GA4 Explained: What It Is and What You Need to Do

What is GA4?

Google has introduced a new analytics platform called Google Analytics 4 (GA4).


It’s the biggest change in Google Analytics in 15 years. 


It is designed to scale with your business and measure performance across devices and platforms (both websites and apps).



The ‘New’ Google Analytics

On March 16th of this year Google dropped a bombshell. 


They announced they will be sunsetting Universal Analytics in 2023.


Not only that — starting July 1, 2023 GA4 will be the only analytics tool they support.


Now that Google has given us a clear deadline to get things moved to the new platform you can no longer take a “wait and see” approach to GA4.



Why is Google introducing GA4?

When development on GA4 began, Google Analytics was already more than 12 years old. 


It was time to redesign the infrastructure to make Google Analytics more user-friendly while preserving the key features and functionality you use in Universal Analytics (UA) properties today. 


The chart below shows the most important differences between UA properties and GA4 properties.



Source: Google


What does this mean for my business?

Unfortunately, it has the potential to cause some headaches.


GA4 has a completely different data model (events and parameters vs. sessions and pageviews).


This means it is NOT backwards compatible with Universal Analytics.


So you can’t merge GA4 data with your current Universal Analytics.


This means there won’t be a seamless transition between the two platforms.



What should I do with my existing Universal Analytics?

Chances are your site is currently using the older Universal Analytics setup.


If that’s going to be discontinued, what should you do with it?


Source: Google



1. Keep using Universal Analytics for now

You should keep using your Universal Analytics properties from now until July 1, 2023. 


But know that on July 1, 2023 Universal Analytics will officially stop collecting data.


After that day, you will be able to access your previously processed data in Universal Analytics for a period of at least six months. 



2. Think about what you want to do with your historical Universal Analytics data.

Decide what historical data you want to keep and how far back in time you want to see that data.


Before you lose access to the data I strongly encourage you to export your historical reports. I recommend completing this by the start by September 1st, 2023.


If you want to keep pre-Covid data you could export data as far back as January 2019.


If you don’t need that much old data, then just export post-Covid data starting January 2021. 



When should I set up GA4?

Install GA4 as soon as possible so you are accumulating historical data to help you evaluate your website and marketing performance over time.


Here are some important dates to know:


July 1, 2022

If you did not set up GA4 on your site BEFORE this date, then it is too late to get a full year of historical data when GA4 becomes the only available Google Analytics platform.


Your current best option is to install GA4 between now and July 1, 2023.


July 1, 2023

This is the LAST day to install GA4 to avoid having gaps in your data.


So if you wait until August 1, 2023 to install GA4 you will not have any data for the month of July 2023.


The longer you wait to install GA4 after the deadline, the more data you will lose.


Don’t let this happen.


Install GA4 as soon as possible. 


To be safe I recommend you have it implemented by the end of 2022.



What you Need to Do

Between now and July 1, 2023 you should set up GA4 on your website.


All businesses should implement a basic GA4 set up as soon as possible.


Larger companies with more advanced measurement needs can do a more comprehensive GA4 installation. 


GA4 will run in parallel with your Universal Analytics. The data is sent to separate properties so the two versions of analytics will not interfere with each other.


The GA4 implementation should be done with Google Tag Manager (GTM).



You will need to create tags and triggers in GTM and modify the settings in the GA4 interface.


Think about the important metrics you measure in Universal Analytics.


Review all events and goals from your Universal Analytics. 


Source: Google


Replicate the important events and goals in GA4.


Ignore the rest, they do not need to be migrated to GA4.


NOTE: Do not remove your current Universal Analytics implementation.


Should I use GA4 for my reporting?

Keep using Universal Analytics for your reporting and analysis needs.


You don’t have to use GA4 for reporting yet.


But start getting familiar with GA4 so you won’t face a steep learning curve when Universal Analytics stops collecting data on July 1st of next year.


Identify the top 3-5 marketing questions you currently use Universal Analytics to answer and start learning how to answer those same questions in GA4.



GA4 Implementation options

There are three ways you can get GA4 set up on your website.


1 – Do it Yourself – there is a lot of free content to guide you including Google’s GA4 documentation.


2 – Work with an agency.


3 – Work with me.



If you would like my assistance, schedule a time for us to talk.



Is Your Marketing Working?

Get my bite-sized Google Analytics tips weekly. Use your data to do better marketing.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Hi, I’m Kyle and I want to take the pain and frustration out of analytics for you.

I help marketers use Google Analytics to find answer to their top business questions.