compatible with Universal Analytics, so I will lose all my historic data and have to start from scratch.

This is very important to be aware of: GA4 isn’t just a new interface but a whole new tracking and measuring system that focusses on tracking events rather than sessions (which UA is based on). While using GA4 is essentially starting to collect data from scratch it doesn’t mean that you will lose your existing UA property when setting up a GA4 one. The data will not be joined and continuous, but it can simply be run in parallel.

The fact that GA4 isn’t a continuation of your UA property data, but a fresh start makes it all the more important you implement GA4 now in order to build up your data, so that once UA no longer provides you with enough observed data (due to the loss of 3rd party cookies) you have enough historic data in GA4 to look back on.

There have been articles in the press that Google Analytics might be in breach of GDPR in EU countries where we operate. We’re concerned about privacy.

There has been some news recently regarding GA and data transfers to the US. The case that made the headlines was regarding UA and very much down to the case specific set up of GA. IP address masking hadn’t been enabled which in combination with 3rd party cookies could have led to the identification of data subjects whose data in theory could have been made accessible to US intelligence as the data was transferred out of Europe into the US.

In GA4, IP addresses are anonymised by default with no option to accidentally turn that off. GA4 also doesn’t use 3rd party cookies. GA4 allows you to set up server side tracking which puts you in control of your data as you can choose from many EU based Google Cloud data centres for your data to be stored, some of which are even classed as low carbon.

We’re still trying to figure out how to deal with the loss of 3rd party cookies, so we can’t be distracted by a whole new measurement system.

In that case GA4 shouldn’t be a distraction but part of the solution. GA4 does not use 3rd party cookies and is designed to work with and without (1st party) cookies. GA4 also uses powerful machine learning to model the gaps left by data you were unable to observe e.g. by users not consenting to being tracked or browsers that reduce the length of 1st party cookies like Safari. This will give you a more accurate and complete view of your conversion paths across devices and ROI across different channels.

As users become savvier in all things tech and privacy they will be less likely to consent to be tracked. Why should I invest time in setting up a new tracking system when there will be less data to be observed?

As mentioned above GA4 uses effective AI and machine learning to give you a more complete picture, so this will enable you to do more with less observed data. If you enable consent mode on your site, conversions for those users who haven’t consented to be tracked will be modelled. GA4 does not just stop at filling the gaps; it also offers some new predictive metrics such as purchase probability, churn probability and revenue prediction which can be used to build predictive audiences for your ad targeting.

What is Summit’s recommendation for GA4?

Don’t hesitate! Don’t switch, but dual tag!

We fully understand the concerns we hear and the reluctance to switch to GA4 as this is a huge step that should not be rushed. What we recommend instead is to dual tag your site and run your existing UA in parallel with GA4. That way you can continue to use your established and trusted source of data from UA while building up that important historic data for GA4.

For many businesses a year on year comparison is very important, so you should aim to gather at least 13 months of data in GA4 before deciding whether to make the switch or not. The sooner you implement GA4 the sooner you will reach that point which is why it is important to get started today rather than hesitate. In the grand scheme of things, the time to get set up is minimal, so you have nothing to lose. While GA4 is gathering data you can explore the interface, reports and features at a pace that suits your business.

What are some of the benefits of GA4?

We suggest you invest that time to set up GA4 as the learning curve will be steep but equally the opportunities are huge once you get to know GA4.

  • The new engagement metrics and the predictive metrics and audiences alone are worth some exploring as they can greatly inform your strategy and ad targeting.
  • Depending on your resource you can compare the results and trends between GA4 and UA to understand the differences, so you know what to expect when you are ready for the switch.
  • GA4 will futureproof your measurement in a cookieless world with very little upfront investment other than the time to get set up. You will also be able to benefit from Google’s powerful machine learning and AI modelling to fill the gaps that cannot be observed.
  • GA4 offers much more generous thresholds for sampling (from 500,000 sessions in UA to 10 million events in GA4) or avoid sampling altogether by using BigQuery exports (previously a GA360 only feature, now available for GA4 properties).
  • With the rising concerns about privacy you can now take advantage of server side tracking which puts you in control of your data and lets you decide where the data is stored, with many EU based data centres to choose from including some low carbon ones. IP masking will also become one less concern as this is GA4’s default with no option given to turn it off.

So that is what we think about GA4. If you have any questions or want to know more about our recommendations, get in touch with us today at [email protected]. If you want to read more about our partnership here, check out our Google Premier Partner announcement.