Mar 24, 2023
The Ultimate Primer for the Google Analytics 4 Paradigm Shift
This month, Google revealed that they will be replacing Universal Analytics and Universal Analytics 360 products with Google Analytics 4 (GA4) starting in mid-2023. Because digital marketers like ourselves consume data as a vital nutrient, this presents a significant paradigm shift in the way that campaigns are launched, monitored, optimized, and reported on.
For agency leaders, we cannot stress enough the importance of being ahead of major platform updates like these. If or when a client asks about the new GA4 rollout, you can establish greater authority and trust with them if you are already prepared to brief them on the coming changes and what to expect from them.
To help you provide your clients with the information they need, we’ve put together this GA4 primer to help you more easily understand what changes are approaching over the next year. We’re going to cover:
Prefer to skip the read? Start equipping your agency to deliver high-performance campaigns on Google products before these updates and book a 20-minute call with us at your convenience:
So, What is Google Analytics 4 Anyway?
Google Analytics 4 was designed to address today’s measurement and reporting needs for digital campaigns on Google platforms. According to Google themselves, the Universal Analytics products were designed for an era where desktop sessions dominated and third-party cookies drove the majority of tracking strategies.
As we move to a cookieless digital era and mobile search continues to outpace desktop devices, the Universal Analytics framework becomes less relevant and less useful by the hour.
What Makes GA 4 Unique?
According to Google’s announcement, several key differences that GA4 will bring include:
Cross-Platform, Event-Based Data
GA4 provides advertisers with a holistic picture of the customer journey using event-based measurement to present data across platforms and multiple sessions.
For example, if your client operates a website and a mobile app, your agency can use GA4 data to identify any disconnects in the user experience. From there, you can perform optimizations to one or both properties to improve the funnel and increase conversion rates for desired key performance actions (KPAs).
The new Google Analytics framework will leverage data-based attribution to provide advertisers with a comprehensive view of cross-platform customer behavior. Attribution will credit more than just the user’s most recent clicks for more intelligent optimization insights and opportunities. The data can also be ported into Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform so that you can maintain continuity across the tools that you use to manage these campaigns.
Instead of relying on third-party cookies, GA4 will generate more sophisticated first-party data with deeper insights than previous cookie-based models. Your agency will be able to generate greater performance and reporting capabilities directly from Google itself.
Better User Privacy
In an effort to minimize the gathering and storage of user data, GA4 will not store IP address information. For advertisers that serve clients with heavy privacy restrictions (i.e., medical practices) or for brands that do not want to risk compromising user data, this proves an advantageous feature. Google campaigns can now foster greater trust between advertisers and audiences with a mutual assurance that IP addresses remain anonymous.
Maximum Data Value
GA4 leverages Google’s industry-leading machine learning capabilities to offer predictive insights into audience behavior and likely conversion activity. This gives your team the necessary information to prioritize specific audiences and double-down on serving ads to those who are most likely to engage.
With GA4, the structure of your Google Analytics account can be fully customized to satisfy your agency’s data policies. For example, if you or your client wish to restrict access to certain information from other external partners, this can easily be done directly from the platform.
How to Prepare Your Agency and Clients for GA4
Get Your Team on the Same Page
Now that you’ve been briefed on GA4, share this information with the rest of your team – especially those that serve your clients using Google products. Campaigns like SEO, Paid Search, Programmatic Display, and YouTube Advertising will be among those most impacted by these updates. As your team interacts with your clients, they will have the necessary knowledge to provide more complete and thorough answers to any questions or concerns that arise ahead of the Google-wide rollout.
Install GA4 ASAP
To maximize the most value from GA4, you should implement it across all of your clients’ Analytics accounts as soon as possible. The data that GA4 collects only starts generating after installation, so if you want to start seeing year-over-year data for most of 2022, install it now.
Save Your Clients’ Historical UA Data
With the Google-wide July 1, 2023 rollout of GA4, no new data will populate in Universal Analytics. It will be fully sunset after at least 6 months following this, and afterward, you will not be able to access its data any longer. 360 Universal Analytics properties will be able to still take advantage of a one-time processing extension that ends in July 2024.
To save your clients’ historical data, you will have to export it before GA4 becomes the permanent and only analytics solution.
Simply migrating UA to GA4 is not possible. They do not use similar data models, so merging them will not be something that you should plan for.
The fastest and least-complicated way to save your UA data is to:
1. Open the UA report that you want to save
2. Add any customizations that you need to, such as geographical region
3. Click “Export” in the upper-right-hand corner to begin the process
4. Select the type of file format that you prefer. These include PDF, Google Sheets, XLSV, and CSV
Keep in mind that you can only apply two dimensions when exporting historical UA data and that it may be samples rather than a full readout of every single metric. If a green check symbol is visible on the report, this will indicate that no sampling occurred.
Share This Information with Your Clients
Gatekeeping does the opposite of fostering trust with clients. Let them know that GA4 is coming and that they can expect:
Better data collection and attribution for Google campaigns
Increased user privacy for greater brand credibility and audience trust
More valuable data for your campaigns
By sharing this information with your clients ahead of the rollout, you can establish greater authority and credibility with your accounts. This positions your agency and your team as true experts on the Google campaigns that your clients entrust your business to manage for them.
Revamp Your Measurement and Reporting Processes Ahead of Time
The best time to prepare your measurement and reporting processes for GA4 is yesterday, but now also works. Thankfully, GA4 is already available to any and all advertisers, so you can start building your new reporting infrastructure as well as familiarize yourself with its user features before it becomes the set-in-stone standard.
Deliver Better Performance with a White Label Google Premier Partner
If you are looking to deliver true performance at scalable volumes for your client, it may be time to enlist a partner’s help. Look for a white label digital marketing partner that holds a Google Premier Partner designation, meaning their team is certified at the highest levels to drive elite performance for your client’s campaign.
Say “Yes” To Better Opportunities with a White Label Partnership Today
At Conduit Digital, we enable your agency to say “yes” to better opportunities of any scope by equipping your team with a holistic product suite, access to a team of Google Premier Partner analysts, and 24/7 live reporting – all tied together with single point of contact communication. If you are ready to dominate a GA4 world, schedule your 20-minute call with us today.
This article was originally written on March 16, 2022 and updated on March 24, 2023.