Builtwell Blog

How to Prepare for Google Analytics 4 in 2023

Written by Devin Ambron
February 02, 2023

Google Analytics is an important tool for understanding website performance and collecting data to inform their SEO strategies. With the switch to Google Analytics 4, businesses can expect to see a variety of changes, from new features to an improved user experience. In this blog, we’ll run through how this shift will affect your SEO content and what actions you should take to prepare your website for the transition.

Immediate Actions

Google recommends you switch to Google Analytics 4 now to maximize historical data and customize the setup, including using the latest site tag. Universal Analytics standard properties will stop processing data on July 1, 2023.

According to a release by Google in January of 2023, customers who do not set up a GA4 property by March will have one configured with basic settings consistent with the existing Universal Analytics property, including conversion events, Google Ads links, and website tags.

Google will automatically create a connected site tag for Universal Analytics customers that will reuse existing tags (gtag.js or analytics.js, including through tag management systems) to send traffic to a new GA4 property. You may opt-out of this if you don’t want a GA4 property created and configured.

The transition to Google Analytics 4 may not be as straightforward as it appears; Universal Analytics and GA4 capture data differently, so new tagging is needed. Additionally, the fields and interfaces that store data are different. To prepare, consider the following steps.

Update Reporting

GA4 data capture is optimized for mobile devices and apps, and offers more customizable reporting fields than Universal Analytics, but requires rebuilding existing reports powered by UA connectors/data flows.

Google provides an equivalency list between GA4 and Universal Analytics here.

This guide will help you recreate reporting, but parity with UA is not guaranteed. You must rebuild reports with GA4 data sources and data will not show for YoY, so you must implement GA4 by August 2022 to get historical reporting. If you have a data ETL and storage process, you may be able to stitch GA4 data with historical UA data to get a longer loopback window.

Update Tagging

Tagging structure is important in Google Analytics because it helps to organize data for reporting purposes. It also helps to ensure that data is accurately attributed to the right sources, which is critical for understanding user behavior and making informed decisions. Additionally, tagging structure helps to eliminate data duplication and noise, which can lead to inaccurate reports.

Rebuild existing tags to support GA4, since it captures data differently. Create a new tag tied to the same trigger for each existing Google Tag Manager event to send data to GA4.

GA4 requires a different dataLayer structure to capture eCommerce data, so users must rebuild dataLayers or use Google Tag Manager’s custom JavaScript variables to format their data.

Benefits and Issues

Google Analytics 4 is a welcome change as it provides a more comprehensive view of customer journeys and behaviors, including a deeper understanding of how customers interact with and across different devices. It also includes powerful machine learning capabilities, which allow for more automated and insightful analysis of data. Finally, the new platform offers improved data privacy and security measures, making it easier for businesses to comply with data privacy regulations.

GA4, though, is missing key features that Universal Analytics users are used to, such as user control of custom channel groupings and filters. Users must set filters via variables, leaving IP, domain, etc. up to the end-user in their tag manager. Setting custom utm parameters for channel groupings is vital for classifying external campaigns.

GA4 lacks the ability to map custom dimensions, which are essential for many, especially GA360 customers with 50+ custom dimensions for advanced reporting. GA360’s expansive customizations are a major benefit, making GA4 implementation more complicated without them. Google has custom dimensions on its roadmap, but the transition announcement leaves room for user error without them.

What’s Next

Although GA4 requires effort to configure, it comes with “Advanced Measurement” and integrates page view, scroll, outbound click, site search, video engagement and file download tracking by default. Additionally, it adheres to data privacy laws (GDPR/CCPA), aiding marketers significantly.

If you’re concerned about how these changes may affect your site, please reach out to Builtwell for a free Google Analytics 4 audit to determine if your business is protected against the GA4 Update.

Suggested Actions: Read more about what Google says you need to do to be prepared.

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