Confession time. I am on the spectrum when it comes to change.
In my defence, loving what we know best is part of human nature and I know, from the groans that echo around the office when any online platform changes its interface, that I am not alone in my craving for familiarity in some aspects of our lives.
It was this character trait that sent my heart rate into the red when I read the news that Google is due to sunset Universal Analytics next year. For the vast majority of users, this means that UA will no longer be available from June 2023. If you are a Google Analytics 360 customer, you can enjoy a small stay of execution until October 2023. The historic data will still be accessible but no new data will be added from these dates – we will be forced to migrate to GA4.
GA4 was launched two and a half years ago (UA has, somehow, been with us since 20212!) with the objective of measuring complex, multi-platform customer journeys whilst embracing increasingly strict user privacy guidelines. Very lofty ambitions, but ones that absolutely make sense and there is no doubt that accurate analysis of user behaviour demands a very robust, modern platform.
I have, however, hated GA4 to date and am very old school in my preference of good old UA. The two platforms adopt a fundamentally different approach to tracking behaviour – UA is session based, whilst GA4 is event based.
The net result?
It is extremely difficult to make sense of many GA4 reports and I have always struggled to make any sense of the data when comparing GA4 and UA reports for the same property. That and the fact that GA4 simply feels unfinished has stopped me spending as much time getting to know it as I should. It has felt like a potentially exciting platform, but one that causes more frustration than it does provide clarity.
I cannot deny that the news that UA is definitely going to go the way of the dodo makes me shudder. Is this just me being lazy and not embracing change? Quite possibly. I know that I need to invest time in learning how to use it, but the lack of some familiar friends like source / medium reports makes me pull out what is left of my hair and I really do hope that GA4 is improved before they get rid of UA.
We have had GA4 running on this site since it was first available. I know that I need to spend more time using it. It is easy to run both platforms alongside each other, so I would definitely encourage any webmaster to set up GA4 as soon as possible so that it can start collecting data and you can start (trying) to make sense of it all. Vic wrote a quick guide about how to set it up at the start of last year.
We were discussing the news as a team earlier this week and are committed to embracing GA4 as it does promise much improved life cycle reporting and the analysis hub should really appeal to my inner geek. We will be writing more posts about GA4 and trying to help our readers navigate what currently feels like troubled waters, so watch this space and please feel free to share your thoughts below.