We’re mere months away from fully transitioning from the Google Analytics we know and love, Universal Analytics (UA), to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
For those of you that have already been exploring the ‘revamped’ version of Google Analytics, you may have been surprised to find that a lot of the standard KPIs you’ve been reporting on for years have changed, are no longer available, or can only be accessed by creating a custom report.
So how can you ensure that disruption to reporting is kept to a minimum?
Work out what you *really* need to report on
There are some metrics you’ve probably been reporting on for years from the lovely standard reports available across acquisition, behaviour, and conversions – but you may now struggle to find the data you’re looking for.
One of the biggest challenges with GA4 is the lack of standard reports. It’s no longer as simple as clicking into a report, such as Campaigns to view all UTM-tagged sessions, or Conversions to see a breakdown of goals by source/medium or goal completion location (URL).
The good news is that the vast majority of these metrics are available in GA4, however, the bad news is the way in which they are calculated means that the data is not going to be exactly the same.
GA4 has a completely different data model from UA. This is because GA4 is event-based, whereas UA is based on sessions and pageviews.
The differences between the data in UA, and GA4 reports do make reporting more difficult as to some extent, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Take time to map your KPIs
A good place to start when working out which metrics are the same, and which are different (or missing, or not included in the very few standard reports available) is by compiling all of the KPIs you report on from UA.
From there, you can begin looking for the same, or at least comparable metrics in GA4, noting down any differences when looking at the numbers.
To better understand the differences between metrics, it’s important to read through this document, which outlines the reasons UA and GA4 display different data.
Once you’re at the stage where you are reporting year on year or month on month across UA and GA4, you’ll need to caveat why the numbers are different, whether you’re reporting internally, or to a client. This could mean reporting a big swing one way or the other but realistically, you can’t read too much into this, as again, it’ll be like comparing apples and oranges.
I’m sorry to say, it is going to be a bit of a mess, no matter what you do, because the data models are not the same. Essentially, there is no point in comparing the data in UA from a year ago to the data you see in GA4 when calculating things like percentage increases in sessions or conversions.
Obviously, this sucks. It’s pretty much impossible to compare data from years gone by, but you can at least make some predictions based on the UA data collected in the past, especially if your business is seasonal.
What do you do if you haven’t been collecting data in GA4?
The cut-off point for data being collected in UA is 1 July 2023. And it’s looking likely that by the end of 2023, you will no longer be able to access UA data, though an official date is not yet confirmed.
If you haven’t already done so, you need to get GA4 set up, and then export as much data as possible from UA.
This will be the only way you’ll be able to look back on historic performance so make sure you grab everything you need!
Need help with GA4?
Browser Media is able to provide support with the migration to GA4. If you have a few minutes, why not complete our quick survey, so we can understand which areas you need the most help with?