Google Analytics 4: Should I move to the new version of Google Analytics?

Big G has recently pulled the pin on the new version of Google Analytics and thrown it into the marketing world. Is now the time though to upgrade and move to the new product? In this article you will learn:

  • The Benefits Of Upgrading
  • Drawbacks of The New Platform
  • Finally Our Recommendations

We hope you get value from our views here and please feel free to leave any questions or thoughts below and we’ll get back to you.

TL:DR – Create a new Google Analytics 4 property and run this side by side with your current implementation. Some features are still missing from the new version but now is the perfect time to start getting historic data in Big Query with the free integration. We’d say by this time next year GA 4 will be up to speed or surpassing the current version in features and functionality.

The Benefits of Upgrading To Google Analytics 4

Access To Raw Data

Understanding how customers move through a website is every marketer’s dream. This is much easier to do with access to your Google Analytics data in a warehouse alongside your other data sets. One of the biggest downsides of Universal Analytics was that users had to upgrade to the paid version to access their raw data.

This upgrade to Google Analytics 360 started at $150,000 per year and so was out of the price range of most businesses. Now Google provides a direct link from your account to Big Query for free. You’ll only be charged for queries against this data which tend to be quite cheap but are worth the investment for the time saving and accuracy of generating complex reports and insight.

Automated Insights From Machine Learning and AI

There are a number of big improvements from the previous automated insights Google was delivering in Universal Analytics:

  • Automatically notify users of important events, such as a sudden surge/dip in a specific product’s sales.
  • New predictive metrics and insights such as churn probability, as well as customer clustering showing which customers are most likely to buy or spend more.
As development has now shifted towards GA4 we’d imagine the suite of these metrics will only grow in the coming months/years.

Other Notable Features

There’s a lot of other smaller features as well that are definitely worth mentioning:

Enhanced Data Deletion Request which will allow you to better remove any data that shouldn’t be in your accounts. This used to be a very time-consuming process!

Something called Enhanced Measurement allows for codeless tracking of common interactions such as file downloads including PDFs/ZIPs/documents, video engagements such as plays and completes as well as site searches.

Much sleeker integration with your App data and cross-device tracking will make measurement much more customer-centric. Google uses multiple methods to stitch together users to help you understand customers from the discovery phase all the way through to retention.

Areas Of Concern

Product Links and Data Imports Are Missing

Currently, there are only two products capable of being linked with GA4, Google Ads and Google Big Query, so anyone looking to mix in their Search Console or 360 Ads Data will have to wait for support to be added. In addition to a lack of product links available, the option to manually import cost data is also a feature yet to be included.

Reduced Built-In Reports

The list of available built-in reports for Google Analytics 4 is a lot slimmer. The left-hand navigation panel has changed considerably, and in each category, you’ll now only find a few reporting configurations. If you had a favourite that is no longer available, you may need to recreate this yourself in another reporting platform like DataStudio.

Changes to How You Read Data

Reports can only be seen at the property level now, in fact, the whole ‘View’ functionality is completely gone in the account navigation and admin section, with filters and conversions options being set only at the property level. There are also huge changes to how events work, as the majority can be collected automatically, they’ve removed the existing category, action, label structure. You can read more about the changes to the data models by Google here.

Our Recommendation

Universal Analytics is no longer being developed, meaning any new features will only be supported by Google Analytics 4 from its arrival. Eventually, this will mean the phasing out of Universal Analytics support entirely. Google has even set Google Analytics 4 as the default for when you make a new account so they are really pushing the new product.

The current consensus is to begin your journey into Google Analytics 4 in parallel with your current setup as soon as possible. Do not upgrade existing properties yet, start with a new training GA4 property and a separate configuration tag to begin collecting test data. With this you can experiment and learn in a safe environment.