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  • Aaron McGonigal

How to prepare for Google Analytics 4 in 2023

Have you transitioned to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) yet? If you’re among those of us that have been hitting snooze on this one since October 2020, you’ll migrate soon before the switch happens automatically. Luckily, we can help you prepare for Google Analytics 4 if you are currently using Universal Analytics (UA).

When’s The Big Date?

UA will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023. We recommend that you start preparing to transition to GA4 as soon as possible. Migrating will allow your business to build vital historical data and usage insights on the new platform which will help inform future strategy. Analytics 360 properties will however still be active one year later until July 1, 2024. Transitioning to GA4 before July will also allow you to become familiar with the platform in your own time. For anyone who doesn’t create a GA4 property in time, Google’s Setup Assistant will automatically do this for you.

Why Is This Change Happening?

A major reason for Google creating GA4 is due to recent industry changes which give more privacy to users through data protection regulations. This relates to the use of first-party and third-party cookies. GA4 will use first-party cookies whereas UA uses both first-party and third-party cookies.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are used to track all kinds of different information on a user and depend on what the website wants to track. Cookies also store data of a user's journey on the internet.

What Are First-party Cookies?

First-party cookies track users' data across a single website and provide useful features such as remembering the contents of your basket and language settings. This type of cookie ultimately allows a good user experience and the data is stored on the website.

What Are Third-party Cookies?

Third-party cookies track users’ data across the internet and are stored on domains. These cookies are generally used for advertising purposes and allow remarketing campaigns. For example, if a user adds an item to their basket but exits the website and doesn’t purchase it, third-party cookies allow this user to be contacted by email with a discount code to encourage them to make a purchase.

So what will change? GA4 not using third-party cookies may lead to gaps in data which were previously available with UA. This means retargeting will become a lot more challenging.

What About Google Ads?

If UA and Google Ads are linked, the data on UA will stop flowing to Google Ads in July.

If UA and Google Ads are not linked then your Google Ads account will be unaffected.

We Recommend That You:

  • Set up a property in GA4 as soon as possible and ensure it is linked to Google Ads

  • Migrate conversions and audiences to GA4 which will allow for optimised bidding and remarketing

  • Migrate your UA users to your GA4 property

  • Migrate your UA goals to GA4 conversion events

  • Turn on Google Signals functionality in GA4

As third-party cookies will no longer be used, GA4 will rely on Google Signals for remarketing segments. With UA, a segment of users that for example added a product to their basket but never made a purchase is built in UA. However, with GA4, the Google Signals functionality is the basis for remarketing, so make sure it's turned on.

What About Social Media?

GA4 can help you monitor social media campaigns to give you insight into which channels and ad campaigns are delivering the largest impact on your business. This insight can be used to influence current and future practice. So what has changed with Google’s new analytics platform GA4 compared with UA?

On GA4 there are two main social media reports:

  • Traffic Acquisition Report

  • Advertising Snapshot

Traffic Acquisition Report

The Traffic Acquisition Report helps you identify what drives new and returning users to your website. This report helps you to find out where social channel users are coming from, which campaigns drive most users to your website, and if certain social channels are more effective at driving traffic to your website than others. If certain channels are not delivering the results you expected then you can look into ways to improve campaigns. A valuable difference is that GA4 will distinguish between paid and organic social traffic automatically, whereas UA combined all social media traffic together. This change means that you will see ‘Paid Social’ and ‘Organic Social’ separately in your reports. This is a welcomed improvement that will allow you to more accurately measure the impact of your current social media strategy and compare how effective your organic social media activity is vs paid activity overall and for each social channel.

Advertising Snapshot

The Advertising Snapshot allows a quick view summary of your business metrics with an option to dig deeper into the areas you want to explore. The three sections in this snapshot are:

  • Conversions by default channel group - shows which channels your conversions are coming from.

  • Conversion paths - shows the journey your users took leading up to conversion.

  • Model comparison - shows for each channel, how varying attribution models affect the credit of conversions which can be great for measuring ROI.

So Is this a good thing?

GA4 is more focused on behaviour and predictive analytics than UA. Instead of simply finding out if a user viewed a page with GA4 you can gain more detailed data such as if they watched a video, completed a form, or began a checkout. This data and other new features on GA4 allow for a more informed strategy ultimately aimed at elevating your brand above the competition.

Just like this looming GA deadline, social media updates often happen overnight without prior warning. It’s important to be reactive to changes and consider the future of social media for your brand. Thankfully, members from all areas of the Hydrogen team made social media predictions for this year which you can check out for planning ahead.


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What advantages does GA4 have compared to GA3? tunnel rush

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