It has been almost a year since Google announced that marketers would be forced to migrate to its privacy-first Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Despite this, as the cut-off date for processing Universal Analytics (UA) data looms ever closer, making the switch over seems to be still very low down the priority list for many businesses. Google seems to have recognised this and has since released a number of tools to try and persuade Analytics users. Whether they’re useful or not depends on how much sense of urgency your business has to implementing GA4.
Google Analytics has dominated the measurement market, with around 80% market share (source) as of April 2022. Forcing the upgrade to GA4 which in many cases requires additional setup and training, makes it difficult to imagine that Google be successful in retaining every user. Competitor platforms like Adobe Experience Cloud, Pwik, and KissMetrics all saw spikes in interest since Google announced the change.
Across the industry, articles stating that GA4 “sucks” and “is horrible” (source) probably don’t help to make marketers excited about the transition, with sentiment towards the mandatory update being generally negative. Despite this, it’s likely that GA4 will remain the web analytics tool of choice for many, given familiarity and interoperability with other Google products.
Beware that if you’re just tackling this issue now, your useful GA4 data will also start now. The key point being that making a Jan 2024 vs. Jan 2023 comparison in a recently set up GA4 account will yield a disappointing lack of data. Solutions vary, but data warehousing, simple but rudimentary exporting of KPIs, and taking the opportunity to clean break and ‘just start from scratch’ are among the solutions.
On top of this, GA4 is adequately different to UA to warrant marketers needing additional training to perform basic functionality within the platform. With the ongoing availability of UA, marketers are also delaying learning GA4, leaving few keen to push for its implementation.
While the announcement came as a surprise to many, Google did give a fairly long runway of sixteen months to process and implement the required changes.
That hasn’t stopped many marketers putting off the implementation. Likely in recognition of this low adoption, Google have made the process slightly easier with tools to aid the change including a Migration Assistant, and better parity of UA and GA4 features.
Several features previously missing from GA4 have recently been implemented, smoothing over some of the more difficult gaps. In December, the much-requested landing page report was added, along with views per session, and session duration; all cornerstone metrics of UA.
In that month Google also released the GA4 Migrator for UA (source), though those hoping for a one-click solution were disappointed. The tool uses Google Sheets to bridge the data, and requires substantial input.
In February, Google announced that starting on an unspecified date in March, existing UA properties would be automatically migrated to GA4. For accounts using Google Tag Manager and “gtag.js” for Google Analytics, auto-migration to GA4 will happen automatically.
This announcement surely comes from poor adoption of the platform, and though it may sound like Google takes the burden of migration away from its users, it isn’t quite as straightforward as that. The tool will create GA4 properties without intervention, doing its best to copy over UA events, goals, audiences, and links to other properties automatically (source). Importantly, this is opt-out, so if your data accuracy, setup and management is critical, be sure to manage the process yourself for best results.
The keen-eyed will have spotted that ‘migrate ecommerce measurement’, critical to the core functionality of many analytics setups is tucked away in ‘Advanced setup needs’ (source). This critical requirement for any ecommerce business is crucially not covered by the auto-migration, making it the elephant in the room forthose still reluctant to upgrade. While platforms vary, implementation will typically require cross-team collaboration and development. Shopify is one of the few larger platforms to announce its own ‘one-click’ GA4 integration, touted for release in March (source), though for those on other platforms migration will likely be more challenging.
Google Analytics 4 is a paradigm shift and impending challenge for marketers and businesses across the globe. SMEs and global businesses alike will have to make time to ensure a smooth upgrade, which comes with costs and challenges.
If you lack the internal resource, we’d love to connect and discuss GA4 as well as your wider marketing analytics & attribution setup.