Google Analytics 4: What You Need To Know

In October 2020, Google gave us an early Christmas present: they released what’s being referred to as “Google Analytics 4” or “GA4”. In time, this will replace the current platform known as Universal Analytics.

As with all things new, GA4 is very different from what we data scientists have come to know and love.

Saying “this is going to take some getting used to” is a bit of an understatement.

Right Now, it’s Hurry Up and Wait.

There are plenty of great articles out there detailing the differences in features, what’s changing, and what’s new in GA4. (Some of our favorites can be found at Search Engine Land and Analytics Mania.)

But how do you know what’s best for your business? Should you be an early adopter? Take a more cautious “wait and see” approach? Or just forget it all and go back to adding a front-end website counter?

These are all good questions-and we’re here to help you figure out the right answers.

Getting To Know GA4: What You Should Do First

In practical terms, that means that you will need a new property just for GA4. (If you aren’t familiar with how Universal Analytics works with properties, let’s chat before you do anything.)

Why is this important? Because that new property won’t have any of your historical data. Don’t worry-your data will still be available in your old Analytics UA property… but this is really the biggest reason to hurry up and wait with GA4.

In other words: start collecting data in your new property now, because the more history you have the better.

What If I’m Not Ready To Make The Change To GA4?

Google is famous for this “hint, hint, nudge, nudge” way of doing product releases.

At some point, UA versions will no longer receive support, nor will any new features be released for those older property types.

When that happens, we’ll all need to get used to the new Google Analytics… but if we wait until that time to configure our sites with GA4, we’ll be at a great disadvantage of having no historical data.

Don’t Worry-Your Data Is Still Safe (For Now)

So hurry up and get GA4 configured on your website (we recommend using Google Tag Manager), then wait until the day comes when you can benefit from the foresight of installing it now.

Other Thoughts on the New Google Analytics

Give Yourself Time

Take the time now to think over your website and what actions are most important for your users to take on the site.

Make A Plan

With GA4, to run it now you’ll be running parallel tracking, one in the current UA property, and one in a new GA4 property. As a result, you’ll likely run into a transition period in the future.

Plan for how you’ll handle the transition in terms of reporting and any sources that your Analytics properties might feed to, that way the transition is smooth and painless.

Don’t Rush, and Don’t Panic

Google may be saying that GA4 has graduated from beta, but it still very much has the feel of a beta product. New features are still being rolled out, and updates are coming out weekly. A feature that wasn’t there last week may be back by the time you have a chance to check back in.

If All Else Fails, Call the Pros

Stressed About Taking On Something New?

When you go to set up a new property, there’s an option to set up both a GA4 and UA property for your new site. Go for that.

Written by Joseph Stucker | SEM/SEO Specialist at Altos

We are a digital marketing agency specializing in web design and development, eCommerce, search, and social media marketing.