Are you putting off migration to Google Analytics 4? Choose digital migration today
3 October 2022
With Google Analytics 4 (GA4), it's time for the latest chapter in the Google analytics saga. The next instalment? 2023 – when universal analytics data collection will finally end for good. Interesting times for marketers and marketing managers. You’re better off starting the migration to GA4 today than putting it off until tomorrow. Read on to find out more about why you should start migration to GA4 today.
Staying future-proof as an organisation is a wide-ranging idea, one where it’s important to make sure that you are using the latest versions of your tools. Many organisations have written their entire data story with Universal Analytics – that makes the upgrade to Google Analytics 4all the more important, doesn't it?
Recently Google has invested heavily in the development of GA4 which is now the home of cutting edge, contemporary web & app analytics. It has been completely reimagined and expanded to conform with contemporary and future data use and privacy considerations.
What makes Google Analytics 4 (not) worth the wait?
In many ways G4A is not comparable to its predecessors, starting with the importance that GA4 attaches to the use of first-party data, and how the system prohibits cookie use and third-party data. To use Google's vision for Analytics 4:
"The future is consent based, modelled, first-party. That's what we're using as our guide for the next generation of our Analytics products and solutions."
The word has arrived: first-party data. In the future, the focus on first-party data will only increase, thanks to a renewed emphasis on privacy in the GDPR era. GA4 is future-proof, but it’s also a technically flexible analytics tool, thanks to its composable architecture, data modelling, machine learning and integration possibilities with Tableau and PowerBI, and others. In GA4, it’s all about first-party data - and we can do a lot more with it.
In short: With GA4, next-generation enterprise analytics tooling is available to just about everyone, perfect for the first-party data era.
Google Analytics 4: for those who drive electric in a diesel-powered world
How Does Google Analytics 4 compare to other analytics tools? In some ways that can be compared to the development of electric cars. Some car manufacturers entered the electric car market by developing their existing diesel cars and that often resulted in development problems.
The alternative is an electric car that was designed from scratch with only that purpose in mind. In web analytics, there are many alternative tools on the market that build on previous generations of analytics – unlike GA4, which was built from the ground up to meet contemporary data needs.
What deadline? The (limited) shelf life of data from Universal Analytics
Well, we’ve given you enough reasons why you should migrate to Google Analytics 4 but why does it pay to start your migration now? First, it is important to consider that GA4 does not include historical data from Universal Analytics. After migration you start with a clean slate, so the sooner you start collecting data in GA4, the better off you'll be when Universal Analytics stops for good.
Worth noting: Google previously indicated that it was investigating how to import Universal Analytics data, so it is possibly not too distant in the future. iO’s expert advice? Start gathering new data in GA4, the historical data from UA will – quite possibly - arrive soon.
"GA4 does not take historical data from Universal Analytics."
Depending on the number of properties you use, migration is rarely an easy job. Each property requires redesign, as does resetting conversions and filtered IP addresses. This is one of the main reasons that the migration to GA4 gets delayed: it’s just a lot of work. Nevertheless, it’s still advisable to start your migration now for three reasons.
To get ahead of the competition
While your organisation puts migration to GA4 on the back burner – Universal Analytics will continue to work for a while after all – your competitors are betting on a future full of first-party data analytics.
Consent Mode, Serverside Tag Manager, machine learning. GA4 contains more than enough new and improved features with a modest learning curve that can also be easily combined. Are you still delaying migration? Then it also takes you even longer to master the new features – which in turn makes your wait for new, first-party data longer.
This is valuable time that your competitors' marketers are using to build a competitive advantage with all that new knowledge.
You're missing tomorrow's ROI today
GA4 has a lot more features compared to Universal Analytics. So why wait until there's no alternative but to migrate? Many new features are ready to be deployed and help you achieve your goals. How much can a modern marketer do with machine learning, for example? Or with cross-device measurement?
We could say that you’re missing out on potential data. First party data that is not collected, not analysed. Going to waste and that helps nobody.
Your (fellow) marketers continue to face the same old challenges
Marketers gain a lot from migrating to GA4. It gives them more options to gather qualitative insights, as well as improved tracking of customer journeys and analysis of user engagement from first-party data. GA4 offers them a lot more in comparison with Universal Analytics when you’re looking for relevant and reliable results.
By the way, did you know that your marketers can call on iO for Google Analytics insights and expertise, also specifically to answer questions about Google Analytics 4?
iO: the location for all things Google Analytics 4
Do you want to get started with GA4? Would you like to know how use the new features? Then start at the beginning: our whitepaper 'Getting started with Google Analytics 4' - written by our experts and full of useful info and tips & tricks to get you off to a flying start with GA4.
The best of both worlds with your dual set-up
What do both Google and iO's own Google Analytics Expert Group agree on? You can take your first steps with GA4 while Universal Analytics is still active. This keeps your data set-up running at full speed while marketers and data specialists master GA4.
You run less risk of your data collection coming to a standstill, and there’s less pressure to panic migrate to GA4 in 2023.
Google Analytics 4: Behind the wheel of digital migration
Here too, there is room for comparison with electric cars: you make short test drives with your new electric car while your old (diesel) car takes care of the commute – and then finally take the step to electric driving in 2023. A real migration with impact.
It’s best to undertake that moment step by step, dashboard by dashboard, in collaboration with the other teams in your organisation. Entering a world that runs on first-party data? This has an organisation-wide effect.
Your teams and stakeholders in the first-party, cookieless era
Migration to Google Analytics 4 is high impact. The impact is on marketers and data collection, but also on business operations, marketing processes and the data you can measure and know.
The transition from third-party data – including the end of placing cookies wherever possible – to first-party data, has an impact on the entire organisation. So take the time to look at this as an opportunity to involve the whole organisation in this decision, and at the same time inform. What does GA4 mean to us? What can we expect from first-party data? Why are we stopping using third-party cookies? What results can we expect? Is the step to GA4 also the time to implement other important changes?
With a cookieless era on the horizon, now’s the time for marketers to really get in touch with the customer, so that supply and demand can grow even closer together. After all, the digital world is increasingly part of everyday life, coupled with increasing user expectations and standards when it comes to privacy protection and digital integrity.
Fortunately, the professionals at Google also see it that way, especially when we see how aware they are of their position on regulations, privacy and GDPR. So it's no surprise that GA4 also provides the necessary modules and tools for this – such as data collection in the EU for European visitors, to name just one example.
Is now the time to migrate to Google Analytics 4?
Have you decided to migrate to GA4? Then your organisation is on the cusp of taking an important, exciting step towards focused, qualitative, and ethically collected first-party data. You’re far better off taking that step today than tomorrow.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. iO’s Google Analytics 4 experts will guide you through a smooth migration and setup. Their first tip? Divide your migration into phases and start with the basics. Google, meanwhile, tells you everything you need to know about this process.
Do you prefer to be prepared? Download our whitepaper on Google Analytics 4 and find out more about the potential that awaits your organisation.
Martijn LijtenWeb analytics consultant | iO
As a modern analytics consultant, Martijn tries to make data both fun and easily accessible for colleagues and clients. This also means thinking along with others regarding new GDPR developments, privacy legislation and future-proof analytics solutions.
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